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that have been so industrious to give the king wrong measures, to turn things out of their ancient and legal channel of administration, and alienate his affections from his people.
Thirdly, To detect and punish the pensioners of the former parliament, in the face of the kingdom: this breach of trust being treason against the fundamental constitution of our government.
Fourthly, To secure to us the execution of our ancient laws by new ones; and, among the rest, such as relate to frequent parliaments, the only true check upon arbitrary ministers, and therefore feared, hated, and opposed by them.
Fifthly, That we be secured from popery and slavery, and that protestant dissenters be eased.
Sixthly, That, in case this be done, the king be released from his burdensome debts to the nation, and eased in the business of his revenue. And let me be free with you, if you intend to save poor England, you must take this general measure, viz. "To guide and fix your choice upon men, that you have reason to believe are well-affected, able, and bold, to serve the country in these respects.'
The words of the writ, (at least the import of them) are, 6 To choose wise men, fearing God, and hating covetousness' and what to do? says the same writ, 'To advise the king of the weighty matters of the kingdom.' Let us not then play the fools or knaves, to neglect or betray the common interest of our country by a base election: let neither fear, flattery, nor gain bias us. We must not make our public choice the recompense of private favours from our neighbours; they must excuse us for that: the weight of the matter will very well bear it. This is our inheritance, all depends upon it: men do not use to lend their wives, or give their children, to satisfy personal kindnesses; nor must we make a swop of our birth-right, (and that of our posterity too) for a mess of pottage, a feast, or a drinking-bout; there can be no proportion here and therefore none must take it ill, that we use our freedom about that, which, in its constitution, is the great bulwark of all our ancient English liberties. Truly, our not considering what it is to choose a parliament, and how much all is upon the hazard in it, may, at last, lose us fatally by our own choice. For I must needs tell you, if we miscarry, it will be our own fault; we have nobody else to blame: for such is the happiness of our constitution, that we cannot well be destroyed, but by ourselves and what man in his wits would sacrifice his throat to his own hands?
We, the commons of England, are a great part of the fundamental government of it; and three rights are so peculiar and inherent to us, that if we will not throw them away for fear or favour, for meat and drink, or those other little present profits that ill men offer to tempt us with, they cannot be altered or abrogated. And this I was willing to give you a brief hint of, that you may know what sort of creatures you are, and what your power is; lest, through ignorance of your own strength and authority, you turn slaves to the humours of those, that properly and truly are but your servants, and ought to be used so.
The first of these three fundamentals is property, that is, 'right and title to your own lives, liberties, and estates :' in this, every man is a sort of little sovereign to himself: no man has power over his person, to imprison or hurt it, or over his estate, to invade or usurpit: only your own transgression of the laws, (and those of your own making too) lays you open to loss; which is but the punishment due to your offences, and this but in proportion to the fault committed. So that the power of England is a legal power, which truly merits the name of government. That which is not legal, is a tyranny, and not properly a government. Now the law is umpire between king, lords, and commons, and the right and property is one in kind through all degrees and qualities in the kingdom: mark that.
The second fundamental, that is your birthright and inheritance, is legislation, or the power of making laws: No law can be made or abrogated in England without you.' Before Henry the Third's time, your ancestors, the freemen of England, met in their own persons; but their numbers much increasing, the vastness of them, and the confusion that must needs attend them, making such assemblies not practicable for business, this way of representatives was first pitched upon as an expedient, both to maintain the common right, and to avoid the confusion of those mighty numbers. So that now, as well as then, No law can be made, no money levied, nor a penny legally demanded (even to defray the charges of the government) without your own consent;' than which, tell me, what can be freer, or what more secure to any people?
Your third great fundamental right and privilege is executive, and holds proportion with the other two, in order to complete both your freedom and security, and that is, "Your share in the judicatory power, in the execution and application of those laws that you agree to be made.' Insomuch as no man, according to the ancient laws of this realm, can be
adjudged in matter of life, liberty, or estate, but it must be by the judgment of his peers, that is, twelve men of the neighbourhood, commonly called a jury; though this have been infringed by two acts, made in the late long parliament, one against the Quakers in particular, and the other against dissenters in general, called, 'An act against seditious conventicles,' where persons are adjudged offenders, and punishable without a jury; which it is hoped, this ensuing parliament will think fit in their wisdom to repeal; though with less severity, than one of the same nature (as to punishing men without juries) was by Henry the Eighth, who, for executing of it, hanged Empson and Dudley.
Consider with yourselves, that there is nothing more your interest, than for you to understand your right in the government, and to be constantly jealous over it; for your well-being depends upon its preservation.
In all ages there have been ill men; and we, to be sure, are not without them now; such as, being conscious to themselves of ill things, and dare not stand a parliament, would put a final dissolution upon the very constitution itself, to be safe, that so we might never see one another.
But this being a task too hard for them to compass, their next expedient is, to make them for their turn, by directing and governing the elections; and herein they are very artificial, and too often successful: which indeed is worse for us than if we had none. For thus the constitution of parliaments may be destroyed by parliaments, and we, who by law are free, may hereby come to be made slaves by law. If then you are free, and resolve to be so, if you have any regard to God's providence, in giving you a claim to so excellent a constitution, if you would not void your own rights, nor lay a foundation of vassalage to your unborn followers, the poor posterity of your loins, for whom God and nature, and the constitution of the government, have made you trustees, then seriously weigh these following particulars.
I. In your present election, receive no man's gift, or bribe, to choose him; but be assured, that he will be false to you, that basely tempts you to be false to your country, yourselves, and your children. How can you hope to see God with peace, that turn mercenaries in a matter, on which depends the well-being of an whole kingdom, for present and future times? Since, at a pinch, one good man gains a vote, and saves a kingdom: and what does any county, or burgess-town in England know, but all may depend upon their making a good choice? But then to sell the providence of
God, and the dear-bought purchase of your painful ancestors, for a little money, (that after you have got it, you know not how little a while you may be suffered to keep it) is the mark of a wretched mind. Truly, such ought not to have the power of a freeman, that would so abuse his own, and hazard other men's freedom by it: he deserves to be cast over-board, that would sink the vessel, and thereby drown the company embarked with him.
Honest gentlemen will think they give enough for the choice, that pay their electors in a constant, painful, and chargeable attendance: but such as give money to be chosen, would get money by being chosen; they design not to serve you, but themselves of you; and then fare you well. As you will answer it to Almighty God, I intreat you to show your abhorrence of this infamous practice: it renders the very constitution contemptible, that any should say, 'I can be chosen, if I will spend money, or give them drink enough :' and this is said not without reason; elections, that ought to be serious things, and gravely and reasonably performed, being generally made the occasions of more rudeness and drunkenness, than any of the wild may-games in use among us,
Thus by making men law-breakers, they are, it seems, made fit to choose law-makers, their choice being the purchase of excess. But must we always owe our parliaments to rioting and drunkenness ? And must men be made uncapable of all choice before they choose their legislators? I would know of any of you all, if in a difference about a private property, an horse or a cow, or any other thing, you would be as easy, indifferent, and careless in choosing your arbitrators? Certainly you would not with what reason then can you be unconcerned in the qualifications of men, upon whose fitness and integrity depends all you and your posterity may enjoy? Which leads me to the other particulars.
II. Choose no man that has been a reputed pensioner; it is not only against your interest, but it is disgraceful to you, and the parliament you choose. The representatives of a nation ought to consist of the most wise, sober, and valiant of the people; not men of mean spirits, or sordid passions, that would sell the interest of the people that choose them, to advance their own, or be at the beck of some great man, in hopes of a lift to a good employ: pray beware of these. You need not be straitened; the country is wide, and the gentry numerous.
III. By no means choose a man that is an officer at court, or whose employment is durante bene placito, that is, at will and pleasure. Nor is this any reflection upon the king; who being one part of the government, should leave the
other free, and without the least awe or influence, to bar or hinder its proceedings. Besides, an officer is under a temptation to be biassed; and, to say true, an office in a parliament man, is but a softer and safer word for a pension: the pretence it has above the other, is the danger of it.
IV. In the next place, choose no indigent person; for those may be under a temptation of abusing their trust, to gain their own ends: for such do not prefer you, which should be the end of their choice, but raise themselves by you.
V. Have a care of ambitious men and non-residents, such as live about town, and not with their estates; who seek honours and preferments above, and little, or never, embetter the country with their expenses or hospitality, for they intend themselves, and not the advantage of the country.
VI. Choose no prodigal or voluptuous persons; for besides that they are not regular enough to be law-makers, they are commonly idle; and though they may wish well to your interest, yet they will lose it, rather than their pleasures; they will scarcely give their attendance, they must not be relied on. So that such persons are only to be preferred before those that are sober, to do mischief; whose debauchery is of the mind; men of unjust, mercenary, and sinister principles; who, the soberer they be to themselves, the worse they are to you.
VII. Review the members of the last parliaments, and their inclinations and votes, as near as you can learn them, and the conversation of the gentlemen of your own country, that were not members, and take your measures of both, by that which is your true and just interest, at this critical time of the day, and you need not be divided or distracted in your choice.
VIII. Rather take a stranger, if recommended by an unquestionable hand, than a neighbour ill-affected to your interest. It is not pleasing a neighbour, because rich and powerful, but saving England, that you are to eye: neither pay nor return private obligations at the cost of the nation; let not such engagements put you upon dangerous elections, as you love your country.
IX. Be sure to have your eye upon men of industry and improvement. For those that are ingenious, and laborious to propagate the growth of the country, will be very tender of weakening or impoverishing it: you may trust such.
X. Let not your choice be flung upon men of fearful dispositions, that will let good sense, truth, and your real interest in any point sink, rather than displease some one or