Imatges de pÓgina


County-division Clause, and Lord Chandos's Amendment. August 23. --The Gods propitious—there is a chance of the Bill's "progressing" through Committee by Christmas or Easter next at farthest! We are now arrived at the twenty-first clause, after tugging eight hours a day for the last six weeks, and there are only about forty more to be discussed, with a little supplement of twenty-seven amendments ;-not to say any thing of some score changes of detail which Ministers themselves will probably propose by way of expediting the termination of their arduous labours, and convincing the public of their unerring foresight in providing against contingencies. When we last had to invite the attention of our readers to the progress of the great measure of National regeneration, which is now—thanks to its sapient conductors-snail-pacing it at a rate to which the progress of the Sloth in the Zoological Gardens is that of a race-horse to a Dutchman- the Committee was engaged in discussing the tenth clause, so that in one month the well-meaning imbeciles have contrived to get through eight clauses, (the twelfth was withdrawn and they were defeated on the sixteenth,) and to so disgust the best friends of Reform, that they have been left in a minority of eighty on a point of essential importance to the character of the whole measure! And yet the smile of self-complacent feebleness sits as blooming on the occupants of the ministerial bench, as if they were so many Heaven-born statesmen whose success had been as triumphant as it was rapid.

Why do we remark these things? Is it that we are not heart and soul devoted to the cause of Reform? or that we should be pleased to see the Tory faction once more the Lords of Misrule? We were Reformers long before it became the fashion; through good repute and bad repute we were, as far as our means enabled us, its unflinching advocates ; and now that the battle is won, we are not disposed to see the fruits of victory marred by the misconduct of those whom the accident of an accident has lifted to the command. We were, we may say it without arrogance, the first to declare that from a Ministry constituted like the present—it would be idle to expect a measure based on such lofty and comprehensive principles that to all intents and purposes it might be hailed as a final and perfect system of representation ; but we were also among the first to thankfully receive it “for better—for worse" as it was, confident that the principle of Reforın having been once acted upon by the Legislature, the thousand-and-one anomalies of not only the present Bill, but of other measures warranted to “ work well,” would soon meet with an efficient remedy. For the same reasons we would gladly take it even with its Chandostenant-at-will amendment" added to its other imperfections, trusting to a Reformed Parliament and the diffusion of knowledge, which would be its first and most important result-for a specific countercharm.

As to the notion of wishing to contribute, however feebly, to the restoration of the Goulburns and the Aberdeens, et hoc genus omne, to power, we really know not how to offer a serious disclaimer. The supposition is too absurd even for themselves to entertain : we question if even their friend Don Miguel bimself would just now accept of their services as ministers, however strong their claims on the score of devoted zeal to the cause of intolerance and brute despotism. What! the fag-end remnant of a Tory faction again preside over the destinies of a great and enlightened nation, roused to a man to a sense of its too long borne wrongs, and throbbing with intense anxiety for the welfare of a measure which alone can put an end to the evils of a system of oligarchical plunder, and enable the middle classes to prosecute the means of good government ! Then is doomsday wear, and the sun not shining at noon-day in the heavens, and knowleidge and wealth not power, and men not solicitous for their own welfare! The notion, we repeat, is too absurd to occupy even for a moment a place in those intellectual vacuums, the crania of the representatives of the * sister” Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and at a proper distance-of Sept.-VOL. XXXII. NO. CXXIX.


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Dublin--the most perfect things in their way-the mental Torricellian-at present to be found at St. Stephen's.

Having made these preliminary observations in justice to ourselves, and to prevent misconception on the part of the reader, we proceed to offer a few remarks on the probable effect of the County division clause, and on the Marquis of Chandos's “ amendment,” (for such it is designated in the “Votes”) by which 501. tenants at will are substituted to leaseholders at seven years, as voters for Knights of the Shire the two most important topics discussed in Parliament during the last month. And first

Tue County Division ClausE.-Against this clause the Times, a journal of great ability and still greater influence, has directed two or three of its deadliest « thunderbolts," on the ground that by narrowing the physical area-so to speak-of representation, the great landed proprietors of the district will be enabled to exert an influence incompatible with the independence of elections. In all the small counties, Westmoreland for example, the nobleman possessing the largest single estate is enabled to nominate whom he pleases, because the direct influence of his property is felt over a comparatively extensive surface of the county, while in the large counties no single property can bear such a relative proportion to the whole area of representation as would enable it to weigh down or absorb the several minor “ independent” interests which are scattered over the surface. But then, argues the T'imes, by dividing these large counties into divisions in the manner proposed in the Bill, the great landholder in each division will be made as absolute and paramount as the House of Lonsdale used to be in the snug Lowther borough of Westmoreland, the balancing check of a wide surface of constituency being, according to the very terms of the proposition, destroyed; and the result will be, that at least one hundred out of the one hundred and forty-four members of English counties, to be returned under the Bill, will be as much, to all intents and purposes, the nominees of the aristocracy, as the present representatives of the Gattons and the Old Sarums. There can be no doubt that the apprehensions in this stateinent are in a degree well founded; but it strikes us that they too clearly indicate a want of faith on the part of the writer in the influence of public opinion, daily become more and more enlightened,-in providing a proper antidote. It cannot be denied, in justification of this want of faith in the public spirit of the mass of county electors, that in a question between pelf and principle, between the interest of the individual purse and the general weal, the mammon habits of the people of England, as they have hitherto invariably manifested themselves, afford little hope that the former would be sacrificed to the latter ; but still we think sufficient allowance is not made for the developement and exercise of those loftier principles of action, and for the diffusion of sound principles of political morality, which we confidently look forward to as the first and best result of that system of good government from which the Reform Bill derives all its importance and value as a means to an end. We are not of those who would sedulously guard the electors of England against all possible personal inconveniences in the exercise of their political rights. Without indulging in Utopian dreams of the perfectibility of the human species, we augur better of our fellow-countrymen than thus to deprive them of the free play of their moral energies. We will go farther, and 'avow that tumultuosa libertas tranquillitati probrosæ anteponenda est, is a favourite political maxim of ours, and that we should prefer such institutions as tend to the exercise of moral energy, and, as a consequence, to the generation of lofty principles of action, to those which would more perfectly secure the person and property of the subject than even our own excellent constitution, without affording proper scope for the growth and display of our more generous feelings. It is on this account, and this account only, that we are slow to avow ourselves converts to the necessity of the ballot system of voting. We should prefer, we repeat, seeing the electors in the conscious and above-board dignity of freemen worthy of the name, tendering their votes openly in favour of the candidates of their choice, instead of screening themselves from the rich despot of the district by the secret exercise of the right of suffrage. But it may

be asked, are they for so doing to be made the sacrifices of their honesty ? would not some Duke of Newcastle or Lord of Salisbury, under such circumstances, read their refractory tenants a “ do what I like with my own" practical lesson, which it is idle to expect any man living literally from hand to mouth would contend with? Our answer is, that by a nation familiar with great political truth, and imbued with those loftier principles of action, as we trust the nations of Europe will be ere many generations have passed away, such men as the Duke of Newcastle would be regarded and treated as we at present regard and treat the inmates of a lunatic asylum. The fact is, were not independence at elections, as it unfortunately is under the existing system, the exception and not the rule, the Newark and Stamford antics dared not be hazarded by any man not moon-stricken or blind to what is passing around him ; so that when a Reformed Parliament makes it the rule and not the exception, a repetition of them becomes a moral no less than a physical impossibility. We need not, we trust, add, that we would not therefore deprive property, and that superior intellectual cultivation with which it ought to be connected, of their just influence at elections. So long as wealth enables its possessor to command the exertions of those who do pot possess it in an equal degree-so long will it be influential at elections ; and all the danger will be from those who may endeavour to stretch the natural influence beyond its just limits. It has been happily observed by a writer in a contemporary periodical, that "equality of representation is only like the equality of right to go in at the door of a market; it does not imply the power of having equal influence when men are there. The demand, therefore, of the rich to have not only the influence of their wealth, but to cut off the poor from the right of representation besides, is like the assertion that they cannot enjoy their just privileges in the market, unless they can pass a law to have the poor kept out in addition. It is clear that the poor do as much as can be expected from them, if they see the rich enjoying the benefit of their riches in the market, and put up quietly with the contrast of their own inferiority; if they content themselves with the tripe and the offal, and lovingly aid in securing to the wealthy the sirloin and the haunch. If they do this at all, it is evidently because they are aware that the same security of property which gives the rich man his sirloin, is what ensures themselves their tripe ; but it by no means follows that they should extend the argument to shutting themselves out of their homely portion besides.” The application of these remarks to our immediate argument is obvious.

It being plain from these remarks that we do not entertain very serious apprehensions of the County division clause, we need not stop to animadvert upon the minor objections to its operation, which were urged in the course of the debate by Sir Edward Sugden with his usual acuteness, and by Mr. H. Hughes, (whom the Times has ingeniously discovered to be a modern Demosthenes !), in the usual prosy common-place tone so frequent just now at St. Stephen's. Lord Althorp's defence of the clause was, however, on many accounts too important to be passed over without some notice, displaying as it did, in more than usual relief, the slip-shod, languid, see-saw, half-and-half, neither one thing nor the other guesses, which seem to have influenced ministers in framing the majority of the clauses of the great measure entrusted (should we say, unfortunately ?) to their management. “ Our object in framing this clause," said the noble Lord, “ was to secure the aristocratic, or agricultural interest, so to speak, a due preponderance in the counties-over the democratic or town interest. We found that in giving the right of franchise to the several large unrepresented towns, we added to the democratic interest to a degree far beyond what we had contemplated, and therefore had no resource left but to secure as much as possible an aristocratic or agricultural representation for the counties as a balance to this augmented democratic or town representation. Hence the clause for the division of counties, and for adding additional representatives to the larger and more exclusively agricultural counties. By the former we hope to secure the resident great proprietor the representation of the division against the more popular man whom the county at large would be likely

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to select, (a slap at Lord Brougham's return for Yorkshire,) and by the latter we maintain the balance of agricultural representation.” And again, with the looseness and indecision characteristic of the acts and declarations of the present Ministry—" I cannot see how the division of counties would lead to the necessity of the vote by ballot as a protection to the voter against his landlord, for our only object is to secure property its legitimate influence at elections, and to preserve the balance of the agricultural, or aristocratic representation, which would otherwise be lost by the democratic ascendancy of the town. We found, as we proceeded, that we had included so many towns in schedules C, D, and E, and had so widened the basis of town constituency, that we had no alternative but to add to the county or landed representation as much as remained in our


This is the language of men evidently incapable of reaching that height from which alone a statesmanlike view of a great question can be taken, and who, instead of basing their measure on great and lofty general principles applicable to all circumstances and contingencies, and who, therefore, confident of the result, walked upright and unflinchingly straightforward on the firm ground of truth and political justice, went groping and guessing their way in the dark, and picking their steps through obstructions, with the aid of some temporary expediency farthing rush-light. What does Lord Althorp mean by the phrase " legitimate influence of property?" We know him personally to be an honest well-meaning man, and therefore cannot suppose that he considers the slavish dependance of the voter on his landlord's will as answering to his notion of this influence. There is perhaps no phrase in the language which has been more artfully abused to evil purposes than this very one of the “ legitimate,” or moral influence of property, owing to the habit of confounding all the uses to which a word may be applied under its more obvious meaning. Property has two inAuences, a good and a bad one, a moral and an immoral ; and though Lord Althorp no doubt persuades himself he uses the term in its good or moral signification, there is still less doubt that the mass of his hearers have no other interpretation of it than bad or immoral influence. We approve of the Reform Bill because it will ultimately give the moral influence of property what it never had under the system which works so well for the few at the expense of the many--fair play: those who ring the changes on the term “ legitimate influence of property," hate the Reform Bill, because they fear it will put an end to that system of bribery, and intimidation, and prostitution of votes which they have had the audacity to practise under cover of this influence. The avowed object of the Bill is to place freely and independently in the hands of the people the election of their own representatives : the object of the enemies of Reform is to prevent the people obtaining more than the mere show or pageant of their choice, and as a means to this end, they artfully insinuate that to give the people what they are entitled to would be to destroy the legitimate influence of property. Hence the success of

Tue MARQUIS OF Chandos's AMENDMENT, by which the right of voting for county members is extended to tenant-at-will farmers, and (by Lord Althorp's remedial extension) householders. Had we not a stout faith in the antagonist influence of a daily-improving public opinion, this “amendment” of the Lord of Buckinghamshire would alarm us more for the purity and independence of election than any act or proposition that has been submitted to Parliament within our recollection. As it is, taking the amendment by itself, it is impossible to exaggerate its mischievous character. If not counterbalanced by the other provisions of the Bill, its inevitable effect would be to place the representation of the English counties more completely in the hands of some fifty great landholders than even Gatton or Old Sarum. The very phrase tenure-at-will is not only unknown, but is contrary to the principles of English law, and under any circumstances can never be established in any country but at the sacrifice of the moral and political freedom of the tenant. What was it returned Lord Chandos for Buckinghamshire at the late election, contrary to the feelings of the inhabitants at large, but the extraordinary command which this feudal tenure gave

him over every man resident on the Temple property? It is a general principle of human conduct that men will not act in opposition to the desires of a man who has it in his power to injure them for so doing; and so long as a farmer holds his farm at the mere“ will” of his landlord—so long has that landlord the means of compelling him to vote as he pleases. And this is what is meant by the cant phrase legitimate influence of property. Were ever hypocrisy and mendacious audacity pushed to such lengths !

What were Ministers doing while this monstrous clause was being discussed ? Picking their nails with as much imperturbable self-complacency and feeble nonchalance as if Lord Chandos were a sworn brother of Reform. Nay, even when, notwithstanding that the nation and the press are with them to a man, and they could command the majority of 140 whom the people sent to vote with them to vote against Lord Chandos at the risk of violated pledges--they contrived to be left in a minority of eighty--they looked as self-complacent as ever, as if the defeat were a mere summer cloud unworthy to excite their special wonder! This is really too bad. Are the people of England to be ever mocked with the farce of a representative form of government without the reality? Is the right of suffrage a public trust, and as such implying a moral obligation? If so, see how this monstrous clause must affect the moral honesty of a tenant-at-will farmer? He comes to the poll, say at Aylesbury or Appleby, to give his vote for the candidate-is it of his choice? the man who he considers would most competently and faithfully discharge the important duties of a Member of Parliament? No: he lives by his farm; would be ruined if expelled from it; he dare not fly in the face of his landlord. A farmer is not like a mere householder; he lives by his farm-the tenant does not live by his house; and if even he does, can find one at the next door that would answer his purpose equally well. Who then can blame him if he avoid entailing on himself ruin by voting at his landlord's bidding ?

But the moral atrocity of the transaction does not end here. The landlord trader in votes, to make the moral obligation more binding, compels his tenantat-will vassal to take an oath. And what is the nature of this oath ? simply, reader, that the slave voter will not betray, but honestly and freely execute the trust confided to him. Thus, perjury is added to the violation of a solemn, social obligation :-and the whole thing, forsooth, is called the legitimate influence of property! the preserving the “ balance of the aristocratic, or landed representation, against the democratic, or town representation !” Again, we ask, can audacious mendacity go farther? Imagine a well-disposed yeoman, not overburthened in the article of brains, say of the mental calibre of Lord John Russell, about to vote for a representative for Buckinghamshire, and that his nominal choice lies between that high-minded and most excellent man, Mr. John Smith, and his landlord's son and heir, the Marquess of Chandos. He has taken the oath to faithfully execute his political trust: he approves of Mr. John Smith, because he is the never-tiring friend of the poor and the oppressed, the never-tiring enemy of the oppressor, in all climes and nations. Conscience, virtue, suffering humanity, gratitude, religion, urge him to follow the dictates of his judgment; but his landlord, or his agent, is staring him in the face, and with them is painfully associated his worldly ruin or prosperity. What follows ? the oath is violated, the moral obligation is disregarded, a prostitute and perjured vote is given to the son of his opulent and powerful landlord.

Now in this, by no means imaginary transaction, let us ask the reader who is the real moral culprit, the rich and powerful trader in votes, the original author of this perjury and political treachery, or the prostituted victim? There can be no hesitation in fixing upon the former. “ Observe,” said Mr. Mill, on another occasion, “the horrid spectacle ; two sets of men, the one comparatively rich, the other poor, so placed with respect to one another, that they act upon one another for mutual corruption; that they gain their ends upon one another, only by a renuneiation of the most sacred obligations, and the commission of the greatest crimes; that in order to have inward peace, in such a course of acting, they must succeed in obliterating every trace of the higher morals from their minds. The sense of obligation to the community to which they belong, the

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