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Lords was two years ago treason; it is now become a political problem-before two years more it may be law!
Our readers are well aware that, from the hour in which the Reform Bill was proposed, we anticipated this result. When by that measure it was proposed to bring back the constitution to the theory of three distinct and equiponderant estates—when it was claimed that the Commons should be absolutely the Com. mons, and wholly independent; with, however, a promise that the Crown and the Lords were to be also independent, and each of the three estates invested with separate yet equal powers—we, and the whole Conservative party, did then-as the Radicals and Ministerialists do now-assert that such a system of government is a mere vision; and that, under the pretence of restoring our constitution to a state which never did and never could practically exist, we were preparing the overthrow of the throne—the annihilation of the House of Lords--and a complete and not-distant subversion of the whole practice of the constitution. We were and are deeply impressed with the wisdom of Mr. Burke's view of this subject:
* Mr. Fox and the “ Friends of the People” well know that the House of Lords is, by itself, the feeblest part of the constitution; they know that the House of Lords is supported only by its connexions with the Crown and with the House of Commons; and that without this double connexion the Lords could not exist a single year. They know that all these parts of our constitution, whilst they are balanced as opposing interests, are also connected as friends; otherwise nothing but confusion could be the result of such a complex constitution. It is natural, therefore, that they who wish the common destruction of the whole, and of all its parts, should contend for their total separation. But as the House of Commons is that link which connects both the other parts of the constitution (the Crown and the Lords) with the mass of the people, it is to that link (as it is natural enough) that their incessant attacks are directed ;-—that artificial representation of the people being once discredited and overturned, all goes to pieces, and nothing but a plain French democracy or arbitrary monarchy can possibly exist.'— Observations on the Conduct of the Minority, vol. vii. p. 257.
We say 'ditto to Mr. Burke:' but our reformers had a very different logic; and the result which has confirmed Mr. Burke's views, announced near fifty years ago, contradicts the promises of his Majesty's ministers though only six months old. Restore, they said, to' each of the three estates their own proper powers, and you will restore the balance of the constitution, and the result will be to give vigour to each and unity to the whole. The reform was made! and now, even in the very outset of the experiment,-we are told, and we fear but too truly,—that there can
not exist two powers in a state,' and that the only alternative now left is either the re-establishment of the rotten borough system' —which of course is not to be thought of-or' the annihilation of the House of Lords !
And what is to follow? Liberty and prosperity?—no-democracy and despotism!-- In the House of Lords first germed the liberties of England, and with the House of Lords they will expire. And can the House of Lords avert the evil? We know not; but we know that they can escape the guilt !-As long as they are permitted to express an opinion, they must, as free agents, follow the course of law, and obey the dictates of their consciences; and when that power shall be denied to them, either by actual interference or such certain indications of approaching violence, as cannot be mistaken, they must console themselves with the suggestion of a true Whig of the old school, that
— when impious men bear sway,
The post of honour is a private station.' But while we deduce these conclusions from the general principles that have been unbridled-we see, in several passing circumstances, an accession of difficulty and peril. There is not one of the foreign topics which we enumerated at the outset of this article, which may not endanger the peace of Europe ; and however erroneous, or impolitic, or disgraceful the conduct of our ministers may be, there is now neither check, control, nor remedy. The House of Commons has neither time, nor patience, nor information to handle such nice details; and, when any of them have been occasionally touched in debate, it seems inclined to place a careless, ignorant, and therefore unbounded confidence in ministers : and if the House of Lords were to presume again to form a judgment upon any such matters, even though it should be one on which the House of Commons were before indifferent, the opportunity would no doubt be eagerly seized of giving it another
rebuff' from the throne- of overwhelming it again with the calumnies and menaces of the Press—and of eliciting from the zealous Commons a conflicting and even a hostile vote. In our domestic system, everything is at sea, except our ships. The East Indies and the West—the banks, national and private—the Law —the Discipline of the Army and of the Navy-the Corporations -the Church ; and, incidentally to this latter subject, the connexion between Church and State, and the Union between Great Britain and Ireland ;-all are in jeopardy. There is, in Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution, a passage which so wonderfully describes our present condition, even to some of its details, that it seems as if it had been inspired by a spirit of prophecy, rather than by mere human sagacity :
. Is . . Is our monarchy (he asks) to be annihilated with all the laws all the tribunals—and all the ancient corporations of the kingdom? Is every landmark in the country to be done away in favour of a geometrical and arithmetical constitution? Is the House of Lords to be voted useless? Is episcopacy to be abolished? Are the church-lands to be sold to Jews and jobbers? Are all taxes to be voted grievances? Are curates to be seduced from their bishops by holding out to them the delusive hope of a dole out of the spoils of their own order? Is a compulsory paper currency to be substituted in place of the legal coin of the kingdom ?'-Reflections, p. 114.
Would not one believe that this had been written but yesterday? So accurately did Mr. Burke discern what would be the symptoms and what must be the march of Revolution.
But the conduct of ministers, as it has produced most of these difficulties and dangers, so it aggravates them all: their views have been so rash and so weak, so hasty and so slow, so bold in the project and so wavering in the execution, that they have lost the confidence of every party in the country; and in the House of Commons itself, though it follows and supports them out of fear of a dissolution, they are the objects of hatred, or pity, or contempt. As long as the present House of Commons, as a body, believes that its own permanence depends upon that of the ministry-as long as individual members are not disturbed by the prospect of meeting their constituents—and as long as they fancy they can postpone the day of reckoning—so long we think that the present administration may drag on a dishonoured existence. But the period of a dissolution must at last come round, and members must, however reluctant, begin to think of forfeited pledges and disappointed constituencies; and the cry of wolf against the Tories will every hour become more notoriously contemptible; and having already lost the populace, ministers will also lose the venal, the time-serving, and profligate portion of the press; and thenwhere are they?
In all times and in all countries, the immediate cause or excuse for revolutions has been finance. It was by an exaggeration of our fiscal difficulties that the present ministers obtained power-it was for the purpose of ultimately remedying them that they introduced their Reform Bill—it was by promises of economy in expenditure, and alleviation of taxation, that they obtained whatever influence they have with the public. How stands that matter now? Infinitely worse than it did at their accèssion to office. There has been no real alleviation of the burthens of the people, and there has been a wasteful and profligate increase of public expenditure, which must eventually lead to an increase of taxation infinitely beyond all the trifling, ill-managed, and worse-distributed economies
:. ... and
and remissions which they have affected to make. We knew and know, and they knew and know, that no considerable reduction of taxation was possible—but why then did they promise it?—why did they, for party purposes, excite expectations which they knew that they could not fulfil—why inflate hopes which must be disappointed? Why, with the knowledge that they were about to incur fifteen or twenty millions of debt on account of West India compensation, why did they yet make a remission of taxes to nearly the exact amount which this arrangement will oblige them to re-impose ? Their economies may starve individual families—but have they given, or can they give, one additional slice of bread to the artizan or the peasant? They have sent many a poor clerk and his wife and children to the workhouse-but have they rescued one individual from it? But they have remitted taxes—yes, truly, on tiles, and tallow, and marine insurances, and cotton—all proper enough to be removed whenever the state of the revenue might admit, but most improper to be the first removed. But while they made these inconsiderable and ill-selected remissions, what have they been doing on the other hand ? Increasing, with a blind and wanton profusion, the pecuniary difficulties and embarrassments of the country. Like those unhappy people, who, having been guilty of some offence, or subjected to some imputation which they have not courage to face, they ruin themselves in hush money
- and the first reform ministry, and the first reform parliament, have given us examples, beyond all precedent and parallel, of solving their difficulties, not by measures, but by money—the most deplorable symptom of an unnerved authority and a degraded spirit. Let us touch a few of these instances.
To obtain a German youth of sixteen, with the auspicious name of Otho, as king for Greece, they guarantee a third part of a loan of sixty millions of livres. To arrange that the boundary line of this new kingdom shall pass at the north side of a range of barren mountains, instead of the south, they sanction a payment of 500,0001. Last year they got out of their heedless engagements about Irish tithes by a payment computed at 60,000l.; and again, in the present session, they have attempted, but in vain, to quiet another storm in the same quarter by the panacean application of half a million: and thus the distractions and animosities of Ireland, which were fostered and exaggerated by their own imprudence-by giddy promises and random expressions*—are to be suspended, not removed-palliated, not pacified—by additional burthens on the peaceable inhabitants of the rest of the empire. To extricate themselves from their difficulties with the Bank, they liquidate 25 per cent. upon their debt; and * Mr. Stanley’s “ extinction of tythes,' &c. ....
after after stating in their first deliberate proposal that they should require a sacrifice of 250,0001. a year from the Bank, together with a participation in its ultimate profits, as a fair price for the renewal of the charter, they have accepted 120,000l. per annum,-a reduction equivalent in value to about 2,700,000l., and they abandon altogether the promised participation in the future profits. To obtain the Emperor of Russia's acquiescence in new-fangling the Netherlands, they renew the expired engagements for the RussianDutch loan of 5,000,000l. To arrange the Negro-slavery question, they offer a loan of 15,000,0001.-and when every one exclaimed against the mingled extravagance and inefficacy of that device, they amend the matter by changing the loan into a gift, and-instead of making a proportionate diminution in the sumthey increase the 15,000,000l. into 20,000,000l. With the East India Company, their negociation, though more obscure and complicated, is on the same principle—they take the Company's assets, which will give them a present sum of money, but they saddle the country with debt, engagements and expenditure to an infinitely greater amount; and the goodness of this bargain will be best understood by stating that East-India shares have risen near 401. during this session :- Whence is to come that enormous profit to the India proprietors ?—whence—but from the pockets of the opposite party in the negociation—the public? • Do we object to the charitable justice done to the Irish clergy—to the compensation to the West India proprietors, or to the favour shown to the Bank or to the East India Company? Far from it—but we produce these facts as proofs of the weakness and incapacity of the men who wantonly incur such enormous expenses under the pretence of economy and good management, and who can find no other mode of solving any difficulty, foreign or domestic, than the easy one of buying the acquiescence which they have neither ability to obtain by negociation, nor strength to carry by authority.
Does it give us any satisfaction to be able to allege these facts against the ministry ?-Alas, no! far from it-we do it ' more in sorrow than in anger.' We admit-and the conservatives in either house of parliament should never forget that the accession of unpopularity which has lately fallen on the administration is produced chiefly, if not solely, by their reluctance to accelerate the work of destruction-by their attempting to put a drag on the wheel of revolution. Had they not started at the precipice to which they were driving, they might have still enjoyed the drunkenness of their false popularity. We firmly believe that (with the exception of the poor, low-minded arts, with which they think they can keep themselves in office, by slandering the