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The secret and undivulged hopes of the aristocratic reformers are founded on the ascendency they hope to acquire over the small towns, especially those not connected with manufactures; and for this reason it is that Lord Milton has proposed to double the number of members to be returned by the small boroughs! a measure which it is hoped will give an addition of fifty votes to the conservative side. We earnestly hope, for the sake of the country, that, if the bill is destined to pass, it will be with this counterpoise to the demoratic faction; though, from the obvious weakness of Government on the side of the Radical party, we are much afraid, that, if the newspapers open their fire, it will be immediately abandoned, and some unlucky"mistake" alleged to account for its appearance in the Bill.
But to what does the Bill amount, if this the real view of the Conservative Whigs is well-founded? To this, and this only: That a new set of close boroughs will gradually rise up on the ruins of the old ones; and that, after having violently dispossessed the electors of 168 seats, they will quietly rear up 168 others to supply their place. If the plan does not amount to this, it amounts to nothing. For, if the great proprietors round these little boroughs do not gain a dominion over them, and range them under their respective banners, it is impossible to see what protection they will afford against the future march of revolution. But if this is to be the result, on what principle of justice or expedience are the present boroughs to be disfranchised? Is it just to punish one set of boroughs for having fallen under the dominion of the neighbouring magnate, if the real object of the Bill is to rear up another set, equally subservient, and at least as numerous? Is it expedient to make such anxious provision for the gradual formation of a new phalanx of close boroughs, if the argument be well founded that the present ones are a blot, which must, at all hazards, per fas aut nefas, be expunged from the constitution?
But in truth we fear that the hopes of the aristocratic Reformers on this subject are completely fallacious, and that the Radicals who have so strenuously supported the Bill, are
much better aware of its real democratic tendency. This opinion is founded on the following circum
The great and universal support which the radicals, in every part of the country, have given to the Bill, is the best evidence of what its working in the small boroughs will be. Whatever may be said of the framers of the Bill, nobody will accuse the Ultra-Reformers of being ignorant of what will augment their power; and if the clause regarding the small boroughs had been adverse to their interest, there can be no doubt that it would have been as universally opposed, as that regarding the quarterly rents. The fact of its not being so, is, in our apprehension, decisive evidence, that from the lowness of the qualification, and the indigent state of the majority of the ten pound voters, they may safely be relied on in any future crisis, as likely to join the revolutionary party.
The great number of small boroughs of this description varying from 4000 to 15,000 inhabitants, who have recently thrown off their allegiance to the neighbouring aristocrats, and joined the democratic party, affords decisive evidence, that some great and general cause is in operation, which all the former relations of life and channels of influence are unable to counteract. That the fact is so, is the constant boast of the democratic party; and of its reality the two last elections afford decisive evidence. But if this be the evident tendency of human affairs; if aristocratic influence is rapidly on the wane, even in boroughs which have been close for centuries; on what rational grounds are the hopes of the aristocrats founded, that they will be able quietly to usurp a dominion over the new boroughs which the bill is to create ? It is quite evident that they are deceiving themselves as to the tendency of the tide on which they are now borne forward, and that the moment they attempt to coerce or direct it, their influence will be shattered as rapidly and as fatally as that of Neckar and the French liberal nobility who placed themselves at the head of their revolution.
The two great powers operating on human affairs, which are producing this progressive increase of democra
tical influence, are the extension of manufactures, and the influence of the daily press.
Manufactures, in every age and quarter of the globe, have been the prolific source of democratic feeling. We need not appeal to history for a confirmation of this eternal truth ;its exemplification is too manifest in the present times, to admit of a moment's doubt. Now, of the whole population of Great Britain, twothirds are, according to the census of 1821, employed in trade and manufactures; and, by the recent enumeration, the proportion will probably be still greater. It is this fatal, and now irretrievable direction of our industry, which renders the Reform Bill so eminently hazardous. The great bulk of these manufacturers reside in the small towns; the members they return will be the faithful mirror of their democratic opinions. Their number is daily increasing ;every successive year brings one of the rural boroughs within the vortex of manufacturing wealth, and the contagion of manufacturing democracy. Look at Preston, Stockport, Salford, Bolton, Halifax, Macclesfield, in Eng land; or Kilmarnock, Airdrie, Montrose, or Paisley, in Scotland, and an idea may be formed of the democratic tendency of small manufacturing towns. The neighbouring proprie tors have no sort of influence over such places, for this obvious reason, that the subsistence of the great bulk of their inhabitants in no degree depends on their custom, but on the employment of the master manufac turers, with whom the landed interest have no connexion. It is a chimerical hope which the aristocratic reformers entertain, that they will be able to maintain any sort of ascendency over such boroughs. As well might they expect to sway the vast population of the Tower Hamlets, or Manchester.
The next great power which is continually at work in England to augment the influence of the democratic party among the small boroughs, is the influence of the daily press.
That the press is democratic is obvious from the fact, that with the exception of three journals, the whole London daily papers are on the reforming side. The proportion in the
provincial press is nearly as great; and but for the support of the old families in the country, the whole county papers would be of the same character. This is not a mere casual circumstance; it has been gradually and steadily increasing for the last fifteen years, and we are only now beginning to experience its terrible effects. The full operation of this democratic system of journals, may be seen in America, where it has long been notorious, that no virtue or talent in the States is so powerful but what the daily journals can at any time drive it into exile; and the evils of the liberty of the press have been found to be such, that Jefferson has declared, in his correspondence, that they have exceeded any thing known from its suppression.
Surprise is often expressed by inconsiderate observers at this tendency; but the reason is apparent, and being founded in the nature of things, must, in the present state of society, remain permanent. It arises from the extension of the power of reading to the lower orders, and their elevation to political activity by means of a rapid and extensive system of internal communication. The lower classes in towns, and, above all, in manufacturing towns, are constantly inclined to be democratical, because the love of power is inherent in the human heart; they are insatiable for abuse of their superiors, because it consoles them for the inequality, and what they naturally consider the injustice of fortune; they are incapable of forming a rational opinion on public affairs, because their necessary labour precludes them from acquiring the requisite information; and while nature has been prodigal to all of passion, she has been sparing to most of reason.
These dispositions being eternal and immutable, must be calculated upon as fixed principles in human affairs. Nature has given to all the passion for power; she has given to few the means of using it: She has given to all the power of reading, to few the power of thinking; to all leisure for the daily press, to few the means of reading works of superior utility. The introduction of the immense multitudes, who can read, and not think-who can relish abuse
of their superiors, and not trace its consequences-who can assail others, but not act themselves-into political influence and activity, is the real cause of the democratic character of the daily press. Editors of newspapers find by experience that they lose their circulation, if they cease to "march with the revolution." The great majority of readers being now of the lower orders, the great majority of papers is what is adapted to their taste, suited to their capacity, and agreeable to their wishes.
It is evident that this tendency is on the increase; and it is the combined operation of the Reform Bill with the vast increase of our manufactures, and the increasing democracy of the Journals, which renders the future prospects of the country so melancholy. Education well intended, but it will probably be found unhappily directed, has long been furnishing the lower orders with the means of inhaling the poison. Policy, systematically pursued for centuries, has increased to an unnatural extent, the proportion of our manufacturers. Internal communication immensely improved, has brought all the provinces close to the metropolis, and communicated to Cornwall and Caithness the passions of London. It is in this inflammable and perilous state of society that the Reform Bill comes in, and pours into these rash and inexperienced hands the fatal gift of despotic power! Had imagination figured a course of events calculated to tear society in pieces, it could not have combined elements better calculated to accom plish the work.
Nothing can be more evident than that the course of knowledge cannot be arrested; prosecutions are no answer to arguments; chains will not now fetter the human soul. The march of democracy cannot be prevented; the wrath of Heaven must take its course, and wisdom must be gained in the school of adversityOur people must learn from their own suffering, since they will not learn it from that of others, that the gift of unbounded political power is
fatal to those who receive it; that despotism may flow from the workshop of the artisan, as well as the palace of the sovereign, and that those who, yielding to the wiles of the Tempter, will eat of the forbidden fruit, must be driven from the joys of Paradise, to wander in the suffering of a sinful world,
One only ray of hope breaks in amidst the melancholy anticipations which arise to our country, and the civilized world, from the dreadful sea of democracy, in which, to all appearance, we are about to be overwhelmed.
Genius, long a stranger to the side of Order, will resume its place by her side; she will give to a suffering, what she refused to a ruling cause. The indignation of Virtue, the satire of Talent, will be reserved for the panders to popular gratification;— Not the tyranny of Emperors, or the adulation of Courtiers, but the sycophancy of journals, the baseness of the press, the tyranny of the mob, will employ the pencil of the Tacitus who portrays the decline of the British empire. While the crowd of vulgar writers, servilely fawning on the ruling power, are following in the career of Revolution, the master spirits who are destined to reform and bless mankind, will boldly espouse the opposite side, and, taught by present suffering and degradation, produce the works destined to instruct and direct a future age. It is this reaction of Genius against Violence, which steadies the march of human events, and renders the miseries of one age the source of prosperity and elevation to that which succeeds it; and whatever may be our fears as to the temporary ascendency of violence or anarchy from the measure which we deplore, we have none as to the final tendency of such changes to mankind; we can discern the rainbow of Peace, though not ourselves destined to reach the ark of Salvation; and look forward with confidence to the elevation and improvement of the species, from amidst the storm which is to subvert the British empire.
A CONVERSATION ON THE REFORM BILL.
THE late Elections, and the East Wind, and the Cholera Morbus, and the Reform Bill, are the topics which at present engross every man's attention; but, with sane thinkers of every denomination, the clouds which darken the political horizon seem to be regarded with more apprehension than plague or pestilence; I suppose, upon the approved principle, that it is better to fall into the hands of God than into the hands of man. "What will become of us ?" said one, who, up to the present period, belonged to the party miscalled Liberal, but who now began distinctly to perceive the folly of the measures which they have pursued. "Is this crude and profligate scheme to pass into a law, or may we still rely upon thevis medicatrix' of the Constitution ?"- "God only knows," said his friend; "if the visitation with which we are threatened be proportioned to our deserts, it cannot be a light one. We have been long spared. The calamities of other nations seem to have been lost upon us; and it may, perhaps, be the gracious intention of Providence, that what we have failed to learn from example, we should be taught by experience.”"And yet," added Mr Brownlow, the name of the first speaker, "I cannot think the Duke was right in his vehement denial of the necessity of all reform. Surely the state of the representation is such as to admit of some improvement." His friend replied, "The Duke, it is probable, meant no more than that the present House of Commons is better fitted for the judicious discharge of its legislative functions, than any that may be assembled after what is called the Reform, shall have taken place. In this he was undoubtedly right. He may, however, have expressed himself unguardedly."-"That," said Brownlow, "is what I lament and complain of. He has made the question of Reform turn upon the perfection, or the imperfection, of the present system. If the friends of the proposed measure can shew that the present system is defective, they seem to think that they have done all that is necessary to recommend their abominable scheme. This is un
fortunate. The public have not been fairly told first to look on this picture, then on that,' but have been called upon to decide upon the absolute excellence of the one, from blemishes and imperfections which may be discovered in the other."
"The Duke," said Mr Courtney, the elder speaker, "is certainly chargeable with some such indiscretion as you have described. It is, however, but right to observe, that the advantage which the reformers have had on the present occasion, is not much greater than that which theory must always possess over practice. Of the present system it may be truly said, that we lose sight of what may have been the theory, in considering the practice. Of the proposed measure it may also be affirmed, that its supporters lose sight of what must be the practice, in considering the theory. No political system ever yet worked precisely as its originators intended. Who could have acquiesced in an arbitrary command to send representatives for the purpose of assenting to predetermined taxation, the germ of constitutional liberty? As little can the reformers see, in their favourite measure, which proposes so considerably to increase the power of the Commons, the germ of a despotism which must crush their freedom.". Unquestionably," said Brownlow, "theorists do possess a great advantage in argument over practical philosophers, and one that is frequently fatal to the best interests of mankind. Where other men must walk, they can fly. But is it not extraordinary, that in the present case, where so many weighty interests are involved, men can be persuaded to risk so much positive good for merely speculative advantages ?"
"It would be extraordinary," rejoined Mr Courtney, "if, in any age or country, we discovered men clearsighted respecting their own true interests. Unfortunately, they are not so: Every great movement, either for the better or the worse, which history has chronicled, has been more or less accomplished by some popular delusion. Even lengthened prosperity becomes distasteful to a nation, from its very continuance, as
the Israelites tired of the manna which was sent from heaven. In proportion as they are free from real ills, they suffer their minds to be engaged in the contemplation of imaginary, and thus become the easy dupes of artful or deluded incendiaries. My decided opinion is, that the world has never yet witnessed a form of government which secures so much freedom and happiness as that under which we at present live, and which is, I fear, about to undergo a fatal alteration." "But, my dear friend," said Brownlow, "greatly as I respect your judgment, I must say, that there were some things in our present system which might have been altered for the better; and if the late government had only been a little complying in a few particulars, all might yet be well. Surely the great manufacturing towns ought to be represented; and why defend such absurd anomalies as Gatton and Old Sarum ?" Brownlow was perhaps stimulated to this sally by the appearance of one who resolutely defended the whole of the Ministerial measure, and upon whose support he calculated, in the argument which it was his object to provoke.
"I have been saying," said he, "Bird, to our friend Courtney, that if the late ministry had been wise enough to concede a few things, such as representatives to Birmingham and Manchester, and the disfranchisement of some of the very rotten boroughs, the people would have been abundantly satisfied, and the present extraordinary bill would never have been heard of."-" It may be so," said Bird; "the tub might for a season amuse the whale, but in that case we should not have the complete and glorious measure that is at present about to pass into a law. I thank the Duke heartily for what he has done. He is, in truth, the reformer. The people have often suffered from the ignorance or the imbecility of ministers. Quicquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi.' It is right that for once their folly or their wickedness should be advantageous to their country."
"But are you sure," said Courtney, mildly," that the intended Reform will be productive of advantage ?" "I am, sir," he replied, as I can be of any thing not demonstra
VOL. XXX. NO, CLXXXIV,
tively certain."-" And upon what rests your assurance?" the other asked; "is it deducible from theory, or founded upon experience ?”
Bird seemed puzzled. He did not choose to reply. For advantages so confidently predicted upon mere theory, and for the blessings of that “untried form" of political being upon which we are about to enter, he could not as yet pretend experience. His answer was therefore vague."Surely no one at the present day can defend the rotten boroughs. Is it right that places without inhabitants should have representatives ? Can mockery of the people be carried farther than that? Is it right that large and populous places should be without representatives? That manufacturers should be congregated in such numbers, and capital accumulated in such masses, as to be capable of supplying the wants of the civilized world, and yet be without an organ by whom their interests may be defended in Parliament? It requires no great extent of political philosophy to pronounce all that wrong; and any system which remedies so monstrous an abuse, must, so far at least, be a good one."
"I do not know," said Courtney, with great calmness, "how far a small extent of political philosophy may justify a great deal of political rashness. But I have often conversed with reformers upon the subject of rotten boroughs, and never yet have heard them assailed by any thing more formidable than the sound and fury' of very vehement declamation.". "What, sir," said Bird, "is it not right that the people should be represented ?"-"It is, sir," he was answered, "when it is necessary, but not otherwise. The country has a right to the services of the people in that, and any other way which its interests may require. If these interests require universal suffrage, universal suffrage would be right. If they require a restricted suffrage, that would be the more advisable. But what I mean to express is this, that the right, whatever it is, should be determined by the expediency; and this, again, must be determined by the fitness of our mode of electing legislators for preserving and perpetuating the essentials of the constitution."