Attack on Sir Robert Walpole
|←Introduction to the Septennial Act (Chauncey A. Goodrich)||Attack on Sir Robert Walpole (1734)
|Speech on the Septennial Act, in reply to Sir William Wyndham (Sir Robert Walpole)→|
|This attack on Sir Robert Walpole was delivered by Sir William Wyndham in the House of Commons on a motion for the repeal of the Septennial Act, March 13, 1734. It is included in Select British Eloquence by Chauncey A. Goodrich, D.D., published New York, 1865. Footnotes and editorial insertions are by Chauncey A. Goodrich, 1865.|
- [Mr. Wyndham, after dwelling on a variety of arguments (chiefly in reply to others), which, from a change of circumstances, are of but little interest at the present day, concluded in the following manner:]
We have been told, sir, in this House, that no faith is to be given to prophecies, therefore I shall not pretend to prophesy; but I may suppose a case, which, though it has not yet happened, may possibly happen. Let us then suppose, sir, a man abandoned to all notions of virtue or honor, of no great family, and of but a mean fortune, raised to be chief minister of state by the concurrence of many whimsical events; afraid or unwilling to trust any but creatures of his own making, and most of them equally abandoned to all notions of virtue or honor; ignorant of the true interest of his country, and consulting nothing but that of enriching and aggrandizing himself and his favorites; in foreign affairs, trusting none but those whose education makes it impossible for them to have such knowledge or such qualifications, as can either be of service to their country, or to give any weight or credit to their negotiations. Let us suppose the true interest of the nation, by such means, neglected or misunderstood; her honor and credit lost; her trade insulted; her merchants plundered; and her sailors murdered; and all these things overlooked, only for fear his administration should be endangered. Suppose him, next, possessed of great wealth, the plunder of the nation, with a Parliament of his own choosing, most of their seats purchased, and their votes bought at the expense of the public treasure. In such a Parliament, let us suppose attempts made to inquire into his conduct, or to relieve the nation from the distress he has brought upon it; and when lights proper for attaining those ends are called for, not perhaps for the information of the particular gentlemen who called for them, but because nothing can be done in a parliamentary way, till these things be in a proper way laid before Parliament; suppose these lights refused, these reasonable requests rejected by a corrupt majority of his creatures, whom he retains in daily pay, or engages in his particular interest, by granting them those posts and places which ought never to be given to any but for the good of the public. Upon this scandalous victory, let us suppose this chief minister pluming himself in defiances, because he finds he has got a Parliament, like a packed jury, ready to acquit him at all adventures. Let us further suppose him arrived to that degree of insolence and arrogance, as to domineer over all the men of ancient families, all the men of sense, figure, or fortune in the nation, and as he has no virtue of his own, ridiculing it in others, and endeavoring to destroy or corrupt it in all.
I am still not prophesying, sir; I am only supposing; and the case I am going to suppose I hope never will happen. But with such a minister and such a Parliament, let us suppose a prince upon the throne, either for want of true information, or for some other reason, ignorant and unacquainted with the inclinations and the interest of his people; weak and hurried away by unbounded ambition and insatiable avarice. this case, sir, has never yet happened in this nation. I hope, I say, it will never exist. But as it is possible it may, could there any greater curse happen to a nation, than such a prince on the throne, advised, and solely advised, by such a minister, and that minister supported by such a Parliament? the nature of mankind can not be altered by human laws; the existence of such a prince or such a minister we can not prevent by act of Parliament; but the existence of such a Parliament I think we may. And as such a Parliament is much more likely to exist, and may do more mischief while the septennial law remains in force, than if it were repealed, therefore I am most heartily for the repeal of it.
- ^ Wyndham was born in 1687, of an ancient family, and was heir to one of the richest baronetcies in England. He entered Parliament at the age of twenty-one, and immediately attached himself to Bolingbroke, under whose instruction he soon became expert in all the arts of oratory and intrigue.