1. ARGUMENTS About the ALTERATION of TRIENNIAL ELECTIONS OF
In a LETTER to a Friend in the Country.
YOUR laſt Letter expreſſes your great Concerns and Fears about the Deſign now on foot for the Alteration of the Act for the frequent Meeting and Calling of Parliaments in one Particular, that is, the Changing the Term for Elections of Parliament, from three to more Years; and at the ſame time gives me an Account of the ſeveral Objections, which make the greateſt Noiſe around you upon that Subject. The ſame Fears, and the ſame Objections, I find to be very common, and very warmly propagated in all Converſations here in Town.
For my ſelf, I acknowledge that it is with me, in this Caſe, as it is in many others of Importance; the firſt Surprize gave me the like Uneaſineſs to what you expreſs: But I am very well ſatisfied, that the moſt likely Way to cure that Uneaſineſs, is, to debate the Matter as Friends; and to examine, Whether that Surprize be the Force of meer Prejudice, or of good Judgment. And for this, I am very ſure, I am in one Reſpect, at leaſt, well qualified, That as to my own private Advantage, or Intereſt, it is not of the leaſt Importance to me, Whether the Parliament may, with the Conſent of the King, ſit three Years, or ſeven Years, or twenty Years. I have no Deſigns, nor Views; no Piques, nor Reſentments; to incline me one way or other: And therefore, if you will put your ſelf into the ſame Poſture of Mind, we will, if you pleaſe, enter upon this Subject.
In all Debates of this Nature, there are Two principal Points, which will comprehend under them all other Particulars. The One is, Whether the Thing propoſed be lawful, with regard to the Nature of our Conſtitution? The Other is, Whether it be expedient, or uſeful, to the Good Ends which ought always to be in the View of thoſe who make Laws?
The Lawfulneſs of the Thing can't be denied by any Perſons, tho' never ſo great Enemies to the doing it. Nor do I find, amongſt all the Topicks employed againſt it, that any thing of Moment is [...] againſt the Right or Authority of the [...] Legiſlature to do it. It is no more a Fundamental of our Conſtitution, That a New Parliament muſt be ſummon'd every three Years, than at any other Interval. It is equally juſt, as far as Right and Authority are concern'd, for the King, Lords and Commons, to ſix it for one Term, as for another: And if it were not out of their Right to make that Great Alteration, which fix'd it for three Years, it certainly cannot be out of their Right to make a much leſs Alteration, by fixing it once more to another Term.
As to the Senſe and Mind of the Electors, the Truth of the Matter is this: They are ſuppos'd to have no other View in their Choice of Perſons, than to ſend ſuch to Parliament as they think beſt qualified, by their Eſtates, Wiſdom and Integrity, to do whatever is to be done in Parliament, without regard to the Time of their Sitting there. And there is no other End in the electing Repreſentatives, but that they, from Time to Time, may make, and alter Laws, in ſuch manner as beſt to conſult and promote the Good of the whole Community: The very Election is, and muſt be ſuppoſed to impower the Elected Perſons, faithfully, and impartially, to do every Thing that is neceſſary, or expedient, for the Preſervation and Eſtabliſhment of the Common Intereſt, whether it falls in with the Humours or Opinions of the Electors, or not. This brings us to the only Point to be conſider'd, when any Alteration of a former Changeable Law is propoſed; and that is, Whether, (all Things conſider'd,) it be Expedient and Uſeful?
And of this, as far as the Time paſt is concern'd, Experience is the beſt Judge. When a [Page 2] Law hath been long tried, and the Conſequences and Effects of it in a Nation, have been many Years open and ſenſible, it requires but little Thought to judge, whether it be beſt to continue it in every Reſpect, as it is, or to model it anew. And now, if you pleaſe, we will conſider the Effect the Triennial Elections have had amongſt our ſelves at Home; and then it will be proper to think of the Effect they have had, and ſtill muſt naturally have, Abroad.
At Home, the leaſt Evil is, that the Tempers and Spirits of Men are put into a Fermen [...], and boil'd up into a Rage, which never is cooled, becauſe the Returns, at which this Rage is uſeful to ſome Perſons or other, are ſo quick, that it is not Politick in ſuch Men to let it ceaſe; nor perhaps poſſible for them to make it ceaſe, even if they were willing to do ſo. Riots, Tumults, Mutual Abuſes, odious Nick-Names, Perſonal Affronts, are kept alive and warm, from Three Year to Three Year, by Men of Deſign and Dexterity in the Management of other Men's Paſſions; improved and heighten'd by ſuch quick Returns: Theſe are what we ſee and feel of the Effects of it upon the Temper of a Nation, that if ever it is ruined, can be ruined by nothing but its divided Affections and Intereſts.
Beſides this, there could not be contrived a Method more effectual to the Debauchery of the Subject's Morals, not only in one, but in all, Reſpects, than this hath proved. Bribery, known and open, (without a Remedy) which ſuppoſeth a Corruption of Mind, and naturally leads to an Inſenſibility to every thing Great and Honourable; and by Degrees, to a perfect Diſregard to every thing Sacred and Uſeful. A Scene of Beſtial Intemperance encouraged and paid for in many Places, for fear Friendſhip ſhould cool, if it be not kept hot by ſuch Methods.—And the Crimes that often accompany this, need not be mentioned. The leaſt is a General Diſpoſition in Men to leave the Thoughts of Diligence and Induſtry in their Buſineſs, for the more agreeable Entertainments of Idleneſs, and a luxurious Beggary.
I do not ſuppoſe or argue that this Alteration of the Term will put a full Stop to this Corruption of Morals, either as to Bribery, or to the other Inſtances named. But it is certain that the Returns being not ſo quick, the Tempers of Men muſt, in the Nature of Things, become much more eaſy to one another by Degrees; which is itſelf an Advantage greatly to be valued. It is certain, that the Scent of Bribery cannot be ſo ſtrong, nor the Avowal of it ſo conſtant, when there is ſuch an Intermiſſion. And, as for that never-ceaſing Current of Debauchery, requiſite for ſo frequent Elections, it muſt be this way interrupted; and, in a good Degree, broken into. The Crimes often accompanying it muſt diminiſh: And the Men, brought up to laborious Callings, muſt exchange their Idleneſs for Induſtry; and become much more uſeful to their Families and the Publick.
I mention not the Ruin both of the Eſtates and Morals of Gentlemen, ſo frequently Candidates at our Elections: They know beſt how well they can bear ſuch Evils; and whether it tends to make themſelves better Patriots to their Country, or better Fathers to their own Families, that they are to make their Way by ſo quick Returns of Bribery and Corruption.
We have hitherto conſidered the ill Effect of theſe evil Conſequences at home, ſuppoſing them to terminate in the Concerns of Private Men. But this Suppoſition is not to be continued. For you will ſee preſently, that all theſe Things have a viſible Influence upon the Publick. The General Topick amongſt the Adverſaries of this Alteration, as well thoſe who hate, as thoſe who love, Liberty; truly ſo called, is, the ſeeming Advantage of this Part of the Act to that great and lovely Good. I call it ſeeming; becauſe, as it never was deſigned at firſt, by many of the moſt zealous Promoters of it, for any thing but to cramp the Endeavours of a Good Prince, for the ſettling our Liberties: So it hath never had any better laſting Effect that Way, than they deſign'd it ſhould have; but, as I think, viſibly tends, in its Conſequences, to the Deſtruction of our legal Liberties. The Reaſon is ſhort and plain. Nothing in the World can make Men more ſupinely negligent of the Publick Intereſt, or diſpoſe them more to receive their Chains, than a State of Bribery, Corruption, Debauchery and Idleneſs. And this is the conſtant State of moſt of our Electors, meerly thro' the quick Returns, and the pleaſing Proſpect of Elections. The more laſting and uninterrupted this State is, the leſs ſenſible are they of the Evils it inclines them to. They are by degrees brought to think the higheſt Bidder to have the beſt Right to their Votes. And will act in Time agreeably to that Thought, whether the Money be offer'd them from Abroad, or at Home. The little Interruption to their Vices and their Expectations, is the Thing which makes the Danger ſo great: And this is owing to the frequent Returns of Elections, at ſo ſhort, certain, Periods of Time.
Nor doth this Argument touch the Electors only, but the Elected alſo, to a very great degree. For as long as Humane Nature is capable of Corruption; as long as there is a Probability, or even a Poſſibility, of any Part of Mankind being induced to ſell their Country and their Poſterity, for a preſent Advantage to themſelves; ſo long it is evident to a Demonſtration, that Gentlemen, who have, by ſo frequent Returns of Chargeable Elections, exhauſted their Eſtate, and impoveriſhed their Families, will be much more likely to ſeek, or to embrace Opportunities of re-imburſing themſelves, and preventing their own immediate Ruin, at the Expence of the publick Liberty and Security; much more likely I ſay, to act this Part, than if the Term were made longer; and if by that Means they might hope to be at reſt from Expence for a much longer Time.
Add to this, that Perſonal and Party-Revenge, which is, of all others, the moſt ſtrong Principle in the Bulk of Men, never fails to actuate both the Candidates and the Electors. If ever our Ruin be effected, it is too probable this will be the great Engine of it. And let every one judge, whether any thing could be deviſed more likely, either to raiſe, or actuate, or preſerve that Spirit in its Keenneſs and Bitterneſs, than the Triennial Returns of Elections, and the Expectation of them: Or whether any thing can give us any Reſpite from that Spirit, and its fatal Conſequences, but an Alteration of thoſe Returns to a longer Diſtance.
There is another Conſideration very well worth mentioning on this Subject, which is the Diſtribution of Juſtice in the Countries: It is manifeſt, that nothing hath diverted the Courſe of it from its proper Current, ſo much as the Party-Views of Men, kept up to ſuch a Degree by the expected Returns of frequent Elections; and that nothing can recall it again, but ſome Reſt from thoſe Views which turn'd it aſide. Men will not have [Page 3] the Temptation, and therefore not the Inclination, either to ſuſpend Juſtice, or to act contrary to it, in many of thoſe Inſtances, in which now their conſtant Hopes or Fears, actuated by the Frequency of Elections, are too apt to draw them aſide. Beſides that, when ſome Intermiſſion is given to the Heats and Quarrels of Neighbours, the Occaſions and Opportunities of Partiality or Injuſtice, muſt, in good meaſure, ceaſe.
The Effects which I have now gone over are but too certain, as they are the natural Product of the Paſſions of Men, in a divided Nation; and they are Evils, which will be, by degrees, at leaſt very much abated by the preſent Deſign.
We have hitherto conſider'd our Triennial Elections, their Influence upon Us at Home. Now, let us conſider what Effect They have had, and ſtill naturally have, Abroad. And here it muſt be remembred, that We are a Nation, not ſeparated in Intereſt (as We are in Situation) from the reſt of Europe. We have Enemies at Home, acting in Concert with Enemies Abroad: And Friends Abroad, without regard to whoſe Intereſts and Alliances, We muſt ſooner or later, become a Sacrifice to thoſe Enemies. We have a Pretender to guard againſt; Many here are his profeſs'd Friends; and many more act either blindly or deſignedly with Thoſe who are ſo; bearing a ſenſible part in their Intereſts, and ever encouraging, or at leaſt, not diſcouraging, Them. That which keeps up the Views of thoſe Abroad, who think it their Concern, to make us the Scene of Civil War, if not a Province to themſelves, under that Pretender; That, I ſay, alone, which keeps up their Views, is, the knowing They have Friends here; and the finding that theſe Friends are never in deſpair, but always repreſenting their Cauſe, as promiſing well. And that which keeps them in this Temper, is, the conſtant Expectation of New Elections, in which They hope for more, but are certain at leaſt, of this Advantage, that our Heats, and Hatreds, and Deſire of Revenge, are ſtill perpetuated and improved. This is conſtantly repreſented abroad; and with ſuch Succeſs, that They who wiſh Evil to our Happy Eſtabliſhment, ſeem really to believe it; and they who wiſh well to it, receive Impreſſion enough from it, to look upon Us with Diffidence, as a People, always fluctuating and uncertain. It was this great diſadvantage, ariſing from our Condition at home, that brought King William to make a Peace, even againſt his own good Judgment, and his own great Views; for which nothing could be urged, but that diſtreſs, to which our wretched and uneaſy State here, had reduced his Affairs. And no wonder now if after that great Unhappineſs, and what is ſtill more dreadful, after a late Fatal Experience, the beſt Friends we have Abroad, cannot be ſo confident of us, as our Intereſt makes it requiſite they ſhould be. In a Word, Our Enemies both Abroad, and at Home, can't be reduc'd even one ſtep towards a ſtate of Deſpair, in the Methods We are in at preſent: Nor our beſt Friends be throughly aſſured of our ſecure Eſtate: The Former muſt look upon us ſtill, with a good degree of Contempt; and the Latter with a great deal of Uneaſineſs and Diffidence, till We have ſome reſting Time, to Settle, not only the Tempers, but the Affairs, and the Intereſts of this Nation: Which never will be done, as there is Reaſon to fear, as long as Parliaments continue limited to the preſent Term.
This puts me in mind of another very material Point, which tho' abſolutely neceſſary to procure Us the Confidence of our Friends, and to command Reſpect from our Enemies; yet ſeems impoſſible to be Effected without a greater ſteddineſs of Counſels, a more uninterrupted Application to publick Buſineſs, and a more Mature and Diſintereſted Deliberation, than the Experience we have had of frequent Elections gives room to hope for: This is the Paying off the Debts of the Nation, which muſt otherwiſe Eat out the very Vitals of the Publick, and expoſe Us to the greateſt Danger from ſuch foreign Powers, as are uſing the moſt violent Methods to be before hand with Us in this ſignal Advantage. To work out this inveterate Evil, there appears but one Method, conſiſtent with the Faith of Parliamentary Securities (which ought to be preſerved inviolable) and at the ſame time, free from the Odium of impoſing new Taxes on the Country, and in which conſequently the Landed, and the Monied Intereſt, would be likely to join, without eithers thinking themſelves in the leaſt aggrieved. This is to Raiſe and Support the Publick Credit to ſuch a Height, as may enable the Government to Borrow, at a lower Intereſt, what may Pay off ſuch Debts as carry a greater; which was attempted laſt Year, but hindred by the Rebellion. Now Experience ſhews, that publick Credit will be ſubject to perpetual Fluctuations and Inequalities, or even fall to an Ebb from whence it is next to impoſſible to make it re-aſcend, while the Meaſures of one three Years are liable to be Unravell'd and Reverſed by the Three next ſucceeding, and thoſe again by the next; and whilſt under the Shelter of frequent Elections, ſuch Tumults, Commotions and Diſorders, are Introduced, as, however oppoſite in themſelves, conſpire in ſhaking the Foundation of all Government, keep Mens Minds in ſuſpence, and make them look on every Thing as precarious, that is any ways involved with the Publick.
After many Enquiries, I can meet with but one Good Event, in favour of the Triennial Term for Elections, which a long Experience hath furniſh'd us with: And that is, that it is ſuppos'd to have been the occaſion of throwing out the Deſtructive Bill of Commerce; ſome Gentlemen not daring to Vote for it out of fear, of their next Elections. But this you will ſee, cuts both ways. For, as Gentlemen may by accident, not do a Bad thing for fear of their Next Election; ſo it is as plain, that they may, as often, not do the moſt neceſſary good thing, if it happens to be Unpopular, for the ſame fear. So that this holds at leaſt equally againſt that Bill, as for it. But then many, who knew thoſe Times, will deny the Fact, and affirm, that a multitude of little Piques, and great Paſſions, concurr'd in that Affair; and that the Awe of Electors, happen'd at that time to have but little Share in it. Private Hiſtory would be uſeful to us upon this occaſion. But this We all ſaw in publick, that however that Fear might then be ſuppos'd to work ſo far, as to hinder thoſe few Gentlemen from openly eſpouſing that fatal Bill; it did not work ſo far, as to keep them immediately from entering into an Addreſs, and Voting for ſuch Methods, as muſt have been as Fatal, as that Bill it ſelf, if Providence had not interpoſed. What would it have avail'd us, that the Bill had not paſs'd then, if theſe Deſigns, at the ſame Time on Foot, had prevail'd? And what doth it avail to ſay, that the Triennial Term did Us that good, (ſuppoſing it ſo,) when it is plain, it had not the Power to preſerve that Good; and that the ſame Perſons, who ſeem'd to fear it, yet were induc'd to undo their own Work, and to enter into Meaſures, which muſt have ended in the ſame Evils, [Page 4] and indeed, in Univerſal Deſtruction? It ſignifies little, therefore, whether this was the great occaſion of that lucky Incident or not; becauſe it is plain it had not power enough to hinder the Ill Effects of that Bill, in another Method: Nor would have hindred them, had not ſomething elſe intervened. But ſuppoſing it had; certainly that one particular, ſo purely accidental, cannot be ſet againſt a Train of Conſtant, and too certain, Evil Conſequences, which we feel every Day we live. Theſe Evil Conſequences, are ſo many undeniable-Arguments for an Alteration of it; and weigh exceedingly and particularly at this Juncture, when all our Happineſs depends upon the Firm Eſtabliſhment of our Excellent King, upon this Throne; when all our Enemies at Home and Abroad, viſibly place their Hopes in our Diſturbances, owing to nothing ſo much as to the conſtant Expectation of Triennial Elections; when all our true Friends, both here and elſewhere, wait with Impatience to ſee our Security firmly and throughly Eſtabliſhed: When the going on with proper Meaſures, for ſuch Eſtabliſhment, has been unavoidably put off, by the Attention given to the Rebellion, and ſo the longer Continuance of this Parliament is become particularly neceſſary; And when We all may obſerve, if We pleaſe, that, tho' the Rebellion be in great Meaſure quell'd, yet, the Spirit of it, is ſo far from being lay'd aſleep, that it walks about ſtill, even at Noon-day, in defiance of all Authority; and with a ſtrubborneſs, never to be reduced to a ſettled Deſpair, without ſome ſuch Method, as is now talk'd of.
Theſe Particulars, I ſay, are ſo many undeniable Arguments, for an Alteration of the Term of Years fix'd in the Act, unleſs it ſhall appear that the Objections againſt doing it, are of more Weight and Importance. Thoſe which I have been able to hear of, together with ſuch as you tell me are moſt talk'd of in the Country, We will now juſt run over.
The moſt general Objection (and that which ſeems in reality to lye at the Bottom of all the reſt) is, that this Step will be ſo unpopular among the Electors, and raiſe ſuch a Clamour all over the Nation, as muſt for ever ſink the Intereſt of thoſe who have any Share in promoting it. To this I anſwer, that it will wholly depend on the Parliament it ſelf, to render this proceeding Popular, or Unpopular, by the right or wrong Uſe they ſhall make of the Prolongation thereby accruing to themſelves. If their After-behaviour ſhould be ſuch, as to ſhew they had no wiſer, nor more generous View in making this Alteration, than merely to ſave themſelves the hazard, trouble and expence of a New Election, they muſt, no doubt, be content to reap the Rewards of their Selfiſhneſs, by forfeiting all Title to the future good Will of their Electors. But if their Zeal and Induſtry for promoting the Eaſe and Safety of the Nation, ſhall appear to riſe in proportion to the Time allowed them for accompliſhing the great Work they have begun, the End will ſufficiently commend the Means; and the Advantages ariſing to the whole Kingdom from this Change, will eaſily Reconcile it to all ſuch, with whom a good Man ought ever to wiſh to Maintain the Character of Popularity. It will certainly be in the Power of thoſe who moſt apprehend the Odium, and Unpopularity of this Action, to Secure it from all poſſible Miſ-repreſentations, by making Uſe of the Power it will bring with it, to juſt and wiſe Purpoſes; to eaſe the Debts, to perfect the Tranquility, and to perpetuate the Peace of the Nation. Raiſing Money by Taxes upon Land, Windows, Soap, or any thing elſe, is always Unpopular, and always raiſes Clamours, when it is firſt reſolved upon. Every thing that hath been done for the Security of His preſent Majeſty; the ſuſpending the Habeas Corpus Act, without which We muſt have been deſtroyed; the granting Him a Power to Raiſe, and Hire, Forces for his own, and the Nation's Defence; the putting his Friends into any Poſſibility of conſulting his Safety and Honour; Every particular of this ſort hath been repreſented all over the Nation, in ſuch Colours, that it hath been highly unpopular, and been attended with great Clamours: But Neceſſity and Expedience are the things to be conſider'd in all ſuch Points. Theſe will always make things pleaſing to the true Friends of the Nation. But in order to be popular with the King's Enemies, the firſt Step he muſt take, muſt be, to lay down his Crown; and if his Miniſters be reſolved to be moved by Clamours, they muſt reſign their Poſts, and yield up all Power to thoſe who wiſh to deſtroy them. The only Conſideration is, whether the Nation's Affairs require a thing to be done: When that is fix'd, Popular or Unpopular, Clamours or no Clamours, ought not to affect any farther, than about the manner of doing it. Every thing that touches particular Men's Purſes, or retrenches from their Luxury, will generally be Unpopular with thoſe Men: But a little Time makes ſuch things eaſy, when the Publick finds it's Advantage in it, and Men's Paſſions have had Time to cool.
Another thing which I find generally ſhews it ſelf, at firſt hearing of the Deſign, is, an Uneaſineſs, as if this were Repealing the Act: When, in truth, I will venture to affirm, that it is ſo far from that, that it is indeed Reſtoring it to its beſt Deſign; and making it effectual to all that Good which was originally purpoſed, and intended, by any of thoſe honeſt Patriots who joined in the firſt framing of it. The Deſigns were, that a King of England ſhould not be without a Parliament; and that one and the ſame Parliament ſhould have a Term fixed, beyond which it ſhould not be in the Power of the Prince to continue it. And in both theſe reſpects the Act will be left as it was. All the Difference is, that the Parliament then in being, thought Three Years the proper Term. Experience hath aſſured us of a Multitude of Evils proceeding from ſo quick a Return of Elections. And therefore, in that part of the Act, and in that only, is the Alteration intended, in order to remedy or abate thoſe Evils, without bringing in greater.
Another Reaſon againſt it, is taken from a Suſpicion of ſome private and perſonal Views in the King's Miniſters; as if the whole Aim were to eſtabliſh themſelves, for ſo much longer time, in their Power. But I obſerve, that the ſame Perſons who make this Objection, generally contradict it, by affirming that the Miniſters have nothing to fear, and that this preſent Deſign is wholly unneceſſary, becauſe a Court may be ſure of another Houſe of Commons, to their Mind. They muſt think the Miniſtry very weak, not to ſee this, which is ſo plain, that the Influence of a Court hath hardly ever fail'd in this Point, tho' at the ſame time, the Gentlemen who make this Objection, are apt to inſinuate the neceſſity of ſome Meaſures for this purpoſe, which cannot be very agreeable to an honeſt and incorrupt Miniſtry. However, in the Opinion of ſuch as allow this, it cannot be having a View to Themſelves, but a general View to the Nation at Home, and to the Intereſt and [Page 5] Glory of it Abroad, which engageth the Miniſters in this Deſign. They who know the Nature of ſuch Affairs, judge the contrary, that Miniſters, as to their own private Intereſt, might more probably find their Account in New Parliaments, than in One continued. Experience ſhews, that the moſt Courtly Parliaments have turn'd Uncourtly in their long ſitting. And therefore, this Deſign can't be neceſſary for any private ſelf-intereſted Views of their own, becauſe it is allowed, that ſuch Ends, (if they have any,) might be ſerv'd as well, at leaſt, in the former Method, as in this. They, who find a Biaſs in their Minds, againſt every thing propoſed by a Court, let it be what it will, ſhould conſider, in this Caſe, whether it be not probable that the preſent Views and Deſigns are of a Publick Nature, rather than of a Private; and ſhould act accordingly, without prejudice, or affection, as they think it requiſite, or not, for the Eſtabliſhment of the King, and the Nation; and for the more effectual deſtroying all the Hopes of the Enemies of both.
The moſt powerful Objection of all, is, that the Alteration now deſign'd, may make it much more likely, that under a Bad Prince, ſometime or other, Arbitrary Power may b [...] brought in. For the preſent, I am ſure, we have nothing to fear. We have now a King upon the Throne, whoſe S [...] is faſhioned to Right and Juſtice; and whoſe great enquiry upon all Occaſions is, what our Conſtitution and what our Laws require of Him. We have a Prince, in View, to ſucceed Him, whoſe Native Honour and Integrity, guard Him againſt all ſuſpicion. But I grant, this may not always be our Happineſs, either in Poſſeſſion, or in Proſpect. And therefore if this All [...]eration could be proved, I ſhould be moved another way, than I am at preſent: There will be more Time, I acknowledge, in any one particular Parliament, for Attempts to be made that way. But, as I think, not at all more likely to ſucceed. On the contrary, there is more likelihood, that Gentlem [...] ſhould by degrees, become even ready to part with a Conſtitution, for which there muſt be ſuch Contention by Bribery, and all the Arts of Iniquity, every Three Years, than if it were otherwiſe. And then again, ſuppoſing a Parliament choſen for Three Years only; a Prince reſolutely bent upon doing it in a Pa [...]liamentary way, prepared with Treaſures and Favours, might make ſuch Attempts, before that Term be expired, that none could reſiſt, who would not as certainly go on farther in their Integrity. One may venture to affirm, that a Parliament which keeps its Integrity for Three Years, will diſcourage the making any ſuch Attempts for the remaining Four. And, to give an Inſtance, if I remember right, the Parliament which gave up the Liberties of Sweden, gave that Fatal ſtroke within the Term of Three Years ▪ Whenever a Cour [...] can be bad enough for ſuch a Deſign, they will firſt take care, at the time of Election, to ſet up Perſons capable of the ſame bad Deſign. And then, there is no difference between Three or Seven Years. Only, here remember, what I have before obſerv'd to you, that the quick Returns of Trienn [...]al Elections. tend much more, to that Corruption, Bribery, Diſſoluteneſs of Manners, as well as Party-Revenge, which pave the way to the loſs of Liberty, than the longer Term, now propoſed, can do. One might appeal to any who know the World, whether it be not more probable (as I have urged already,) that the Elected Gentlemen themſelves, impoveriſh'd by ſo frequent Returns of their great Charges, will be inclined to liſten to the Offer made them, with ſo pernicious a View, than if the Returns were not ſo frequent; and beſides this, whether the Influence that way, from the powerful motive of Party-Revenge, will not have vaſtly more weight, when it [...] rouſed and irritated, and ſet on Fire, by ſo quick Returns of Contention, than if it were otherwiſe. And, what is of great moment, in my opinion, ſince it is plain that every Inſtance of wickedneſs, and divi [...]ion, tending to deſtruction, is ſo heighten'd and infl [...]med by the quick Returns of Elections; there muſt be much greater Encouragement to a Foreign Enemy, to interpoſe with his Money, to purchaſe our Ruine, in a Triennial Choice, than in a Septennial. Eſpecially now, before we are well ſettled upon that Bottom which is the only Foundation of our Happineſs. It is well known how far the Neighbouring Powers intermeddle in the Elections of Poland and Germany, and with how much ſucceſs they ſend their Agents and Factors to them; and what an abuſe of Liberty this Corruption has introduced in thoſe Countries, all the World can teſtify: Nor can we think the Election of a Britiſh Parliament, ſo very indifferent a thing to ſome neighbouring Powers, eſpecially, at certain Junctures, that they ſhould think One or Two Hundred Thouſand Pounds miſapplied, in purchaſing Votes to their Mind. And I can ſay, that this is no whimſical Suppoſition, becauſe I have my ſelf ſeen an Intercepted Letter, written from hence into France, juſt before the laſt Election, by a Friend to the Pretender, who had taken the Oaths to King George, plainly hinting both that ſuch a thing was then expected from the King of France, and that he did not doubt the Succeſs of it. I think, this alone is enough to allarm any true Lover of his Country, in the preſent Situation of our Affairs, and of thoſe of all Europe.
There is one more Objection, I hear, is often urged, That We ſhould have ſeverely blamed ſuch a Deſign in the late Adminiſtration: Nay, that great Horror was expreſs'd, at the very ſuppoſition of the thing, at that time; I grant this, and that the Horror was juſt and reaſonable. But upon what was this founded? Not upon the unlawfulneſs of the thing it ſelf; not upon the Impoſſibility of it's ever being fit to be done; but upon a too wellgrounded Aſſurance, that they who were then in Power muſt have meant it, whenever they did it, for the ſame end, to which their other Acts tended, and that was, the utter Ruine of the Grand-Alliance, and of all the Hopes of our beſt Friends Abroad, and the inſpiring full Vigour into the Cauſe of France and the Pretender. This was the Ground of all juſt dread upon that Head. Had it been ſo, that they had deſign'd it manifeſtly for the firmer Security of the Proteſtant Succeſſion here, and the greater ſupport of the Grand Alliance abroad, no true Britain could have had ground of Complaint, but muſt have acknowledg'd, if it tended, and was n [...]eſſary to ſo good ends, that it was not only lawfull, but highly praiſe-worthy. An Inſtance parallel to it may quite take off the Edg [...] of this Objection. What honeſt Mind would not have been filled with Uneaſineſs and Terror, ſuppoſing They had then attmpted to ſuſpend the Habeas Corpus Act, by which they might have confined all Men of great Capacity and Influence, whom they knew to be averſe to their Proceedings, in favour of France? But would this have been any Argument, why the Friends of King George ſhould not have ſecured Him and the Nation by ſuch a Suſpenſion, when made neceſſary by the Treaſonable Practices of his avowed Enemies? Or becauſe we blame a thing, [Page 6] lawful in it ſelf, when we ſee it deſign'd for our [...]; therefore, muſt we be averſe to a lawful thing, deſign'd, and tending to our Preſervation? This is the whole ſtrength of that Objection, which yet, I believe, weighs with many, for want of conſidering it.
As for the late Miniſters, I verily believe they deſign'd no ſuch thing. And my reaſon for believing ſo, is, that they did not at all want it; nay, that it would have done them more Hurt than Good. Their Deſigns were ſuch as were to be manag'd ſolely by Artifice. The great Engines they made uſe of for keeping up a Spirit, againſt all Truth and Right, were thoſe very Mobbs, Riots, and Tumults, which alone could keep a Multitude in ſuch a Ferment, as to make them admire, and preſs for their own Ruine. They thought it their Intereſt to govern by the Paſſions of the Crowd: And were very peculiarly dextrous in the Management of them. They were poſſeſs'd of the full Cry, and Noiſe of the Nation, and likely, in all probability, ſo to continue: This was a much ſurer Hold to Them, and to their Deſigns, than the Continuance of One and the ſame Parliament: And therefore, they never attempted it. But certainly, as that ſame Spirit, which was then raiſed for the Service of the Pretender, made it unneceſſary for them; ſo, it being ſtill alive, and full of evil Influences upon our Happineſs, this makes it highly prudent in Others, to do that in order to ſuppreſs and extirpate it, which They, in their Wiſdom, would not do, for fear of quieting what they expected Benefit from. Their ſecurity conſiſted in keeping up that vile Spirit to the Heighth. It is the ſecurity of the King and his Government, to have a ſtop put to it, and to remove every Opportunity that may give Fuel and Encouragement to it, as far as is conſiſtent with the Conſtitution and Liberties of the Nation.
All theſe Conſiderations put together, have, I confeſs, wholly taken off my Firſt Surprize. And the ſame Conſiderations make me hope, that all true Friends to the King, and to the Publick Happineſs, (which now depends entirely upon the firm Eſtabliſhment of the preſent Royal Family) will not let their General Suſpicion, or their Particular Biaſs, have ſuch Power over them, as to move them, to join with their own Enemies, in a Point, in which if they ſhould, by any unforeſeen Accident, have Succeſs, I am confident, they would very heartily, as well as fruitleſly repe [...], of their own Proceedings. When Perſons who have always ſhewn themſelves Enemies to Liberty, and Profeſſors of the Principles of Slavery; who have ever expreſs'd a Hatred of the Revolution, and of every thing built upon it; and have ever been the Supports of the Popiſh and Jacobite Intereſt in theſe Nations: When ſuch, I ſay, put on a Zeal for Liberty, it is a Moral Demonſtration that it is all a M [...]ck-Shew; and that they themſelves think quite otherwiſe of what they oppoſe, than they would ſeem to think. If it were really their Opinion, that the Alteration now propoſed, would either help the Cauſe which they have eſpouſed, or be any Prejudice to a Government which they hate, I am very confident, they would not enter into the Oppoſition of it, with that Warmth and Heat which they now profeſs. But they foreſee that their Hopes muſt in Proportion abate, with thoſe Heats and Diſturbances which alone keep them alive; and for this Reaſon it is, that they now take into their Mouths the [...]rds and Topicks which they have ever hitherto ridiculed and exploded; in order to keep off the T [...]ng which they heartily hate, the Settlement of the preſent Government in Peace and Quiet at Home, and in Honour and Glory Abroad.
And this is one very good Reaſon, why All, who truly wiſh well to that Settlement, ſhould unite in the Alteration of that which is the Chief, if not the Only, thing left to keep up the Spirits and Deſigns of its Enemies. But if, when it is in our Power, to put ſome Stop to our preſent Corruptions and Diſtractions, and to eſtabliſh the Glory of our King, and the Happineſs of our Country, in a Method perfectly confident with all our Rights and Liberties, we are guided by the Inſinuations of thoſe who hate us, and refuſe to do it, we muſt thank our ſelves for all that follows. It will lie at our Door to anſwer for all the Conſequences of ſuch a Neglect. From theſe, with whom we join in it, we have no Returns to expect, but Contempt, Reproaches, and Inſults.
In fine, I can conſider the Triennial Return of our Elections, no otherwiſe, than as what hath made us, and ſtill continues us, the moſt Divided and moſt Corrupted of Nations; what was at firſt by many contrived, and ſtill in its own Nature tends to oppoſe the Deſigns of the Beſt Kings, and to promote thoſe of the Worſt; leading to an univerſal Debauchery of the Manners and Tempers of the Electors, as well as to make the Elected themſelves weary enough of ſuch perpetual Conteſts and Charge, to incline ſome Time or other to Thoughts which would not otherwiſe find Admittance; influencing the People to think eaſily of becoming a Prey to the Higheſt Bidder; keeping up the Spirits of our Common Enemies, and creating Diffidence and Uneaſineſs in our beſt Friends; introducing and increaſing all Exceſſes of Violence and Mutual Revenge; ſerving a Multitude of bad Purpoſes, which have a peculiar Malignity at this particular Juncture, without having one good Effect, fit to be named in Oppoſition to them: And all this occaſioned by the Shortneſs of the Interval allowed, either to put an End to ſuch Evils, or to cultivate any thing that is Good. To cure all theſe entirely, nothing can perhaps be thought of, but what would introduce greater. To apply ſomething that may put an End to ſome of them, and abate and diminiſh the reſt, is a Matter that deſerves the Regard of every good Briton. And, I believe, at this Time nothing at all effectual can be thought of, without an Alteration of the Triennial Elections. I am, &c.