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small, exclusive clique, living sequestered and apart from the public whom they pretend to govern, in some remote and inaccessible Timbuctoo, of central oligarchy.
Long before the continental revolutions and pecuniary embarrassments stimulated the reform spirit now manifesting itself, the pages of our own, and of other journals, might have informed her majesty's ministers that the intelligent men of the middle and working classes bad generally agreed in regarding the Reform Act, as having failed to realise the hopes of the nation. The opinion of the Reform Bill which in 1831 and 1832, was confined to the small body of Radical reformers represented in the press by the Westminster Review' and the ' Examiner,' and in parliament by Sir William Molesworth, Mr. Roebuck, and Mr. Grote, had become, before the general election of 1847, a common conviction. On the 30th of January, 1831, Mr. Albany Fonblanque described the opinions of the party to which he belonged, in the following happy illustration, which needed all his wit to make its truth pardonable with some of his readers, and which we quote, confident that now-a-days its truthfulness will recommend it even more than its humour:
* An Irish novelist tells a pleasant story of a green “son of the Green Isle, named Rory, who, being plagued with a foundered hack, rode to a fair, resolved to sell him, and, with the addition of a few pounds to the proceeds, to buy a serviceable horse. He soon met with a dealer (whose name we forget, but it was not Grey.) who agreed to give the price of dogs' meat for the beast, and who further promised, in a hour's time, to show Rory precisely the sort of nag he needed, and which he should have for some twenty pounds more than the price paid for the Rosinante. The steed was in appointed season exhibited, approved, purchased; and Rory set off to return home, with no small pride at being mounted so much like a gentleman; and, on his first start, not displeased at a certain stately deliberateness of movement, which gave opportunity to the townsfolks and passengers to admire his equestrian appointment. As the day shortened, however, and the road continued long, he marvelled at the remarkable resemblance in gait, stumble, and temper, between the new beast and the old one; and upon the descent of a sharp shower of rain, inducing the application of whip and spur, the end of his exertions was the discovery that he was seated upon his original hack, who, the cosmetics being washed away by the rain, now appeared in natural deformity, and showed the happy rider that he had given a score of pounds for the repossession of his dangerous old plague. This story adumbrates the whole history and mystery of the pretence of the Reform Bill in parliament, in preparation, and is the especial affair of John Bull, who, if he take not excellent care, will find himself, after much ado, repossessed of the vicious and worthless hack he was determined to be quit of. Ministers are all employed in docking, and trimming, and colouring, and washing, and glossing the foundered representation, to make it pass for another and a better sort of thing.'
The changes between the years 1831 and 1848 have reversed the relative positions of Sir R. Peel and Lord Russell. 'I declare that the confidence of the people in the construction and constitution of the House of Commons is gone, and gone for ever. This declaration by Lord John Russell, as the mouth-piece of the Grey ministry, in March 1831, would have been repeated with greater truth than ever by his lordship in June 1848, were he as accessible to evidence and justice to-day as a premier, as he was seventeen years ago, when long exclusion from office had opened the ears of the Whigs to the voice of the people. He declared then that it would be easier to transfer the manufactures and commerce of Manchester and Birmingham to Gatton and Old Sarum, than to restore the confidence of the people to the House of Commons. To-day, were his lordship a mouthpiece of popular convictions, instead of being the mouthpiece of a small superannuated clique, he would be heard declaring, that it would be easier to restore the public confidence to the boroughmongers, than to maintain the organized hypocrisies and detected impostures of the Reform Act. Instead of this, he declares in his place in parliament, that the middle classes do not want household suffrage, and the working classes do not want universal suffrage!
The respouse of the country must have convinced the premier, if his mind is open to conviction, that the Reform Act is a failure. All our largest British towns have, at public meetings, pronounced in favour of manhood suffrage. Though the reform movement of 1848 has had peculiar obstacles to encounter, and none of the advantages of the movement of 1831 as a declaration of principle, the manifestations of the last few weeks bear an aspect of nobleness not seen before, since Hampden, Pym, and Cromwell, roused our forefathers more than two centuries ago, by the cry for Free Parliaments. No noble earls have led, and no party or government influence has helped, the re. cent demonstrations throughout this island. The chiefs who assumed the leadership of it, held up flags with symbols emblazoned upon them little calculated to excite enthusiasm, and even these symbols done in dissolving and changing colours ; one day'a house,' the next' a door-key,' and, lastly, - a ratingbook.' In truth the responses to these special signals have been most insignificant. But the middle classes of almost all our large towns, without exception, took the opportunity to hoist the standard approved by their own convictions, the blazoning on which was simply Man. The great fact of the time is the exhibition of the middle classes of the British towns, demanding the suffrage as the right of every man of mature age, sound mind, unstained with crime, and of a fixed residence. 'Neither, the middle nor the working classes demand parliamentary reforms,' says the premier; and the reply from the movement spirits of all the larger British towns is, calmly and practically, but firmly, We demand the enfranchisement of humanity!'
Never, since the House of Commons was a house of parlia. ment, has there been less confidence in it than at the present hour. We believe the desire for change in the middle and working classes to be more universal than it has ever been. Of course, there are infinite varieties of opinions and of voices, but the universal chorus is, there must be a change! For many generations the Whigs have taught what has, indeed, been the general opinion of mankind, the duty of backing moral suasion with physical force. They have taught, that argument tells best when supported by a gleam of steel in the back-ground. Greek philosophers, and inductive and deductive logicians may have taught, that truth can only be established by facts; Christianity may have proclaimed and exemplified the might of the pnblication of the truth in love; but the Whigs have always taught the people to support their arguments with their arms. In 1831, Colonel Evans, at a meeting in Westminster, attempted to overawe parliament by declaring that he knew ten thousand men in Sussex who were determined to march upon London if the Reform Bill was rejected. The Reform Bill was carried by the Whigs overawing parliament by processions, intended as demonstrations of numerical strength. The Chartists are Whig pupils and Whig copyists. No doubt there are divisions among Reformers in 1848." The imitators of the Whigs wish to effect parliamentary reform by means of processions, pikes, and barricades; and the Reformers, who have a deeper insight into the philosophy of the formation of opinions, and a truer appreciation of the spirit of Christian progress, by arguments calculated to obtain the assent of the understanding, and by appeals fitted to conciliate the consciences of their countrymen. They believe truth and right to be strong enough to walk alone. But these very diversities of opinion respecting a mode of advancing a common cause, are only different kinds of proof of the strength of the convictions in favour of the cause itself.
The debate of the 20th of June, was remarkable as a display of the badness of the ground chosen by the Reformers, for their first conflict, and for the avowal by Lord Russell of the abandonment of the professions of his whole life. He defended the small boroughs, by declaring his approval of the arguments of the late Mr. Praed, that they were useful for the admission into parliament of men of great talent, who were neither men of agricul. tural nor of commercial influence, and therefore without a chance either in counties or in large boroughs. This was just the old
Tory argument for the rotten boroughs,—they gave seats to the gifted nominees of the aristocracy, the Pitts, Burkes, Broughams, and Macaulays. He said the people could correct whatever was amiss in the House of Commons by electing other members. This was just the argument of the Tories—a House of Commons which will reform itself, will do anything else, and everything else the people may require of it for their good. But the least obvious revelation of his apostacy, yet the most profound and painful, was the declaration by Lord John Russell, of the despotic principles of M. Guizot. The people are entitled to the best government and the best representation. This is just the doctrine which commended M. Guizot to Louis Philippe, and caused the inscription of the name of Francis Peter William Guizot in the red morocco book, lettered Hommes à moi—' my men.' The meaning of the old Whig toast,—the sovereignty of the people, - was that the people were entitled to whatever government they chose, and any representation they liked, the worst government if it was government by themselves, and the worst representation if it was representation of themselves. A government separated from the people and proving itself to be the best, and a representation not of the people calling itself the best, are just smooth names for tyranny. It is in an evil hour for the Whigs that Lord John Russell has abandoned the school of Fox, for the school of Guizot.
For sixteen years the small boroughs have introduced none but aristocratic nominees to parliament. Mr. D’Israeli, whose first appearance in political life was as a radical candidate for Marylebone, has, indeed, obtained a seat for Maidstone and for Shrewsbury, (the former, through the influence, it is said, of Lord Lyndhurst,—the latter, by the nomination of an old lady) but with the exception of this apostate genius, the rotten burghs have not sent a single man of note to the House of Commons. The true description of a nomination borough, at best, is, that it is a debauched constituency, kept up by the oligarchy to debauch talent. They are country establishments, kept up to supply the London panders. As for the House of Commons reforming itself,-if Mr. Hume meant that the people have the power in their own hands, in the ordinary and regular use of their votes, to make the House do it- he might as well have said that the present House is a true representation of the people, for his statement means that the badness of the House is the image of the indifference and vileness of the electors. Terror made the House of Commons reform itself in 1831, or rather, to express the fact more accurately, the fear of Revolution and civil war, wrung an appearance, or make-believe of reform from the oligarchy, and secured the enfranchisement of
ns, and the the legislatuhe Reform
in the debate eets. And thus it
a few large towns, and the disfranchisement of a few small ones. But the motive power of the legislature ought to be conviction and not fear. It is as true to say the Reform Bill was carried by popular riots, as to say it was carried by Lord John Russell. Household suffrage has neither the power of conviction nor of terror to back it, and it is, therefore, the weakest and least possible of electoral projects. And thus it appeared on the 20th of June, in the debate. Mr. Hume, with his signature attached to the People's Charter, held a brief for household suffrage, and made a speech in favour of universal suffrage, in accordance with his own convictions. Mr. W. J. Fox, throwing houses, door-keys, and rating-books, to the winds, demanded the suffrage for all men, on the ground of the great advancement of education among the people. Lord John Russell and Mr. D'Israeli cleverly availed themselves of the weak points of the Reformers, and, so far as the mere debate was concerned, had the best of it.
But it is still in the power of the reformers to turn the tables. Let them confine themselves to an exposure of the representative system. Their strength is in attack. The weapons are prepared to their hands. In the preliminary address of the People's League, we find the following brief description :- Only one man in six is an elector. Of the electoral body a sixth part return a majority of the members of the House of Commons; and this all-powerful sixth of the electoral body, instead of being the best, wisest, and most intelligent of the electors, or of the population, are to a large extent the mere voting instruments of the oligarchy: The Reform Act distributes the elec. toral power and legislative influence in largest proportions to the worst electors. One elector of Tavistock is equal to forty of Glasgow, fifty of Westminster, fifty-two of Marylebone, and sixty of the Tower Hamlets. Eighty-five thousand four hun. dred freeholders of Lancashire, Middlesex, and West Yorkshire, are equal in the vote lists with three thousand seven hundred servile tenants and fictitious voters of the counties of Bute, Caithness, Elgin, Linlithgow, Nairn, Orkney, Selkirk, and Sutherland. These powerful fictitious voters are enfranchised by a readiness to swear that they possess property which they have not. Of the English boroughs there are only twenty-four returning forty-four members, large enough to be supposed to be superior to the influences of nomination and corruption, with constituencies above one thousand, and without freemen, potwallopers, or scot and lot voters, and free from goverument in. fluence. Out of three hundred and twenty-one burgesses returned, forty-four only represent towns in circumstances fa. vourable to purity of election, leaving two hundred and seventy