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who have as much right to confidence as their adversaries; that the freeholders of Middlesex, if they could not choose Mr. Wilkes, might have chosen any other man, and that he trusts we have within the realm five hundred as good as he; that even if this which has happened to Middlesex had happened to every other county, that one man should be made incapable of being elected, it could produce no great change in the parliament, nor much contract the
power of election ; that what has been done is probably right, and that if it be wrong it is of little consequence, fince a like case cannot easily occur ; that expulsions are very rare, and if they should, by unbounded infolence of faction, become more frequent, the electors may easily provide a second choice.
All this he may fay, but not half of this will be, heard; his opponents will ftun him and themselves with a confused sound of pensions and places, venality and corruption, oppression and invasion, Navery and ruin.
Outeries like these, uttered by malignity, and echoed by folly; general accusations of indeterminate wickedness; and obscure hints of impossible designs, dispersed among those that do not know their meaning, by those that know them to be false, have difposed part of the nation, though but a small part, to pester the court with ridiculous petitions.
The progress of a petition is well known. An ejected placeman goes down to his county or his borough, tells his friends of his inability to serve them, and his constituents of the corruption of the G4
government. His friends readily understand that he who can get nothing, will have nothing to give. They agree to proclaim a meeting ; meat and drink are plentifully provided ; a crowd is easily brought together, and those who think that they know the reason of their meeting, undertake to tell those who know it not. Ale and clamour unite their powers, the crowd, condensed and heated, begins to ferment with the leven of fedition. All see a thousand evils, though they cannot show them, and grow impatient for a remedy, though they know not what.
A speech is then made by the Cicero of the day; he says much, and suppreffes more, and credit is equally given to what he tells, and what he conceals. The petition is read and universally approved. Those who are fober enough to write, add their names, and the rest would sign it if they could.
Every man goes home and tells his neighbour of the glories of the day ; how he was consulted and what he advised; how he was invited into the great room, where his lordship called him by his name; how he was carefsed by Sir Francis, Sir Joseph, or Sir George; how he eat turtle and venison, and drank unanimity to the three brothers.
The poor loiterer, whose shop had confined him, or whose wife had locked him up, hears the tale of luxury with envy, and at last inquries what was their petition. Of the petition nothing is remembered by the narrator, but that it spoke much of fears and apprehenfions, and something very alarming, and that he is sure it is against the government; the other is convinced that it must be right, and wishes
he had been there, for he loves wine and venison, and is resolved as long as he lives to be against the government.
The petition is then handed from town to town, and from house to house, and wherever it comes the inhabitants flock together, that they may see that which must be sent to the king. Names are easily collected. One man figns because he hates the papist; another because he has vowed destruction to the turnpikes ; one because it will vex the parson; another because he owes his landlord nothing; one because he is rich ; another because he is poor ; one to shew that he is not afraid, and another to shew that he can write.
The passage, however, is not always smooth. Those who collect contributions to fedition, fometimes apply to a man of higher rank and more enlightened mind, who, instead of lending them his name, calmly reproves them for being feducers of the people.
You who are here, says he, complaining of venality, are yourselves the agents of those who, having estimated themselves at too high a price, are only angry that they are not bought. You are appealing from the parliament to the rabble, and inviting those who scarcely, in the most common affairs, distinguish right from wrong, to judge of a question complicated with law written and unwritten, with the general principles of government, and the particular customs of the House of Commons; you are shewing them a grievance, so distant that they cannot see it, and so light that they cannot feel it; for how, but by unne
cessary intelligence and artificial provocation, Thould the farmers and shop-keepers of Yorkshire and Cumberland know or care how Middlesex is represented ? Instead of wandering thus round the county to exar
and darken the suspicions of ignorance, it is the duty of men like you, who have leisure for inquiry, to lead back the people to their honest labour; to tell them, that submission is the duty of the ignorant, and content the virtue of the poor ; that they have no skill in the art of government, nor any interest in the diffentions of the great ; and when you meet with any, as some there are, whose understandings are capable of conviction, it will become
you to allay this foaming ebullition, by shewing then that they have as much happiness as the condition of life will easily receive, and that a government, of which an erroneous or unjust representation of Middlesex is the greatest crime that interest can discover, or malice can upbraid, is government approaching nearer to perfection, than any that experience has known, or history related.
The drudges of fedition with to change their ground, they hear him with fullen silence, feel conviction without repentance, and are confounded but not abashed; they go forward to another door, and find a kinder reception from a man enraged against the government, because he has just been paying the tax upon his windows.
That a petition for a dissolution of the parliament will at all times have its favourers, may be easily imagined. The people indeed do not 'expect that one House of Commons will be much honefter or
much wiser than another; they do not suppose that the taxes will be lightened ; or though they have been fo often taught to hope it, that soap and candles will be cheaper ; they expect no redress of grievances, for of no grievances but taxes do they complain; they wish not the extension of liberty, for they do not feel any restraint; about the security of privilege or property they are totally careless, for they see no property invaded, nor know, till they are told, that any privilege has suffered violation.
Least of all do they expect, that any future parliament will lessen its own powers, or communicate to the people that authority which it has once obtained.
Yet a new parliament is sufficiently desirable. The year of election is a year of jollity; and what is still more delightful, a year of equality. The glutton now eats the delicacies for which he longed when he could not purchase them, and the drunkard has the pleasure of wine without the cost. The drone lives a while without work, and the shop-keeper, in the Aow of money, raises his price. The mechanick that trem. bled at the presence of Sir 70f2ph, now bids him come again for an answer; and the poacher whose gun has been seized, now finds an opportunity to reclaim it. Even the honest man is not displeased to see himself important, and willingly resumes in two yeurs that power which he had resigned for seven. Few love their friends so well as not to desire superiority by unexpensive benefaction.
Yet, notwithstanding all these motives to compliance, the promoters of petitions have not been successful. Few could be persuaded to lament evils