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“But the fountain of honour is in the throne of the country; and it may well be a consideration with Lord Grey, and with that illustrious and patriotic Prince, who is at once the ornament and the safeguard of his Crown, how far, in these days, it may be expedient to have recourse to this undoubted exercise of the prerogative; and still more, how far it might be prudent to usher the black rod of Reform within the bar of the House of Lords, so soon after its exercise in the Commons.
“But whatever may be the advice Lord Grey may think it his duty to give the Crown on this subject, the Tory Lords may rest assured, that no manoeuvres of theirs will ever win him to a compromise of his word: he is pledged to the Bill; and, such as it is, he will carry it, either in the present House of Lords, or an enlarged House of Lords, or he will resign. Even were it contrary to his interest, his own high mind would bind him to such a line of conduct. But he knows full well, that were he, with a white heart, to waver now, that he would be lost. He, and his party, are committed in an arduous struggle; they lead, but do not command public opinion; and were they to submit to an important modification of the Bill, or to an adjournment, the real object of which would be obvious, even to the blindest mole, they would be driven from the helm ; public opinion, like a mighty river, would press onwards in its course, bearing others more adventurous on its bosom, while it left them hapless wrecks on its shores.’— pp. 19–21.
The idea of Lord Grey's cabinet resigning, and of being succeeded by a Tory administration, is a mere chimera, with which some foolish ex-official gentlemen may sometimes have deluded their fancies. But it is very far from being equally clear, that if the wishes of the people be thwarted, they will not rise from day to day in their demands, until even Lord Grey's cabinet shall have been left behind in the race of passion that will then have been excited, and considered a great deal too moderate for the age. This is the true point of danger to which we are to look, and against which the Lords, if they have any prudence at all, will even for their own sakes take care to guard. Here also the author of the pamphlet speaks out in the voice of wisdom.
* Lord Grey would be compelled to resign. His place would be occupied by men more adventurous—possibly, less conscientious; a fatal impulse would have been given to the spirit of the people; they would have been called upon, during the change of Ministry, for a display of their strength; they would have shewn it; and having tasted the dangerous sweets of its exhibition, they would be tempted to continue its support to their new Members, who would come into office pledged to more vigorous measures, or, at least, a more vigorous enforcement of them. And against whom ? Against the order that had rejected their Bill—against the House of Lords!
‘Here, then, should we have the people led on by one part of the State against another. Frightful consequence of ill-timed obstinacy Fresh and fresh force would rapidly be acquired by the stream of public opinion; which, running on with self-accelerating velocity, would soon outstrip the reforming speed of its new rulers; who would, ere long, be cast aside for others and others, more and more rash, whom the stream, now become a torrent, should cast up from its foul beds in the hurrying eddies of
its rapids. We will not follow this St. Lawrence to its Niagara; the course is fatally sure.
“Popular opinion, 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. If that bugbear of our childhood, the French Revolution, must always be cited, let us refer to it, as an example to warn us from those errors of the leading parties in its early scenes, who suffered hatred and jealousy of one another; the narrow spirit of party, and the cursed love of self and selfopinion, to blind them to the consequences of disunion. By splitting into sub-divisions, they exposed themselves to be successively beat in detail by that fatal series of men, who added each their tribute of destruction to the institutions of their country; while they, themselves, were, in fact, not the rulers, but the passive representatives of each transitory grade of public opinion, in the descending scale of national disorganization; it reached its apogee in the reign of terror, and was succeeded, as usual, by a tyranny.
‘This is an example not to fright us from Reform, but to teach us, that when a great question has been actively and publicly debated, and been as publicly accepted by a vast majority of those masses, in which essentially resides the force of a nation, that it is tempting fate, contemning example, and courting revolution to oppose the speedy, final, and full settlement of the matter at issue. The longer the delay, the greater the price of the Sybylline books. Those, therefore, who most hate revolution, should, in proportion to that hatred, now cling to this Bill, and nothing but this Bill: they ought to prefer it even to a modification, not from any fondness for the Bill, but from a love of order and fixedness of purpose; from a wise determination to prevent further discussion out of doors; and still more, to prevent the habit of such discussion from without, operating too strongly on the decisions within. These are considerations, particularly addressed to those who profess conservative principles; and they are called upon, in proof of their sincerity, to act up to their professions. They confess, that the hour for defeating Parliamentary Reform, in the abstract, is gone by ; nay, they go farther, and profess a desire for some Reform—a moderate Reform. Then, in this case, also, as in the case of concession, it is a question only of degree. They consent to the substance, but demur to the quantity. Then will they, upon a mere question of this or that Bill of Reform, supposing they could carry theirs, and still more, that it would be final—Will they, for comparatively so trifling a difference, hazard the long train of endless, unknown, perhaps, even unthought of innovations, that may follow their resistance 2 Why will they play so dangerous a game : Why hazard such unequal stakes.”—pp. 22—25.
Should the people once get a taste for extreme measures, it is impossible to say where or how they shall end. We do not imagine that they will, under any circumstances, have recourse to physical violence; they understand their power too well to mar it by any such folly, for they well know that their's is a moral force, which, steadfastly and carefully applied, is infinitely superior, in point of efficacy, to all the bayonets in the empire. What we most apprehend is, that, if the Reform Bill be now rejected by the
Lords, the people will be so much disgusted with that branch of the legislature, that it can never redeem itself in their eyes, and that even after, by a considerable increase of the peerage, the Bill shall be carried, the question will remain to be considered, whether their Lordship's house, as at present constituted, be, upon the whole, a necessary and indispensable branch of the legislature. We have seen, and may still possibly profit from, the example which has been recently given by France, of cutting off, at one blow, all the entails of the titles and privileges of the peerage; thus rendering it a mere personal possession conferred by the king, and terminating with the life of the holder. So careful have the parliamentary conductors of this important measure been to render the peerage a mere life enjoyment, that even the sons of peers cannot, eo nomine, be called to the upper chamber; they must, in order to be qualified to receive the favour of the king in that respect, be qualified as members of some of the classes to which the king's choice is strictly limited ; and we may, without difficulty, predict that in a very few years there will be in France no aristocracy, save that of wealth and personal character, the only aristocracy, we must add, which virtue sanctions, and of which reason approves. Matters are tending to a similar issue in this country. The very suspicions that at this moment attach to the House of Lords, have raised up against it a degree of odium, which even the prompt adoption by it of the Bill could hardly wipe away. We much doubt whether that odium can be much augmented by their rejection of the Bill, or whether the final result which the author of this pamphlet contemplates, may not very quickly overtake the Lords, whatever the fate of the Bill may be.
‘It is rejected Will the people of England sit patiently down Will they hang up their harps on the willows of despair, till it is their Lord's good pleasure that the people's representatives should be the representatives of the people? I think not. Then, what will they do? Will they carry their favourite Bill, their Bill of Rights, by force of arms ? Nothe days of brute force are gone to sleep with the nights of ignorance; there are measures more consonant to the present times. Association, unanimity of design, resistance within legal bounds,-these the people will employ, and with, as one voice, they will say, “The present House of Lords will not pass our Bill; but our Bill must be passed—our Commons desire it—our King sanctions it; and we are pledged to it. Another House of Lords—another third estate must be found, who will pass our Bill.” Thus, and more dangerously may they reason. Noble Lords may start—may frown—may imprecate—may threaten ; but the energies of this mighty empire are not to be put down by a sneer, or a vote; they may suddenly spring up, as in a night, and scatter their opponents, as mists from before the face of the morning. The people may ask, can there be men with intellects so dull, so inobservant, and so inexperienced, who, though born, and bred, and living in the light of this century, can yet see only with the twilight perception of the dark ages 3 men, whose notions of revolutions are formed from the traditions of days, when the art of reading and writing was a distinction, a printing press a curiosity, and a journey from York to London an epoch in life? Are there men, who, with the recent experience of the last twelve months, can read of Birmingham, and of Glasgow, and of a thousand and one other Unions—who can hear of the avidity with which the public papers are sought for in every corner of the kingdom, and who can witness the feverish excitement of the public mind, and yet, forsooth, loll upon their hereditary Seats, and fancy a frown from a weak majority of the weakest portion of the State, can frighten the great mass of their fellow-subjects from the pursuit of their legitimate desires 2 If there be such men, an excited people may add, they are no longer fit to be our legislators; the House of Lords must be adapted to the present stage of civilization. We will no longer—’
The blank may be easily filled—“We will no longer have a House of Lords, at least not of lords made legislators by the accident of birth. The peers of the three kingdoms shall be placed upon an equal footing; and as those of Scotland are elected by their fellow peers only for each parliament, the rule ought to be a general one, since that which is good for one part of the United Kingdom, must be equally good for another. We know that the king's prerogative is precluded from adding to the peerage of Ireland, unless a vacancy shall have been first created by the death of three peers. This rule if good for Ireland must be equally so for England, where the prerogative might be reduced still farther with great advantage. Some principle of popularity it will be absolutely essential to introduce into the upper house, otherwise we shall be engaged in perpetual broils with it. The reform of the House of Commons is but the beginning of those changes which must take place in every public institution of the country; our systems of parochial assessment and expenditure must be brought into harmony with the new state of things, and the people must appear prominently in every proceeding, whereby money is levied from them, and expended for their use. In other words, the democratical branch of the Constitution must be strengthened as much as possible; and, in order to accomplish that object, we must have a contest with the Lords, either now or within a very few years. At least, it will be only postponed, and, if it must be fought some day or other, the sooner it is begun the better.” It is thus that the people will argue amongst themselves, and it is thus they will conclude. We therefore strongly advise the peers to make unto themselves friends of the mammon of iniquity while yet they may, and to lay up a goodly store of popularity, which shall save them on the evil day that surely awaits them, and which, if it cannot prevent their fall, may serve at least to break it.
ARt. IX.—Memoir of Count Lavalette, written by himself. In 2 vols. London: Colburn and Co. 1831.
IT would have been more conformable to the spirit of truth and candour, to have called these volumes “More Last Words of Napo– leon.” They are principally filled with illustrations of his life and character—and present but a very small portion, indeed, of the materials which the title of the work would warrant us in confidently expecting. We take this circumstance, however, as in some measure a proof that the public is now completely saturated with the contributions which, from divers quarters, have been formed for the purpose of unravelling the mysterious career of Buonaparte. It is scarcely necessary that we should remind the reader who the author of the present volumes was, and by what casualty his name became familiar to every British ear. We need only observe, that as a passive sharer in a scene of conjugal heroism, which shames almost the generosity of ancient chivalry, Lavalette was the object, for a season, of the tender sympathy of eyery heart to which the tidings of his critical redemption had been conveyed. As the husband of Madame Lavalette, and as the object of the courageous, and to himself most dangerous protection, of an Englishman, the author of these volumes can never be an object of indifference in Great Britain. How far the interest with which his name is thus surrounded, will be allowed to extend itself over the other transactions of his life, must, in this free and impartial country, greatly depend on the nature of the transactions themselves, and to these we shall now call the attention of the public, with as much brevity as the subject will allow. It was not without much curiosity that we sought for some allusions in a preliminary narrative of his life, to that critical period of Lavalette's career which had made his name so extensively known. Whatever justice was in the decree, it seems now pretty evident that, but for his happy escape from prison, Lavalette would have had to encounter the extreme penalty of the law. He had made up his mind to this fate, and he appears to have drawn from the turnkeys in his den, a complete description of the humiliating ceremonies, through which, as a capital convict, he was condemned to pass. He made these messengers of death repeat the horrible details, until his imagination was entirely absorbed by them. During the influence of these gloomy impressions, his sleep was disturbed by frightful dreams; and one of these terrific visions had such an effect on him, that he never could, for any long interval, banish the recollection of it from his mind. The narrative, as delivered by himself, is as follows:-‘One night while I was asleep, the clock of the Palais de Justice struck twelve, and awoke me. I heard the gate open to relieve the sentry; but I fell asleep again immediately. In this sleep, I dreamed that I was stand