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arms, if the dire necessity for such an alternative should ever occur; that is to say, if the party already conquered by public opinion, do not submit to go under the yoke 3 We should be blind to the most obvious consequences of the events which have already taken place, if we were to suppose that the triumphs which liberal opinions have already attained in France, Belgium, and England, are likely to stop there. Russia, Austria, and Prussia, clearly do not think so, for they are armed and still arming, for the purpose of defending the contrary class of opinions, which they entertain, and upon the continuance of which their thrones essentially depend. From an extraordinary complication of motives, those three anti-liberal Powers have joined the two liberal ones in giving an apparent sanction, in Belgium, to rebellion, and to the progress of those very ideas against which their fortresses at home are manned, and their artillery charged to the very muzzle. They have moreover declared Belgium to be a neutral territory, as if such a neutrality were possible to be realized after all that has occurred The French diplomatists engaged in this arrangement well know that they have been all along enacting a mere farce, and that upon the first signal of war with the northern league, Belgium will become an integral and important province of France. Leopold has become, in truth, what he was really intended to be, a mere shadow of a king; at the first battle in which he was engaged, his troops all abandoned him, for what was he to them 2 England is too much engaged at home to attend to the deep game which the Northern league is playing against France, and France against it; for all the conferences which have been going on these twelve months, had for their object on both sides, not the independence of Belgium, but preparation for war— for the grand war of opinion which is about to break out with awful fury. There is little doubt that this war would have commenced before now, if the Polish insurrection had not disconcerted the calculations of Russia. The suppression of that revolt will liberate her legions, and the vans of the armies destined for the European conflict will then be in the presence of each other, and with the speed of lightning committed in the field. For one of two things must occur. Either the continental Powers must voluntarily disarm, or be disarmed, by superior force; it is not in the nature of things that they shall go on for ever threatening each other, and that too at an expense which is itself almost as ruinous as war, without its chances of amelioration. Continental Europe is at this moment a universal camp, and it is impossible to suppose that men shall be mustered, provisions collected, ammunitions heaped up, and artillery mounted, and so kept on together for years, in perfect inactivity. There is, indeed, another alternative, which is not beyond the range of possibility, should the present armaments much longer continue unengaged in active service. The soldiers, by being much together in masses, and having nothing better to do, may possibly become mutinous, turn against their masters, and, taking up the tale of liberty where Poland may have left it, decide the contest by acclamation. This is a result at which we should not be at all surprized. The Prussians cannot forget that a constitution was promised to them in 1814, and that the promise has not been yet fulfilled; the events which occurred upon the accession of Nicholas, demonstrated that there was “something rotten in the state of Denmark.” As to Austria, her deliverance might perhaps come from Hungary, if circumstances were favourable. But happen what may, either by. civil war, or by international war, the opinion of Europe must, sooner or later, be settled for or against a free system of government. The days of mere feudalism have long since been numbered, and the question must soon be put to rest, whether, under any circumstances, hereditary monarchy and hereditary aristocracy, can possibly maintain their ground much longer in Europe. , We may here observe, that one part of this question may be said to have been already disposed of, so far as France is concerned, for it seems to be agreed, at least by that branch of the legislature which exercises the real power, that there is no longer to be a hereditary peerage in France. A peerage, it seems, there is to be for life, in other words a senatorial body, with which it is impossible that a hereditary monarchy and a democratic chamber can co-exist. Should it be deemed necessary to renew the principle of election at the accession of the Duke of Orleans to the throne, upon which that principle has seated his father, it will be no more than the natural course of things, and then it will be but a step to a republic and a president. The senate and congress are already provided. In this view of the matter we are fortified by the writer of the pamphlet before us. After remarking that in his opinion the mixture, of which the constitution of England is said to be composed, is rather ‘a state of transition from the pure absolutism of the Stuarts to a pure representative government, toward which, since 1688, the constitution has been struggling,” he adds, (we quote from the North-American Review,)—
* France has already gone through many stages of this great change. Either the extremity of the old abuses, or the ardent temper of the French people, or some unexplained fatality, pushed the first movements of reform into the wildest excesses of revolution; and from this the state swang back to a military despotism. The surface of the waters has since been broken and tost; and the men and things moving on it have been strangely driven about, and, seemingly, without a course. But the under-current, we are inclined to think, sets deep and strong towards a republic. The present state of things is evidently provisional. The people, who through their deputies have chosen Louis Philip, will, no doubt, choose his successor, and will probably choose him for a limited period. Is it likely that that prince will be permitted to transmit his crown to his son, who has been compelled to obliterate the emblems of his family from the seal of
the state? Is the chief magistracy of the country so much more of a trifle than the fleur de lys, that the king, who is obliged to abandon the one, can keep the other —In a word, are not an hereditary crown and nobility absurdities in theory too great to stand the test of popular opinion in France? Nothing is too absurd to pass current while it passes unquestioned; the greater the paradox the heartier the assent. King Log, reposing majestically on the oozy bank in unapproached dignity, is a very efficient potentate, and a world of strength and terror may be fancied within his periphery; but when his subjects leap upon him, they find he is but a log; and when they find he is a log, they will neither respect nor obey him as a king. Is it possible to put the hereditary right to the crown into a form of words in which it will command the assent of a people like the French 2–pp. 167, 168.
Nor does the author think that in England the state of things is very different.
“The temperament of the English is less mercurial than that of the French, but the popular feeling is not less intense. Were the division of property in England more equal at the present day, so that a larger number could be interested in preserving the public peace, the monarchy might pass into an elective government without a convulsion. The change might be effected by a strenuous parliamentary contest. Like catholic emancipation, it would be debated a few years and become a law. The crown, which at no remote period has been vacated, settled, and limited by law, would by law be dispensed with. But the extreme inequality of fortunes gives an ominous character to the contest. There are too many who have nothing to lose. One party contends for the preservation of privileges, too vast to be resigned ; the other contends for life; it is the unyielding resolution of those who have all, against the utter recklessness of those who have nothing, at stake. The aristocracy is too rich, the mass of the people too destitute. The same paper, which recently gave an account of the Marquis of Londonderry's establishment, and of his féte to the king and queen, an establishment and festival of more than oriental splendor, made mention of the starvation of hundreds of the Marquis's fellow citizens in Ireland; and this contrast of condition is believed by the mass of the people,_no matter whether truly or falsely,–to be connected with the political abuses of the government.
‘Here was Mr. Canning's great mistake. In his strange menace to the continental alliance, that in the impending war of opinion, England would have it in her power to rally under her standard, against the sovereigns of Europe, the disaffected of all countries, he forgot the disaffected at home. He forgot that the British government was actually compelled to exert its whole energy to keep down insurrection ; suppress the burning of barns and dwelling-houses, and an indiscriminate spoliation of property. Does any one suppose that the catholic question was yielded to any thing but the fear of a revolt in Ireland Did not Sir Robert Peel put the justification of his own course on that question, after a parliamentary life of opposition to it, on the ground that the government could not be carried on without concession ? And does any one suppose that the present plan of parliamentary reform will prevail,-if it do prevail, on any other principle than that of a fear of the physical power of the people : Taught by these concessions how powerful they are, will the people be more or less loyal to the antiquated parts of the constitution?’ —pp. 168, 169. - The author then goes on to examine the merits of the plan of reform now under discussion in parliament, and he does not at all disguise his opinion that it is, in substance, what its most violent enemies have styled it—a Revolution; ‘a great change, carrying within itself a pledge of further change.” He contends that inasmuch as prescription has been altogether dispensed with, in the total disfranchisement of a certain number of boroughs, and the semi-disfranchisement of others, not on the ground of any delinquency with which they are charged, but upon an arbitrary principle of population, the further change in this case will be that representation in England must become, as it is in America, ultimately based throughout the country upon the population principle, and no other. “Cannot,’ he asks, “all the unrepresented towns in the kingdom, whose population exceeds two thousand, say that if you discard tradition and go upon reasonableness and fitness, our right is as good as that of the represented boroughs 2 Surely they can and will. So, too, as to the counties. It will appear on the reformed plan, that counties, differing widely in population, possess the same share of power in constituting the House of Commons. Will this be endured in a system which disfranchises sixty boroughs for no other reason than that their population is smaller than that of the others?' We must, in candour, confess that the author's reasoning upon this part of the subject is difficult to be answered, because, in fact, in Lord John Russell’s plan, the lines between partial and total disfranchisement were determined, for the sake of effecting the required reform, by the amount of population; but the amount of the population was not, further than this, intended to guide the measure, a distinction which, though intelligible enough to the people when, by its agency, they are relieved from an enormous abuse, may not be equally comprehensible to them whenever it shall stand in the way of their further demands. The old abuses will then have been forgotten, and their eyes will be so steadily fixed upon the inconsistency of adopting the principle for disfranchisement and not for enfranchisement, that they may very possibly hereafter adopt the views inculcated by this writer. ‘The necessity of a farther reform will also be made more apparent, as soon as the application of the new and uniform system of suffrage shall take place. At present, the right of suffrage is very variously exercised in the different boroughs. When it becomes uniform, and the election is made to depend on the number of inhabitants in the several boroughs, possessing the requisite qualifications, and when great questions come to be decided by small majorities in the House of Commons, will the unrepresented, or inadequately represented population, submit to the abuse 2 Will Leeds, and Manchester, and Liverpool submit to be represented by the same number of members as the old boroughs, whose population is ever so little over four thousand? Surely not. Those, who suffer by the imperfect application of the rule of three system,--that is, the majority of the people,_will clamour to have it carried through ; and they will have reason and common sense on their side. Mr. Canning and the antireformists could answer them ; but Lord John Russell cannot. The vice of the present system is, that it is the rule of three plan, with a blunder in working the question. The question is, if the borough A has 4,000 inhabitants, and sends two members, how many members shall the borough B send, which has 10,000. Lord John Russell works the question thus; as 4,000 is to 2, so is 10,000 to 2. But it is not. As 4,000 is to 2, so is 10,000 to 5. Then if Lord John Russell should say, that, after all, he does not follow the rule of three principle, the next question will be, what principle do you follow, in disfranchising wholly the boroughs
under two thousand, and half disfranchising those under four thousand 2
‘It is to be considered further, that the population of England is exceedingly homogeneous. The people, on an average, are as enlightened and well informed in one borough and in one county as another; and if they were not, the reformed plan does not attempt to give any preference to the more enlightened few, over the less enlightened many. To the manifest injustice of such a state of things as already existing, the antireformer has his answer ready; and it is an answer in the spirit of the British monarchical system. We take the representation as we find it, among the traditions of the monarchy. Specific abuses of bribery and corruption, we are willing to correct by disfranchisement in the individual case; but we will disfranchise no corporation on the rule of three system. The moderate reformer can give no answer; he can neither plead tradition nor the rule of three. He sins at once against the genius of the British Constitution and the four rules of arithmetic. He can stand neither upon Lord Coke nor Cocker; the jus parliamentarium nor the multiplication table.”—pp. 171—172.
Nor will the reform stop here, in the opinion of this able politician. It must also, he conceives, affect the House of Lords, the established church, and the hereditary crown, since all these rest upon no better foundation than did the right of Old Sarum to send two members to the House of Commons. Be it true that Old Sarum, at the present day, reduced as it is to a wheat field enclosed by a mound, is a very different thing from what Old Sarum was, when it was first directed by writ to return two burgesses to parliament; but is it more changed than the House of Lords is changed
from its original character and composition ?
* What resemblance is there between the gentleman who, with titles of nobility wholly destitute of their original meaning, fill the House of Peers, and are distinguished in nothing but their titles from the rest of society, performing neither in peace nor war any functions peculiar to themselves, and the bold barons of an earlier age; the retainers of the crown, wielding the military strength, and engrossing the landed property,+that is, at that period, all the property,+of the realm ? If the modern peerage retain any of the qualifications of the old peerage of feudal barons, it is their wealth. But considering that the peerage has no share in the commer