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ment. There are degrees in all the private vices. Why not in public prostitution ? The influence of the crown naturally makes a septennial parliament independent. Does it follow, that every House of Commons will plunge at once into the lowest depths of prostitution ? Junius supposes, that the present House of Commons, in going such enormous lengths, have been imprudent to themselves, as well as wicked to the public; that their example is not within the reach of emulation ; and that, in the first session after the next election, some popular measures may probably be adopted. He does not expect, that a dissolution of parliament will destroy corruption, but that at least it will be a check and terror to their successors, who will have seen, that, in flagrant cases, their constituents can and will interpose with effect. After all, sir, will you not endeavour to remove, or alleviate, the most dangerous symptoms, because you cannot eradicate the disease? Will you not punish treason, or parricide, because the sight of a gibbet does not prevent highway robberies? When the main argument of Junius is admitted to be unanswerable, I think it would become the minor critic, who hunts for blemishes, to be a little more distrustful of his own sagacity. The other objection is hardly worth an answer. When Junius observes, that kings are ready enough to follow such advice, he does not mean to insinuate, that, if the advice of parliament were good, the king would be so ready to follow it.
THE PRINTER OF THE PUBLIC ADVERTISER.
May 2, 1771. Very early in the debate upon the decision of the Middlesex election, it was well observed by Junius, that the House of Commons had not only exceeded their boasted precedent of the expulsion and subsequent incapacitation of Mr. Walpole, but that they had not even adhered to it strictly, as far as it went. After convicting Mr. Dyson of giving a false quotation from the journals, and having explained the purpose which that contemptible fraud was intended to answery he proceeds to state the vote itself by which Mr. Walpole's supposed incapacity was declared, viz.“ Resolved, That Robert Walpole, Esq. having been this session of parliament committed a prisoner to the Tower, and expelled this House for a high breach of trust in the execution of his office, and notorious corruption when secretary at war, was, and is, incapable of being elected a member to serve in this present parliament.” . And then observes, that, from the terms of the vote, we have no right to annex the incapacitation to the expul, sion only; for that, as the proposition stands, it must arise equally from the expulsion and the commitment to the Tower. I believe, sir, no man, who knows any thing of dialectics, or who understands English, will dispute the truth and fairness of this construction. But Junius has a great authority to support him ; which, to speak with the Duke of Grafton, I accidentally met with this morning in the course of my reading. It contains an admonition, which cannot be repeated toq often. Lord Sommers, in his excellent Tract upon the Rights of the People, after reciting the votes of the convention of the 28th of January, 1689, viz. “ That King James II. having endeavoured to subvert the constitution of this kingdom, by breaking the original contract between king and people ; and by the advice of Jesuits, and other wicked persons, having violated the fundamental laws, and having withdrawn bimself out of this kingdom, hath abdicated the government,” &e. makes this observation upon it: “ The word abdicated relates to all the clauses aforegoing, as well as to his deserting the kingdom, or else they would have been wholly in vain.” And, that there might be no pretence for confining the abdication merely to the withdrawing, Lord Sommers farther observes, “ That King James, by refusing to govern us according to that law by which he held the crown, did implicitly renounce his title to it.”
If Junius's construction of the vote against Mr. Walpole be now admitted, (and indeed I cannot comprehend how it can honestly be disputed,) the advocates of the House of Cominons must either give up their precedent entirely, or be reduced to the necessity of maintaining one of the grossest absurdities imaginable, viz. “ That a coinmitment to the Tower is a constituent part of, and contributes half at least to, the incapacitation of the person who suffers it.”
I need not make you any excuse for endeavouring to keep alive the attention of the public to the decision of the Middlesex election. The more I consider it, the more I am convinced, that, as a fact, it is indeed highly injurious to the rights of the people; but that, as a precedent, it is one of the most dangerous that ever was established against those, who are to come after us, Yet I am so far a moderate man, that I verily believe the majority of the House of Commons, when they passed this dangerous vote, neither understood the question, nor knew the consequence of what they were doing. Their motives were rather despicable, than criminal in the extreme. One effect they certainly did not foresee. They are now reduced to such a situation, that if a member of the present House of Commons were to conduct himself ever so improperly, and in reality deserve to be sent back to his constituents with a mark of disgrace, they would not dare to expel him; because they know that the people, in order to try again the great question of right, or to thwart an odious House of Commons, would probably overlook his immediate unworthiness, and return the same person to parliament. But, in time, the precedent will gain. strength. A future House of Commons will have no such apprehensions, consequently will not scruple to follow a precedent which they did not establish. The miser himself seldom lives to enjoy the fruit of his ex. tortion; but his heir succeeds to him of course, and takes possession without censure. No man expects him to make restitution; and, no matter for his title, he lives quietly upon the estate.
THE PRINTER OF THE PUBLIC ADVERTISER.
May 25, 1771. I confess my partiality to Junius, and feel a considerable pleasure in being able to communicate any
thing to the public in support of his opinions. The doctrine laid down in his last letter, concerning the power of the House of Commons to commit for contempt, is not so new as it appeared to many people; who, dazzled with the name of privilege, had never suffered themselves to examine the question fairly. In the course of my reading this morning, I met with the following passage in the “ Journals of the House of Commons," Vol. I p. 603. Upon an occasion of a jurisdiction unlawfully assumed by the House in the year 1621, Mr. Attorney General Noye gave his opinion as follows. “No doubt but, in some cases, this House may give judgment; in matters of returns, and concerning members of our House, or falling out in our view in parliament; but for foreign matters, knoweth not how we can judge it. Knoweth not that we have been used to give judgment in any case, but those before-mentioned."
Sir Edward Coke, upon the same subject, says, (page 604) “ No question but this is a House of record, and that it hath power of judicature in some cases; have power to judge of returns and members of our House; one, no member, offending out of the parliament, when he came hither and justified it, was censured for it.”
Now, sir, if you will compare the opinion of these great sages of the law with Junius's doctrine, you will find they tally exactly. He allows the power of the House to commit their own members (which, however, they may grossly abuse). He allows their power in cases where they are acting as a court of judicature, viz. elections, returns, &c.; and he allows it in such contempts as immediately interrupt their proceedings; or, as Mr. Noye expresses it, “ falling out in their view in parliament.”
They, who would carry the privilege of parliament.