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Τ Η Ε
For J U LY 1768.
F the noble lord, who is so anxious to have the doors of the house constantly shut against strangers, had contented himself with insisting, that there is a standing order
to this effect, and that a standing order should be strictly observed, I should have thought it my duty to submit to his lordship’s motion, though I confess with some reluctance. But when the noble lord, not satisfied with an authority paramount to all argument, thinks it necessary to give reasons for his opinion, he seems to admit that the point is at least disputable ; therefore I hope he will permit me to offer some reasons to the house, why I differ from him entirely.
The only tolerable pretence for refusing admittance to strangers of decent appearance and behaviour, is, lest there should not be room for the members to attend to bufiness with ease and convenience to themselves. Whenever this happens, and we all know how seldom it does happen, every member has a right (and I dare fay his lordship will seldom fail to make use of it) to move that the house may be cleared. In every other light, I think that, so far from being offended at the presence of strangers, we should wish to have as many VOL. III.
witnesses as possible of all our proceedings. What his lordship’s motives may be, I cannot pretend to determine; but, for my own part, as I am neither ashamed nor afraid of what I say, in this house, I care not how soon, or how universally it is reported abroad. We are not a council of itate, nor is it our business to deliberate upon or direct the secret operations of government, though it be our duty fometimes to enquire into them. We are the representatives of the people, and in effect a popular assembly. To aim at secrecy in our debates, would not only be a vain and ridiculous attempt, but, I apprehend, absolutely contrary to the principles upon which this house is conítituted. It would be turning a democratical affembly into the form of an arifocracy. The nobility of Venice wisely bar the doors of their fenate-house, because they are not the representatives, but the tyrants of the people. Such a policy may be prudent and necessary, where the interests of a few who govern, are different from those of the many, who are governed. But I flatter myself, the noble lord will not insinuate, that the house of and the people of Great Britain have different \or separate interests from each other, or that we can have any views, which it may import us to conceal from our conftituents. Such a case may possibly happen hereafter, but I am sure it cannot be said with any appearance of truth of the present house of -- His lordihip tells us, that by admitting strangers to hear our debates, the speeches of the members are foon carried abroad and generally misrepresented. Perhaps it may be fo; but will barring our doors prevent that inconverience? does he think that in an affeinbly of above five hundred persons, the discourses held here will not be carried abroad, will not be misrepresented ? the members of this house are neither bound to secrecy, nor is our memory or judgment infallible. But if his anxiety turns chiefly upon this point, I would with him to consider that a stranger, who fits quietly in the gallery, is much more likely to retain, with exactness, what he comes on purpose to hear, than a member who perhaps is interested in the debate, and who probably hears the arguments on one side with prejudice, while he listens with partiality to those of the other. Shall we then, fir, without any reasonable motive whatsoever, give this house the appearance of a foreign inquisition? fhall it be said that a British house of makes laws for the people, as some slavish courts of judicature abroad try state criminals, januis claufis ? To the honour of our courts of justice, they are open to all mankind to make them respectable in the eyes of the people. We are not indeed a court of judicature, but every
argument for opening the courts in Westminster-hall operates with equal or greater force upon us. Wearea popular assembly.-
There is nothing secret in the nature of our business.--By publishing our votes we admit that the nation has a right to be informed of our proceedings.—But above all, it is of the highest importance to the people to know the sentiments and conduct of each particular member, that they may be able to form a just judgment of our integrity and ability, and in what manner we lupport the interests of our conitituents. And shall motives such as these have no weight with us ? shall our inhospitable doors be closed, because one member is afraid of being misrepresented ? I wish the noble lord were as cautious of what he writes in other places, as of what he says here. But in that respect he has taken care to be perfectly safe. The military manifesto, which he has thought proper' to give under his hand, is too plain to be misunderstood, and too bad to be misrepresented.
For the POLITICAL REGISTER.
well obferves, that if the executive power shall ever presume to interfere in matters of election, and to make use of those very offices, and revenues, with which it was originally vested for the reward of merit, to operate upon the minds of timid electors of representatives in parliament, then and in that case the executive power must overwhelm the legislative, and be soon buried in the ruins of both.
If the name and power of the executive part of government be made use of by a minister or his agents, in elections, it alters not the case, and is a high a front offered to the facred majesty of the constitution of a free country.
If boroughs will dispose of their power of electing two representatives to the highest bidders, this only thews a total dissolution of virtue and morals in such boroughs; and they need not wonder at their representatives selling themselves to successive administrations, when they must remember how dear their favours cost them. But if the executive power shall presume to give a sanction to such proceedings, and not demonstrate a worthy resentment, at such prostitutions of authority, then indeed that fatal period, foretold by Monterquieu, will arrive, when (writes that great author) the