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WHAT SHOULD the peerS DO?
"POPULAR Opinion," says the ablest of the writers in favour of Reform,*" once allowed to take the lead, soon runs riot; it appoints its own rulers-it dictates to them-it deposes them; and nothing but great temperance, and mutual forbearance, and final union on the part of the early and more moderate parties, can check its destructive career. We will not follow this St Lawrence to its Niagara; the course is fatally sure."+ Never were truer sentiments uttered by man; never any of which passing events more completely demonstrate the justice. How did they find their way into a publication intended to hasten the victory of the populace over the last bulwarks of order and intelligence? Because, in a powerful mind, historic truth prevails over temporary delusion; and the experience of ages furnishes the antidote to the poison of faction.
The author we have quoted, asks, "What will the Lords do?" and he concludes, that "though a vast majority of the House of Lords have a general, though partially concealed hatred of the Reform Bill," they will pass it in opposition to their better judgment, from timidity, the love of ease, or the dread of an excessive addition to their numbers. We will not follow his example, or hazard a prophecy of what the Lords will do; but we will say firmly and fearlessly what they ought to do.
Popular opinion, as this author truly says, when once allowed to take the lead, soon runs riot. It was allowed to take the lead when Earl Grey ascended to office; and has it, or has it not, since run riot? What do the manufacturing cities propose as the ends of reform? Mr Cobbett, the member elect for Manchester, declares he is to propose the immediate confiscation of the church property-the cessation of any payment of dividends after two years-the abolition of the standing army, and the raising of a militia, with officers appointed by Parliament, in its stead, in all the counties. The electors of
Bolton have declared that they are to require pledges from their representative, that he will support an immediate repeal of the corn laws, an equitable adjustment of the national debt; in other words, confiscation of one half of every man's funded property-the abolition of all taxes pressing on the middling, or lower orders the appropriation of the church property to the public necessities-the abolition of the right of primogeniture. What must follow from the adoption, or serious and incessant discussion, of such projects as this?-National bankruptcy, individual ruin, the failure of every Bank in the kingdom-the stoppage of industry-the starvation of the poorthe abolition of the peerage-the overthrow of the throne.-" We will not follow this St Lawrence to its Niagara; the course is fatally sure."
"Need the anti-reformers," says the same author, "be reminded of the result of those court intrigues, and that conservative hatred which at length succeeded in driving Neckar, the French Lord Grey, from the ministry? Will they profit by the example? Itrust they may." So, it is admitted by themselves that Neckar was the French Earl Grey! And what was said of Neckar by the greatest man of modern times, the one on earth who profited most by his reforms? "The projects of Neckar," said Napoleon Bonaparte, "were more ruinous to France than those of any other man. It was he that brought about the Revolution. Danton, Marat, Robespierre himself, did less injury to the country than the Swiss reformer. All the blood that was shed, rests on his head. Nothing is so fatal as such popular projects; the learned are carried away by them, the populace transported, the cautious intimidated, the public happiness is in every mouth; and meanwhile trade is suspended, industry withers, the people are without bread, they revolt, the reign of blood succeeds, and that is all that is gained by such theories."||
What will the Lords do? Lond. Ridgway, 1831.
What will the Lords do? p. 23. ‡ Ibid. P.10. $ Ibid. 27. || Bourrienne, vol. viil.
Neckar retired from the ministry, and there the author of this pamphlet leaves him. Was it that which occasioned the Revolution? Quite the reverse. He resigned in 1780, and the Revolution did not break out for nine years after. What then brought it on? We will follow this St Lawrence to its Niagara. returned to office in 1789, instantly set on foot his projects of reform, and strained the royal prerogative to overcome the opposition of the Noblesse. He doubled, by royal ordinance, the number of the members of the Commons, set the populace on fire by the prodigal gift of political power, convoked the States-General, put the King at the head of the movement, made him for a little brief space the most popular man in France. And what was the consequence? The monarch beheaded, the nobles abolished; their estates divided, themselves guillotined, the public debt abolished, the reign of terror and the rule of Robespierre. "Will the Peers profit by the example?" We hope they may.
"Past events," says the author, "may be regretted, but they cannot be changed; and those who mourn over their effects, will not strongly evince the purity of their hatred of all excitement, by pursuing measures tending directly to increase it." Historic truth is already beginning to assert its eternal ascendancy over temporary error. "Past events" the prodigal offer of political power to the people, the excitements of the dissolution, are even now spoken of by its authors as a subject of " regret.' And how are its effects proposed to be remedied? By a continuance of the same fatal system which has brought us to this last and perilous pass. Finding that yielding has quadrupled the power of the enemy of order-that past error has become the subject of regret even to its own authors, they propose an extension of the same concession, a continuance of these errors, as the only means of averting its disastrous effects.
The Peers in England yielded to all the demands of the Long Parliament and the populace; they sent Strafford to the block-passed all the revolutionary bills sent up to them, and remained passive spectators of the Civil War. What did they get by
it? The abolition of their order, the death of their sovereign, the ty ranny of Cromwell.
The Peers in France not only concurred in, but voluntarily set themselves at the head of all the Reform projects with which Neckar, the "French Lord Grey," inflamed the country. They surrendered their right of sitting in a separate cham◄ ber; gave up their titles, dignities, and privileges, abandoned the church property to the people; concurred in a highly democratic constitution ; and what did they obtain in return for so many concessions? Exile, contempt, confiscation, and death.
Again, in 1830, they set themselves to head the movement. They made no stand in defence of the crown. They adopted the revolutionary sovereign. They yielded, without a struggle, to the current. Where are they now? Despised, insulted, and beat down; abolished as hereditary legislators; reduced to the rank of mayors and aldermen.
The Peers in England, in 1793, boldly fronted the danger. They refused to yield to popular violence, despised the threats of Revolution, put themselves at the head of the conservative party, and nailed the colours of the constitution to the mast. What was the consequence? Returning confidence, renewed prosperity, unheard-of public welfare, unprecedented glory, the conquest of Trafalgar, the field of Waterloo.
The country, they may be assured, will be true to them, if they will be true to themselves. The rabble, the radicals, the populace, will rave and thunder and despair; but all who have a thought to bestow, a shilling to lose, will rally round the constitution, the moment that they see leaders on whom they can rely. This is what is wanted; it is not bold and determined soldiers for the army of order, it is firm and uncompromising chiefs.
They have fallen in public estimation, but it was the fatal weakness about the Catholics that lowered them. Another repetition of the same mistake, in opposition to their known opinions, will for ever sink them into contempt. One glorious stand will make them stronger than ever, and bury the recollection of one act of weakness, the source of
all our disasters, in the remembrance of one act of firmness, the beginning of a new era of glory. "Quid in rebus civilibus," says Bacon," maxime prodest, Audacia; quid secundum, audacia, quid tertium, audacia. Fascinat et captivos ducit omnes qui vel sunt animo timidiores vel judicio infirmiores: tales autem sunt hominum pars maxima."
If the Peers desert their duty now: if they refuse to take that lead in defence of the country which their high descent, their noble birth, their historic names, their vast possessions, their acknowledged and unrivalled abilities, entitle them to as sume, they will never recover their fall, and they never ought. The Conservative party will break up in despair. They will emigrate, bury themselves in retirement, leave the field in which their generals signed a capitulation, when victory was within their grasp, and await in silent despair till suffering and wretchedness has calmed the fever of passion among their countrymen. Never need they hope to rouse the people, if they now abandon them. Vain will be their exclamations, hopeless their appeals, contemptible their cries, when the tide of conquest approaches their own doors; when their honours are abolished, their estates divided, their children exiled.
The people will exclaim:- You abandoned us when we were in danger: Can you expect us to support you, who have delivered us over to the enemy?
We venture on no prophecies; but we trust in a very different result. We trust in it from the evident peril of the proposed measure; the consternation which, from Cornwall to Caithness, it has excited among all who are either respectable by their thoughts, or influential by their possessions; from the proof which the Cambridge election gave of the sense of the most educated, and that which the recent defeats of the Reformers has given of the returning sense of the humblest among the people; from the vast services which in times past the aristocracy have rendered to the country, the tried firmness of the present leaders of the Conservative party in the Upper House, and the great abilities and individual weight of a large proportion of their num bers. If they are true to themselves, we have no fears of the result; in times of danger, the boldest course is in the end the most prudent. We trust that the glorious example of their predecessors will not be lost on them, and that in this last crisis they will be as true to their country as they were on the field of RUNNY
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DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE MARQUIS OF ANGLESEA AND THE GHOST OF
MODERN FRENCH HISTORIANS. No. II. COUNT SEGUR,
THE COLONIAL EMPIRE OF GREAT BRITAIN.
LETTER TO EARL GREY
FROM JAMES MACQUEEN, ESQ.
THE REJECTION OF THE BILL-THE SCOTCH REFORM,
LYTTIL PYNKIE. BY THE ETTRICK SHEPHERD,
THE OWL. BY THE TRANSLATOR OF HOMER'S HYMNS.
TOM CRINGLE'S LOG. THE PICCAROON,
NOCTES AMBROSIANE. NO. LIX.
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