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rashness, the sudden panics, and the frantic tumults, incident to democratic assemblies, joined to the interruption of industry, the stagnation of commerce, the jarring of private animofities, and the fury of civil broils, shook the ftate to its foundations; it would have been fruitless for any patriot, however conscious of the rapid and alarming progress of the poison, to have proposed the genuine antidote. The man who had dared to exhort the turbulent multitudes absorbed in the prosecution of political contests, and exulting in the daily exercise of legislative power, to divest themselves of their authority, and commit it to the hands of deputed representatives, would either have been torn in pieces by their hafty rage ; or would have escaped their immediate vengeance only to have been driven by ostracism into perpetual exile, or to have been hurled from the Tarpeian rock.

But in England, when the commonalty,during the contentions of the Sovereign with the Barons, and the conflicts of rival pretenders to the Throne, had gradually acquired such weight in the national scale, as to assert a con

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{titutional right of forming an independent branch of the Legislature; the situation of the people was almost entirely opposite to that of the Citizens of Athens and of Rome. Along course of royal and aristocratic oppression had fuperfeded the convocation, and perhaps extinguished the memory, of those general assemblies of the Nation, which appear anciently to have been established'in this country as well as in the other (6) parts of Europe by the victorious invaders of the Roman Empire. The principle of representation therefore had not to contend with the violence of popular prejudice and ambition. And the operation of a particular cause insured its introduction and establishment. The influence which had been gained by the commonalty was not an influence equally distributed among the people at large; but was principally if not exclusively

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(6) See the account given by Dr. Robertson of the annual assemblies of the French, denominated from the place and time of the meeting “ Les Champs de Mars & “ de Mai,” and of the corresponding assemblies of the Germans, and of all the barbarous Nations” of Europe. History of Charles the Fifth, vol. i. p. 432, 433; 1973 4036

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concentred in those detached bodies of individuals, who were collected in cities and towns. These attracting the notice of the Monarch, partly by their wealth, partly by their union and collective strength, easily obtained in succeffion the privilege of sending, deputies to meet him in his Parliament, both to defend the interests of their constituents, and to co-operate in making laws for the Nation.

The grand object to be pursued in forming a Representative Assembly is, to provide that it shall have an identity of interest with its conftituents, and shall express their general and deliberate sense of public measures. On the observance in a due degree of these essential and vital principles, the utility of the House of Commons, as a body of Representatives of the People of England, radically depends. To secure or to revive the purity and vigour of these principles is the destined object of the periodical recurrence of elections ; of the royal prerogative of dissolving Parliament at any time, of Bills for the exclusion of placemen, pensioners, and contractors from seats in the House of Commons, and of certain classes

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of men, as officers of excise, from the rights of electors; and has been the professed design of all the plans which have been proposed for parliamentary reform. And the great purposes of the Representative institution have been alike abandoned, when the House of Commons has been induced tamely to surrender the rights which it was deputed to maintain ; and when it has assumed powers to itself committed to the other branches of the Legislature. They were alike abandoned when it assigned to the proclamations of Henry thę Eighth the validity of laws; and when it extorted from Charles the First the privilege of not being dissolved without its own consent.

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Our immediate concern is with the duties of individual Members of Parliament. The proper discharge of them however so closely depends on a thorough knowledge of the leading constitutional purposes which the . House of Commons is formed to answer ; that a summary account of those purposes, far from being foreign to the present plan, seems necessary to render it useful,

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The equilibrium of the Constitution under which we live, like that of the frame of the planet on which we dwell, is preserved by the reciprocal action and counteraction of its component parts. Were either of the elementary branches of the Legislature to invade the rights of the others, it would experience a determined refiftance from their combined and countervailing exertions. The House of Commons, by a suitable exercise of the powers with which it is invested, performs its part in the important office of supporting the balance of the Constitution. The peculiar service required of it is to communicate and carry into effect the national will; and industriously to repel every attack, whether open or disguised, which may be directed against public liberty. The mode in which it repels encroachments, either of the Crown or of the House of Lords, on the rights of the People, varies according to the circumstances of the case and of the times. When emergences have required open resistance, the House of Commons has not shewn

, itself disposed to shrink from actual contest. But, in the common train of events, it effectually secures the object in question by the less, irritating, and therefore the more falutary, VOL. I.

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