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any reason for it, but that of their resolving to have such a popular question appear with a negative upon it in our votes, in order to raise discontents among the people and to make them turn against our present happy es. tablishment, that money and those arms, they are now wisely and generously providing for its defence.
GEORGE LYTTLETON, Esq.
I must confess that the following Speech on abolishing certain feu
dal jurisdictions in Scotland is one of the most elegant and ingenious in this collection.
Mr. Speaker, If it could ever be probable that any bill of great moment, especially one in which not only the national interest, but many particular interests are also concerned, should pass through the house without debate, this, I should have thought, would have done so, because none has ever been more universally called for by the voice of the nation; none has ever undergone a longer and deeper consideration before it came into the house, or been considered by abler men, or with a more attentive, impartial and candid regard to any material objections. However, sir, notwithstanding these favourable circum. stances, I did expect that in the committee some difference of opinion would happen about particular clauses; and I rather wished that there might, because an affair of so very serious a nature cannot be too carefully and strictly exami ned, and because, if there are really any faults in the bill, I most sincerely desire that they may be amended. But I did not expect, I am extremely surprised that it should be opposed upon the principle, that it should be opposed as a breach of the union; and my concern is equal to my surprise. Next to the breaking of the union, I hardly know a worse misfortune that can befal the whole united kingdom, than to have it sug:
gested in parliament that it is broken, and to have that suggestion prevail in the minds of the people of Scot. land." It is a suggestion in which the enemies of Scotland and England will find their account-the friends cannot; and as I think it is groundless, I do most heartily grieve that it has ever received any countenance here; God be thanked, they who are at the head of the law in Scotland have other notions.
In the return made by the court of session to the house of lords concerning the heretable jurisdictions, this is the manner in which they have expressed their judgment on that point.
“ These jurisdictions, by the treaty of union, are secured to the proprietors as rights of property, and therefore cannot, without due satisfaction made to the owners, to be taken from them."-If therefore due satisfaction be made to the owners, it is the opinion of the lords of the session, that these jurisdictions may be taken away without any infringement of the treaty of union; and that is the principle upon which this bill entirely proceeds. No jurisdictions are taken away by it without due satisfaction made to the owners; where then is the wrong, where is the violation of the pacta conventa between the two nations ?
Sir, I have considered the treaty of union with all the attention and care l possibly could, startled by the objections that have been made by some persons for whose judgment I have the highest regard and respect; but I protest, that after the strictest examination, there does not remain in my mind the smallest apprehension or shadow of doubt, that it can in the least be infringed by our passing this bi!l. The 18th and 20th articles are all that relate to the matter now before you. By the 18th a distinction is made between the laws that con. cern public right, policy, and civil government, and those that concern private right; the first are deciared to be alterable by parliament, the latter not, except it be for the evident utility of the subjects within Scotland,
Now, sir, not to insist on any difference between right of property and private rights ; but allowing that this article extends alike to the securing of both from being altered by parliament, yet still the exception contained in the same article, that it may be done for the evident utility of the subjects in Scotland, is fully sufficient to vindicate this alteration from being any infringement of the treaty of union ; nor can any distinction be made between this sort of property and any other existing in Scotland.
But that the public is more affected by this than by any other, as to the 20th article, the intention and purport of it appears to me to be evidently this--that whereas these jurisdictions and superiorities are of a mixed na. ture, and might well be supposed to concern policy and civil government, and to be alterable by parliament, even without compensation made to the owners ; they were declared, by this article, to be rights of property, in order to put them on the same foot with other private rights, and to secure an equivalent to the proprietors, in case they should afterwards be taken away by the wisdom of parliament. A case that was easy to be foreseen, because the inconvenience and evil arising from these jurisdictions had been pointed out more than once by the parliament, before the union, and because till this has been done, I will venture to affirm the scheme of the union, in all the beneficial purposes of it, will not be fully completed. In the very words of this article, a power of making this alteration is clearly implied. The heretable jurisdictions and superiorities are there reserved to the owners thereof as rights of property—but in what manner ? why, in the same manner as they were then enjoyed by the laws of Scotland. Now, sir, by the laws of Scotland, could not the Scotch parlia. ment, before the union, have altered this property, as well as all other property, upon due compensation made to the owners, for the good of the public? They certainly could ; therefore they are declared to be now held
and enjoyed, subject to the same power of alteration by parliament. If the treaty of union had established a property that could not be subject to the power of such alteration, upon such grounds, it must, at the same time, have established a maxim fundamentally contrary to the first principle of all civil society, and entirely destructive to it, this most preposterous maxim—that the good of the public ought to give way to private advantage ; but such an absurdity cannot be charged upon the wise legislatures of England and Scotland. Indeed, sir, in no state upon
the face of the earth, ever was there a property, or ever can there be
any, which may not occasionally be altered or taken away, if proper amends be made to the proprietors, for the good of the whole. Even the property of our kings has not been exempt from this general rule of law; the wardship of those who held immediately of the crown, that is, of all the nobility and gentry of England, was a property fixed in our kings ; even from the time of William the Conqueror it was an hereditary right of the crown ; and yet, for the good of the whole, because it was thought to be hurtful to the public, the parliament took it away, granting at the same time an equivalent to the crown. Did any man ever suppose, that this act was an injustice, or any breach of the com. pact between the king and the people ;-a compact as inviolable as the pacta conventa of the union itself? Was it ever considered, I say, as a violation of that, or as any affront to the royal dignity ? No, it was never so thought of by the most zealous assertor of the rights of the crown. What then! is the property of the barons of Scotland of a more sacred nature, or is their honour more tender, than that of the king ?
Give me leave to observe to you, that this ancient right of wardship was taken away in the first year of the restoration of king Charles the Second, before he had made any ill use of those powers ; but as the powers themselves were judged to be naturally hurtful, it was not considered in whose hands they were lodged, nor
what use was made of them at that particular time. The wisdom of parliament looked to futurity, and thought it expedient to buy off, and to abrogate this undoubted hereditary right of the crown; not from any complaint of a present abuse of it, but because it had been abused in former times, and might be again.
Sir, it is said these jurisdictions were not any cause of the late rebellion in Scotland, for that the proprietors of them were all firm and loyal on the side of the government; the fact, I believe, may be controverted; but I will not dispute it, because if it be not universally true, it is certainly true with regard to the far greater number; the far greater number of them were firmly and zealous. ly attached to the government, and I think they deserve the highest returns of favour, honour, and gratitude, from their king and their country. No man can detest more than I do the false and scandalous libels breathed from the malignant spirit of jacobitism, under the mask of zeal for the government, which have imputed to them, or to the Scotch nation in general, any disloyalty or disaffection. Certain I am, that nothing can be further from the true meaning and interest of this bill, than to throw any blame on their conduct : it is a bill for prevention, not of punishment; a bill of general policy, that does not aim at particulars, but considers the whole ; considers past times, and future, as well as the present. Sir, if I am rightly informed, in the year 1715, all these jurisdictions were not on the side of the government; the weight of many of them, at that time, was felt very dangerously on the side of the rebellion; I admit, that in general it was otherwise now.
But to argue from thence against the principle of this bill, would be to reason, I must say, upon very short views. If there are, in the nature of these jurisdictions, any powers inconsistent with the good order of government, or with that true and sound policy which carries the majesty and justice of the crown into every part of