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ON PARLIAMENTARY REFORM AND THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.
THE REJECTION OF THE BILL-THE SCOTCH REFORM.
Wat have the Peers done? They menace, steadfastly adhering through have done their duty, and, we trust, every peril to the discharge of duty, saved their country:
they have achieved a triumph of imWe had always the greatest hopes mortal celebrity. They have saved of the resistance which in the last us from the worst of tyrannies; the extremity the Peers of England despotism of a multitude of tyrants. would offer to the torrent of revolu- The future historian will dwell on tion, and the firmest confidence in the glories of Trafalgar, and the enthe efficacy of their exertions to during valour of Torres Vedras and rescue the nation from the dangers Waterloo; but he will rest with not with which it was wellnigh over- less exultation on the moral firmness whelmed. But we were not prepa- of our hereditary legislators; on the red for, we never could have antici- constancy which could remain unpated, the glorious stand which they moved amidst a nation's defection, have made
against the Reform Bill. and save a people who had consignTo have thrown out that Bill by a ed themselves to perdition. majority, which, but for the recent It is for the poor themselves, for unprecedented creation, would have those miserable victims of democrabeen sixty-TWO; to have been proof tic frenzy, that our first thankfulalike against the seductions of Mi- ness arises. When an hundred and nisterial influence, the smiles of Mi. fifty thousand men assembled, at the nisterial favour, and the vengeance command of the Birmingham Union, of democratic ambition; to have de- to menace their last and best friends; spised equally the threats of a revo- when the standard of rebellion was lutionary press, the intimidation of all but unfurled, and the Peers were ignorant multitudes, and the fierce, dared to discharge their duty, on the though fleeting, folly of public opi- edge of what an abyss of wretchednion, is indeed a triumph worthy of ness and suffering did the deluded the Barons of England. Their an- multitude stand! Had Providence in cestors who declared seven hundred wrath granted the prayer of their peyears ago at Mertoun, Nolumus tition, how soon would the countless leges Angliæ mutare, the iron war- host have withered before the blast riors who extorted from Johnat Run- of destruction ; how many human neymede the great charter of Eng- beings, then buoyant with health and lish freedom, did not confer so great exulting in ambition, been soon a blessing on their country. The swept away; how many wretched first contended only against the families writhed under the pangs of usurpation of papal ambition; the famine; how many souls been lost in latter struggled against the tyranny the crimes consequent on unbearof a weak and pusillanimous prince: able misfortune! Long before the debut the victory now gained has been mocratic flood had reached the paachieved over the united forces of laces of the great, while the rich ignorance and ability; over all that were still living in affluence on the democracy could offer that was sa- accumulations of centuries, the poor, vage, and all that talent could array dependent on their daily labour, that was formidable. In Gothic ages would have been involved in the exour steel-clad barons struggled only tremity of suffering, and hundreds for infant freedom, and laid the foun- of thousands perished as in the Crudations of a civilisation yet to be; sades, the victims of political, as the Peers of our day have been in- great as religious fanaticism. The trusted with the protection of aged rich would ultimately have been dehappiness, and the keeping of a stroyed ; the higher ranks would standard grown grey in renown, have been swept away in the flood Well and nobly have they discharged of misfortune, but they would have the trust; despising eyery unworthy survived the wretched crowd which swelled the torrent; and the last upon the sea of revolution, and the breath of the deluded multitude, monsters of the deep were raging when sinking in the waves, would for their prey! They have been saved have been to curse the authors of a after they had abandoned the helm, nation's ruin.
and resigned themselves to the temOur next cause of thankfulness, pest, by the firm and intrepid hands is for the preservation of the insti- which seized it. tutions of the country; of that consti- Our last cause of thankfulness is tution which has survived so many for the human race-for the countperils, and produced such unparal- less myriads who looked to the shores leled blessings; under which our of Britain for the last struggle between fathers have prospered, and the old order and anarchy; and the triumph time before them; which has been achieved for true freedom, by the transmitted, like the Mantle of Elijah, first and greatest defeat of democrafrom generation to generation, and tic oppression. Not merely as naeven now saved the nation, it is to tives of England, but as citizens of be hoped, from the abyss of wretch- the world, we rejoice in the triumph edness. It would have been a de- -the victory of experience over inplorable spectacle to have seen the novation-of balanced power over British constitution perish from any oppressive tyranny-of the reign of cause; to have beheld the fabric Peace over the era of Blood. It is of Alfred, matured by the experi- a proud thing for England, that, in ence, and adapted to the wants of this great crisis, she has not been successive generations, fall even un- wanting to her duty; that she has der external violence, the sword of maintained her high place in the van Napoleon, or the armies of Russia: of civilisation, and kept the lead alike but how much more terrible, to have in the ranks of Freedom, and the seen it perish under the violence of array of Wisdom. Centuries before its own subjects; sink into the grave the name of Liberty was known in from the impious hands of its own the neighbouring states; while the children! It is painful to see a fa- nations around her were sunk in barmily in private life behave with in- barism, or crouching under oppresgratitude to the authors of their sion, she erected the firm and fair being; revolt against the hands which fabric of public freedom; and now, had lulled them in infancy; discard when they are fawning before the the wisdom which had instructed career of revolution, and placing their youth, and bring down the grey their necks beneath the many-headed hairs of age with sorrow to the grave; monster of democratic power, she But what shall we say to the nation boldly stands out, erect and alone, which, in a transport of fury, could to combat the tyrant when he is pull down the institutions under strongest, to grapple with the Hydra which they had attained unparalleled in his prime. happiness; which had been weighed If any thing could add to the grain the balance, and not found want- titude which we feel for these great ing; which had spread the sway of achievements, it would be the satisan island in the Atlantic, as far as the faction which must arise from the arms of conquest could reach, or the manner in which the great question waters of the ocean extend; which has been treated in the House of had given birth to Milton and New Lords. The days are over when the ton, to Scott and Shakspeare; on people can be deluded by the old cawhich were reflected the glories of Iumny of the Peers being behind the Palestine, the lustre of Cressy, the age-a set of incurables-a race of triumph of Blenheim; the country imbeciles, fit only to be discarded of Marlborough and Wellington, of with disgrace. This debate has disBlake and Nelson; the nation which played their character in its true cohad ever been first in the career of Tours; it must silence the breath of usefulness, and last in the desertion vituperation, and open the eyes even of duty ? All these glories, this of political blindness. The two great long line of greatness, these countless parties which divide the state bave millions of helpless beings, stood on been brought into presence, each has the verge of destruction, with their sent forth its combatants into the field; own hands they had pushed out and what a stupendous difference be: tween them! How immeasurably its adoption would not make matters superior the debates of the Lords even worse than, according to your have been to those of the Commons ! own shewing, they now are. Every How dignified the language-how word of your speech may be admitstatesman-like the wisdom- how ted by the most vehement opponents great the courage of the former when of the Reform bill.” compared with the declamation and Not one of the able supporters of vehemence of a majority in the reform could adduce a single argulatter body! The Peerage has pro- ment in favour of this bill, which was duced the speeches of Wellington, the only question before the House. Harrowby, 'Dudley, Caernarvon, Lord Brougham virtually abandoned Wharncliffe, Wynford, Lyndhurst, the L. 10 clause, by admitting that in and Eldon; and what has the demo- committee he would not oppose its cratic party brought forward in the alteration to a standard varying acLower House to counterbalance it ? cording to the size of the town;
and O'Connell, Hobhouse, Hunt, and he added, that it was originally fixed Hume. Which of these great bo- at L.20, and altered to L.10, because dies will stand most prominent in in one borough containing 1700 inthe eyes of posterity ? On the con- habitants, the requisite number of duct of which will the historian dwell voters, according to that standard, with enthusiasm ; the words of could not have been found. Where which will flow down the current of would have been the shouts of the time, the admiration and boast of un- multitude if the L.20 clause had been born ages? Much as we respected, retained ? The people were worked highly as we felt the importance of up to a state of frenzy by this extenthe British aristocracy, their ability sion of the franchise to a numerous and energy has exceeded any thing class, which some of the authors of that could have been anticipated. the bill themselves intended to aban
Nor is the due meed of praise less don in the House of Lords; and yet due to the noble supporters of the they urged this measure as a final Bill in that assembly. In hearing their settlement of the question! Final, speeches, the conservative Peers when the bill would at last have might well experience
excluded four-fifths of the voters on
whose shoulders it was brought to “ The stern joy which warriors feel
the Upper House! On such causes In foemen worthy of their steel.”
do the convulsion of nations and the What a contrast do the speeches fate of the world depend. of Earl Grey, Lord Lansdown, and Two facts were brought out in Lord Brougham, afford to the idle the debate, which, it is hoped, will declamation, the ignorant assertion, for ever set this question of L.10, or the contemptible abuse, which has 3s. 10d. voters at rest. The one was, been so prodigally exerted in sup- that out of 378,000 houses returned port of the bill, and ever proves as by the Tax-office, only 52,000 are powerful to vulgar, as it is hateful to above L.20, and the other, that out of superior minds!
all the houses in the empire returned But it is from the great ability of by the Tax-office, the majority is these reforming orators in the House rated below L.12. It was admitted of Lords, that the strongest argu- also by Lord John Russell, in the ment against the bill is to be drawn. Lower House, that the real number Every thing that talent and ability, of L.10 houses was from three to eloquence and skill, could do in its fifteen times greater than the Taxfavour, was done; and to what did it office returns indicated; and the amount ? To this only, that, accord- Reform Bill allowed a house, proved ing to Lord Grey, the bill must be any how to be rented at L.10, to conpassed, not because it is a good bill, fer a vote. Now, if a majority of but because the people demand re- the houses, rated even in the Taxform. To his whole speech the an- office returns, is below L. 12 a-year, swer might be made with perfect what sort of a majority would it success—“Supposing it granted that have been when the houses below some reform is indispensable, still that value are admitted to have been you have done nothing to shew that from three to fifteen times greater yours is the proper reform, or that than the result shewn by these
turns ? From what a perilous set of rights of British statesmen. electors have we been delivered by have such calumniators now to say ? the defeat of the Bill! And on the Have they yielded to the mandates edge of what a gulf of perdition did of the Crown, or been intimidated by we stand, when the firmness of the the fury of the democracy? Tempted Peers interposed for our salvation ! by all the seductions of court favour,
The merits of the illustrious men threatened with all the violence of who have effected this great object republican ambition, denied promowill not be appreciated, if it is not tion by the Ministers, threatened recollected, that, unlike all other with confiscation by the populace, patriots, they stood opposed, not how have they acted ? Like true only to the weight of administration, patriots, like men of firmness and but the fury of the people. In ordi- integrity, the worthy successors of nary times, the patriot who with the primitive martyrs, whom neistands the influence of the execu- ther menaces nor allurements could tive, who resists temptation, and de- swerve from the path of duty. spises honours, and incurs danger Of what incalculable importance in the discharge of duty, is support- is the House of Lords in the British ed by the applause and admiration Constitution; and how well does it of his fellow-citizens; millions re- deserve the praises, so long bestowed peat his words, and watch upon his upon it, by the greatest and best of actions; the perils of the moment mankind !* What other government, are drowned in the magnitude of the in ancient or modern times, could presence in which they are incurred. have withstood the tempest which it But the British patriots of our day has now, it is to be hoped, triumphstood in a widely different, and far antly weathered ? Where shall we more disheartening situation. No ad- find, in the energy of democratic or miring crowds attended their course the tranquillity of despotic states, a -no grateful multitudes watched conservative strength, a renewing their contest-no sympathetic pray- power, an inextinguishable vigour, ers arose from millions for their sal- comparable to what it has now disvation. By a combination of circum- played ? Before the hurricane, which stances, unprecedented in the annals The Standard of England has rode of England, the weight of the execu- out, the despotism of Russia would tive, and the madness of the people, have been prostrated, and the detook the same direction; and the mocracy of France rent in shreds. patriots who with magnanimous dis- The extraordinary ability, the mointerestedness withstood the former, ral courage, the magnanimous disinwere exposed to unmeasured threats terestednessd, isplayed by the British and atrocious obloquy from the lat- Peers, were the direct and immediate ter. But, like the troops whom their consequence of the intermixture of noble leader headed at Waterloo, plebeian ability with aristocratic feelthey manfully fronted on every side, ing in their ranks ; and the fortunate with the same resolution repelled exertions to which the youth of the the terrors of the populace with nobility are driven to maintain their which they flung back the efforts of ground against the incessant presthe Administration; and, undazzled sure of talent from the lower classes either by the lightnings of the throne of society. It is in this circumstance or the thunder of the multitude, bore of inestimable importance, that the aloft the standard of England, con- real cause of the elastic vigour of quering and to conquer.
the British aristocracy is to be found. To one body in the Peers the admi. Who were the men who have stood ration of every true patriot is in an forth pre-eminent in this memorable especial manner due. The bishops contest? The Duke of Wellington, have long been held up to public trained to exertion in the wars of obloquy as servile courtiers ;-ever India and the fields of Spain ; Lord at the beck of the Crown, and inca- Harrowby, bred in laborious exerpable of exercising the independent tion in domestic government;, Lord
* Not ten of the majority had any borough influence either to lose or gain by the bill.
Eldon, whose great abilities forced to their ambition---the attractions of him from a humble
station to the pleasure have drawn them into its Chancellorship of England; Lord whirlpool. Even although the House Lyndhurst, whose talents pressed of Peers had not been formally abothrough the terrible competition of lished, as in the days of Cromwell
, the English bar; Lord Wharncliffe, by the fury of democratic ambition, long a tried and experienced debater its power and its usefulness would in the Lower House ; Lord Wynford, have been at an end; deprived of the once the able leader of the Southern feeders to its ability, its weight in Circuit. It is the competition with the constitution, its power of regusuch men; the incessant measuring lating the machine of government, its of their strength with the greatest moral courage and capacity for exabilities which the Commons can ertion would have incessantly deproduce; the long and stormy edu- clined, and the practical extinction cation in the Lower House of Par- of the third estate left the Crown liament, which developes the intel- in open and hopeless hostility with lectual powers of the English nobility; republican ambition. and compels even those, bred in the “ When it was put to the members lap of wealth and luxury, to submit of the French Convention to say, to the severe labour, and strenuous whether Louis was guilty or innoexertion, by which alone greatness cent, the Assembly unanimously voin any walk of life is to be attained. ted him guilty; and those who wishWe admire, as much as any men, the ed to save him, ventured only to didignified energy of Lord Dudley, vide upon the subordinate question, the manly vehemence of Lord Win- whether there should be an appeal chelsea, the ardent eloquence of to the people. Upon a question," Lord Carnarvon ; but we cannot for- says the republican Mignet," on which get that, but for the salutary inter- posterity will unananimously decide mixture of plebeian ability, their one way, the Assembly unanimously great powers might have lain dor- decided another."* We quoted this mant; and the talents which have in July last, but recent events have now saved a nation, been wasted in strikingly demonstrated its applicathe frivolity and dissipation of fa- tion to these times. Such are the slashionable life.
vish shackles in which democratic One deplorable effect of the Re- ambition retains its representation. form bill would have been, that it Servility worse than that of the sethreatened to extinguish this colli- nate of Tiberius; pliancy more dission of the aristocracy with the de- graceful than that of Henry's parliamocracy; and by vesting the powers ments; injustice more crying than of government practically in the the executions of Nero, were openly House of Commons, consign the displayed by an Assembly in the first Peers to that life of frivolous plea- transports of revolutionary zeal, and sure and inglorious ease, which con- with the words of justice and liberty stitutes at once the disgrace and incessantly on their lips. The fierce the weakness of continental states. supporters of new-born equality, the Young men, of noble blood or inde- ardent declaimers against regal oppendent feelings, would have disdain- pression, were constrained to an act ed to seek admission into the Lower of unanimous injustice, as shameful House, when it could be obtained as ever stained the seraglio of a only by pandering to the diseased Turkish despot. appetites and insatiable ambition of Whence is it that liberty is so coma fierce and vain democracy; or, if pletely extinguished by the first trithey had submitted to the degrada- umph of democracy; that the power tion, they would, as in ancient Rome, of deliberation is so soon taken away have generally proved unsuccessful. from the delegates of the people, The nobles of England would have that clu and committees usurp the retired in indignant silence to their real powers of government, and the palaces or their estates,-the career nominal legislature is so easily perof usefulness would have been closed mitted only to register the edicts of
Mignet, i. 372.
VOL. XXX, NO. OLXXXVII.