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THE PRINTER OF THE PUBLIC ADVERTISER.
August 8, 1769. The gentleman, who has published an answer to Sir William Meredith's pamphlet, having honoured me with a postscript of six quarto pages, which he moderately calls bestowing a very few words upon me, I cannot, in common politeness, refuse him a reply. The form and magnitude of a quarto imposes upon the mind; and men, who are unequal to the labour of discussing an intricate argument, or wish to avoid it, are willing enough to suppose, that much has been proved, because much has been said. Mine, I confess, are humble labours. I do not presume to instruct the learned, but simply to inform the body of the people; and I prefer that channel of conveyance which is likely to spread farthest among them. The advocates of the ministry seem to me to write for fame, and to flatter themselves, that the size of their works will make them immortal. They pile up reluctant quarto upon solid folio, as if their labours, because they are gigantic, could contend with truth and heaven.
The writer of the volume in question meets me upon my own ground. He acknowledges there is no statute, by which the specific disability, we speak of, is created; but he affirms, that the custom of parliament has been referred to, and that a case strictly in point has been produced, with the decision of the court
upon it. I thank him for coming so fairly to the point. He asserts, that the case of Mr. Walpole is strictly in point, to prove, that expulsion creates an absolute incapacity of being re-elected; and for this purpose he refers generally to the first vote of the House upon that occasion, without venturing to recite the vote itself. The unfair, disingenuous artifice of adopting that part of a precedent which seems to suit his purpose, and omitting the remainder, deserves some pity, but cannot excite my resentment.
He takes advantage eagerly of the first resolution, by which Mr. Walpole's incapacity is declared; but as to the two following, by which the candidate with the fewest votes was declared "not duly elected," and the election itself vacated, I dare say, he would be well satisfied if they were for ever blotted out of the journals of the House of Commons. In fair argument, no part of a precedent should be admitted, unless the whole of it be given to us together. The author has divided his precedent; for he knew, that, taken together, it produced a consequeuce directly the reverse of that which he endeavours to draw from a vote of expulsion. But, what will this honest person say, if I take him at his word, and demonstrate to him, that the House of Commons never meant to found Mr. Walpole's incapacity upon his expulsion only? What subterfuge will then remain ?
Let it be remembered, that we are speaking of the intention of men, who lived more than half a century ago; and that such intention can only be collected from their words and actions, as they are delivered to us upon record. To prove their designs by a supposition of what they would have done, opposed to what they actually did, is mere trilling and impertinence. The vote, by which Mr. Walpole's incapacity was declared,
is thus expressed: “ That Robert Walpole, Esq. having been this session of parliament committed a prisoner to the Tower, and expelled this House, for a 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.
"* Now, sir, to my understanding, no proposition of this kind can be more evident, than that the House of Commons, by this very vote, themselves understood, and meant to declare, That Mr. Walpole's incapacity arose from the crimes he had committed, not from the punishment the House annexed to them. The high breach of trust, the notorious corruption, are stated in the strongest terms. They do not tell us, that he was incapable because he was expelled, but because he had been guilty of such offences as justly rendered him unworthy of a seat in parliament. If they had intended to fix the disability upon his expulsion alone, the mention of his crimes in the same vote would have been highly improper. It could only perplex the minds of the electors, who, if they collected any thing from so confused a declaration of the law of parliament, must have concluded, that their representative had been declared incapable, because he was highly guilty, not because he had been punished. But, even admitting them to have understood it in the other sense, they must then, from the very terms of the vote, have
* It is well worth remarking, that the compiler of a certain quarto, called, “ The Case of the last election for the county of Middlesex considered," has the impudence to recite this very vote in the following terms, vide page 11. “ Resolved, That Robert Walpole, Esq. having been that session of parliament expelled the House, was and is incapable of being elected a member to serve in the present parliament." There cannot be a stronger positive proof of the treachery of the compiler, nor a stronger presuniptive proof, that he was convinced that the vote, if truly recited, would overturn his whole argument.
united the idea of his being sent to the Tower with that of his expulsion, and considered his incapacity as the joint effect of both *.
THE PRINTER OF THE PUBLIC ADVERTISER.
May 22, 1771. Very early in the debate upon the decision of the Middlesex election, it was 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 answer, 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 expulsion only; for that as the proposition stands, it must arise equally from the expulsion and the cominitment 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 Június bas a great authority to support hirn, 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 too often. Lord Somers, 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 the Second, 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 himself out of this kingdom, hath abdicated the governinent,” &c., 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 Somers farther observes, “ That King James, by refusing to govern us according to that law by which he held the crown, implicitly renounced 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 Commors must either give
I do not mean to give an opinion upon the justice of the proceedings of the House of Commons, with regard to Mr. Walpole; but, certainly, if I admitted their censure to be well-founded, I could no way avoid agreeing with them in the consequence they drew from it. could never have a doubt, in law, or reason, that a man convicted of a high breach of trust, and of a notorious corruption, in the execution of a public office, was and ought to be incapable of sitting in the same parliament. Far from attempting to invalidate that vote, I should have wished, that the incapacity declared by it, could legally have been continued for ever.
Now, sir, observe how forcibly the argument returns. The House of Commons, upon the face of their pro
up their precedent entirely, or be reduced to the necessity of maintaining one of the grossest absurdities imaginable, viz. “ That a commitment 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 mode, rate man, that I verily believe the majority of the House of Com. mons, 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 Conimons 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
nnt scruple to follow a precedent which they did not establish. The miser himself seldom lives to enjoy the fruit of his extortion; but his heir succeeds him of course, and takes possession without ceu
No man expects him to make restitution; and no matter for his title, he lives quietly upon the estate.