« PreviousContinue »
qualifications, the body of electors in general course which is pointed out by these new cir. will be invested with a more respectable char- cumstances in our situation, appears to us no acter, and feel a greater jealousy of every less obvious, than it is safe and promising.thing that may tend to degrade or dishonour If the people have risen into greater consethem: but, above all, a rigid system of econo- quence, let them have greater power. If a my, and a farther exclusion of placemen from greater proportion of our population be now the legislature, by cutting off a great part of capable and desirous of exercising the functhe minister's most profitable harvest of cor- tions of free citizens, let a greater number ruption, will force his party also to have re- be admitted to the exercise of these funccourse to more honourable means of popu- tions. If the quantity of mind and of will, larity, and to appeal to principles that must that must now be represented in our legislaultimately promote the cause of independ- ture, be prodigiously increased since the frame
of that legislature was adjusted, let its basis By the introduction, in short, of a system be widened, so as to rest on all that intellect of reform, even more moderate and cautious and will. If there be a new power and energy than that which we have ventured to indicate, generated in the nation, for the due applicawe think that a wholesome and legitimate play tion of which, there is no contrivance in the will be given to those principles of opposition original plan of the constitution, let it flow lo corruption, monopoly, and abuse, which, by into those channels through which all similar the denial of all reform, are in danger of being powers were ordained to act by the principles fomented into a decided spirit of hostility to of that plan. The power itself you can neithe government and the institutions of the ther repress nor annihilate; and, if it be not country. Instead of brooding, in sullen and assimilated to the system of the constitution, helpless silence, over the vices and errors you seem to be aware that it will ultimately which are ripening into intolerable evil, and overwhelm and destroy it. To set up against seeing, with a stern and vindictive joy, wrong it the power of influence and corruption, is to accumulated to wrong, and corruption heaped set up that by which its strength is recruited, up to corruption, the Spirit of reform will be and its safe application rendered infinitely continually interfering, with active and suc- more difficult : it is to defend your establishcessful zeal, to correct, restrain, and deter. ments, by loading them with a weight which Instead of being the avenger of our murdered of itself makes them totter under under its liberties, it will be their living protector; and pressure, and, at the same time, affords a safe the censor, not the executioner, of the consti- and inviting approach to the assailant. tution. It will not descend, only at long in- In our own case, too, nothing fortunately is tervals, like the Avatar of the Indian mytho- easier, than to reduce this growing power of logy; to expiate, with terrible vengeance, a the people within the legitimate bounds and series of consummated crimes; but, like the cantonments of the constitution ; and nothing Providence of a better faith, will keep watch more obvious, than that, when so legalised perpetually over the actions of corrigible men, and provided for, it can tend only to the exaland bring them back from their aberrations, tation and improvement of our condition, and by merciful chastisement, timely admonition, must add strength and stability to the Throne, and the blessed experience of purer principles as well as to the other branches of the legisof action.
lature. It seems a strange doctrine, to be Such, according to our conviction of the held by any one in this land, and, above all, fact, is the true state of the case as to the by the chief votaries and advocates of royal increasing weight and consequence of the power, that its legal security consists in its people; and such the nature of the policy means of corruption, or can be endangered by which we think this change in the structure the utmost freedom and intelligence in the of our society calls upon us to adopt. The body of the people, and the utmost purity and people are grown strong, in intellect, reso- popularity of our elections. Under an arbiIntion, and mutual reliance, - quick in the trary government, where the powers of the detection of the abuses by which they are monarch are confessedly unjust and oppres. wronged, and confident in the powers by sive, and are claimed, and openly asserted, which they may be compelled ultimately to not as the instruments of public benefit
, but seek their redress. Against this strength, it as the means of individual gratification, such is something more wild than madness, and a jealousy of popular independence is suffimore contemptible than folly, to think of ar- ciently intelligible: but, in a government like raying an additional phalanx of abuses, and ours, where all the powers of the Crown are drawing out a wider range of corruptions universally acknowledged to exist for the good In that contest, the issue cannot be doubtful, of the people, it is evidently quite extravagant nor the conflict long; and, deplorable as the to fear, that any increase of union and intellirictory will be, which is gained over order, gence -- any growing love of freedom and as well as over guilt, the blame will rest hea justice in the people — should endanger, or viest upon
those whose offences first provoked, should fail to confirm, all those powers and may very probably turn out a sanguinary prerogatives. and an unjustifiable vengeance.
We have not left ourselves room to ente: The conclusions, then, which we would more at large into this interesting question ; draw from the facts that have been relied on but we feel perfectly assured, and ready w by the enemies of reform, are indeed of a maintain, that, as the institution of a limited, very opposite description from theirs; and the hereditary monarchy, must always appear the
wisest and most reasonable of all human in- in short, who reigns by the fair exercise of stitutions, and that to which increasing reflec- his prerogative, can have no enemies among tion and experience will infallibly attach men the lovers of regulated freedom; and the hosmore and more as the world advances; so, the tility of such men-by far the most terrible prerogatives of such a monarch will always of all internal hostility-can only be directed de safer and more inviolate, the more the towards him, when his throne is enveloped, sentiment of liberty, and the love of their by treacherous advisers, with the hosts of political rights, is diffused and encouraged corruption; and disguised, for their ends, in among his people. A legitimate sovereign, the borrowed colours of tyranny.
(Ianuary, 1810.) Short Remarks on the State of Parties at the Close of the Year 1809. 8vo. pp. 30.
London : 1809.*
The parties of which we now wish to speak, / both parties, and looking on both with too visiare not the parties in the Cabinet, --nor even ble a resentment, aversion, and alarm. The the parties in Parliament, but the Parties in two great divisions, in the mean time, are the Nation;—that nation, whose opinions and daily provoking each other to greater excesses, whose spirit ought to admonish and control and recruiting their hostile ranks, as they ad. both Cabinet and Parliament, but which now vance, from the diminishing mass of the calm seems to us to be itself breaking rapidly into and the neutral. Every hour the rising tides two furious and irreconcileable parties; by are eating away the narrow isthmus upon whose collision, if it be not prevented, our which the adherents of the Constitution now constitution and independence must be ulti- appear to be stationed; and every hour it be. mately destroyed. We have said before, that comes more necessary for them to oppose the root of all our misfortunes was in the state some barrier to their encroachments. of the People, and not in the constitution of If the two extreme parties are once perthe legislature; and the more we see and mitted to shock together in open conflict, there reflect, the more we are satisfied of this truth. is an end to the freedom, and almost to the It is in vain to cleanse the conduits and reser- existence of the nation,—whatever be the revoirs, if the fountain itself be tainted and sult,-although that is not doubtful: And the impure. If the body of the people be infatu- only human means of preventing a consumated, or corrupt or depraved, it is vain to talk mation to which things seem so obviously of improving their representation.
tending, is for the remaining friends of the The dangers, and the corruptions, and the constitution to unbend from their cold and prodigies of the times, have very nearly put repulsive neutrality, and to join themselves to an end to all neutrality and moderation in the more respectable members of the party politics; and the great body of the nation ap- to which they have the greatest affinity; and pears to us to be divided into two violent and thus, by the weight of their character, and most pernicious factions ;—the courtiers, who the force of their talents, to temper its violence are almost for arbitrary power,—and the de. and moderate its excesses, till it can be guided mocrats, who are almost for revolution and in safety to the defence, and not to the de. republicanism. Between these stand a small
, struction, of our liberties. In the present but most respectable band—the friends of crisis, we have no hesitation in saying, that it liberty and of order—the Old Constitutional is to the popular side that the friends of the Whigs of England with the best talents and constitution must turn themselves; and that
, the best intentions, but without present power if the Whig leaders do not first conciliate, and or popularity,—calumniated and suspected by then restrain the people,—if they do not save
them from the leaders they are already choosand solemn Rebuke to the madness of contending their leaders, by becoming their patrons, and This, I fear, is too much
in the style of a sage ing in their own body, and become themselves factions. Yet it is not all rhetorical or assuming : And the observations on the vast importance and their cordial, though authoritative, advisers; high and difficule duties of a middle party, in all they will in no long time sweep away the great national contentions, seem to me as univer. Constitution itself, the Monarchy of Engiand, sally true, and as applicable to the present position and the Whig aristrocracy, by which that of our affairs, as most of the other things I have Monarchy is controlled and confirmed, and be right to mention, that it was written at a time exalted above all other forms of polity. when the recent failure of that wretched expedition This is the sum of our doctrine; though we !o Walcheren, and certain antipopular declarations are aware that, to most readers, it will rein Parliament, had excited a deeper feeling of dis- quire more development than we can now content in the country, and a greater apprehension afford, and be exposed to more objections than for its consequences, than had been witnessed since the first great panic and excitement of the French
we have left ourselves room to answer. To revolution. The spirit of such a time may, per many, we are sensible, our fears will appear haps, be detected in some of the following pages. altogether chimerical and fantastic. We have
arrays ad these two parties, it will be said- and gradual change in the condition of Euroalways some for carrying things with a high pean society, by which the lower and midhand against the people-and some for sub-dling orders have been insensibly raised into jecting every thing to their nod; but the con- greater importance than they enjoyed when Hict has hitherto afforded nothing more than their place in the political scale was originally a wholesome and invigorating exercise; and settled; and attempted to show in what way the constitution, so far from being endangered the revolution in France, and the revolutionary by it, has hitherto been found to flourish, in movements of other countries, might be reproportion as it became more animated. Why, ferred partly to the progress, and partly to the ihen, should we anticipate such tragical effects neglect of that great movement. We cannot from its continuance ?
stop now to resume any part of that general Now, to this, and to all such questions, we discussion ; but shall merely observe, that the must answer, that we can conceive them to events of the last twenty years are of them. proceed only from that fatal ignorance or in- selves sufficient to account for the state to attention to the Signs of the Times, which which this country has been reduced, and for has been the cause of so many of our errors the increased number and increased acrimony and misfortunes. It is quite true, that there of the parties that divide it. have always been in this country persons who The success of a plebeian insurrection-the leaned towards arbitrary power, and persons splendid situations to which low-bred men who leaned towards too popular a government. have been exalted, in consequence of that In all mixed governments, there must be such success——the comparative weakness and inmen, and such parties: some will admire the efficiency of the sovereigns and nobles who monarchical, and some the democratical part opposed it, and the contempt and ridicule of the constitution; and, speaking very gener- which has been thrown by the victors upon ally, the rich, and the timid, and the indolent, their order, have all tended to excite and agas well as the base and the servile, will have gravate the bad principles that lead men to a natural tendency to the one side; and the despise existing authorities, and to give into poor, the enthusiastic, and enterprising, as wild and extravagant schemes of innovation. well as the envious and the discontented, will On the other hand, the long-continued ill sucbe inclined to range themselves on the other. cess of our anti-jacobin councils—the sickenThese things have been always; and always ing uniformity of our boastings and failuresmust be. They have been hitherto, too, with the gross and palpable mismanagement of our out mischief or hazard; and might be fairly government—the growing and intolerable considered as symptoms at least, if not as burthen of our taxes-and, above all, the imcauses, of the soundness and vigour of our minent and tremendous peril into which the political organisation. But this has been the whole nation has been brought, have made a case, only because the bulk of the nation has powerful appeal to the good principles that hitherto, or till very lately, belonged to no lead men into similar feelings; and roused party at all. Factions existed only among a those who were lately unwilling to disturb small number of irritable and ambitious indi- themselves with political considerations, to cry viduals; and, for want of partizans, necessa- out in vast numbers for reformation and rerily vented themselves in a few speeches and dress. The number of those who have been pamphlets—in an election riot, or a treasury startled out of their neutrality by such feelprosecution. The partizans of Mr. Wilkes, ings, very greatly exceeds, we believe, that and the partizans of Lord Bute, formed but a of those who have been tempted from it by very inconsiderable part of the population. If the stirrings of an irregular ambition : But they had divided the whole nation among both are alike disposed to look with jealousy them, the little breaches of the peace and of upon the advocates of power and prerogativethe law at Westminster, would have been to suspect falsehood and corruption in every changed into civil war and mutual proscrip- thing that is not clearly explained-to resent tions; and the constitution of the country every appearance of haughtiness or reservemighi have perished in the conflict. In those to listen with eager credulity to every tale of times, therefore, the advocates of arbitrary detraction against public characters and to power and of popular licence were restrained, believe with implicit rashness whatever is not merely by the constitutional principles of said of the advantages of popular control. so many men of weight and authority, but by Such are the natural and original causes of the absolute neutrality and indifference of the the increase of that popular discontent which great body of the people. They fought like has of late assumed so formidable an aspect, champions in a ring of impartial spectators; and is, in fact, far more widely spread and and the multitude who looked on, and thought more deeply rooted in the nation, than the it sport, had little other interest than to see sanguine and contemptuous will believe. The that each had fair play.
enumeration, however, would be quite inNow, however, the case is lamentably dif- complete, if we were not to add, that it has ferent; and it will not be difficult, we think, been prodigiously helped by the contempt, to point out the causes which have spread and aversion, and defiance, which has been abroad this spirit of contention, and changed so loudly and unwisely expressed by the op; so great a proportion of those calm spectators posite party. Instead of endeavouring to avoid into fierce and impetuous combatants. We the occasions of dissatisfaction, and to soothe have formerly endeavoured, on more than one and conciliate those whom it could never be occasion, to explain the nature of that great I creditable to have for enemies, it has been but too often the policy of the advocates for in power, and show themselves ;-bu: for this strong government to exasperate them by very reason, their real force is probably a great menaces and abuse;—to defend, with inso-dea) less than it appears to be. Many wear lence, every thing that was attacked, how their livery, out of necessity or convenience, ever obviously indefensible;—and to insult whose hearts are with their adversaries; and and defy their opponents by a needless osten- many clamour loudly in their cause, who tation of their own present power, and their would clamour more loudly against them, the resolution to use it in support of their most moment they thought that cause was going offensive and unjustifiable measures. This back in the world. The democratic party, on unfortunate tone, which was first adopted in the other hand, is scattered, and obscurely the time of Mr. Pitt, has been pretiy well visible. It can hardly be for the immediate maintained by most of his successors; and interest of any one to acknowledge it; and has done more, we are persuaded, to revolt scarcely any one is, as yet, proud of its badge and alienate the hearts of independent and or denomination. 'It lurks, however, in pribrave men, than all the errors and incon- vate dwellings,-it gathers strength at homely sistencies of which they have been guilty. firesides,—it is confirmed in conferences of
In running thus rapidly over the causes friends,—it breaks out in pamphlets and jourwhich have raised the pretensione and aggra- nals of every description, and shows its head vated the discontents of the People, we have, now and then in the more tumultuous assemin fact, stated also, the sources of the increased blies of populous cities. In the metropolis acrimony and pretensions of the advocates for especially, where the concentration of numpower. The same spectacle of popular excess bers gives them confidence and importance, and popular triumph which excited the dan- it exhibits itself very nearly, though not allogerous passions of the turbulent and daring, gether, in its actual force. How that force in the way of Sympathy, struck a correspond- now stands in comparison with what is oping alarm into the breasts of the timid and posed to it, it would not perhaps be very easy prosperous, and excited a furious Antipathy to calculate. Taking the whole nation over in those of the proud and domineering. As head, we should conjecture, that, as things fear and hatred lead equally to severity, and now are, they would be preity equally balare neither of them very far-sighted in their anced; but, if any great calamity should give councils, they naturally attempted to bear a shock to the stability of government, or call down this rising spirit by menaces and abuse. imperiously for more vigorous councils, we are All hot-headed nd shallow-headed persons convinced that the partizans of popular povof rank, with their parasites and dependants ernment would be found to outnumber their --and indeed almost all rich persons, of quiet opponents in the proportion of three to two. tempers and weak intellects, started up into When the one party, indeed, had failed so tafurious anti-jacobins; and took at once a most tally, it must seem to be a natural resource to violent part in those political contentions, as make a trial of the other; and, if civil war or to which they had, in former times, been con- foreign conquest should really fall on us, it fessedly ignorant and indifferent. When this would be a movement almost of instinctive tone was once given, from passion and mis- wisdom, to displace and to punish those under taken principle among the actual possessors whose direction they had been brought on. of power, it was readily taken up by mere Upon any such serious alarm, too, all the ve. servile venality. The vast multiplication of nal and unprincipled adherents of the prerog. offices and occupations in the gift of the gov- ative would inevitably desert their colours, ernment, and the enormous patronage and and go over to the enemy,—while the Throne expectancy, of which it has recently become would be left to be defended only by its regular the centre, has drawn a still greater number, forces and its immediate dependants,-reinand of baser natures, out of the political neu- forced by a few bands of devoted Tories, mintrality in which they would otherwise have gled with some generous, but downcast spirits, remained, and led them to counterfeit, for under the banner of the Whig aristocracy. hire, that unfortunate violence which neces- But, without pretending to settle the nusarily produces a corresponding violence in merical or relative force of the two opposing its objects.
parties, we wish only to press it upon our Thus has the nation been set on fire at the readers, that they are both so strong and go four corners! and thus has an incredible and numerous, as to render it quite impossible that most alarming share of its population been the one should now crush or overcome the separated into two hostile and irritated parties, other, without a ruinous contention; and that neither of which can now subdue the other they are so exasperated, and so sanguine and without a civil war; and the triumph of either presumptuous, that they will push forward to of which would be equally fatal to the consti- such a contention in no long time, unless they tution.
be separated or appeased by some powerful The force and extent of these parties is but interference. That the number of the demoimperfectly known, we believe, even to those crats is vast, and is daily increasing with who have been respectively most active in ar- visible and dangerous rapidity, any man may raying them; and the extent of the adverse satisfy himself, by the common and obvious party is rarely ever suspected by those who means of information. It is a fact which he are zealously opposed to it. There must be may read legibly in the prodigious sale, and least error, however, in the estimate of the still more prodigious circulation, of Cobbett's partizans of arbitrary government. They are Register, and other weekly papers of the same
general description : He may learn it in every , the people go on a little longer to excite in street of all the manufacturing and populous them a contempt and distrust of all public towns in the heart of the country; and may, and characters, and of all institutions of authority, must hear it most audibly, in the public and while many among our public men go on to private talk of the citizens of the metropolis. justify, by their conduct, that contempt and All these afford direct and palpable proofs of distrust;—if the people are taught by all who the actual increase of this formidable party: now take the trouble to win their confidence, But no man, who understands any thing of that Parliament is a mere assemblage of unhuman nature, or knows any thing of our re- principled place-hunters, and that ins and outs cent history, can need direct evidence to con- are equally determined to defend corruption vince him, that it must have experienced a and peculation ; and if Parliament continues prodigious increase. In a country where more to busy itself with personalities,-to decline than a million of men take some interest in the investigation of corruptions,—and to appolitics, and are daily accustomed (right or prove, by its votes, what no sane man in the wrong) to refer the blessings or the evils of kingdom can consider as admitting of apolotheir condition to the conduct of their rulers, gy ;-if those to whom their natural leaders is it possible to conceive, that a third part at have given up the guidance of the people, least of every man's income should be taken shall continue to tell them that they may from him in the shape of taxes,—and that, after easily be relieved of half their taxes, and twenty years of boastful hostility, we should placed in a situation of triumphant security, be left without a single ally, and in imminent while the government continues to multiply hazard of being invaded by a revolutionary its impositions, and to waste their blood and foe, without producing a very general feeling treasure in expeditions which make us hateof disaffection and discontent, and spreading ful and ridiculous in the
many through the body of the nation, not only a neighbours, while they bring the danger nearer great disposition to despise and distrust their to our own door ;-if, finally, the people are a governors, but to judge unfavourably of the little more persuaded that, without a radical form of government itself which could admit change in the constitution of the Legislature, of such gross ignorance or imposition ? they must continue in the condition of slaves
The great increase of the opposite party, to a junto of boroughmongers, while Parliaagain, is but too visible, we are sorry to say, ment rejects with disdain every proposal to in the votes of Parliament, in the existence of correct the most palpable defects of that conthe present administration, and in the sale stitution ;- Then we say that the wholeand the tenor of the treasury journals. But, some days of England are numbered, -that independent of such proof, this too might have she is gliding to the verge of the most dreadbeen safely inferred from the known circum- ful of all calamities,—and that all the freedom stances of the times. In a nation abounding and happiness which we undoubtedly still enwith wealth and loyalty, enamoured of its old joy, and all the morality and intelligence, and institutions, and originally indebted for its the long habits of sober thinking and kindly freedom, in a great degree, to the spirit of its affection which adorn and exalt our people, landed Aristocracy, it was impossible that the will not long protect us from the horrors of a excesses of a plebeian insurrection should not civil war. have excited a great aversion to every thing In such an unhallowed conflict it is scarcely that had a similar tendency: and in any na- necessary to say that the triumph of either tion, alas! that had recently multiplied its party would be the ruin of English liberty, taxes, and increased the patronage of its gov- and of her peace, happiness, and prosperity. ernment to three times their original extent, Those who have merely lived in our times, it could not but happen, that multitudes would must have seen, and they who have read of be found to barter their independence for their other times, or reflected on what Man is at interest; and to exchange the language of all times, must know, independent of that lesfree men for that which was most agreeable to son, how much Chance, and how much Time, the party upon whose favour they depended. must concur with genius and patriotism, to
If the numbers of the opposed factions, form a good or a stable government. We have however, be formidable to the peace of the the frame and the materials of such a governcountry, the acrimony of their mutual hostili- ment in the constitution of England; but if we ty is still more alarming. If the whole na- rend asunder that frame, and scatter these tion were divided into the followers of Mr. materials—if we put out the light” of our Cobbett and Sir Francis Burdett, and the fol- living polity, lowers of Mr. John Gifford and Mr. John
“ We know not where is that Promethean fire, Bowles, does not every man see that a civil
That may its flame relumine." war and a revolution would be inevitable? Now, we say, that the factions into which the The stability of the English constitution de. country is divided, are not very different from pends upon its monarchy and aristocracy; and the followers of Mr. Cobbett and Mr. Gifford; iheir stability, again, depends very much on or, at all events, that if they are allowed to the circumstance of their having grown natudefy and provoke each other into new extrava- rally out of the frame and inward structure of gance and increased hostility, as they have our society-upon their having struck their been doing lately, we do not see how that roots deep through every stratum of the pomost tremendous of all calamities is to be litical soil
, and having been moulded and im. avoided. If those who have influence with pressed, during a long course of ages, by the