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present conjecture. In addition to our domestic causes for agitation, including that malady which seems resolved to extend its ravavages throughout the country, we have only to look across the channel to the continent, to discover new, and, perhaps, still more formidable grounds for apprehension. The avowed indisposition of Russia to sanction the proceedings which have taken place for the separation of Belgium from Holland, is quite in character with the system which the Emperor Nicholas has, unfortunately for liberty, succeeded in establishing in Poland. So long as the fate of that country was undetermined, he was anxious to cultivate the good will of the other powers, and his minister cheerfully co-operated with them in the decrees which they issued for the settlement of the Belgian question. But it would seem, that the Prince Lieven was a mere instrument of fraud-an unconscious instrument, we have no doubt-on this momentous occasion, upon which trembled, as in a balance, the destinies of all Europe. His acts are disavowed, his signatures cannot be indeed erased from the protocols and treaties to which they have been affixed, but they have been divested of their authority; and the whole of the transaction, which was supposed to have been so happily concluded, must either be now maintained in its integrity by an armed alliance, or be submitted to another course of diplomatic conferences, which, after all, can only produce the effect of putting off to a later day, the war which is inevitably coming on. Here again is a provisional prospect before mercantile men, which confounds the hope they entertained of better times, and paralyses their exertions.
Nor is England alone in her commercial perplexities; France, if not worse, is quite as badly off as we are, and from a similar cause, her continued political agitation. The insurrection of the silk weavers at Lyons, was but one of the symptoms of the distress which reigns throughout the industrious classes of the French community,-a proof of the decline which has taken place in their internal as well as their external commercial intercourse. Do we derive any consolation from having such a partner as France in our misfortunes ? On the contrary, it is but an additional proof of the great difficulties which we have to surmount. Had France been in a state of prosperity, it would have shown that our complaint was peculiar to ourselves, and of a transitory nature. But with France as much depressed as we are, we perceive that our malady is of a most extensive and formidable character, and that civilized Europe cannot. look forward with much hope, when its two most illustrious nations are both manacled, as it were, in the fetters of adversity.
Amidst these gloomy prospects, if we glance at the United States of America, we shall find that they exhibit the animating features of a great political body, held together only by their mutual pledges of security, governed only by the principles of matured reason and genuine freedom, with the least possible expense, and therefore rapidly improving in all the enjoyments of which human society is
susceptible. While we have to provide for an enormous debt, and for an annual expenditure, which absorbs a sum equal to the interest of that debt; and while for both these incessant outgoings we have to obtain supplies from a declining revenue, we behold that union of republics rising in the scale of prosperity year after year, and diminishing its national debt with such progressive vigour, that in the course of a few months more it will have no debt at all! That will be an event, of which our trans-Atlantic brethren may well be proud—a situation of which, we believe, no other state in Europe, or the whole continent of America, can boast for many years, perhaps centuries, yet to come.
This fact alone ought to be sufficient to convince us, that in this old world of ours, we are involved in a labyrinth of errors, upon almost every question that can concern the welfare of the community at large." It has been said by the opponents of the Reform Bill, and it is repeated in the American pamphlet before us, that the fervor of reform is somewhat abated amongst the people of this country. We begin to be of the same opinion. We certainly think that much less is said and felt at present, with respect to that measure, important though it be, than was either said or felt some months ago. But does this general apathy arise from a real indifference to the reformation in the constitution of the House of Commons ? They who would answer this question in the affirmative, would soon find that they were much mistaken. The truth is, that the people have long looked upon reform as gained, and they already perceive, that, great as the abuses are which that measure will remove, there are many others of a still more grievous nature, which, in its outline at least, it leaves altogether untouched. The Bill does not include a provision for the regulation of the debt, for the reduction of the intolerable burthen of taxes by which we are oppressed, for placing the government upon a more economical footing, for abolishing all pensions, for the separation of the church from the state, for the abolition of tithes, and the establishment of the principle that every man should be at liberty to pay bis own clergyman. These are the leading points upon which the country is now fixing its gaze; and these being, as it were, beyond the Reform Bill, the latter may be correctly said to excite amongst us at present but little attention, compared with that which it called forth when it was first presented to our notice. We had then been wrapped in a profound lethargy, from which the Bill effectually awoke us; it was a giant of vast dimensions in our sight, so long as our vision was inexperienced in appreciating the true extent of such an object : but now that we have examined it on all sides, and find that it is indeed calculated to produce some salutary alterations, we feel that we cannot be content with these, and that we must proceed a great deal farther than the House of Commons in the work of regeneration.
The author of the American pamphlet, who mistakes our situation
on some points, on others sees before him, and reasons upon our prospects of amelioration with much sagacity, attaches rather too much importance to the reference which was made to the will of the people, in the speeches pronounced by the King at the dissolution of the last, and the opening of the present, Parliament. That reference was strictly constitutional; it was by no means unusual; and all it meant was, that, if the people wished for reform, they would carry that wish into effect by returning members to the House of Commons who would vote in conformity with the popular feeling. The desires of the people may also be expressed by public meetings, resolutions, petitions, and addresses; but they have no mode so secure as that of a general election, for promoting the success of any measure which they look upon as essential to their interests. Though parliamentary conventions are by no means new in our history, yet a popular convention, or constituent assembly,' as our American friend terms it, would be altogether unprecedented, and we take it for granted that no such assembly ever can be held in this country, with the sanction of the king and his government. If any great question arise, upon which the people shall be resolved to manifest their combined power, it is not improbable that such an assembly might be held ; but its very existence would pre-suppose the abolition of the monarchy, and the subjugation of the aristocracy, which certainly never would surrender its present position without a battle.
It is true, the only question avowedly put to the people by the dissolution was, whether they, or rather such of them as exercised the right of suffrage, were in favor of the bill. But that bill is a great change in the representation. It applies a new principle to every seat of the Commons' House of Parliament, and the King says, the adoption of this change is referred by him TO THE SENSE OF THE PEOPLE. For as good a reason as those which dictated this reference, the extent and details of this change ought to be, and eventually and indirectly will be, referred to the sense of the people. For the same reason, if any other mode of collecting the sense of the people on these great questions, more authentic and convenient than that of an election of members of Parliament, should be proposed, it must be adopted. That is, if a regular constituent assembly should be convened, on the principle of an equal geographical representation, or any other equal principle, the sense of the people, thus authentically expressed in favour of some farther modification of the Constitution, must be accepted and obeyed. For the same reason, if this popular sense should settle down in favour of a Government popular in all its branches, whoever else may stand uncommitted,--the present King of England and his responsible Ministers stand pledged to adopt it.
• But the King and his Ministers have, as the event proved, not gone farther than the majority of the people of England. The election of the present Parliament showed that the people were in favour of ascertaining the sense of the people, and would have shewn it much more decisively, had the elections been more popular. The sentiment expressed by the King is undoubtedly that of a majority of the people of England, and this it is, which gives it its significance and weight. There cannot be a doubt,
that, as the sense of the people has been for a century and a half more and more the directing principle in the administration of public affairs in England, it is henceforth to be so, much more eminently and authoritatively. It has heretofore been applied to the administration; now and hereafter it is applicable to the Constitution. Mr. Pitt, after valiantly sustaining himself for three months against a majority of the House of Commons, took the sense of the people, (meaning always the electors, a body then smaller and less popular than now,) whether he should continue in office. The question now taken has been, whether the House of Commons, the old House resting on prescription, should continue in office, and it has been decided in the negative. The people have decided that a new House on new principles shall be created.
* The importance of the subject, to which this principle is now applied, no less than the Constitution of the House of Coinmons,—the great effective power in the British Government,-a:d the entire parity of reasoning, by which the same principle must and will be extended to every other question, require of us to regard it as the principle, on which the British Government is henceforward to be organized and administered.'—pp. 12–14.
The first difficulty which, as the author thinks, will meet the reformed House in the very commencement of its operations, will be the distribution of the constituency, a word by no means so new amongst us as he seems to imagine. It will soon appear, and no doubt be complained of, that towns which differ from each other considerably in wealth and population, elect the same number of members, and that several counties will be similarly situated. It will also appear, that millions of persons, many of whom are more competent to exercise the elective franchise, than a great majority of those who shall enjoy it under the new law, are absolutely excluded from that valuable privilege. If this be the case in England, much more obvious and objectionable will be the disproportion in Scotland and Ireland, between the number of electors and the whole population.
• These diversities are all at war with the true principle of the bill. They require for their justification, the old and now discarded principle of prescription, and cannot all plead even that. And when the newly constructed machine comes to work; and when momentous questions come to be carried by very small majorities, and it then appears that a different result would have been produced, had the representation been equal and apportioned on any systematic plan among the population of the United Kingdom, it will be impossible to resist the demand for such a plan, It will be absolutely necessary to organize the House on a system, which will represent the sense of the people authentically. There is no way to do this, but that of dividing the country into districts, according to population. There is no other systematic plan that will bear examination. The idea of combining with a ratio of population a ratio of wealth, has something plausible in it. It was one of the provisions of the first new constitution, adopted in France after the revolution of 1789. But it is wholly nugatory. Under the idea of representing property, as well as population, you apportion representatives among the districts according to the amount of taxation imposed on each. Thus far the plan, perhaps, looks well; at least it conforms to the principle. But when you enter the districts, and come to the exercise of the right of suffrage, you
find that you
have given to the poor inhabitant of the rich district a larger share of constituent power, than to the rich inhabitant of the poor district-a result neither reasonable in itself, nor such as the plan was intended to produce. Mr. Burke exposed the vices of this plan, in his comments on the French Constitution referred to above.
• But in addition to this, it is as impossible as it is needless, from the nature of things, in a representative government, to represent property as such. Has there been a question respecting property before Parliament since 1688, on which the men of property of all classes,-nobles, gentlemen, and commoners,--have not been divided? One great interest rules in one county; an opposite interest rules in the next. One peer, with a rental of 200,0001., is on one side, and another with the same rental is on the other side,
• There is no interest in the community, which can be identified as that of the property, apart from a wise and equal administration of law. If you were to put all the rich men into a class, on the plan of Servius Tullius, you would find them divided by the same parties, which in all free governments divide the people.
• Besides all this, the indirect influence of wealth is amply sufficient for its own protection, and quite as great as it ought to be. It must be recollected, that as far as the enactment of equal laws and the just administration of them are concerned, the man of frugal property is the ally of his opulent neighbour. The industrious mechanic is quite as much concerned as the rich capitalist, to have property safe, and to see that the laws protect its acquisition and enjoyment. Beyond the promotion of this end, wealth in great masses ought to have no influence; and in the promotion of this end, it has, as such, no exclusive interest.
• We come back then to our proposition, that with a view, as the King expresses it, to ascertain the sense of the people authentically, it will very soon be found necessary to establish a regular plan of geographical districts. A little study of our Congressional system will show our friends across the water, with what surprising simplicity and ease this may be done ; and they will look at the Gothic complication of burgesses and knights, and the arithmetical entanglements of schedule A and schedule B, with astonishment bordering on incredulity.-pp. 17-19.
The next step, this writer thinks, will be a new modification of the House of Lords. This will be necessary to the removal of all insuperable obstacles to the effective expression of the sense of the people.
• The peers, originally and theoretically, were a separate estate in the realın ; that is, we suppose, a class of men performing separate functions, and for this purpose enjoying separate privileges. This estate stood originally on the tenure of military service. It would be idle to parade the cheap historical lore that belongs to the subject. Our readers know all about it. No one is ignorant, that the four or five hundred individuals, who now compose the House of Peers, have long ceased to be an estate of the realm, in its ancient authentic sense. They sit, we are taught, in a House of Parliament, because they are an estate. But take away their