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bility of this; and its certainty was afterwards established by the testimony of the only persons who could prove it, except those who were gone to render their great account. The facts, as they really existed, were these. Turnbull, Hart, and Wilson, together with two other men of the names of Atkinson and Ross, had come in a party from London; having fixed on two houses, one at Oxford, and one at Bicester, where they knew that a good booty was to be obtained. Turnbull, Hart, and Atkinson were the three who attacked Mr. Henson's house; the latter being the man who had remained on the outside; while Wilson and Ross had on the same night gone to Bicester. The two latter had met with great resistance; and had exercised a degree of violence and cruelty greater even than had been used towards Mr. Henson: so that the proof of Wilson's innocence of the crime of which he was convicted could only have been obtained by involving himself and his companion Ross in an offence, the consequences of which would have been equally fatal. The whole five had met by appointment previously made at the barn abovementioned, where they divided their plunder. In apportioning the shares to each, a part of Mr. Henson's property had fallen to the lot of Wilson; and the pistol which had been seen in his hand was one of a pair; and had been employed, not at Mr. Henson's house, but at the house at Bicester.
Can any one blame the Jury who convicted Wilson ? No man- but let his fate be a warning to jurors ; and let them be most cautious how they find a prisoner guilty on circumstantial evidence alone.
COMMENCEMENT OF THE SESSION. Seldom has a Session of Parliament promised to open under circumstances more favourable to the stability of a Ministry than that which has just commenced. The insatiable ambition of Russia checked almost at the moment her eagles were about to wave over the domes of Constantinople; Prussia restrained within the limits of her own domestic policy; France tranquillized under a vigorous, enlightened, and yet moderate cabinet; the new throne of Belgium settled; Portugal emancipated from the domination of an odious usurper; Spain restored to the influence of liberal and well-informed men, whose counsels must have issue in the establishment of a free constitution; the United States grown prodigiously in numbers and in wealth, acting vigorously in augmenting their commerce with England ;—all these external circumstances combined seemed destined to render the paths of our foreign policy smooth and unencumbered, and even glorious, -if that be, as it unquestionably is, the truest and the best glory which consists in cultivating throughout the world those bonds of peace between the great communities of mankind that ought never to be broken.
At home, with a single important exception, indeed, prosperity appeared to smile upon us on every side. The agriculturists, who will never understand that they are overwhelmed by the machinery of the corn laws, complain, it is true, of the distressed state of their interests,and not without reason. But they really have only themselves to blame. In a season when the prices of all articles of consumption must of ne
cessity fall until they find an universal level, the owners and occupiers of the soil imagine that, for some reason which never yet has been explained, they are to be exempted from the general rule, and to be entitled to receive high prices for their produce, to the prejudice of every other class of industry in the kingdom. They are suffering from their want of proper information on this subject, and perhaps also from that kind of obstinacy which prevents them from conforming to the spirit of the times. But look through the metropolis and the great manufacturing towns, the sources of our national opulence ;-everywhere the hum of busy artisans is heard,—the loom, the anvil, the potter's wheel resound incessantly; the chimneys of our foundries are so many columns of fire, and though here and there the voice of discontent may be clamorous, it is but the chirp of the grasshopper as compared with the majestic tone of repose which prevails throughout the mind of the country.
With elements of moral strength such as these at their command, the Ministers might have met the Parliament in an open, candid, and confiding manner, such as would have very materially increased and consolidated their power. For it is to be remembered that the animation which now pervades all classes of trade has sprung from no sudden or extravagant enterprises, such as those which, at former periods of our commercial history, commenced in the most splendid hopes, but terminated, at the natural period, in wide-spreading ruin. The character of our present situation is at once cheering and permanent. It affords no visions of fortunes to be fabricated in a day :—it opens no gold mines teeming with ore to the gaze of the avaricious.
Trade is now very generally conducted upon principles which admit of little variation one way or another; and though profits may be limited, they are safe, and at the same time fairly proportioned to the amount both of the capital and the labour which they require. The flourishing condition of the revenue, though not always an accurate test of solid prosperity, furnished, on this occasion, a just standard by which the state of the empire might be estimated. Upon this important point, as well as upon the measures of economy and reform already accomplished, and those upon which the Ministers had resolved, they might have firmly relied, and have boldly demanded the confidence, if not even the generous applause, of the whole people.
But, unhappily, instead of coming down to Parliament with a royal speech calculated to win popular approbation, they commenced their operations with a rhetorical production, every line of which was studiously penned with a view to absolute inanity. The augmentation of the revenue afforded the means of reducing some taxes; but the King was permitted to make no promise upon this interesting subject to the country, because, forsooth, there was no precedent to be found for such a pledge in the “ London Gazette !” The announcement was reserved for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and perhaps, after all, it was as well it should be so, since the paltry, nibbling, half-and-half sort of reduction which it promised was perfectly suitable to the calibre of the man who made it.
Personally we entertain every possible respect for Lord Althorp, but we have other feelings when we contemplate him as the Finance Minister of England, and the leader of the House of Commons. His Lord
March,-Vol. XL. NO. CLIX.
ship has at length yielded so far to the petitions of the people as to give up the house-tax; but, as if with a view to deprive the concession of all its gracefulness, the window-tax is still to be retained.
If it be apparent, as it must be to any person who has his eyes about him, that the whole of this obnoxious impost must be removed, would it not have been much more statesmanlike to have adopted the resolution at once, and to have rendered the King the medium of such agreeable tidings to the people ? If there were no precedent for such a step, why not make one in a case like this? Is the Cabinet bound by the letter of the books like a court of common law ? The idea is ludicrous and mean, —but it is characteristic. The fact was, that the royal speech of last Session was deemed in some quarters to be too communicative,-too much
upon the plan of the United States ;-and, therefore, the Whigs have returned—as Lord Althorp has, with his usual openness of heart, confessed—to the old Tory method for compounding Kings' speeches, the essential recipe with respect to which was that they should contain as much milk-and-water as possible, in order to obviate the fear of a division upon the address! This was the great bugbear of those exploded statesmen, and behold it now exercises the same talismanic influence over the counsels of the Whigs !
But perhaps the most unfortunate touchstone that was ever applied to the character of a Government of this country has been the affair of Mr. Sheil. In its origin that was a subject utterly contemptible. Mr. Hill, in one of his speeches to his constituents at Hull, had the discretion to boast, before the natives, of his familiar access to Government; and in order to show that he was conversant with even the secret machinery by which affairs of state are conducted, he boldly declared that a certain Irish member, who had distinguished himself by voting and speaking eloquently in the House against the Coercion Bill, had actually sent a communication to a Cabinet Minister, importing that, although he, the said Irish member, was obliged from circumstances to vote and debate against the Bill, his private opinions were all in favour of it, and that he was confident that, unless the Bill were carried into a law, there would be no possibility of living in Ireland. The charge, we believe, was no sooner made by Mr. Hill than it was, by him at least, forgotten. It was a mere election squib,-a rocket fired off, as it were, to grace his address to the good burgesses of Hull, who, doubtless, must be disposed to look upon their representative as a great man, if he could thus be on such confidential terms with a Minister as to be admitted to the very arcana of the Government.
Well, Mr. Hill's speech flies with the winds to Ireland, where it excites universal hatred against the traitor, whoever he might turn out to be. “ Who is the traitor ?" became a question in every mouth. The Hull speech thus acted like a firebrand on the mercurial people of that country. The very second night of the Session this question was put to Lord Althorp by Mr. Sheil, and the noble Lord, with his wonted openness of manner, declared, “Thou art the man!” The sensation in the House was perfectly prodigious. Mr. Burke's dagger was nothing to that revelation. It came upon the members like a thunderclap. Had his Lordship stopped there he would have sufficiently answered the question, and every motive connected with his position, both as a man and a Minister would have dictated to him the expediency of going no farther. But he must run his head quite against the wall, otherwise he would not have been himself. “ Thou art the man! and what is more, I believe everything that Mr. Hill has said to be true.” Mr. Sheil felt at once all the peril of his position, and declared in the most solemn, and at the same time the most manly terms he could use, that the charge was a foul calumny After such language as this a duel must have been the result, if the House had not interposed its authority to prevent any consequences of that description.
Now let us suppose for a moment—and the consideration affords a striking illustration of the mistaken origin of duels in nine cases out of ten—that these two gentlemen went the next morning to the field, and that one fell in the combat, what would have been the real state of the case ? Upon the investigation it appeared that, in fact, Mr. Sheil had a conversation with Mr. Abercromby, at the Atheneum, on the state of Ireland—that the former expressed an opinion, in common we believe with every man of ordinary faculties in the three kingdoms, that something must be done to put down the system of depredation and massacre then going on in that country. Mr. Abercromby seems to have mentioned this opinion of Mr. Sheil elsewhere, without attaching to it any importance whatever, so far as the Coercion Bill was concerned, and upon this simple foundation Mr. Hill's declaration to his constituents was founded ! If Mr. Sheil, therefore, had been slain in the duel, he would have suffered for the expression of a just opinion ; and if Lord Althorp had fallen, he would have suffered for listening to prattlers, by whom Mr. Sheil's opinion was conveyed to his Lordship, coloured in a manner altogether different from the intention with which the words were originally spoken, Both the combatants would have therefore gone to the conflict, each believing in his own innocence—and innocent undoubtedly he would have been, as it now turns out, except of the blood which he might have shed.
Had the Member for Tipperary been an ordinary man, he must have shrunk under the warnings which were poured into his ear on all sides, and must have almost believed—conscious though he was of his spotless integrity—that he had afforded in some forgotten conversation ample grounds for this impeachment, seeing that it was thus taken by the Government altogether out of the hands of Mr. Hill. He demanded inquiry, and the result was singularly instructive. The solemn message to à Cabinet Minister, from an Irish member, to the effect stated, was nowhere to be found ;-the evidence of the two witnesses upon whom Mr. Hill-or rather the Government-relied, dwindled into the words of a loose conversation, reported without the slightest malignity of intention, by Mr. Abercromby. Mr. Abercromby had forgotten that he had ever mentioned the conversation at all; and, such as it was, it had nothing whatever in it to sustain the accusation; and then Mr. Hill was obliged to abandon it; Lord Althorp apologized for his imprudences both as a minister and a man; and Mr. Stanley was placed in a position nearly similar.
Need we mention, as another proof of their wisdom and consistency, the manner in which they treated Mr. Harvey's motion for an inquiry into the Pension List ? It so happens that the two Ministers whom we have just named were, when not in office, in a minority upon a motion of a nature exactly similar to Mr. Harvey's in substance and in purpose. They then yoted for a return which should contain the names of persons
to whom pensions had been granted by the Crown. What could have been the object of such a return as this, if it had not been meant as the foundation for an inquiry into the origin of those pensions, with a view to cut off such as had not been granted for public services ? If that motion had no other object than the mere exhibition in the public prints of the names of the pensioners, it was the most sordid party trick that ever was attempted. Nevertheless, when those Ministers were taunted with their former votes on this subject, they cried out, True, we did vote for the return in question, but we meant only to ask for the names, that the families pensioned might be exposed—we never intended that the country should profit by the reduction of a single penny from the List." This was, in fact, their personal defence, and we shall leave it to speak for itself.
Their opposition to Mr. Harvey's motion was the strangest imaginable, considering that the present cabinet is itself the creature of reform. “We admit,” they say, “that there are many names in the Pension List which ought not to be there, but we shall suffer no inquiry to be made which shall distinguish the deserving from the undeserving, for they all have a legal title to the pensions which they receive; and what is to become of any other title to property in the country, if this is to be overthrown, even in one solitary instance ?” It is for the first time we learn that the power of Parliament is limited by the act of the Crown; especially in matters relating to public money paid quarterly out of the revenue. Had it been the case of a grant of land belonging to the Crown, given away years ago, and transmitted from heir to heir as patrimonial estate, the case might have been different. But here is a fund annually drawn out of the pockets of the people, and to the due application of which, for the purposes of the public service, it is the duty of the House of Commons to look with the utmost jealousy. The title given by an Act of Parliament ought to be respected as sacred so long as the true object of the Act shall be adhered to. "But if it should turn out that, under the authority of a statute meant to provide rewards for valuable public services, pensions have been granted where no such services were rendered, either by the pensioner or the ancestor whom he represents, then we say confidently that the Ministers of the Crown ought to be held responsible for the continuance of a grant which, if the purposes of the Act be considered, was void from the beginning, and never can acquire the sterling stamp of legality. It is a fraud upon the public purse, and the warrant under which such pensions are paid ought to be rescinded. In a large House the Ministers had just a majority of eight in their favour, so that there is little doubt of the motion being renewed.
The whole matter, too, as connected with the motion of inquiry into the conduct of Baron Smith is altogether inexplicatious by any rules of common prudence or common sense. It has been already largely discussed in all the public journals; and we merely advert to it here as another proof of some
“ rottenness in our “ state." We have made these remarks far: more in sorrow than in anger.” We cannot forget that the present Government, at a time of exceeding difficulty, bore the vessel they guided, in triumph and in safety, through all the perils by which it was encompassed. They must not, however, forget that the voyage has not yet terminated. If much has been done much remains to do : we trust they will so act--boldly, skilfully, but, above