« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
quired from an individual placed in the Lower House, than might have been incumbent on himn had he been fixed in the Upper.
Referring then the reader to the observations already made in the preceding chapter on those subjects which appertain both to the Peer and to the Member of the House of Commons, I proceed to some particular topics which exclufively belong to the present enquiry; and after adverting to the duties of an individual who aspires to a seat in Parliament, shall subjoin a few brief remarks on the peculiar obligations incumbent on him when elected.
It is the first duty of every man who cherilhes a wish to be deputed as one of the Representatives of the People of Great Britain, to consider whether he actually and fairly porfesses that pecuniary qualification which the law requires. It is well known that evasive methods are sometimes practised to satisfy the letter of the law on the subject, while they are directly contrary to its spirit and intention. And they are commonly palliated on the plea that the law in question is impolitic; and that
to carry it according to its real purport into execution, would be to exclude from seats in the House of Commons men of great abilities and slender fortunes, who might otherwise have exerted their talents in Parliament with the highest advantage to their country. To enquire whether the law is on the whole impolitic or not, falls not within the plan of the present work. But what if this impolicy were admitted ? Is a British subject at liberty to disregard and evade a law, merely because he deems it, or knows it to be generally deemed, inexpedient? Let him take, if he thinks fit, according to his station, constitutional means to procure its repeal; but while it remains a law, let him fulfil the first obligation of a subject, and set an example of scrupulous and punctual obedience.
If he is duly qualified according to the spirit of the Act of Parliament, let him in the next place seriously and impartially investigate the motives by which he is incited to become a candidate for a seat in the House. · If he is impelled by a desire to gratify ambition, pride, or envy, or to promote his private interest at
the expence of the public good; let him eradicate from his breast the unchristian principle, before he indulges a thought of further perse. verance in his design. If his motives are fuf. ficiently pure to stand the test of self-exami. nation, let him in the next place consider and appreciate the effects, whether beneficial or injurious, whether limited to himself or reaching to others, which are likely to result from his declaring himself a candidate. Let him estimate on the one hand the services which he may reasonably hope to render to his country and to the human race by the acquisition of legislative power, and by enlarged opportunities of promoting religion, learning and science, of preventing injustice, of discovering and relieving distress, and of improving the manners and morals of others by the influence of a more conspicuous and more weighty example. On the other hand let him fairly deliberate, whether by offering himself he is not excluding another, who might be expected to discharge the office of Member of Parliament with more ability and advantage. Let him not think lightly of the pain and detriment which he may occafion to his opponent, par-,
ticularly if that opponent be the late representative. Let him recollect the expence, the discord, the tumults, the intemperance, the profligacy, to which a contested election almost always, and an undisputed election not unfrequently, gives birth ; the risk to which he shall be exposed of yielding to the various temptations of the hour, especially if the struggle should be protracted, and the event grow more and more ambiguous ; the danger of becoming inveterate and uncharitable towards his competitor ; of being soured by defeat; or of finding himself or his family exposed, in case of opposition, to more formidable trials by success and a consequent new line of life.
If, on drawing the balance between the
probable good and evil, the preponderance of the former should be such as to justify a conscientious man in stepping forward as a candidate; he will steadily resolve, if he be confi. derately conscientious, to watch his heart and his actions with the scrupulous care which so trying a situation requires ; and to avail himself of no sinister means to promote his success. In his declarations to the electors, when ther they appear in the shape of circular advertisements or of canvassing letters, of private discourse or of public harangues, he will scorn the insincere and oftentatious parade of unparalleled zeal for the general welfare, and of extravagant attachment to their particular interests. He will follow the dictates of honesty, and be content with the language of truth. He will conform to the intention of every law actually in force respecting elections. He will enter into no clandestine engagements contrary to the spirit, though not perhaps within the letter, of existing statutes. He will not directly or indirectly angle for suffrages by holding out unwarrantable baits to the voters ; nor, while he professes to offer himself to their free choice, will he feck to overawe them by nienaces and intimidation. He will not employ a number of fuperfluous agents, for the purpose of thus gaining by indirect bribery the votes and interest of the persons employed. Whatever he would not openly do himself, he will not do in secret or through the medium of his friends. Subterfuges and concealment imply the consciousness of guilt. Neither will he sanction