« PreviousContinue »
proceeded strait onward in my conduct, fo I will
my account of those parts of it which have been most excepted to. But I must first beg leave just to hint to you, that we may suffer very great detriment by being open to every talker. It is not to be imagined, how much of service is loft from spirits full of activity, and full of energy, who are pressing, who are rushing forward, to great and capital objects, when you oblige them to be continually looking back. Whilst they are defending one service, they defraud you of an hundred. Applaud us when we run; console us when we fall; cheer us when we recover ; but let us pass on--for God's fake, let us pass on.
Do you think, gentlemen, that every publick act in the six years since I stood in this place before you that all the arduous things which have been done in this eventful period, which has crowded into a few years space the revolutions of an age, can be opened to you on their fair grounds in half an hour's conversation ?
But it is no reason, because there is a bad mode of inquiry, that there should be no examination at all. Most certainly it is our duty to examine; it is our interest too. But it must be with discre. tion; with an attention to all the circumstances, and to all the motives ; like found judges, and not like cavilling pettyfoggers and quibbling pleaders, prying into flaws and hunting for exceptions.
Look, gentlemen, to the whole tenour of your member's conduct. Try whether his ambition or his avarice have justled him out of the strait line of duty; or whether that grand foe of the offices of active life, that master-vice in men of business, à degenerate and inglorious floth, has made him flag and languish in his course? This is the object of our inquiry. If our member's conduct can bear this touch, mark it for sterling. He may have fallen into errours; he must have faults; but our errour is greater, and our fault is radically ruinous to ourselves, if we do not bear, if we do not even applaud, the whole compound and mixed mass of such a character. Not to act thus is folly; I had almost faid it is impiety. He censures God, who quarrels with the imperfections of man.
Gentlemen, we must not be peevish with those who serve the people. For none will serve uś whilst there is a court to serve, but those who are of a nice and jealous honour, They who think every thing, in comparison of that honour, to be dust and ashes, will not bear to have it foiled and impaired by those, for whose fake they make a thousand facrifices to preserve it immaculate and whole. We shall either drive such men from the publick stage, or we shall send them to the court for protection : where, if they must sacrifice their reputation, they will at least fecure their interest. Depend upon it, that the lovers of freedom will
be free. None will violate their conscience to please us, in order afterwards to discharge that conscience, which they have violated, by doing us faithful and affectionate service. If we degrade and deprave their minds by servility, it will be absurd to expect, that they who are creeping and abject towards us, will ever be bold and incorruptible assertors of our freedom, against the most seducing and the most formidable of all powers. No! human nature is not so formed; nor shall we improve the faculties or better the morals of publick men, by our poffeffion of the most infallible receipt in the world for making cheats and hypocrites.
Let me say with plainnefs, I who am no longer in a publick character, that if by a fair, by an indulgent, by a gentlemanly behaviour to our representatives, we do not give confidence to their minds, and a liberal scope to their understandings; if we do not permit our members to act upon a very enlarged view of things; we shall at length infallibly degrade our national representation into a confused and scuffling bustle of local agency. When the popular member is narrowed in his ideas, and rendered timid in his proceedings, the service of the crown will be the fole nursery of statesmen. Among the frolicks of the court, it may at length take that of attending to its business. Then the monopoly of mental power will be added
to the power of all other kinds it possesses. On the side of the people there will be nothing but impotence: for ignorance is impotence; narrowness of mind is impotence; timidity is itself impotence, and inakes all other qualities that go along with it, impotent and useless.
At present it is the plan of the court to make its servants insignificant. If the people should fall into the same humour, and should choose their servants on the same principles of mere obsequi. ousness, and flexibility, and total vacancy or indifference of opinion in all publick matters, then no part of the state will be found ; and it will be in vain to think of saving it.
I thought it very expedient at this time to give you this candid counsel; and with this counsel I would willingly close, if the matters which at various times have been objected to me in this city concerned only myself, and my own election. These charges, I think, are four in number ;-my neglect of a due attention to my constituents, the not paying more frequent visits here ;--my conduct on the affairs of the firft Irish trade acts my opinion and mode of proceeding on lord Beauchamp's debtors bills ;-—and my votes on the late affairs of the Roman Catholicks. All of these (except perhaps the first) relate to matters of very considerable publick concern; and it is not lest you should cenfure me improperly, but lest you should form improper opinions on matters of some mo. ment to you, that I trouble you at all upon the fubject. My conduct is of small importance.
With regard to the first charge, my friends have fpoken to me of it in the style of amicable expostulation; not so much blaming the thing, as lamenting the effects.-Others, less partial to me, were less kind in assigning the motives. I admit, there is a decorum and propriety in a member of parliament's paying a respectful court to his conftituents. If I were conscious to myself that pleafure or dissipation, or low unworthy occupations, had detained me from personal attendance on you, I would readily admit my fault, and quietly submit to the penalty. But, gentlemen, I live at an hundred miles distance from Bristol ; and at the end of a session I come to my own house, fatigued in body and in mind, to a little repose, and to a very little attention to my family and my private
A visit to Bristol is always a sort of canvass ; else it will do more harm than good. To pass from the toils of a session to the toils of a canvass, is the furthest thing in the world from repose. I could hardly serve you as I have done, and court you too. Most of you have heard, that I do not very remarkably spare myself in publick bufiness; and in the private business of my constituents I have done very near as much as those who have nothing else to do. My canvass of you was