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a few feffions, I shall expect to see a bill brought in: for preventing any man's being a member of the other. Houte but such as huve fome place or pension under the Crown. As an argument for such a bill, it might be faid, that his Majesty's moft faithful fubjeéts bught to be chosen members of Parliament, and that thofe gentlemen will always be most faithful to the king that receive the king's money. I thall grant, my Lords, that such gentleinen will be always the most faithful, and the most obedient to the minister ; but for this very reason, I should be for excluding them from Parliament. The king's real intereft, however much he may be made by his ministers to njiftake it, must always be the same with the people's; but the minifter's interest is generally distinct from, and often contrary to both : therefore I fall always be for excluding, as much as possible, from Parliament, every man who is v:der the least inducement to prefer the interest of the minister to that of both king and people: and this I take to be the case of every gentleman, let his estate and family be what they will, that holds a pension at the will of the minifer.
Those who say, they depend so much upon the honour, integrity, and impartiality of men of family and fortune, seem to think our constitution can never be disfolved as long as we have the shadow of a Parliament: My opinion, my Lords, is so very different, that if ever: onr constitution be dissolved, if ever an absolute monarchy be establifhed in this kingdom, I am convinced: it will be under that shadow. Our constitution consists in the two Houses of Parliament being a check-upon the Crown, as well as upon one another. If that check should ever be removed, if the Crown should, by corrupt means, by places, pensions, and bribes, get the absolute direction of our two Houses of Parliament; our conftitution will, from that moment, be destroyed. Tliere would be no occasion for the Crown to proceed any farther. It would be ridiculous to lay 'aside the forms of Parliament; for under that shadow our king would be more abfolute, and might govern more arbitrarily, than he could do without it. A gentleman of family and fortune, would not, perhaps, for the sake of a-penkon, agree to
lay aside the forms of government; because, by his venal service there, he earns his infamous pension, and could not expect the continuance of it if thofe forms were laid afide : but a gentleman of family and fortune may, for the fake of a pension, whilst he is in Parliament, approve of the most blundering measures, consent to the most excessive and useless grants, enact the most oppreffive laws, pass the most villanous accounts, acquit the most heinous criminals, and condemn the most inno. cent persons, at the desire of that minister who pays him his pension. And, if a majority of such House of Parliament consisted of such men, would it not be ridiculous in us to talk of our constitution, or to say we had any liberty left – This misfortune, this terrible condition, we may be reduced to by corruption : as brave, as free a people as we, the Romans, were reduced to it by the same means; and to prevent such a horrid catastrophe, is the defign of this bill.
If people would at all think, if they would confider the consequences of corruption, there would be no occalion, my Lords, for making laws against it. It would appear so horrible, that no man would allow it to approach him. The corrupted ought to consider, that they do not tell their vote, or their country only: these, pere baps, they may disregard ; but they fell likewise them. felves: they become the bond-Naves of the corrupter, who corrupts them, not for their lakes, but for his own. No man ever corrupted another for the fake of doing him a service. And therefore, if people would but confider, they would always reject the offer with disdain. But this is not to be expected. The histories of all
. countries, the history even of our own country, shows it is not to be depended op. The proffered bribe, people think, will fatisfy the immediate cravings of some infa. mous appetite ; and this makes them swallow the alluring bait, though the liberties of their country, the happiness of their pofterity, and even their own liberty, evi, dently depend upon their refusing it. This makes it ne. cessary, in every free ftate, to contrive, if possible, effectual laws againit corruption : and, as the laws we now have for excluding pensioners from the other House, are allowed to be ineffetual, we ought to make a trial, at
leaft, of the remedy now propofed : for, though it should prove ineffectual, it will be attended with this advaniage, that it will put us upon contriving fome other remedy that may be effectual; and the fooner such a remedy is contrived and applied, the less danger we fall be exposed to of falling into that fatal distemper, from which no free state, where it has once beconie, general, has ever yet recovered. II. Lord Mansfield's Speech, in the House of Lords, 1770,
on the Bill for the further preventing the delays of Justice, by reason of Frivilege of Parliament.
MY LORDS, WHEN I consider the importance of this bill to your
Lord hips, I am not surprised it has taken op 19 much of your consideration. It is a bill, indeed, of no common magnitude; it is no less than to take away from two thirds of the legislative body of this great king. dom, certain privileges and immunities of which they have been long possessed. Perhaps ther
is no Gituation the human mind can be placed in, that is so difficult and so trying, as when it is inade a judge in its own cause. There is something implanted in the breast of man fo attached to felf, so tenacious of privileges once obtained, that, in such a situation, either to discuss with impartiality, or decide with justice, has ever been held as the summit of all human virtue. The bill now in question puts your Lordships in this very predicament; and I doubt not but the wifdom of your decision will convince the world, that where felf-interest and justice are in opposite scales, the latter will ever preponderate with your Lordiliips.
Privileges have been granted to legislators in all ages and in all countries. The practice is founded in wildom: and, indeed, it is peculiarly effential to the constitution of this country, that the members of both Houses fould be free in their persons in cases of civil finits; for there may come a time when the safety and welfare of this whole empire may depend upon their attendance in parliament. God forbid that I should advise any mea. fure that would in future endanger the state : but the bill before your Lordships has, I am confident, no such
tendency; for it expressly secures the persons of members of either House in ail civil fisits. This being the case, I confels, when I see many noble Lords, for whose judgment I have a very great respect, itanding up to oppofe a bill which is calculated merely to facilitate the recovery of just and legal debts, I am astonished and amazed. They, I doubt not, oppose the bill upon public principles : I would not wish to infimate, that private interest had the least weight in their determination.
This bill has been frequently proposed, and as frequently miscarried: but it was always lost in the Lower House. Little did I think, when it had passed the Commons, that it possibly could have met with fuch oppofition here. Shall it be laid, that you, my Lords, the grand council of the nation, the highest judicial and legiTative body of the realm, endeavour to evade by privilege those very laws which you enforce on your fellow-Tubjects --Forbid it Juftice !-I am sure, were the noble Lords as well aquainted as I am with but half the difficulties and delays occasioned in the courts of joitice under preterice of privilege, they would not, nay they could not, oppose this bill.
I have waited with patience to hear what arguments might be urged against the bill, but I have waited in vain: the truth is, there is no argument that can weigh against it. The justice and expediency of the bill are such as render it felf-evident. It is a proposition of that nature, that can neither be weakened by argument, nor iotangled with fophitry. Much, indeed, has been faid by some noble Lords on the wisdom of our anceftors, and how differently they thought from us. They not only decreed, triat privilege should prevent all civil fuits from proceeding during the fittirg of parliament, but likewile granted protection to the very servants of members. I Mall say nothing on the wisdom of our an. cestors; it might perhaps appear invidious ; that is not nieceffery in the present cafe. I shall only say, that the noble Lords who flatter themselves with the weight of that reflection, thould remember, that as circumstances alter, things themselves fould alter. Formerly, it was not To fashionable either for matters or servants to run in debt as it is at prelent. Formerly we were not that
great commercial nation we are at prefent; nor former. Jy were merchants and manufacturers members of parliament as at prelent. The case now is very different: both merchants and manufacturers are, with great propriety, elected members of the Lower Houle. Commerce having thus got into the legislative body of the kingdom, privilege must be done away. We all know, that the very foul and essence of trade are regular payments; and fad experience teaches us, that there are men, who will not make their regular payments with out the compulsive power of the laws. The law then ought to be equally open to all: any exemption to par. ticular men, or particular ranks of men, is, in a free and commercial country, a solecism of the groffest nature.
But I will not trouble your Lordships with arguments for that which is sufficiently evident without any. I fhall only say a few words to some noble Lords, who foresee much inconveniency from the persons of their fervants being liable to be arrested. One noble Lord ob: serves, That the coachman of a peer may be arrested while he is driving his master to the House, and, consequently, he will not be able to attend his duty in parliament. If this were actually to happen, there are so many methods by which the member might still get to the House, that I can hardly think the noble Lord is fe rious in his objection. Another noble Peer said, That by this bill one might lofe their most valuable and honest servants. This I hold to be a contradiction in terms : for he can reither be a valuable servant, nor an honest man, who gets into debt which he is neither able nor willing to pay, till compelled by law. If my fervant, by unforeseen accidents, has got into debt, and I still will to retain him, I certainly would pay the debt. But upon no principle of liberal legislation whatever, can my servant have a title to let his creditors at defiance, while, for forty fhillings only, the honest tradesman may be torn from his family, and locked up in a gaol. It is monstrous, injustice ! I fatter myself, however, the determination of this day will entirely put an end to all such partial proceedings for the future, by pafling into a law the bill now under your Lordships consideration. I come now to speak, upon what, indeed, I would have