Page:The World's Famous Orations Volume 5.djvu/174

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constant exercise, and there are rights which you suffer to lie dormant. We have the right in this Parliament to legislate for Ireland, and we shall continue to have it when the Bill be- comes an Act. We shall retain, as a matter of pure right, the power to legislate for Ireland for all purposes whatever, for the simple reason that we can not divest ourselves of it. There is no principle more universally admitted by consti- tutional jurists than the absolute omnipotence of Parliament.

This omnipotence exists because there is nothing beyond Parliament or behind Parlia- ment. We are sitting here as the nation, the whole nation; we are not delegates entrusted, like the American Congress, with specified and limited powers; we represent the whole British nation, which has committed to us the plenitude of its authority, and has provided no method of national action except through our votes. And we have, therefore, full power to legislate for every purpose. We are not checked or restrained, as is the Congress of the United States, or any other body existing under a written constitu- tion, because the whole force and power reside in us to be exercised within these walls. The Irish members, I am sure, know perfectly that this is so. It is not a question of their asking us whether we will agree to divest ourselves of this power, because we can not do so. There is one limitation, and one only, upon our omnipotence, and that is that we can not bind our successors.


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