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form the country would be speedily relieved. He knows as much about Magna Charta as about bulwarks,---and as much about the pluilosopher's stone as of either. They talk of restoring the constitution; -- what constitution? Every one must have seen a print of the mill for grinding old women young ;---these state-menders might as reasonably take poor old Major Cartwright to a mill, and expect to see him come out as green in years as he is in judgment, as think that any country can go back to its former state. There are things which are not possible even by miracle. But if the impossible miracle were conceded, at what age would the restorers have their renovated constitution? Would they prefer that of the Norman kings, or of the Plantagenets with all its feudal grievances ? Or the golden days of Elizabeth, when parliament treinbled as the virago asserted her prerogative? Or would they have it as under James I. when the Commons did on their hearts' knees agnize' his condescension in making his royal pleasure known? Or as under Williain the Deliverer, and his successor Queen Anne, with all the corruption and treason which arrested Marlborough's victories, and betrayed Europe at Utrecht? Or would they accept it as it was even at the commencement of the present reign, when the debates were published in a mutilated and fictitious form, confessedly by sufferance?. The multitude being ignorant are at all times easily deceived, and therefore sin through simplicity. But if any man who possesses the slightest knowledge of English bistory, asserts that the people of England, at any former time, possessed so much influence as during the present reign, and more especially during the last twenty years, he asserts what is grossly and palpably false, and what he himself must know to be so.
The British constitution is not the creature of theory. It is not as a garment which we can deliver over to the tailors to cut and slash at pleasure, lengthen it or curtail, embroider it or strip off all the trimmings, and which we can at any moment cast aside for something in a newer fashion. It is the skin of the body politic in which is the form and the beauty and the life,-or rather it is the life itself. Our constitution has arisen out of our habits and necessities; it has grown with our growth, and been gradually modified by the changes through which society is always passing in its progress. Under it we are free as our own thoughts; second to no people in arts, arms and enterprize; during prosperous times exceeding all in prosperity, and in this season of contingent, partial and temporary distress suffering less than any others, abounding in resources, abounding in charity, in knowledge, in piety and in virtue. The constitution is our Ark of the Covenant;-woe to the sacrilegious band that would profane it, -and woe be to us if we suffer the profanation! Our only danger arises from the abuse of
freedom, and the supineness with which that abuse is tolerated by those whose first duty it is to see that no evil befall the commonwealth. Accusations are heaped upon them with as little sense as truth, and as little moderation and decency as either; let them, however, take heed lest posterity have bitter reason for ratifying the charge of imbecility, which it will have, if they do not take effectual means for silencing those demagogues who are exciting the people to rebellion. Insects, that only stink and sting, may safely be despised, --but when the termites are making their regular approaches it is no time to sit idle; they must be defeated by efficacious measures, or the fabric which they attack will fall.
But it has been offered to be proved at the bar of the House of Commons that the great body of the people are excluded from all share in the election of members, and that the majority of that House are returned by the proprietors of rotten boroughs, the influence of the Treasury, and a few powerful families. This has been said by all the reformers since Mr. Grey presented his memorable petition, and the Lord Mayor, with the Aldermeu and Commons of his party, liave repeated it in their addresses to the Prince Regent. Supposing that the assertion had been proved, instead of
offered to be proved'-does the Lord Mayor-or would the Lord Mayor's fool, if that ancient officer were still a part of the city establishment, suppose that in a country like this it would be possible to deprive wealth and power of their intluence, if it were desirable? or desirable, if it were possible? That the great landholders have great influence is certain; that any practical evil arises from it is 110t so obvious. The great borough-interests have been as often on the side of opposition as with the government; Sir Francis Burdett even makes use of this notorious fact as an argument for reform, and talks of the strength which the crown would derive from diminishing the power of the aristocracy. But that influence has been greatly diminished in the natural course of things. A great division of landed property has been a necessary consequence from the increase of commercial wealth. Large estates produce much more when sold in portions than in the whole, and many have been divided in this way, owing to the high price which land bore during the war, more especially in the manufacturing and thickly peopled counties. Thus the number of voters has increased, and the influence of the great landholders has in an equal degree been lessened. In Norfolk, for instance, though chiefly an agricultural county, the voters have been nearly doubted; in Yorkshire they have more than doubled; and in Lancashire the increase has been more than three-fold. This is mentioned not for the purpose of laying any stress upon it, but to shew that such a change is going on; and that in more ways than one the wealth of the country lessens the power of the landed interest. It ought thus to do : and that purchase of seats, which is complained of as the most scandalous abuse in parliament, is one means whereby it effects this desirable object.
If the reformers will shew in any age of history, and in any part of the world, or in this country at any former time, a body of representatives better constituted than the British House of Commons -among whom more individual worth and integrity can be found, and more collective wisdom; or who have more truly represented the complicated and various interests of the community, and more thoroughly understood them, then indeed it may be yielded that an alteration would be expedient, if such an alteration were likely to produce an amendment. But in a state of society, so infinitely complicated as that wherein we exist, where so many different interests are to be represented, and such various knowledge is required in the collected body, no system of representation could be more suitable than that
which circumstances have gradually and insensibly established. Of the revolutionist, secret or avowed, adventurer or fanatic, knave or dupe, (for there are of all kinds, we shall say nothing here but address ourselves to the well-meaning reformer, who has no intention farther than what he openly professes. What alteration would he propose in our county elections -to begin with these as being of most apparent importance. He would neither alter the basis nor the superstructure;--the means nor the end. He would desire, perhaps, to improve the manner of election, to extend the qualification for voters in some respects, and limit it in others—things which might be desirable, if in reality they were not very unimportant. It might be well that copyhold estates, as is frequently proposed, should confer the same right as freeholds;—that the qualification should be raised from forty shil. lings to as many pounds, or at least to half as many; and that persons leasing lands to a certain amount, or assessed in direct taxes to a given sum, should be entitled to vote. It might be well also if the votes were taken in the respective parishes. Nothing is so easy as to propose slight alterations of this kind; and in times of perfect tranquillity when they are not demanded with
and menaces of civil war, it is exceedingly probable that such things may be taken into consideration among the numerous plans for promoting the public good, in which parliament, by means of its committees, is continually employed, They might be conceded for the sake of those who fancy them of importance. The
representatives would still be what they are and what they ought to be men of large landed property, whose families are as old in the country as the oaks upon their estates, having hereditary claims to the confidence of their constituents, --in a word, true English gen
tlemen, well acquainted with local interests, liable to error like other
men, but above all suspicion of sinister motives; perfectly independent, and, unless they are stricken with fatuity, sincerely attached to the existing institutions of their country. Such are the men whom the counties must always return upon any plan of representation : unless the frantic scheme of universal suffrage were adopted, which would inevitably and immediately lead to universal anarchy.
As men of family and large estates are the natural representatives of the counties, so are the great towns, with equal fitness, represented by men of eminence in the commercial world, or persons distinguished for ability in the senate, or for their services in the fleets and armies of their country; the first class well known on the spot, and therefore possessing that local influence which wealth and respectability properly confer--the two latter standing upon the high ground of honourable popularity. When county elections are contested, it is usually, as far as the great body of the freeholders are concerned, less a struggle between parties than between families, the colours of the candidates serve as sufficient distinction, and cause enough for as hearty an animosity while it lasts as that between Moor and Christian, or Portugueze and Jew. Unbounded license is given to libels in which truth and decorum are disregarded on both sides, and there is a plentiful expenditure of ale, ribbands and small wit. But in those large towns, where elections, strictly speaking, are popular, lhe fever is of a more malignant type. Here the contest is between parties, and is frequently carried ou in a manner not unlike those private wars which are sometimes waged in London on successive Sundays, between the county of Cork men and the county of Tipperary men, or other tribes of the same nation, till heads and shillelahs enough have been broken on both sides to satisfy the point of honour, or till peace is concluded under the mediation of the constables and the magistrates. These elections are more passionate and infinitely more corrupt than those for the counties--in proportion as influence has less power, direct bribery has more; nor is there an imaginable device by which it can be performed, nor an imaginable form of deceit and perjury which is not put in practice. In one of the largest cities of England, the man who marries a freeman's daughter becomes free in right of his wife. When that city was contested, it was a common thing for one woman to marry half a dozen men during the election. The parties adjourned from the church to the church-yard, shook hands across a grave, and pronounced a summary form of divorce, by saying now death do us part;' away went the man to give bis vote, and the woman remained in readiness to confer the same privilege in different parishes upon as many more husbands as the
committee thought it prudent to provide ;-receiving her fee for each. In that same city, before the act which limited the duration of elections, (a nieasure of real reform,) we remember a contest which continued for more than six weeks, and not a day past with out bludgeon work in the streets. But the ferocious spirit of a mob election has never been manifested so strongly in any other place as at Nottingham; and it has been asserted that the
present state of that city, so ruinous to itself, and so inexpressibly disgraceful to the country, is attributable, in no slight degree, to the manner in which the excesses and outrages of party spirit have been tolerated, and even encouraged at such times.
It is exceedingly proper that the mode of election should be purely popular in some places, and that the populace and the ultraliberty men should return such representatives as Wilkes and Sir Francis Burdett--or even Paul, if they will degrade themselves so far:-remembering what Lord Cochrane has been, we will speak of what he is in no other terms than those of undissembled compassion and regret. As for Mr. Orator Hunt, there is no likelihood that any place should return such a representative--unless Garratt were chartered to chuse a member as well as a mayor. It is not undesirable, in ordinary times, that we should hear exaggerated notions of liberty from men of ready lauguage and warm heads, and in perilous seasons the gallery may always be cleared when harangues are made for the manifest purpose of circulating sedition through the country and inflaming discontent. But there is quite enough of this mixture in the House.
Money and faction bear about an equal share in great popular elections; it is in the small open boroughs where bribery and corruption have full play; where guineas during the golden age were served out of a punch-bowl; and where the voters paid their apos thecaries' bill according to received custom after an election, from the thirty pounds which were the price of a vote. The law has provided pains and penalties against such practices; and why should government be reproached with a * corruption which exists wholly and exclusively aniong the people themselves ? It is a transaction between Mr. Goldworthy the giver, and Mr. Freeman Bull the taker, of whom the former may be a staunch whig, and the latter staunch patriot and honest Englishman, though the one is ready to pay thirty pounds for a vote, and the other to sell it at that price; and Mr. Goldworthy is just as likely to be found in the list of the opposition, or of the reformers, as of the ministerial members. There are indeed very few who sanction the silly question of
As far as any good can be derived from counteracting false and pernicious doctrines by exposing thein, it could not be done better than by circulating Mr. Windham's niasterly speech upon this subject. VOL. XVI. NO, XXXI.