« НазадПродовжити »
None of the requirements of responsibility can be met by a suffrage based upon any principle of property. The suffrage is required for the protection of all, and not merely for the protection of householders. The enfranchisement of the conscience of every man is the thing chiefly desirable, and this can be obtained only by a manhood suffrage. Property is the chief means of electoral corruption. The protection of all by the enfranchisement of the conscience of every man, can be obtained only by shutting out every opportunity or pretext for the interference of property with the functions of conscience. Enfranchisement on the qualification of registration in a rating-book, or of a house, no matter whether a ten-pound house, or a tene. ment with a door and a door-key, commits the fatal and fundamental error of enfranchising on account of property, and not of humanity, and of changing the venues of the question of qualification from mental and moral, to material and pecuniary considerations. A household suffrage gives property a plea, a pretext, and an occasion for meddling with conscience, and subjects the poor man, who occupies the house on account of which he votes, to the power and the interference of the rich man, whose house qualifies for the vote. The householder shares in effect the vote with another, and is not consequently free.
Of the infinite deceptions, corruptions, and crimes, of which a property suffrage is capable, the existing electoral system of the three kingdoms is a specimen. Under the pretext of securing the independence of electors, it keeps up, and maintains all the means and appliances for the degradation and dependence of the electors. The question between household suffrage and manhood suffrage, is just the question of the maintenance or the suppression of the principle, the influences, the practices, the machinery of electoral crime-the continuance or the abolition of nomination, intimidation, corruption, bribery, treating, abduction, and perjury.
The possession of reason and conscience, is a qualification of an elector for the exercise of the powers of responsibility, of eligibility, of accountability, and dismissability. But there is no such qualification in the occupancy of a house, or the command of the door-key of a tenement, or registration in a rating book. Under the supposition of a people ground down by the selfishness of their rulers, a household suffrage would deprive of their electoral rights, of the power of responsibility, the very men who needed their protection most, and at the most urgent times. A household suffrage, like every other property suffrage, degrades the creator of property beneath his creatures. It makes more of the possession of a door-key, than of the possession
of reason. In reference to legislation and responsibility, the door-key suffrage is a felo de se, for it recognises a qualification which cannot qualify for their duties. The highest duty of a citizen, is to make the will of God prevail in all affairs, and for these moral and divine duties a man derives no fitness from his door-key. But a floodgate of corruption is opened by the connection of property in any way with the sphere of conscience. The crying evil of the time is, that the poor have been becoming poorer, and the rich, richer; and the influence of property on the electoral system, is the source of this evil, the tendency of which, especially if sanctioned by new enactments, would be to lodge both property and political power in fewer and still fewer hands. Hence, it has been brought about, that the electoral body in Scotland, England, and Wales, have come to be merely the voting instruments of property, in all the boroughs and counties in which the vote is invested with any considerable political power. Were the colours of political parties, the Whig blue, and the Tory red, employed to mark on maps the proprietorship of the lands in the counties, and of the houses in the small burghs, the result of the elections could all be foretold with certainty, the blue acres and houses all returning Whigs, and the red acres and houses electing honourable gentlemen of Tory principles. The insidious proceedings of the possessors of property have made this the fact, and much better would it be for public morals, were the elections taken in this way, for then the destruction of consciences would be spared, and elections would cease to be battles of crimes. Under the pretence of the natural influences of property, of neighbourhood, virtue, and kindness—this deceitful system is just a machinery for enabling proprietors to nominate their proxies to the Commons House of Parliament, a degradation of that House, for which there is no remedy in the possession, either of the members or of the people. By the present system, somewhere about one man in six, all entitled to the suffrage, is an elector, But of these electors, a voter in a small nomination county or borough, has as much political power as five average electors. Indeed, when contrasting the largest and the smallest constituencies, the melancholy and hideous spectacle reveals itself, that an elector of the largest has only a seventieth or an eightieth or a one-hundredth part of the political power of the smallest, and this just because the one is an independent citizen, and the other a prostituted soul. By one-sixth of the present electoral body, itself one-sixth of the men entitled to share a manhood suffrage, and this sixth of the electoral body, the most servile portion of the population is a majority of the House of Commons, returned, it were false to say elected. Out of this poisoned well of crimes--the preference of property to conscience, issue a representative system of frauds, chicaneries, briberies, debaucheries, and perjuries. All these crimes are screened and covered by hypocrisies, by the pretended enfranchisement of the middle classes, and by impostures of election committees and bribery punishments, which just increase the advantages of the wealthiest criminals.
Moral and peaceful means alone are accordant with the object of men who desire to make the Christian doctrine of the equality of souls a reality, by enfranchising all consciences alike. They desire to do as they would be done by in the polling booths. The spirit suitable for this holy cause is, not a military, but a martyr spirit, animating men who, in reference to the shedding of blood, have only blood to be shed, and not hearts to shed any blood. Desiring the enfranchisement of reason and conscience, the freedom and equality of all souls in political affairs, they believe the triumph of the cause will be best obtained by the conquering might of the truth published in love.
Of the necessity for a political organization of the middle classes, and of the members of parliament who more especially accord with them in sentiment, there cannot be a doubt in the minds of any one who witnessed the preparations made in this great metropolis on the 10th of April. Let us recall this long memorable day. In the city of two million inbabitants, in which usually there is the roar of carriages like the voice of an ocean, there was universal stillness. The mighty heart of the empire was hushed. Mounted policemen were seen, patrolling slowly backwards and forwards with their arms under their cloaks. Houses were pointed out at different places said to be full of hidden policemen, soldiers, and artillery. Every public office was a fortification. Gentlemen were met with special' on their left arm, and braces of pistols at their belts under their great coats. In the West End the streets were entirely deserted, and at the corners of the parks were many unusual sentinels with their bayonets on their muskets. There was masked artillery at the bridges. From twelve until four o'clock no one was allowed to cross any of the bridges from the Surrey side of the river, and consequently the streets leading to the bridges presented the spectacle of thousands of persons kept back by the police, every now and then charging them, and breaking their heads with truncheons.
For two years the Russell ministry have been an element of disorder and danger. The delays and imbecilities of the government have given their importance to the young Ireland party. We submit that the maintenance of all the iniquities of the electoral system have given their consequence to the Chartists. If they had improved the relations of landlord
and tenant, and given the peasantry a better hold on the land, the Irish would not now be buying pikes. Gradual extension of the franchise, or even a real suppression of electoral crimes, would have lessened the dissatisfaction of the men who hold, that every man has a right to a vote derived from the reason enshrined within his humanity.
'But the frightful language of the Irish Confederates and the Chartists ! surely this is the cause of the mischief. But words break no bones. Nobody would have listened had the government been progressive. We admire not the physical force doctrines which Mr. Duffy learned from a Scotchman, who ought to have had more sense than to teach them—Thomas Carlylebut the Irish are imaginative, and it has been on the authority of a Scottish philosopher that these rhetoricians have come to believe, that nations can be regenerated only by 'blood baths.' Moreover, it is doubtful whether these Young Irelanders, and Chartists, really did utter all the atrocities ascribed to them.
Regarding Young Ireland, we must state a fact. We remember being shocked by reading in the ministerial journals a statement, that when it was agreed upon at a public meeting in Dublin to enter into a subscription to defend Smith O'Brien, a man on the platform proposed, that whatever should be left of overplus, should be spent in pikes. The ministerial press reported this, and wrote leaders upon it. Who was this man? He was a government spy, and an Orangeman, employed by Colonel Brown, the chief of the Dublin police, to entrap discontented and distressed men into crime. For this man, Kirwin, Colonel Brown is responsible; for Colonel Brown, Lord Clarendon; and for Clarendon, Lord Russell is responsible. These things were all proved, all confessed by Colonel Brown in an open police court, and thus the Russell ministry is convicted of being a spy ministry.
The proceedings of the National Convention were grossly perverted in the reports which appeared in the Times' and the . Chronicle,' though they were bad enough, as the columns of the "Northern Star' will shew. The Russell government are in truth the chief element of danger to the peace and order of the community. They cause agitation. They excite the discontents which express themselves by riots. It is nonsense to fancy the danger is over because Mr. Fussell, Mr. Vernon, and Mr. Ernest Jones have been arrested, and because the true character of the Land lottery of Mr. Feargus O'Connor is about to be exposed. All the best informed persons we know are fearful of a rebellion in Ireland in the autumn. From Aberdeen in the north, to Cornwall in the south, the disaffected are making preparations of violence, and the probabilities are great that a rebellion in Ireland will be the signal for English, Welsh, and Scotch outbreaks.
The People's League, wisely and vigorously supported, may be a great conservator of order. But nothing could be more beneficial for the security of property and life, than a people's party in parliament, wisely, harmoniously, and strenuously advocating large and effectual reforms. Of course we are aware that this party is too weak in numbers to be a legislative body; but in the power of principles, and in the strength derived from practical information, they have no superiors in the House of Com mons. We have ourselves in this article attempted a catalogue raisonne of the abuses which will constitute the strength of the people's party in their policy of exposures. But without inviting them to enter upon the vast field embraced by our bird's-eye view, if they will unitedly and zealously prosecute the reforms for which their own resources peculiarly qualify them, they will make themselves the propeller engines of progress, if not the actual leaders of beneficent legislation. They can always make a house for each other, and by mutual arrangement and assistance, secure a debate which will be an effectual exposure of the abuse they have agreed to assault. Mr. Sharman Crawford on the occupancy of land ; Mr. Bright on the game laws; Mr. Cowan on the excise laws; Mr. M Gregor on taxation and com. merce; Mr. Cobden on restriction on trade; Mr. Horsman on ecclesiastical abuses; Sir William Molesworth on Colonial administration; Colonel Thompson on currency; Mr. W. J. Fox on civil liberty ; Mr. George Thompson on Indian affairs, and Mr. Hume on parliamentary reform; there are vast powers of exposure in these men, and the fields of usefulness for which their studies peculiarly fit them, are immense; while oligarchical hypocrisies, corruptions, and infamies lie before them, like the full churchyards and the pestilential lanes, now clamant for ventilation and destruction by the strong hand of sanitary improvements.
The people's party wisely determined to make the representation of the country their first battle-field. The premier met the introduction of the subject with his notable declaration of the 23d of May, that neither the middle nor the working classes desired the Reform proposed by Mr. Hume, nor the Charter advocated by Mr. O'Connor. The Whigs declared that there was no distress in the commercial world in the beginning of October, 1847, and they now declare that there is no desire for large parliamentary reforms in May, 1848. Both declarations concur in showing the well-known fact, that the Whigs are a