Page images
PDF
EPUB

sary it was to give way to the effects of such experience. It is not the harsh uniformity of principles, each pushed to its extreme, but the general complexion arising out of the various shades, which forms the harmony of the representation, and the practical excellence of the constitution, capable of improving itself consistently with its fundamental principles. Who will say that this beautiful variety may not have contributed to the advantage of the whole ? That system was practical, and experience has confirmed the excellence of it, but the present plan goes the whole length of destroying all the existing representation, with the exception only of the county members (why they alone are excepted I am at a loss to conceive), and bringing all to one system. Are the gentlemen who propose this system aware of the benefits resulting from a varied state of representation, and are they ready at once to resign them.

It never was contended that the inequality of the representation has been attended with any practical disadvantage, that the interest of Yorkshire was neglected because it sent only two members to parliament, or that Birmingham and Manchester experienced any ill consequences from having no representatives. How does it appear that universal suffrage is better than if the right to vote be founded on numerical, or even alphabetical arrangement ? There is no practice, certainly no recognised practice, for its basis. The experiment proposed is new, extensive, overturning all the ancient system, and substituting something in its stead without any theoretical advantage, or any practical recommendation. In the mixed representation which now subsists, the scot and lot elections are those which have been chiefly objected to, and the honourable gentleman opposite to me formerly agreed with me in opinion, that burgage tenures and small corporations were even less exceptionable than open burghs with small qualifications. Yet this extension of small qualifications, from which it has been a general complaint that much confusion, debauchery, and abuse at elections arose, forms the principal feature in the honourable gentleman's plan. Upon these grounds, therefore, looking seriously at the situ

ation of the country, examining facts with attention, unless we would seal our own dishonour, unless we would belie the testi. mony of our constituents, we must dissent from the reasons on which the necessity of this proposition is founded. We ought to resist the specific plan which the honourable gentleman has offered, unless we would renounce the tried system of our representation, for a plan at once highly exceptionable in theory, and totally unsupported by experience.

[blocks in formation]

Ma.Pirt moved the order of the day for taking into consideration His Majesty's message relative to the Mutiny in the Fleet

“ GEORGE R. “ It is with the deepest concern His Majesty acquaints the House of Commons, that the conduct of the crews of some of his ships now at the Nore, in persisting in the most violent and treasonable acts of mutiny and disobedience, notwithstanding the full extension to them of all the benefits which had been accepted with gratitude by the rest of His Majesty's fleet, and notwithstanding the repeated offers of His Majesty's gracious pardon, on their returning to their duty, have compelled His Majesty to call on all his faithful subjects to give their utmost assistance in repressing such dangerous and criminal proceedings. His Majesty has directed a copy of the proclamation which he has issued for this purpose, to be laid before the House; and he cannot doubt that his parliament will adopt, with readiness and decision, every measure which can tend, at this important conjuncture, to provide for the public security. And His Majesty particularly recommends it to the consideration of parliament, to make more effectual provision for the prevention and punishment of all traitorous attempts to excite sedition and mutiny in His Majesty's naval service; or to withdraw any part of His Majesty's forces, by sea or land, from their duty and allegiance to him: and from that obedience and discipline which are so important to the prosperity and safety of the British empire.

G. R."

The Message being read, Mr. Pirt spoke to the following effect :

Important as the present occasion is, I feel that it will not be necessary for me to detain the House with a long detail upon the subject of the gracious communication from the throne, which has now been read to us. By that communication we learn that all the benefit of His Majesty's gracious favour, which restored satisfaction to part of His Majesty's forces, was attended with every mark of duty and gratitude by that part, and was extended to the whole of His Majesty's fleet; but that, nevertheless, there are now at the Nore deluded persons who have persisted in disobedience, and proceeded to open acts of mutiny and disorder, although all the same benefits have been allowed to them ; the same liberal allowance which was agreed upon by parliament, and His Majesty's most gracious pardon, have been offered to them in the same generous manner as it was to those who have returned to their duty. We have the mortification now to learn that mutiny is carried on to the most dangerous and criminal excess, to such a length, that the persons concerned in it have gone into open and undisguised hostility against His Majesty's forces acting under orders and commands from regular authority. Much as we must deplore such events, much as we must feel them as an aggravation of the public difficulties with which we have to contend, yet we must all feel it to be the duty of the House of Commons to show to its constituents, and to the world at large, that there is no difficulty which they will not meet with firmness and resolute decision; that we will take measures to extricate the country from its difficulties in a manner that is worthy of the representatives of a great, a brave, a powerful, and a free people. I am persuaded that, under our present circumstances, we can have no hesitation in laying at the foot of the throne an address of assurance, that we will afford His Ma. jesty every effectual support in our power; that we will counteract, as far as we can, so fatal an example as has, by the most consummate wickedness, been set to His Majesty's naval force; that we will show that we feel a just indignation against a con

duct so unworthy of, so inconsistent with, the manly and generous character of British seamen ; that we feel resentment at so ungrateful a return to the generosity of a liberal parliament, and the mildness and benignity of an illustrious throne. I trust, that we shall recollect what our duty is in such a conjuncture ; I trust too, that as these late proceedings are utterly repugnant to the real spirit of the British sailor, contrary to the conduct which has established the glory of the British navy, and the renown of the British nation, it will appear that it was not in the hearts of British seamen that such mutinous principles originated. I trust that we shall show also, that if there are among us those who are enemies to the fundamental interests of this country, to its glory, to its safety, and to its existence as a nation, whose malignity is directed to the honour and even existence of our navy, who carry on their diabolical artifice by misrepresentation of facts, to pervert the dispositions and change the principles of the seamen, by instilling into their minds false alarms and apprehensions, and prevail upon them to do acts contrary to their instinct, and that too when they are called upon to contend with an enemy - I trust, I say, that if there be among us such foes, they may be detected and dealt with as they deserve. Our indignation should be more active against the seducers than the seduced and misguided.

Whether, according to the existing law against the open attempts that we have seen made upon another branch of His Majesty's service to shake its loyalty, but which, to the honour of that body, remains unmoved, and I trust is immoveable, we possess power enough to punish, as they deserve, such wicked offenders, may be a matter perhaps of doubt. I shall, however, instantly proceed to that part of the recommendation in His Majesty's message, and to state my ideas upon the law against persons who shall excite His Majesty's forces to mutiny or disobedience. It is not necessary for me to enter now into particulars upon that subject; but I feel it my duty to declare, that if the address which I shall propose shall meet, as I hope and confidently trust it will, the unanimous sense of the House, I shall

immediately move for leave to bring in a bill for the better prevention of the crime I have already stated. There is, I am persuaded, in this House, but one sense of the great guilt of this offence, of the notoriety of its practice, and of the danger of its consequences; in short, there exists every ground upon which penal law can be applied to any offence, viz. the mischief of the act itself, and the frequency of its commission. The remedy which I mean to propose for the consideration of parliament, will, I trust, be sufficiently efficacious to attain its object, without o'erstepping the moral guilt and real malignity of the crime. While, however, we all feel it to be our duty to enter on the consideration of such legislative provision, while parliament is not wanting in its duty at such a crisis of public affairs, I trust also that we shall not be disappointed in our expectation of the spirit of the public collectively or individually; that they will not be wanting in their exertions in such a crisis ; that they will be animated, collectively and individually, with a spirit that will give energy and effect to their exertions ; that every man who boasts, and is worthy of the name of an Englishman, will stand forth in the metropolis, and in every part of the kingdom, to maintain the authority of the laws, and enforce obedience to them, to oppose and counteract the machinations of the disaffected, and to preserve a due principle of submission to legal authority. I trust that all the inhabitants of the kingdom will unite in one common defence against internal enemies, to maintain the general security of the kingdom, by providing for the local security of each particular district; that we shall all remember, that by so doing we shall give the fullest scope to His Majesty's forces against foreign enemies, and also the fullest scope to the known valour and unshaken fidelity of the military force of the kingdom against those who shall endeavour to disturb its internal tranquillity. Such are the principles which I feel, and upon which I shall act for myself, and such are the principles, and will be the conduct, I hope, of every man in this House and out of it; such are the sentiments that are implanted in us all; such the feelings that are inherent in the

« PreviousContinue »