« AnteriorContinua »
did the Aristocracy yield. The People dared to contemplate civil war, with all its attendant horrors, rather than forego the purpose for which they were striving. The war within the walls of Parliament was but a faint shadow of this great and terrible struggle. The parties there were mere actors; they took upon themselves certain parts ; some played li. berals, others played the character of their opponents—the whole matter being a shew intended to blind and mislead the People. Their warfare was like that of the Italian condottieri, the armies of whom fought a whole day without losing a man on either side. In the House of Commons there was much pretence of strife ; very hard words were sometimes employed ; but the really weak points were never assailed—the really destructive arguments never employed.
These mock fighters will remain in the coming House of Commons; that is to say, a portion, a very large portion of that House will still be composed of the representatives of the Aristocracy. One part of these will compose the Ministerial section of the House, and these will be Whigs; one other part of these same aristocrats will form a part of the Opposition, and these will be TORIES. But there will be yet another, and novel section in the House ; a section now formidable by its numbers, and, if well guided, preponderating by its influence :-we mean the representatives of the people. They have yet no name; in the meantime we will call them POPULAR or INDEPENDENT MEMBERS. The relative position of these various parties will exhibit a curious phenomenon ; and we look forward, not so much with anxiety as curiosity, to their probable conduct.
The Ministerial, or Whig portion of the House, have already given signs of a determination to rest quiet and contented with their present achievements. The talk of the persons who may be supposed best to represent the leading feelings, is now always of pausing ; of permitting the Reform to have what they term fair play ; of the impropriety of seeking farther concessions immediately upon the great victory just gained. In fact, the object now appears with this party to be, to make themselves comfortable in their newly acquired offices of profit and power. This, by some, may be considered an uncharitable conclusion on our part. Let us, however, learn what is really intended by the recommendations of contentment and rest, which daily are repeated and pressed on us by the most influential persons of this party. For example, what is meant by letting the Reform Bill have fair play ? and what do they intend by the Impropriety of demanding farther reforms? In the Reform Bill, there is no peculiar and wonder-working quality, which will enable the mere parchment to do us service. Our Legislation will not be ameliorated by the mere existence of the written Bill, and the King's assent thereto. We are not bettered by the power of sending representatives to Parlia.. ment, unless those representatives are immediately to proceed to the redress of our evils, The Reform Bill was sought, not for itself, but in order to reform the grievances under which we laboured. These griev. ances are heavy and manifold. Bad government had exhibited itself in yarious ways: for example, we have an extravagant expenditure ; we have monopolies fruitful of evil; we have a bad administration of law; we have unequal burthens. In short, we have a Government efficient to bad,—useless to good purposes. We desired and determined to be rid of this bad Goverument. To that end we determined to obtain the Reform Bill as a means, It was desired as a means of destroying the monopalies by which we are borne down; as a means of establishing equal and useful laws; as a means of rendering the Government completely responsible to the People. And yet do the Ministerial party now tell us to rest contented with the possession of the means, adjuring us, at the same time, not to make use of them. Do we purchase a plough in order to look at it? Do we hope to cultivate the field by keeping the plough safely under cover, and admiring daily its excellent qualities? Does a carpenter expect to perform his labour by the mere possession of excellent implements. A chisel is not more a mere instrument than the Reform Bill. In order that the one or the other have fair play, it must be employed,—the chisel by the hand of the carpenter, the Reform Bill by the representatives of the People. If that bill has given the People power, that power must be used, and immediately. The enormous ills we suffered drove us to dare all things, in order to obtain the means of redress. Shall we not, in the same spirit, proceed and get rid of the ills which rendered us thus desperate ? “Be patient now,” say the Whigs ; “ great concessions have been made : if you go on, and demand more, it will be said that there will be no end to concession. You will mar every thing by your imprudent haste. Suppose that our enemies do say that there will be no end to concession,—what then? Do the Whigs—does any body believe that our enemies do not very plainly understand the end we are driving at ? Do they think that they can nod and wink at each other, and whisper through the columns of the Times, and the To ries know nothing of the matter? These people always to us appear like foolish turkeys, who hide their heads in a bush, and fancy that their bodies are concealed. There was much of this nonsense practised during the passing of the bill. A sort of theatrical aside whisper appeared at intervals in one of the public papers, generally the favoured Times, advising the people to play the hypocrite, and keep their own counsel ; to assert that this was a final measure, and that they intended only the Reform Bill, proposing to rest in blessed peacefulness when they had attained that happy end. All this bye-play was carried on before the eyes of the public. It was supposed, however, that the Tories could be ex. cluded from such wide-spreading confidence, and that what was said openly in the Times was an entire secret to the enemies of the People, At that time, this appeared to us a very silly proceeding ; now it wears not a better aspect. The Tories then were, and the Tories now are, well convinced that the bill must be followed by certain quences exceedingly disagreeable to them. They, like the People, judged the bill by the consequences which they supposed would necessarily follow from it. What the People expected, they also expected ; the only difference between them being in their estimation of these results. They hated—the People loved :— they abhorred- the People were delighted with the very idea of retrenchment. To abate abuses was, in their opinion, a heinous offence-in the People's an important virtue. They cared not for the bill in itself. They had no peculiar fear of the particular piece of parchment, or the form of words which it contained. The People had no especial love for the same. The one and the other judged like reasonable beings, and disliked and admired it for the effects it was to produce. The Whigs, we assume, are not persons deprived of common sense; therefore we cannot believe that while they hazarded the nonsense we have here been pointing out, they really meant what they said. Their recommendations of quiescence are not from any hope of thereby benefiting the People. They, like their neighbours, must be aware of the arrant nonsense which their words imply. What, then, are we to consider them, if we determine that they are not fools on the occasion ? Taken in a direct sense, their words argue sheer folly and imbecility :-viewed as intended for a particular purpose, considered as a means of deception, they seem by no means ill fitted for their office, and are not altogether unworthy of the more astute leaders of the parties now in power. Considering deception as the object,-deception, in order to maintain the power of the aristocracy; then this jargon respecting “ being contented,” and looking on the bill as a final measure, does not wear the appearance of folly. Knavery is, then, the epithet we should apply to it.
But there is a body of plausible pretenders among the advocates for standing still, who delight in making nice distinctions, attempting to be profound and scientific, still having imposture in view. They say, We are content that there should be reforms; that consequences should follow the Bill ; we are prepared to consider the bill as a means to an end, and will immediately proceed to work out the reformation of those abuses which the Reform Bill was intended to remedy. But we protest against any farther change in the instrument of these changes—in the bill itself. The bill must be considered the final constitutional measure. They add, however, to this sweeping declaration, some such guarding phrase as the following: “ Until time and experience should prove its inefficiency.” Mr. Stanley, in his wisdom, asserts, that many persons supported the bill on these conditions, who would not otherwise have supported it; and that, therefore, farther alterations must not be attempted. Before we answer the fine-spun argument just stated, we will make an observation on this piece of insolence of Mr. Stanley. It is a matter of total indifference to the People who would, or who would not, have supported the bill. They, the People, were determined to obtain it in spite of all opposition. They did obtain it-not by prayers—not through kindness or concession, or special favour of any aristocrat, or body of aristocrats. They obtained it, because they so willed. Opposition to their will was attempted by a majority of the Aristocracy ; but that opposition was found hopeless. Had the Aristocracy not yielded to the peaceable demands of the People, they would have been compelled to yield to demands backed by force. They felt this ; and when resistance was impossible, they gave up the point, sullenly, sulkily; and
we have persons, Mr. Stanley among the number, who would fain persuade us that the Reform was a free gift, a generous boon, a frank and voluntary offering on the part of the Aristocracy to the People. But whatever be the condition of Mr. Stanley's memory, our's, we as. sure him, and the People's also, are much too good to receive complacently this imposition. We know, and we are determined to remember, and to tell it to our children's children, that we forced, -that by fear we compelled the Aristocracy, in the year 1832, to give up a large portion of that irresponsible power which for ages they had been abusing. And it would be well if Mr. Stanley, and all like him, would bear in mind, that the power which thus wrung from the reluctant hands of his comates this portion of their dominion, still remains; and that, if the People so will, they can take away all of that dominion which now remains. There is one efficient way to make the People will this, and that is precisely the method which Mr. Stanley and the other “ Conservatives” are now pursuing, viz. showing a determination to pursue their own interests, as distinct and separate considerations from those of the People ; and to
refuse all reforms which the spirit of the times, the improving intelligence of the nation imperiously require. These are the most efficient means of making the People consider the interests of the Aristocracy as opposed to those of the nation at large. Should this opinion become prevalent among the majority, the Aristocracy will disappear at onceand for ever. Let them look to it.
Now for the Whig-Tory-conservation argument in favour of standing still. This argument is based upon a distinction between what may be called constitutional and non-constitutional reforms ; meaning by constitutional, such changes as affect the mode in which, and the conditions under which, the operative or active part of the Government is created. Admitting the distinction to be perfectly valid, we are at a loss to discover why it should be employed to determine the province of reform. The proper question in each case of proposed change, is, “ Is such change needed ; would it be for the better?” This question is not to be determined by a jurisprudential distinction, but by the facts of the case. Admitting the introduction of ballot to be a constitutional change, is it on that account the less needed ; is it less ient ? If not, why then should it on thataccount be postponed. The answer sometimes is, Because being such constitutional change, its necessity can be determined only by a consi. deration of the working of the constitution; and these workings cannot be known but by the laws which the Legislature may make. As we judged the old House of Commons by its fruits, so, it is argued, let us judge this ; therefore we must wait, and see the conduct of the House, before we can determine on the necessity for the ballot. This, we allow, is the usual mode of proceeding with what are termed practical men. They must experience an evil in half a dozen different forms, before they understand why it arises. Understanding nothing of human nature they must have empirical experience. What we, however, contend for here is, that we have had experience sufficient, more than sufficient, for our purpose. We assume, that the Legislature, when it conferred the right of suffrage on certain individuals, did intend, --certainly, that it ought to have intended, that such right was to be one in substance, and not merely one in name ; that is, that the right was to be exercised according to the pleasure of the voter, and no one else. Now, during the last election, we have had specific experience of the constant infringement of such rights : the country rings with the angry exclamations of those whose rights, in this case, have been invaded. Why, then, should we wait for farther experience? We need no more to shew that the right of voting requires farther protection. If, however, it be insisted that our assumption above stated is an error, or, at least, premature; if it be stated that the Legislature did not intend, and ought not to have intended to confer on the voter the right of voting as he pleases; that we cannot determine whether such power be necessary without experience of the conduct of the House ; our answer is, Then the Reform Bill itself is not needed; for the same evidence that proved the necessity of such a change, proved the necessity of uninfluenced voting. Experience shewed us that a Legislature, created by persons over whom the Aristocracy (that is, a small number of persons,) had control, was totally unfitted to produce the well-being of the People at large. The right of voting was, therefore, taken out of the hands of the persons under this control ; and it was placed in the hands of a much larger number, who were supposed (vainly supposed) not to be under such dominion. But the experience of the last elections has shewn, that they are in a precisely similar situation ; that they can be intimidated ; that they can be bribed. Would it not be sheer madness, then, to wait longer, to look for farther experience? To our cost, and bitterly, indeed, have we earned this knowledge ; we know but too well that a government so constituted is a bad government. Are we to wait for farther centuries of evil before we dare apply the remedy? Do we want another debt ; another twenty years war; another crusade against liberal opinions; still continued evils in the law; still continued corporation-tyranny, and church-despotism? The temper of the times is not in favour of such experience. We cannot consent to please the Aristocracy, and delay the benefit. The remedy must be applied, and that immediately, however unpalatable to Mr. Stanley and the Conservatives.
If the Ministerial or Whig portion of the House possess the feelings which the late declarations of Mr. Stanley and Lord Althorp naturally lead us to believe, we see no reason why an immediate junction should not take place between them and the Tories ; for our first great difficulty is in understanding wherein the difference of their opinions consists. The Tories, evidently, are bent on preserving, or conserving, all the power which they can in the hands of the Aristocracy, and, doubtless, desire that it should be intrusted to their own section of that body ;-50, we learn from the declarations of the two ministers above-named, do the Whigs. The Tories would, perhaps, be willing to make a compromise, and share the good things with the Whigs, rather than be entirely ousted from all enjoyment thereof. Should the Whigs refuse such coalition, the game of the Tories, according to some well-authenticated accounts, is nothing less than a deep laid scheme of villany, worthy, well worthy of the enemies of their country. It is, to oppose the People where they are right, to go with them where they are wrong. To
oppose steadily all really beneficial reforms, but to run with the wildest and most ignorant and knavish of the supposed friends of the People for every mischievous alteration. Cutting down the debt, tampering with the currency, proposing a minimum of wages, restrictions on trade, will all be favourite schemes of the Tories; while they will, unflinchingly, oppose extending education, instituting the ballot, shortening parliaments, cutting down expenditure, and so on. Confusion, in short, will be the game of the self-styled Conservatives.
It is, however, to be hoped, that the Ministry, and the Whigs gene. rally, will ponder somewhat more carefully on their position; will be induced to shape their conduct more in accordance with the views of the POPULAR or INDEPENDENT MEMBERS ; that is, of the People, than with those of this self-interested, riot-creating tribe.
But it may be asked, what are the views of the popular Members ? what are the motives to induce the Ministry to take these men for their guides? We will now attempt to give an answer to these questions.
The popular Members will only so be called when they distinctly represent the feelings of the people at large. They will not acquire such designation by the advocacy of opinions which any small number of persons may deem correct and important. The so doing may be, and undoubtedly is, in many cases, a highly meritorious proceeding; for on many vitally important particulars, truth is the property of a very mi. nute section of the whole population ; yet it will not confer on the advocate the character of one speaking with the voice of the People. It is this character, however, which will give most weight to the opinions of the representatives. It is this character which will imperiously demand