Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

bands, enervated and debauched as they were, had still strength enough to awe the Roman populace; but when the distant legions took the alarm, they marched to Rome, and gave away the empire.

On this side, then, whichever way you turn your eyes, you see nothing but perplexity and distress. You may determine to support the very ministry who have reduced your affairs to this deplorable situation; you may shelter yourself under the forms of a parliament, and set your people at defiance. But be assured, sir, that such a resolution would be as imprudent as it would be odious. If it did not immediately shake your, establishment, it would rob you of your peace of mind for ever.

On the other, how different is the prospect! How easy, how safe and honourable, is the path before you! The English nation declare they are grossly injured by their representatives, and solicit your majesty to exert your lawful prerogative, and give them an opportunity of recalling a trust, which, they find, has been scandalously abused. You are not to be told, that the power of the House of Commons is not original, but delegated to them for the welfare of the people, from whom they received it. A question of right arises between the constituent and the representative body. By what authority shall it be decided? Will your majesty interfere in a question in which you have properly no immediate concern? It would be a step equally odious and unnecessary. Shall the Lords be called upon to determine the rights and privileges of the Commons? They cannot do it, without a flagrant breach of the constitution. Or, will you refer it to the judges? They have often told your ancestors, that the law of parliament is above them. What part then remains, but to leave it to the people to determine for themselves? They alone are injured; and, since there is no superior power to which the cause can be referred, they alone ought to determine.

I do not mean to perplex you with a tedious argument upon a subject already so discussed, that inspiration could hardly throw a new light upon it. There are, however, two points of view in which it particularly imports your majesty to consider the late proceedings of the House of Commons. By depriving a subject of his birthright, they have attributed to their own vote an authority equal to an act of the whole legislature; and, though perhaps not with the same motives, have strictly followed the example of the long parliament, which first declared the regal office useless, and soon after, with as little ceremony, dissolved the House of Lords. The same pretended power, which robs an English subject of his birthright, may rob an English king of his crown. In another view, the resolution of the House of Commons, apparently not so dangerous to your majesty, is still more alarming to your people. Not contented with divesting one man of his right, they have arbitrarily conveyed that right to another. They have set aside a return as illegal, without daring to censure those officers, who were particularly apprised of Mr. Wilkes's incapacity, not only by the declaration of the House, but expressly by the writ directed to them, and who, nevertheless, returned him as duly elected. They have rejected the majority of votes, the only criterion by which our laws judge of the sense of the people; they have transferred the right of election from the collective to the representative body; and by these acts, taken separately or together, they have essentially altered the original constitution of the House of Commons. Versed as your majesty undoubtedly is in the English history, it cannot easily escape you, how much it is your interest, as well as your duty, to prevent one of the three estates from encroaching upon the province of the other two, or assuming the authority of them all. When once they have departed from the great constitutional line, by which all their proceedings should be directed, who will answer for their future' moderation? Or, what assurance will, they give you, that, when they have trampled upon their equals, they will submit to a superior? Your majesty may learn hereafter, how nearly the slave and tyrant are allied.

Some of your council, more candid than the rest, admit the abandoned profligacy of the present House of Commons, but oppose their dissolution, upon an opinion, I confess, not very unwarrantable, that their successors would be equally at the disposal of the treasury. I cannot persuade myself, that the nation will have profited so little by experience. But, if that opinion were well-founded, you might then gratify our wishes at an easy rate, and appease the present clamour against your government, without offering any material injury to the favourite cause of corruption.

You have still an honourable part to act. The affections of your subjects may still be recovered. But, before you subdue their hearts, you must gain a noble victory over your own. Discard those little, personal resentments, which have too long directed your public conduct. Pardon this man the reinainder of his punishment; and, if resentment still prevails, make it, what it

hould have been long since, an act, not of mercy, but contempt. He will soon fall back into his natural staition, a silent senator, and hardly supporting the weekly eloquence of a newspaper. The gentle breath of peace would leave him on the surface, neglected and unremoved. It is only the tempest that lifts him from

his place.

a

Without consulting your minister, call together your whole council. Let it appear to the public, that you can determine and act for yourself. Come forward to your people. Lay aside the wretched formalities of king, and speak to your subjects with the spirit of a man, and in the language of a gentleman. Tell them, you have been fatally deceived. The acknowledgment will be no disgrace, but rather an honour, to your understanding. Tell them you are determined to remove every cause of complaint against your government; that you will give your confidence to no man, who does not possess the confidence of your subjects; and leave it to themselves to determine, by their conduct at a future election, whether or no it be, in reality, the general sense of the nation, that their rights have been arbitrarily invaded by the present House of Commons, and the constitution betrayed. They will then do justice to their representatives and to themseives.

These sentiments, sir, and the style they are conveyed in, may be offensive, perhaps, because they are new to you. Accustomed to the language of courtiers, you measure their affections by the vehemence of their expressions; and when they only praise you indifferently, you admire their sincerity. But this is not a time to trifle with your fortune. They deceive you, sir, who tell you, that you have many friends whose affections are founded upon a principle of personal attachment. The first foundation of friendship is not the power of conferring benefits, but the equality with which they are received and may be returned. The fortune which made you a king, forbade you to have a friend. It is a law of nature, which cannot be violated with impunity. The mistaken prince, who looks for friendship, will find a favourite, and in that favourite the ruin of his affairs.

The people of England are loyal to the house of Hanuver, not from a vain preference of one family to another, but from a conviction, that the establishment of that family was necessary to the support of their civil and religious liberties. This, sir, is a principle of alle. giance equally solid and rational; fit for Englishmen to adopt, and well worthy of your majesty's encouragement. We cannot long be deluded by nominal distinctions. The name of Stuart, of itself, is only contemptible; armed with the sovereign authority, their principles are formidable. The prince, who imitates their conduct, should be warned by their example; and, while he plumes himself upon the security of his title to the crown, should remember, that, as it was acquired by one revolution, it may be lost by another.

JUNIUS.

LETTER XXXVI.

TO

HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF GRAFTON.

MY LORD,

February 14, 1770. If I were personally your enemy, I might pity and forgive you. You have every claim to compassion that can arise from misery and distress. The condition you are reduced to would disarm a private enemy of his resentment, and leave no consolation to the most vindictive spirit, but that such an object as you are, would disgrace the dignity of revenge. But, in the

« ElőzőTovább »