Front Page Titles (by Subject) PLAN OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM, IN THE FORM OF A CATECHISM, WITH REASONS FOR EACH ARTICLE: WITH AN INTRODUCTION, SHOWING THE NECESSITY OF RADICAL, AND THE INADEQUACY OF MODERATE, REFORM. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 3
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PLAN OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM, IN THE FORM OF A CATECHISM, WITH REASONS FOR EACH ARTICLE: WITH AN INTRODUCTION, SHOWING THE NECESSITY OF RADICAL, AND THE INADEQUACY OF MODERATE, REFORM. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 3 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 3.
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PLAN OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM,
originally published in 1817.
PARLIAMENTARY REFORM CATECHISM.
HISTORY OF THE ENSUING TRACT—ALARMING STATE OF THE COUNTRY AND THE CONSTITUTION.
The following little tract was written as long ago as in the year 1809. It was offered at the time to one of the time-serving daily prints, in which other papers on the same subject had already found admittance. No name was sent with it: and, the weathercock being at that time upon the turn, insertion was declined.
From that time to the present, despair of use kept this, together with so many other papers, upon the shelf. In a state of things, such as the present, if in any, they possess a chance of finding readers.—Sad condition of human nature!—until the cup of calamity, mixed up by misrule, has been drunk to the very dregs, never has the man a chance of being heard, who would keep it from men’s lips.
For a long time past had the necessity,—and not only the necessity, but supposing it attainable, the undangerousness,—of a Parliamentary Reform, and that a radical one, presented itself to my mind, if not in a light as yet sufficiently clear for communication, at any rate in the strongest colours. Long had this sole possible remedy against the otherwise mortal disease of misrule, been regarded by me as the country’s only hope. Long had I beheld, and not long after did I delineate the road to national ruin, in the economy of Edmund Burke, adopted and enforced under William Pitt, by the pen of his confidential adviser, Mr. Rose. The first of these sketches is already before the public;* the other will soon be so.
Drawn on, in the road to that gulf, from those times down to the present,—the country, if my eyes do not deceive me, is already at the very brink:—reform or convulsion, such is the alternative. How faint soever the hope of its being attainable,—I for one, under the disease under which I see the country lingering, cannot discover any other than this one possible remedy. Of the composition of it—such as in my conception it must be, to be productive of any effect—some conception was and is now endeavoured to be given in the ensuing little tract. On the subject of the necessity, more than a few introductory pages cannot at this time, and in this place, be spared. To give any adequate conception of it, would require a much larger work.
For the destruction of everything by which the constitution of this country has ever been distinguished to its advantage, no additional measures need be employed: let but the principles already avowed continue to be avowed—let but the course of action, dictated by those principles, be persevered in—the consummation is effected.
Gagging Bills—suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act—interdiction of all communication between man and man for any such purpose as that of complaint or remedy—all these have already become precedent—all these are in preparation—all these are regarded as things of course.
The pit is already dug: one after another, or all together, the securities called English liberties will be cast into it. With the sacred name of reform on their lips, and nothing better than riot or pillage in their hearts, let but a dozen or a score of obscure desperadoes concert mischief in a garret or an alehouse, fear will be pretended—prudence and wisdom mimicked—honest cowards will be made to acquiesce and to co-operate by feigned cowardice:—for the transgression of the dozen or the score, the million will be punished, and from the subjects of a disguised despotism will be made such under a despotism in form, to which disguise is no longer necessary:—such is the state of things, for which it is time for every man to prepare himself.
As for the Habeas Corpus Act, better the statute-book were rid of it. Standing or lying as it does, up one day, down another,—it serves but to swell the list of sham-securities, with which, to keep up the delusion, the pages of our law books are defiled. When no man has need of it, then it is that it stands: comes a time when it might be of use, and then it is suspended.
MOST PROMINENT PRESENT GRIEVANCE, GAREISONING FRANCE.
The plains, or heights, or whatsoever they are, of Waterloo—will one day be pointed to by the historian as the grave—not only of French, but of English liberties. Not of France alone, but of Britain with her, was the conquest consummated in the Netherlands. Whatsoever has been done and is doing in France, will soon be done in Britain. Reader, would you wish to know the lot designed for you? Look to France, there you may behold it.
In France, on the subject of their common interests, no longer can any information be received through the channel of any newspaper, other than those which are not only instruments, but avowed instruments, in the hands of the ruling despotism: no longer, from any source, any information that has not for its object deception—constant and universal deception: information in which, with a degree of anxiety proportionate to its importance, truth is suppressed, and by which pernicious error is circulated and inculcated. A newspaper, into which any expression can find its way, by which the “feelings” of “great characters” in their high situations can in any degree be “hurt”—(and is it possible they should not be hurt, as often as any misdeeds of theirs are exposed?)—any such source of instruction is in that country a no longer tolerable nuisance. The same causes will produce the same effects: the same “great characters” by which the monster of anarchy has so happily been crushed in France—by these same exalted persons will the same monster be crushed in Britain.
There they are—our fifty thousand men, with the conqueror of French and English liberties—the protector of the Bourbons—the worthy vanquisher and successor to Bonaparte at the head of them: they are—and, until every idea of good government—every idea of anything better than the most absolute despotism—has been weeded out,—once more as thoroughly weeded out by the Bourbons, as ever it had been by Bonaparte,—there it is that the whole of them, or whatsoever part may be deemed sufficient for the purpose, are destined to continue.
There they are, and for what is it that they were planted there?—For security? For the security of Britons? for the security of Frenchmen? for the security of Germans? for the security of Netherlanders? for the security of any other race of men under the sun? Impossible.
Had the security, of anything but the universal despotism which produced it, been the object of that new holy league, by which all France is put under a garrison—the means of security were as obvious as the efficacy of them was certain,—and in comparison with the existing ones, the modes and forms lenient to the vanquished. Blow up all their fortifications without exception: carry off all their cannon: destroy all their arsenals and their founderies: destroy all their manufactories of arms of every kind: leave them not a fowling-piece: mark out for predicted vengeance every attempt to set up another foundery:—parcel out half the country among the allies: or, should any such partition be too dangerous to Christian charity among the crowned and newly-christianized Christians, divide the whole into any number of lots. Yes: though the whole country were parcelled out into lots,—still, if in each lot men were left to take their own measures for the preservation of what was left to them,—all these inflictions put together would have been mercy, in comparison of that of fastening upon their shoulders the old man of the woods, with his 150,000 foreign guards.
For the moment, in respect of subjection, and absence of everything that ever went under the name of liberty, France is but what she was. Exit the old weathercock, enter the ultras, and then Spain will be to France the model of good government. Then, under the protection of the Waterloo conqueror and his employers, the wardrobe of the Holy Virgin will be supplied with a new gown, and every prison in the country with a new set of torture-boots and thumb-screws.
Let him who thinks himself able, figure to himself a case in which there would not be a demand—an adequate demand—for the system of garrisoning France;—on the supposition that the existence of any such demand has place at present. The demand is composed of possibilities,—converted, it is alleged, into practical certainties by past facts. There have been Septembrians and anarchists;—ergo, no sooner does France cease to be garrisoned by us, than the reign of those miscreants will recommence. There has been one Napoleon Bonaparte;—ergo, no sooner does France cease to be garrisoned by us, than in comes either the self-same, or exactly such another. Well: these past events, who is there that can cause them not to have had place? Nobody. Well then; never, never can it cease—the necessity of garrisoning France with English armies.
Once more:—For what, then, is it that France has been, is now, and by the blessing of God is destined to be forever, garrisoned? Is it for security?—is it for the keeping out anarchy?—is it for the keeping out bad government? Alas! no: to any such object, never, never has any real fear attached itself: the healing—the moderately monarchical—constitution, on which, at their entrance, the despots set their perfidious foot, would that have been bad government? No: it was not for keeping out bad—it was for keeping out good government. Under whatsoever form it might have been established—constitutional monarchy, or upon the model of the American United States, democracy—there was the real object of terror to all the newly re-christianized crowned heads,—and to their loyal and correspondently pious,—coroneted, and not yet coroneted advisers.
There they are—but happily with the Atlantic between us and them—the never-sufficiently-accursed United States. There they are—living, and (oh horror!) flourishing—and so flourishing! flourishing under a government so essentially illegitimate! Oh what a reproach to legitimacy! Oh what a reproach, a never-to-be-expunged reproach, to our own Matchless Constitution—matchless in rotten boroughs and sinecures! Oh! had they but one neck—these miscreants! Ten times, twenty times, any number of times, the blood spilt at Waterloo, would be well spent in cutting it. There they are, with their prosperity the effect: there they are, with their good government—their matchless good government—the cause of it.
There they are—but, happily, with two thousand leagues of sea between us and them—the ten millions of two-legged swine, with the illegitimacy and the unincumbered and undisturbed prosperity in which they wallow.
But now—suppose the same, or a similar accursed government, with the accursed prosperity, transplanted from that blessed distance—planted under our very noses: planted with no more than one-and-twenty miles of sea to dilute the stench of it. Without so much as a single useless place, needless place, overpaid place, unmerited pension—not to speak of sinecures—no not so much as a peerage, to settle a borough or buy off a country gentleman:—suppose these miscreants—not one of them re-christianized—not one of them occupied in embroidering a robe for the Holy Virgin—debating, and resolving, and enacting—without so much as a single bayonet to secure good order to their deliberations;—resolving and enacting, and, like their accursed preceptors and forerunners, paying off public debt faster than we are contracting it:—suppose all this state of things brought into existence—brought into existence, and not more than half-a-guinea or a crown, for a place in a passage-boat—not more than three hours row in a wherry—necessary to enable a man to see it.
In this case, by what possibility could the eye, the head, or the heart, be shut against the spectacle of the united nuisances—prosperity and good government? To what use deny their existence? With as much effect might a man deny the existence of the dome of St. Paul’s, in the face of those who are viewing it from St. James’s park.
Here then is one use, for the fifty thousand Britons, who, in France, with the hundred thousand men of other nations, are preying at one and the same time upon the vitals of France and Britain. Here is one use—behold now another.
The other use—need it here be mentioned? Exists there that reader, who has not already told it to himself? Yes, it is to return to all plans of reform, to all petitions for reform—to all groans—to all complaints—to all cries for mercy—the proper, and properly, and already proposed answer, the bayonet. The bayonet? Yes: by the blessing of God, the bayonet. But is it altogether so sure, that, should matters come to the push, the direction that will be prescribed by legitimacy is exactly the direction in which the bayonets will move? The men by whom they will be to be pushed, of what class are they? Are they of the blood royal?—are they of the peerage? Are they not of the swinish multitude?—are they not as perfect swine as we are? Is it possible they should ever forget it? And when, in a direction that is not pleasing to him, the swine is driven, is he not apt to retrograde?
An army in France necessary for the security of Britain? Yes! if an army in China is so too;—not otherwise.
Propose anything good; the answer is at hand:—wild, theoretical, visionary, Utopian, impracticable, dangerous, destructive, ruinous, anarchical, subversive of all governments—there you have it. Well, but in America there it is: and no such evil consequences—nothing but what is good, results from it. Aha! and so the United States government is your government, is it?—You are a republican then, are you?—what you want is, to subvert this constitution of ours; the envy of nations! the pride of ages!—matchless in rotten boroughs and sinecures!—Very well: begin and set up your republic. and, in the meantime, you, who are so ready to talk of feelings, think what yours will be, when, after a few nights lodging in the Tower, the knife of the hangman, after having rubbed off its rust upon the Spenceans, is doing its office in your bowels.
Propose anything that would put any power into the hands of those of whose obedience all power is composed: you propose democracy; and if any such epithet as democratical is applicable to it, there you have a reason, and that a conclusive one, for casting it out without further thought: casting it off as if it were a viper, and trampling upon it: and for this reason—for there needs no other—is eternity to be given to every thing that is corrupt and mischievous.
What, according to these men, is the use of the constitution? To make the people happy? Make them happy!—curse on the swinish multitude! What then? Why, to make the one man happy, the one object of legitimate idolatry,—with the small number of others to whom it accords with his high pleasure to impart any of the means of happiness.
Now, by this bugbear word democracy, are the people of this country to be frightened out of their senses?—frightened by Gwelphs any more than by Stuarts, into passive obedience and non-resistance.
CAUSES OF THE ABOVE AND ALL OTHER MISCHIEFS:—PARTICULAR INTERESTS MONARCHICAL AND ARISTOCRATICAL, ADVERSE TO THE UNIVERSAL—THEIR ASCENDENCY.
Goaded to the task by the groans of all around me, of late,—with an attention, which the nature of the objects that were continually forcing themselves upon all eyes and upon all ears, rendered more and more painful to me,—I have been looking more closely than ever into the constitution;—I mean the present state of it;—and, in as few words as possible, of this most appalling of all examinations, what follows is the result.
As early as the year 1809, and I forget how much earlier, it had seemed to me (it has been already hinted,) that in the principle which, by those in whose hands the fate of the country rested, had not only been acted upon but avowed, the road to national ruin might be but too clearly traced. This principle was—that in the hands of the trustees of the people, the substance of the people was a fund, out of which, without breach of trust, and without just reproach in any shape—fortunes—as the phrase is—by those who, without exposing themselves to punishment, could contrive to lay their hands on the means, might be—nay—and, it being matter of necessity, at any price, and to an amount absolutely unlimited, ought to be—made.
In this principle I saw the two domineering interests—the monarchical and the aristocratical—which in our mixed constitution—(for such at least it was at one time)—antagonizing with the every now and then struggling, but always vainly and feebly struggling, democratical: completely agreed,—and without concert, because without need of concert, co-operating with each other,—in the dissemination, and in the inculcation of it: the party out of power as well as the party in power inculcating it in theory; the party in power, by theory and practice.
That, on the part of both these interests, this principle, together with the practice that belonged to it, was but too natural—was abundantly evident: that, for its adoption, it had any such plea as that of necessity, was a notion which, when once taken in hand, vanished at the slightest touch.
Power, money, factitious dignity—by an attractive force, the existence of which, and the omnipotence, is as indisputable as that by which the course of the heavenly bodies is determined—each of these elements of the matter of good—that precious matter, the whole mass of which, in so far as at the hands of the monarch it is sought by a member of either of the two other branches of the efficient sovereignty, operates in the character of matter of corruptive influence—attracts and draws to it the two others: the greater the quantity a man has of any one of them, the greater the facility he finds in his endeavours to obtain for himself the two others; each in a quantity proportioned to his desires:—those desires, which in human nature have no bounds.
The more he has of any one of them, the more therefore it is his wish to have of that and all of them. But the more he has of any one of them, the more is it right also that he should have of them? All of them at the expense of the people,—the poor people, at whose expense whatsoever is enjoyed by their rulers is enjoyed? Oh gross, oh flagitious absurdity! The more? No: but on the contrary the less. Whatsoever be the quantity of the matter of reward, which, in any shape whatsoever, may be necessary to obtain at a man’s hands the requisite service, the more he has of it in any one shape,—the less the need he has of it in any other shape.
In the case of the poorest individual,—in the character of a guardian, by any man has any such immoral notion ever been started, as that, in the substance of his ward, any proper source of enrichment to himself is to be found? Power, over a single individual and his little property, a sufficient payment for the labour: and power over twenty millions, and their property, together with all that mass of patronage,—lucrative of necessity, a great part of it,—shall it not be sufficient? Those who either have no property, or have it not in sufficient quantity for their maintenance,—such men must, indeed, either be paid or not employed:—but, among men who not only have property, but have it in sufficiency, is it supposable that there can ever be a deficiency in the number of those, in whom the pleasure of possessing such power will be sufficient compensation for all the pain attached to the exercise of it? Look at the country magistracy: see we not there—not only an example, but a host of examples? Yes: and in those examples a host of proofs.
Unfortunately—in the breasts of all who have power, merit being, as they all agree and certify—to one another and to the people, infinite—so must be the reward.
Of the demand for the matter of reward—viz. money, power, and factitious dignity—(these are its principal shapes)—the infinity and absolute irresistibility being thus established, then and thereupon comes the demand for the supply—and that supply a proportionable one. Here, however, to a first view, comes somewhat of a difficulty. From the body of the people—how habitually soever blind and passive—money in infinite quantity cannot be demanded all at once: they would become desperate; they would rise: better (they would say to themselves,) better be shot or hanged at once, than starved.
A set of drains must therefore be established and set to work: drains, by and through which, by degrees—those degrees ever in the eyes of the devourers but too slow—under colour either of use, or what is so much better, of necessity—money may be drawn out of the pockets of the blinded, deluded, unsuspicious, uninquisitive, and ever too patient people:—1. Wars: 2. Distant and proportionably burthensome dependencies all over the habitable globe—(and note, that, in prosecution of these views, every such dependency, without exception, has been made a source of net expense—net expense, the amount of which is destined to perpetual and unlimited increase:) 3. Penal colonies: 4. Claims of universal dominion over the universal water-way of nations, with a determination to destroy the shipping of all nations by whom those claims shall be contested: 5. Annexation of “Hanover to Hampshire:” and that to the end that not a hostile gun may be fired anywhere on the continent, but that we may be in readiness to interfere, subsidizing one of the contending parties, and helping to oppress the other!* 6. Splendour of the crown; that effulgence, with the increase of which—and in exact proportion to that increase—will increase the respect, and with it the submission, and with it the happiness of the people: 7. Erection of Hanover into a kingdom for that purpose, and that the Hanoverians may the less grudge the increase of taxes that will be necessitated by the increase of dignity. Here, though not yet a complete one, is a list of these productive drains:—and are they not efficient ones?
As for war—never can a pretence for it be wanting—a pretence not yielding to any, in which, at any time in the course of the present reign, it has ever been made:—no; never can a pretence be wanting, so long as that nation exists anywhere, against which war can be made.
The nation—the nation to be warred upon—is either formidably strong, or providentially weak:—if formidably strong, too long have we delayed the necessary task of obtaining, at the expense of it, indemnity for the past and security for the future:—if providentially weak, now is the favourable time for taking advantage of its weakness, and preventing it from becoming formidable:—now has the Lord of Hosts—as the archbishop’s prayer will not fail to inform us—delivered the enemy into our hands! Thus, if there be nothing past, for which to obtain indemnity, security for the future will, at any rate, be an easy purchase.
The French people, for example—already have they had one set of Septembrizers,—and—so happy were they under them—by the first favourable opportunity they would give themselves another: and, no sooner had they septembrized France, than they would cross over, and, with the assistance of the travelling orator and the Spenceans, septembrize us in the same way. The French have already had one Bonaparte;—so happy were they under him—leave them to themselves—immediately they would give themselves another. In his scheme for invading and conquering this country, the first Bonaparte failed:—the second Bonaparte, by whom such another plan would immediately be formed, would succeed in his. From these two considerations put together, or indeed from either of them, follows the necessity of garrisoning France, and keeping possession of the country till the danger is at an end:—yes, till the danger is at an end; which it is impossible it ever should be.
Yes: wars would be invaluable, were it only for the merit of which they are the never-failing sources. When a battle is fought—unless it be a drawn one, which does not often happen—it must be gained by somebody. Gained on one side it must be, in what degree soever the generals on the respective sides are fit or unfit for their work. The greater the number that fight, the greater the number of those who are capable of being killed. A battle is gained,—the number of the killed is great,—and half a million is scarce enough to reward the merit which, from one single bosom, has been displayed in it.
In regard to all these drains of money, and all these sources of merit and reward,—the great misfortune is this: For every shilling which, by means of any one of these drains, unless it be the last, the men of merit—and all placemen without exception are ex officio men of merit,—for every shilling which the men of merit thus put into their pockets, some score, or some dozen at least, must come out of the pockets of the poor people. A man who sets his neighbour’s house on fire, that he may roast an egg for himself,—is the emblem by which a certain sort of man is pictured by Lord Bacon. Would you see a man of this sort, you need not look far, so you look high enough for these five-and-twenty years, or thereabouts—to go no further back—has this poor nation been kept on fire, lest the emblematic eggs in sufficient quantity should be wanting to its rulers.
Money, is it wanting (and it always is wanting) for the support of the splendour of the crown?—for the support of royal dignity? Money supplied by parliament—supplied in a direct way, and without a burthen more than correspondent to the supply being deficient—and it always is deficient—Droits of Admiralty are sent by Almighty Providence to feed, but never to fill up—for nothing can ever fill up—the deficiency. The persons, for the reward of whose merit more and more of that object of universal desire is everlastingly wanted—these persons join with one another, not only in commencing groundless war, but in commencing that groundless war in a piratical manner,—in a manner in which the monarch and his instruments may add millions to the conjunct splendour,—not only the foreigners who thus and for this purpose have been converted into enemies, are plundered, but the men, by whose hands the plunder is got in, deprived of that which, had the war been commenced otherwise than in the way of piracy, would have been their due. Thus do these on whom it depends bribe one another to commit piracy!—piracy, which has been made legitimate, because, by their power and for their own benefit, it has been made unpunishable!
Money, power, factitious dignity—among the modifications of the matter of good—among the good things of this wicked world—these, as it is the interest, so has it ever been the study,—as it has been the study, so has it been the endeavour—of the monarch—as it has been, so will it, and where the monarch is a human being, so must it be everywhere—to draw to himself in the greatest quantity possible. And here we have one partial, one separate, one sinister interest, the monarchical—the interest of the ruling one—with which the universal, the democratical interest has to antagonize, and to which that all-comprehensive interest has all along been,—and unless the only possible remedy—even parliamentary reform, and that a radical one, should be applied,—is destined to be for ever made a sacrifice:—a sacrifice? Yes: and, by the blessing of God upon the legitimate and pious labours of his vicegerent and the express image of his person here upon earth, a still unresisting sacrifice. Omnipresence, immortality, impeccability—equal as he is to God, as touching all these “attributes” (ask Blackstone else, I. 270, 250, 246, 249,)—who is there that, without adding impiety to disloyalty, can repine at seeing anything or everything he might otherwise call his own, included in the sacrifice?
Meantime the money, which, in an endless and boundless stream, is thus to keep flowing into the monarchical coffers—this one thing needful cannot find its way into those sacred receptacles without instruments and conduit-pipes. Upon and out of the pockets of the people it cannot be raised, but through the forms of parliament:—not but through the forms of parliament, nor therefore without the concurrence of the richest men in the country, in their various situations—in the situation of peers, great landholding, and as yet uncoroneted commoners, styled country gentlemen,—and others. In those men is the chief property of the country, and with it—(for in the language of the aristocratic school, property and virtue are synonymous terms)—the virtue of the country. And here we have another partial, separate, and sinister interest—the aristocratical interest—with which the democratical interest has also to antagonize:—another overbearing, and essentially and immutably hostile interest,—against which, and under which, the universal interest has to struggle, and as far as possible to defend itself.
Such is the state in which the country lies:—the universal interest crouching under the conjunct yoke of two partial and adverse interests, to which, to a greater or less extent, it ever has been made,—and to the greatest extent possible, as far as depends upon them, cannot, in the nature of man and things, ever cease to be made, a continual sacrifice.
For the consummation of this sacrifice, adequate inclination—such is the nature of man—never could have been wanting:—but as to the power—the effective power—never at any former period could it have been seen swelled to a pitch approaching to that at which it stands at this moment.
Well: such being the swell of voracious power, what are the means—what the instrument—by which it has been effected? What but the precious matter already mentioned?—Yes, the very matter of good:—for such in itself it is, but, by reason of the two relative situations—the situation of the hands by which it is possessed, and that of the hands, which the very nature of man keeps ever open to receive it, operating—and by the whole amount of it—in the character of matter of evil—matter of corruptive influence. Ever upon the increase is the quantity of this essentially good, this accidentally, but alas! how extensively pernicious, matter:—ever upon the increase the pernicious effect of it. In an endless series of alternating and reciprocating operations, this matter is itself both effect and cause. Waste begets corruption; corruption, waste. Fed through the already enumerated drains—viz. useless places, needless places, overpay of needful places, groundless pensions, and sinecures, some number of times more richly endowed than the most richly endowed efficient offices—these, together with peerages, and baronetages, and ribbons—for peerage-hunters, baronetage-hunters, and ribbon-hunters—these, by their bare existence, and without need of their being either asked or offered,—always with the fullest effect, never with the personal danger, or so much as the imputation, attached to the word bribery,—operate in the character, and produce the effect, of matter of coruptive influence: that pestilential matter, against the infection of which not a household in the country can be said to be secure, from the archiepiscopal palace down to the hovel by the road side.
What? not the ducal mansion? Oh no: that full as little as any other. The duke, who, if there were no such thing as a ribbon, nor any such place as a gaming-house, nor . . . . but there is no end to the et cæteras—might of himself be independent, is dependent by his dependents: and the more enormous the mass of his property, the more numerous, as well as the higher, the list of his alliances,—the wider and the more craving is the circle of his dependents.*
Laud his virtue, party orator, party scribe:—laud that virtue, which is composed of rank and property, and consists of nothing else: laud him to-day, while he is yet yours:—come to-morrow, he has crossed over, and his place is on the other side. A duke has a borough, and in it a brace of seats. Sincere or insincere, quoth the duke to one of his agents, whose attachment to the cause of the people was well known to him, cast your eyes around you, and find me out the two honestest and ablest men you can lay your hands on, to fill those seats. The agent bestirs himself, and reports. But ere the report reaches its destination, the coroneted patriot has found money wanting, and the borough, the seats, with the patriotism that would have filled them, are all sold.
Yes: in this country—under this constitution—may be seen an official person, who by his station is, for ever, ex officio, C—r-† General: it is his situation makes him so: it suffices for the purpose: to produce the effect (and let this be well observed,) no overt act—no, nor so much as a thought—is on his part necessary:—were it possible for him to have the will, scarcely in his situation would it be in his power to avoid being so.
Well: this attribute, which Blackstone has forgot to add to the other “attributes” of the god of his idolatry—this attribute of C—r-Generalship, which, after all, could not have place if there were not a parliament to c—,—this inseparable attribute, disastrous as it is, does it, in this our country, form any peremptory objection to monarchy? Not it indeed. But why not? Even because, in democratic ascendency—such as it would be constituted by radical reform—the corruption would have its antidote—its constantly operating antidote—and that antidote an effectual one.
Extinguish monarchy?—suppress, extirpate the peerage?—Oh, not I indeed: nothing would I extinguish; nothing would I extirpate: uti possidetis—that which you have, continue to have—and God bless you with it:—this, in all matters of reform—this, in so far as is not inconsistent with the very essence of the reform, is—and, so long as I have had any, has ever been—with me a ruling principle. Leaving, with all my heart, the full benefit of it to monarchy and aristocracy—to the ruling few, my aim, my wishes, confine themselves to the securing, if it be possible, a participation in that same benefit to democracy—to the subject-many—to the poor suffering and starving people.
Monarchy a property! Not it indeed. Monarchy is a trust: is it not, Prince Regent?—have you not said it is? Peerage a property? Not it indeed. Peerage is a trust: is it not, my Lord anybody? If it is not, what business have you to be what you are, and where you are?
Ascendency! ascendency—that is what is sufficient: this, therefore, is all that should be asked for. In Ireland, we have Protestant ascendency. Well: and what is the effect? In Ireland, the Catholics—the great majority—are not yet, it is true, quite so well circumstanced as could be wished: still, however, they exist; still they are not extirpated.
For the seduction of his fellow-traveller, what was the course taken by the ingenuity of Ferdinand Count Fathom? Ask his biographer—ask Smollet: he will inform you. He began with picking her pocket: her purse, and with it her virtue, was then at his command. By mere existence on the throne on which he is sitting, without need of stirring a finger, uttering a word, or giving a nod, in the character of that Ferdinand, and with the same disastrous success, may the monarch of these realms act. Accomplices—the hero of Smollet’s history had none: he needed none. The official s—of Britannia’s virtue—the C—r-General of this country—may have as many as there are men, in whose breasts exists an effective demand for any of the good things which he has at command: and, in regard to this effective demand—as Adam Smith would call it—the difficulty would be to find—not the bosom in which it does, but the bosom in which it does not display itself.
In this state of things, C—r-General being the proper style and title of the head-manager of the concern, taken by himself,—add the aristocracy—the corrupted and corrupting aristocracy—C—r-General & Co. is the proper firm of the partnership. As to the business of it, it consists but too plainly, like that of the Bank of England, in draining the contents of all pockets into its own; and the more intolerable the indigence thus produced, the more craving the demand for that corruptive supply, by the hope of which men are engaged to concur in the continually repeated measures, from which the indigence receives its continually repeated aggravation.
Now of this almost universal corruption, what is the effect? A mere moral spot?—a mere ideal imperfection? Alas! no: but a somewhat more palpable and sensible one. What the real, the sensible mischief consists in is—the sacrifice made, as above, of the interest and comfort of the subject-many, to the overgrown felicity of the ruling few: the effect of the corruption being—to engage all whom it has corrupted to bear their respective parts in the perpetual accomplishment of their perpetual sacrifice. Is not this sufficiently intelligible? Well, if that expression be not, perhaps this may be: viz. that the subject-many long have been, and, but for the only remedy, may with but too much reason for ever expect to be, continually more and more grievously oppressed, that the ruling few may be more and more profusely pampered.
Now suppose an army of Frenchmen garrisoning England, as an army of Englishmen (oh! pretenceless and inhuman tyranny!) are garrisoning France. In that case, what would the description of our condition be? What but that the dominion we were groaning under was the dominion of a set of men whose interest was opposite to our own, by whom that oppositeness was understood and felt, and by whom our interest was made a continual sacrifice to that separate and hostile interest. Well: that, and but too indisputably, is it not the description—the too just description—of the dominion under which we live?
Discarding the case of public—of national—subjection under a foreign yoke, take the case of private—of domestic subjection:—take the case of negro slavery. The description of the case, is it not still the same? The slaveholder, it may be said—for it is continually said—has an interest in common with that of his slaves. True: and so has the mail-coach contractor in common with that of his horses. While working them, and so long as they appear able to work, he accordingly allows them food. Yet, somehow or other, notwithstanding this community of interest, so it is, that but too often negro as well as horse are worked to the very death. How happens this? How but because, in the same breast with the conjunct interest, is lodged a separate and sinister interest, which is too strong for it. Even so is it in the case of C—r-General and Co., under whose management the condition of the poor people is day by day approaching nearer and nearer to the condition of the negro and the horse.
“I can have no interest but that of my people,” says the royal parrot—I can have no interest but that of my people: with these words in his mouth, he gives the touch of the sceptre to a bill for establishing a nest of sinecures.*
Under the constitution as it stands—under the administration as it is carried on—in what state, as towards the one and the other, are the affections of the people? Take the answer from Lord Castlereagh (Morn. Chron. Feb. 8, 1817.) In the year just ended, 53,000 were the number of firelocks “indispensably necessary to aid the civil power in the discharge of its duty:” in other words, to keep the people from the endeavour to substitute a better to the government as it stands. Now, indeed, at this season of forced retrenchment, 5000 is the number of men to be struck off from the desired complement of 53,000. Struck off! Why? because they are regarded as superfluous? Oh no: for of those means of coercion which require no money, boundless is the supply which at this very moment is providing. Why, then? Even because,—as under the most perfectly undisguised despotism, so under a disguised one,—in so far as supplies cannot be had,—the revenue having, in the compass of a single year, fallen off, for example, by any such amount as that of one-sixth,—retrenchment must be made. In this time not only of peace but of triumph—no Pretender in existence—France, instead of a cause of fear, an object of compassion—three-and-fifty thousand men necessary to be kept up to prevent a second revolution! In the same year of the last century, as this is of the present one, our great-grandfathers—what would they have said to such a number?—our great-grandfathers,—in whose days, a Pretender continually threatening from abroad, and at home a strong party, even after a defeat, were still strong enough to keep on foot matter for another rebellion, which in twenty-eight years from that time, actually broke out! In the same year of the last, as this is of the present century, what was the whole number demanded and provided for this same service? Answer: 16,000, and no more; not so much as one-third of the number actually in demand, as above. Walpole, then in opposition, opposing even that number on the ground of alleged excess.*
Well then: by a standing army it is that we are governed: and a standing army—a standing army of the magnitude which has been seen:—this, this is the sort of instrument, without which, it is said, we could not be governed; and by which,—so long as the constitution, in the form into which it has been moulded, lasts,—it is the intention of those that govern us that we shall be governed. And this is that constitution—that Matchless Constitution—in the praises of which, those whose opulence or power have been produced by, or are dependent on, the abuses of it, never tire. And in this Constitution we have a Parliament:—and in this Parliament a House of Commons:—and in this House of Commons a mask for a military government of its own erection:—and this mask so transparent an one! and, under this military government, so long as the mask remains—under this military government are we to lie down, now and for ever, prostrate and contented.
Well: the United States—the seat of representative democracy, alias anarchy—what plots, real or pretended, have they, or have they ever had, in their bosom? What standing army is it that they have? On the subject of those concerns, which are the concerns of every man, what laws have they to prevent each man from communicating with every other?—on pain of death, to prevent every man who is not, from speaking his mind to any one who is a soldier?
Oh! but the fault, whatever it is, it is always the fault of the people:—behaving continually worse and worse, they must continually be treated with more and more just severity:—the sinners for their own sins—the non-sinners for the sins of the sinners—so long as any of them are left alive . . . .*
No: at this time—at any time, on the part of the people, any extensive discontent, that has ever manifested itself, never has it been the fault of the people. Discontent? No: patience—too much patience—in that has been their fault—their only fault: a sad fault that:—and, unhappily, under every government but an adequately representative government—under which alone the concerns which are those of every man, are left without restraint to the discourse of every man—an incurable one. The people? What interest have they in being governed badly?—in having their universal interest sacrificed to any separate and adverse interest? But the men by whom they have been governed—the interest which these men have had in governing badly—in governing as they have governed—this interest has here been made manifest, or nothing can be.
SOLE REMEDY IN PRINCIPLE—DEMOCRATIC ASCENDENCY.
Such being the disease, behold now the remedy—the only remedy: he for whose nerves it is too strong, let him, as soon as the irritation pains him,—take warning and shut his eyes against it; let him shut his eyes, and prepare his neck for a yoke, the pressure of which will continue on the increase, till either convulsion breaks it, or existence sinks under it. This remedy—two words, viz. democratical ascendency, will, in principle, suffice for the expression of it. Taking this for the general description of the end,—parliamentary reform will next make its appearance in the character of a means: parliamentary reform in general as a proposed means: radical parliamentary reform, as the only means, by which either that immediate end, or the ultimate end—political salvation, can, in the nature of the case, be accomplished.
Without any outward and visible change in the forms of the constitution,—by the means already indicated, by the mere instrumentality of the ever-increasing mass of the matter of good operating in the hands of the crown in the character of matter of corruptive influence,—have the two separate, partial, and sinister interests,—viz. the monarchical and the aristocratical,—obtained over the democratical interest (which is no other than the universal interest,) not only an ascendency—but an ascendency so complete, that, under the outside show of a mixed and limited monarchy, a monarchy virtually and substantially absolute is the result.
Without any outward and visible change in the forms of the constitution—though waste already committed cannot be caused not to have been committed—though past misrule cannot be caused not to have reigned—yet may the plague be stayed. To the democratical, to the universal interest, give—one might almost say, restore—that ascendency which by the confederated, partial, and sinister interest has been so deplorably abused, and so long as it continues, will continue to be abused:—thus you have the remedy: this is what parliamentary reform will do, if it does anything: this is what parliamentary reform means, if it means anything.
This, in the year 1780, and again in 1783, was the declared wish—the accomplishment of it the avowed, the official, the parliamentary endeavour of the late Duke of Richmond: a duke—and with royal blood, though from a sinister channel, flowing in his veins: already, even at the earliest of those two periods, a veteran: a veteran—not only in the army, but in parliament, in office, and of course in high office. His declared object was—the restoring to the people what by him were regarded as their unalienable rights: and what,—taking the word right in a certain altogether usual sense, though assuredly not in a legal sense, may with indisputable propriety be said to be so:—his object—giving to the people those rights: his declared and principal means—universal suffrage and an annually renewed House of Commons.—Now this peer—this duke—what object less good than this could have been his object?—what his expectation? Could it have been anarchy?—could it have been so much as democracy? But read his plan—one of the few schemes of legislation, to which the authors have been at the same time able and willing to give the support of reasons. Read his plan, and with it read his reasons: they are contained in a LETTER dated August 15, 1783, and addressed to “Lieutenant-Colonel Sharman, commander of the Volunteers, Ireland.” Some ipse-dixitism in it about rights, might, in point of reasoning, though perhaps not in point of power of persuasion, have been spared: but, setting aside the ipse-dixitism,—better and sounder, and closer reasoning, is not often to be found. Never yet has that man been found who durst grapple with it. Men shut their eyes against it, and write and talk as if it had never been in existence.*
Now in this change—for unless the plague continues and spreads, a change there must be—in this change, is there any innovation? No: in substance there is not so much as an innovation. The one thing needful is—that the power of the purse should be actually and effectively in the hands of the real representatives, the freely chosen deputies of the body of the people: the power of the purse, that being the power by the exercise of which, for the defence of the people against Stuart tyranny, all other needful powers were acquired. Now, at various periods in the history of this country, this all-productive power was actually in the hands of the people: witness statute after statute: witness in one reign, viz. the splendid and unhappily conquering reign of Edward III., and at thirty-two years interval, two statutes, by each of which the annual holding of a parliament—and in those days parliaments annually holden were annually changed—was declared to be the legitimate state and condition of the government.
Now, if in those days—in those days in which the press was unknown—in which scarce any man but a priest could so much as read—and in which there was nothing worth the reading—no—not so much as the bible—to be read;—if in those days, in which standing armies were unknown, the people could, without danger to themselves or anybody else, possess and exercise the power of the purse;—if in those days of ignorance and barbarism, all this could be;—in these our days, under the protection of such a forest of bayonets;—in these our days, in which every man either reads or hears his newspaper—and in which everything that, in this part of the field at least, man can need for his instruction, may be to be found in newspapers;—in these days, shall blind cowardice, or tyranny in the skin of cowardice, find in pretended universal ignorance a pretext for scorning universal suffrage? But of this more in an ensuing section.
But enough, and already too much, of the endlessly mischievous absurdity involved in the word innovation. What! is evil converted into good by being old?—good into evil by being new? What! is experience worth nothing? In toothless infancy is there more wisdom than in grey hairs? From self-contradictory nonsense, let us come to common sense: from long past and widely dissimilar, let us come to the present state of things.
In the ascendency of the democratic interest,—to anything but the continuance of unconstitutionally usurped and most perniciously abused power, is there any the slightest show of danger?—in any determinate and assignable shape, any the smallest ground for apprehension? What shall decide? Shall it be experience? Well: by experience, and that as well in its negative as its positive shape, the decision is pronounced.
Look to positive experience: behold it in the American United States. There you have—not merely democratic ascendency—democratic ascendency in a mixed government—but democracy—pure democracy, and nothing else. There you have—not one democracy only, but a whole cluster of democracies: there, all is democracy; all is regularity, tranquillity, prosperity, security: continual security, and with it continually increasing, though with practical equality divided, opulence. All, all is democracy: no aristocracy; no monarchy; all that dross evaporated. As for us, we need no such purity; we could not brook it: the dross has a glitter on it; our eyes are used to it,—that glitter: we cannot part with it. With us, so far as consists with national salvation, possession not only of property but of power, even though that power be but a trust, is a sacred thing: the uti possidetis principle, as in international law a well known and frequently applied, so in internal government, a sacred principle. Well, let us keep it then—the whole of it: not pure democracy do we want, nor anything like it: what we want is, under the existing forms of subjection, the ascendency—the virtual and effective ascendency—of the democratic interest: this is all we are absolutely in need of: with this we should be content: with less than this it is in vain to speak of content: for less than this cannot save us.
Look to negative experience. While, in the language of legitimacy and tyranny, and of the venal slavery that crawls under them, democracy and anarchy are synonymous terms,—see whether, on the whole surface of the globe, there is, or ever has been, anywhere so much as a single example, from which this abuse of words can receive countenance. Look once more at the United States, and see whether, on the habitable globe, there exists anywhere so regular, so well-regulated a government.
Look not to Greece or Italy: look not to ancient or to middle ages: look not to any self-acting democracy. Compared with the democracy here in question—compared with a representative democracy—a democracy in which the sole power exercised by the people is that of choosing their deputies, and in those deputies their rulers,—whatever else has been called democracy, has had nothing of democracy but the name.
Well then: forasmuch as in democracy, though it be American democracy, a total democracy,—forasmuch as in a democracy, standing by itself without support from anything but itself, there be no such thing as danger—no diminution of security for person, property, reputation, condition in life, religious worship—in a word, for anything on which man sets a value,—what ground can the nature of the case afford, for any apprehension of danger—in a partial democracy, with monarchy and aristocracy by the side, and at the head of it, for its support? for its support, and for keeping it in order, a standing army—a conquering—an irresistible standing army—that grand instrument of order—all around it?
Well then: such being in general terms the instrument—and the only possible instrument—of political salvation, now as to the principles by which the application made of it requires to be guided.
At present, the cause of the misrule is this: viz. the rule is completely in the hands of those whose interest it is—their interest, and thence of necessity their desire, and, as far as depends upon them, the determination—that the misrule should continue:—the thing required is—leaving the executive part of the government where it is—so to order matters, that the controuling part of the government shall be in the hands of those whose interest it is that good government shall take place of misrule: of misrule in every shape, and more particularly in the two most intimately connected and mutually fostering shapes—waste and corruption, corruption and waste. Now these are the whole body of the people, two classes alone excepted: viz. those by whom a loss in the shape of money, and those by whom a loss in the shape of power (not to speak of factitious dignity) would be sustained or apprehended from the change! As to what regards money, the uti possidetis principle being received and acted upon,—supposing delinquency out of the question, the only loss that could befal anybody would be, loss of the chance of increase. As to what regards power, in this shape it cannot be denied, that, of any change,—by which misrule could on the whole, or any considerable part, be made to cease,—loss of power actually in possession—and that to no inconsiderable amount—would be an altogether inevitable consequence. Loss of money? Yes! But of what money? Of money at present expected to be received as the wages of corruption. Loss of power? Yes! But of what power? Of that power which at present, for the purchase of the wages of corruption in the shape of money, as well as other shapes, is perpetually on sale.
Before proceeding any farther, up comes (it must be confessed) a question, the title of which to an answer cannot admit of dispute. In the case of so vast a multitude of individuals, of the vast majority of whom it were too much to suppose that they had any tolerable acquaintance with the business of government—how is it that there can be any adequate probability of their concurring in the making a tolerably apt choice, in regard to the persons by whom it shall thus be carried on?
The short answer is—that, as the matter stands, the question is but a question of curiosity and theory. That, for the purpose in question, a choice sufficiently apt can be made—is habitually made—and, with entire confidence, may be reasonably depended upon—is, by the American examples above referred to, put altogether out of doubt. The question is, then, reduced to this: viz. in what, among the circumstances belonging to the case, are we to look for the cause of a state of things, of the existence of which there cannot be a doubt,—but which, in a distant and abstract view of it, presents itself as thus improbable.
For giving immediate facility to the answer, a distinction no less familiar in itself, than important in its consequences, may here be brought to view. This is—the distinction between a self-formed and a derivative judgment. On the ground of any self-formed judgment, few indeed could, in a case such as that in question, be expected to act with any tolerable degree of wisdom or felicity:—true: but neither is it less so, that on the ground of derivative judgment, there exists not (nor in this country is ever likely to exist) any such large and miscellaneous body of men, of whom the majority may not, even in such a case as this, be expected, and with reason, to act with a degree of felicity adequate to the purpose. For, in respect of those concerns which, to each individual taken by himself, are of still superior importance—viz. physic, law, and religion, for example—every man who is not, in his own eyes, competent to make, on the ground of his own self-formed judgment, the choice of an agent or assistant, does he not feel himself reduced to the necessity of acting on the ground of derivative judgment?—in a word, on the ground of public opinion?—and, under the yoke of this, as well as so many other necessities, the business of life—of private, of domestic life—goes on in the way we see. Of private life? Well, and why not also of public life. Of the business of each? Well, and why not then the business of all?* And note, that on this occasion, the probability of making any such choice as shall be not only foolish but mischievous—(and in so far as it is not practically mischievous, no matter how foolish it is) is not only circumscribed, but circumscribed within very narrow limits, by the nature and number of the individuals, who, on an occasion such as that in question, can offer themselves, with any the least prospect of finding acceptance at the hands of the majority of so large a multitude as that in question: say at least, several thousands. True it is, that were the electors, for example, the parishioners of a small parish,—many might be the instances in which it might happen, that foolish and ignorant men might, in considerable and those preponderant numbers, agree in the choice of some artful and profligate man of their own level and their own set,—by whom, to his own private and sinister purposes, their confidence would be abused. But when—whether it be in respect of territory as well as population, or in respect of population alone—the electoral circle is of any such large dimensions as those in question, all such individual and private causes of seduction and deception are altogether out of the question: no man can either propose himself, or be reasonably expected to be proposed, but upon the ground of some reputed qualification, of his possession of which, supposing him to possess it, the whole population of the electoral district will be in some sort in the possession of the means of judging.
But of all qualifications, real or imaginable, the qualification, such as it is, which consists in the possession of property to such an amount as to draw attention, is at the same time the very qualification, concerning the possession of which men in general are best satisfied with their competence to form a right judgment,—and that on which, in proportion to its real virtue in the character of presumptive evidence of appropriate aptitude, the greatest reliance is,—by men in general, and in particular by the most uninformed classes,—wont to be placed.
The men who at present determine the course of election by the influence of will on will—these same men, in the event of the proposed change—these same men, and in a proportion much more likely to outstrip than to fall short of their deserts,—would they not, by the influence of understanding, real or imputed, on understanding, exercise, for the most part, the same effective power—produce, for the most part—so far as concerns possession of the seats—the same effects as now? Possession of the seats?—Yes; viz. in the case of those, in whose eyes, after the necessary change, on the only terms on which they would be to be had, these seats would be worth having. But among those by whom the office is at present possessed—possessed, and on each occasion, at each man’s pleasure, the functions that belong to it either exercised or neglected,—how many are there in whose eyes it would be worth possessing, if at all times the functions could not be left neglected, except when, under the spur of sinister interest, the power of it came of course to be abused?
Well—and suppose, among 658 members—(for the supposition, that number may do as well as another,)—among the 658 members, returned under a system of democratic ascendency, ten knaves should be found plotting and confederating with one another (though what in that case could they be gainers by any such plotting?)—and fourscore and ten fools foolish enough to be led by them. In such a case, what is the mischief they would be able to do?
Alas! how happy would not the state of things be in comparison of what it is, if there were not more than thrice ten knaves occupied without ceasing, not only in the plotting of mischief, but in the doing it and carrying it into effect!—more than thrice ten such knaves—(or, if it be but once, the once is but too sufficient)—and more than thrice fourscore and ten,—in whom, in a proportion altogether indeterminable,—the knavery of following, with eyes wide open, at the tail of the knaves,—and the folly of suffering themselves to be led, with winking, or half-closed, or carelessly, or purposely averted eyes,—are combined.*
Ascendency? Yes; ascendency it must be: nothing less will serve.
Talk of mixture: yes, this may serve, and must serve: but then, the intrinsically noxious ingredients—the ingredients which must be kept in, though for no better reason than that we are used to them—and being so used to them, could not bear—(for who is there that could bear?)—to part with them—these ingredients, of which the greatest praise would be that they were inoperative, must not be in any such proportion of force, as to destroy, or materially to impair, the efficiency of the only essentially useful one.
Talk of balance: never will it do: leave that to Mother Goose and Mother Blackstone. Balance! balance! Politicians upon roses—to whom, to save the toil of thinking—on questions most wide in extent, and most high in importance—an allusion—an emblem—an anything—so as it has been accepted by others, is accepted as conclusive evidence—what mean ye by this your balance? Know ye not, that in a machine of any kind, when forces balance each other, the machine is at a stand? Well, and in the machine of government, immobility—the perpetual absence of all motion—is that the thing which is wanted? Know ye not that—since an emblem you must have—since you can neither talk, nor attempt to think, but in hieroglyphics—know you not that, as in the case of the body natural, so in the case of the body politic, when motion ceases, the body dies?
So much for the balance: now for the mixture—the mixture to which, as such, such virtue is wont to be ascribed. Here is a form of government, in which the power is divided among three interests:—the interest of the great body of the people—of the many;—and two separate interests—the interest of the one and the interest of the few—both of which are adverse to it:—two separate and narrow interests, neither of which is kept on foot—but at the expense, to the loss, and by the sacrifice, of the broader interest. This form of government (say you) has its advantages. Its advantages?—compared with what?—compared with those forms of government, in which the people have no power at all, or in which, if they have any, they have not so much? Oh yes: with any such form of government for an object of comparison, its excellence is unquestionable. But, compare it with a form of government in which the interest of the people is the only interest that is looked to—in which neither a single man, with a separate and adverse interest of his own, nor a knot of men with a separate and adverse interest of their own, are to be found—where no interest is kept up at the expense, to the loss, by the sacrifice, of the universal interest to it,—where is then the excellence?
Nay, but (says somebody,) in the form of government in question, what the supreme—the universal power is—is a compound—a mixture of the three powers corresponding to the three interests: what the excellence produced by it is in, is—not any one of the three ingredients taken by itself: no—it is the mixture. Take away any one of the three masses of power, the mixture is changed: the excellence is diminished:—take away any two of them, mixture has place no longer:—the excellence vanishes.
Good—this notion about mixture: Oh yes, good enough, so long as the respective natures of the several interests are kept out of sight. Look at them, and then see whether it be possible that, taking the power of the people for the simple substance,—by the adding to it either or both of the two other powers, and thus making a mixture,—any such quality as excellence, with reference to what belongs to the simple substance taken by itself, can be produced.
A form of government, in which the interest of the whole is the only interest provided for—in which the only power is a power having for its object the support of that interest,—in this form of government behold the simple substance. To this simple substance add, separately or conjunctively, a power employed in the support of the interest of one single person, and a power employed in the support of the interest of a comparatively small knot of persons,—in either of these cases you have a mixture:—well: compared, then, with the simple substance, when and where can be the advantages of this mixture?
What—what could man ever find to say in behalf of monarchy, but that monarchy is legitimacy?—or in behalf of aristocracy, but that property is virtue?
Fair questions these:—should any man feel disposed to answer them, let the answers be so too: and let them not—Oh! let them not! be either imprisonment or death!
Go to the flour-mill: get a sack of flour, in which there is flour, and nothing else:—make bread of it,—there you have the simple substance. In making your bread, add now to the flour some powder of chalk, with or without some powder of burnt bones: in either case you have a mixture. Well, in either case, so long as you do not add to the flour too much of that which is not flour, your bread may afford nourishment: it may give to your constitution—to the constitution of your natural body—a support. But, from either of these two new ingredients, does this body of yours derive any nourishment? the constitution of it any support? your bread anything that can be called by the name of excellence?
Father of the representative system! O rare Simon De Montfort!—thou who, in giving birth to it—without perhaps intending good to human being, save one—didst to mankind more good than ever was done by any one other mortal man!—in giving birth to that most beneficent system, thou gavest birth to the only practicable democracy—to the only democracy, of which extent beyond a nut-shell, or duration beyond a day, are attainable attributes! Comes the persecution of the Stuarts, and democracy—representative democracy is planted in America, with nothing but monarchy to hang over it:—comes the persecution of the G—, the monarchy is now cut up:—and now the salutiferous plant, established in its own roots, cleared of every weed that had choked it, shines in all its purity,—rears and spreads itself, with matchless, and enviable, and envied, and hated, and dreaded vigour. By the mere passing from the one country to the other—oh what a host of plagues and miseries in detail—major each in itself, minor compared with the two capital ones—did it not leave behind! Well worth taking and holding up to view would be the list of these abuses: but, for any such task, the present is no place.
No:—but for the English Constitution, democracy, the only democracy worth the name, never could have been known. Oh rare English Constitution!—there, there is thy greatest—there thy only lasting praise!
Balance? equality? No: I cannot say equality, when what I mean is ascendency. Palsied would be this hand—motionless this pen—if, for the first time in a life, already of some length, it were to attempt deception. Ascendency—this I do mean, nothing less: more I do not mean—indeed I do not. The monarch may, for aught I know, plunge his hangman’s knife in my bowels; but I am not for “cashiering kings.” The one thing needful and sufficient for the purpose—this I would have if I could: this I would have if I could, whatever were its name. More than this—not being in my view needful for the purpose—more I would not have if I could. For any more than for myself—for any more than myself—no title have I to speak. In speaking thus for myself, I speak what I should expect to find the sense—so long as it were the quiet sense—of a vast majority of the people—in two at least of the three kingdoms—high and low, rich and poor together. But, should the only remedy be refused, oppression continue, and exasperation rise against it, then it is not quiet sense that will speak, but exasperation: and, as to what exasperation may say or do, who is there that can undertake to measure it?
REMEDY IN DETAIL: RADICAL PARLIAMENTARY REFORM: ELEMENTARY ARRANGEMENTS IN THIS EDITION OF IT—THEIR NECESSITY.
Immediate cause of the mischief—on the part of the men acting as representatives of the people, coupled with adequate power a sinister interest, productive of a constant sacrifice made of the interest of the people.
Causes of the above cause,—in the breasts of these same agents,—undue independence, coupled with undue dependence: independence as towards their principles; dependence as towards the C—r-General, by whose co—tive influence the above-mentioned sacrifice is produced.
Here, in the above elements—here, in a nutshell, may be seen the mischief and its causes:—against this mischief, revolution apart, behold in Parliamentary Reform the name of the only possible remedy. In these elements, when developed, may be seen—what radical reform is—what the sort of reform termed moderate is; thence, what and where the difference.
The reform sketched out in the ensuing plan being of the radical kind,—the advantages, by the consideration of which the several elementary arrangements contained in it were suggested, will there be found. But, on the present occasion, what is required is—from all the several arrangements in question, to show—this having been the result of the inquiry—that while, by radical reform, a remedy, and that an adequate one, would be applied,—by moderate reform, no remedy would be applied, or next to none. In brief, the undue independence would remain, and with it the undue dependence.
Thus far in generals: now for development:—
First point to be considered—situations, in and to both which, to be effectual, the remedy must apply itself. These are—
1. Situation of parliamentary electors.
2. Situation of parliamentary representatives.
1. First, as to the situation of parliamentary electors.
Take for the description of the ultimate end, advancement of the universal interest.
In the description of this end is included—comprehension of all distinguishable particular interests: viz. in such sort, that such of them, between which no repugnancy has place, may be provided for in conjunction, and without defalcation:—while, in regard to such of them, between which any such repugnancy has place, such defalcations, and such alone, shall be made, as, when taken all together, shall leave in the state of a maximum whatsoever residuum of comfort and security may be the result:—with exceptions to as small an extent as possible, interests all to be advanced: without any exception, all to be considered.
1. In the character of a means, in this same description is moreover included—if it be not rather the same thing in other words—virtual universality of suffrage.
2. In this same description is moreover included—if it be not the same thing again in other words—practical equality of representation or suffrage.
Applied to the name of the quality universality, the use of the adjunct virtual is—by the limitation of which it gives intimation, to distinguish it from unlimited universality of suffrage; unlimited, or absolute, being the degree of universality, which, but for the application of some limitative adjunct, would, according to the correct import of the word, be to be understood. Of absolute universality, if admitted, the effect would be—to admit to the exercise of the franchise in question persons of various descriptions, none of whom would be capable of exercising it to the advantage either of others or of themselves. Idiots, and infants in leading-strings, may serve for examples.
By virtually universal suffrage, what I mean is—that which will remain of absolutely universal suffrage, when from the number of individuals designated by the word universal, all such defalcations shall have been made, as, by specific considerations, shall have been shown to be productive, each of them of a benefit in some special shape: that benefit being at the same time preponderant over every inconvenience, if any such there be, resulting from the limitation thus applied:—a limitation, viz. to the operation of the principle, by which the comprehension of all interests, as far as practicable, is prescribed.
If, in the instance of any one individual of the whole body of the people, it be right that the faculty of contributing to the choice of a representative—to the choice of a person, by whom, in the representative assembly, his interest shall be advocated, be possessed and exercised,—how can it be otherwise than right, in the instance of any one other such person? In this question, viz. in the impossibility of finding an answer to it, unless it be in the case, and to the extent, of the several defalcations above alluded to,—will, it is believed, be found contained the substance of the argument in support of universality of suffrage.
If, in the instance of any one individual, it be right that he should possess a share, of a certain degree of magnitude, in the choice of a person, to form one in the aggregate body of the representatives of the people,—how can it be right that, in the instance of any other individual, the share should be either less or greater? In this question is contained the substance of the argument in support of practical equality of representation.
That which universality of suffrage has for its limit is—need of defalcation for divers special causes or reasons: to give intimation of this limit is the use of the adjunct virtual. That which equality of representation has for its limit is—in the first place, the inconvenience, which in the shape of delay, vexation, and expense, could not fail to be the result of any endeavour, employed at any assignable point of time, to give existence to absolute equality; in the next place, the impossibility, resulting from the diversities of which, in respect of increase and decrease, the quantity of the population is everywhere susceptible; viz. the impossibility of keeping on foot—for any length of time, any such absolute equality,—supposing it to have, in the first instance, been established.
3. In the same description is, moreover, included freedom of suffrage: freedom, to which, in the present instance, may be considered as equivalent terms—genuineness and non-spuriousness.
To say that a suffrage ought to be free, what is it but to say—that the will expressed by it ought to be the very will of the person by whom it is so expressed?—the will of that person and of that person only; his self-formed will,—the product of his own judgment, self-formed or derivative as the case may be,—not produced by the knowledge or belief of the existence of any will or wish, considered as entertained by any other person, at whose hands the voter entertains an eventual expectation of receiving good or evil, in any shape: good or evil, according as, by him the said voter, the wishes of such other person, in relation to the matter in question, shall or shall not have been conformed to?
In so far as, in the instance of any voter, the vote which is given is, according to this explanation, and in this sense, not free, it is manifestly not genuine: it is spurious:—under the guise and disguise of the expression of the will of the voter, it is the will—not of the voter, but of some other person. In so far as it is given as and for the will of the voter, the giving it, is it any thing better than an act of imposture?
3 or 4. Secresy of suffrage. Short reason, its necessity to secure freedom; i. e. to secure genuineness—to prevent spuriousness.
Extensive and important as is the result of the whole body of electoral suffrages, given in the aggregate number of the electoral districts; yet, under any scheme of representation, in which any approach were made to virtual universality and practical equality of suffrage,—the value, even in his own eyes, of the interest* which any one man can have, in the choice of any one candidate in contradistinction to any other, will, generally speaking—and, unless in so far as it may happen to it to be swelled by affections and passions, produced by accidental circumstances—he extremely minute: so minute, that, barring such accidental causes of augmentation, scarcely can there be that private and separate interest so small as not to be capable of prevailing against it: of prevailing against it, in such sort, as to give to the vote a direction, opposite to that which would be the result of the regard entertained by the voter for such his share in the universal interest:—always supposed that, in the case of such self-regarding interest, the advantage corresponding to it is regarded as certain of being received; which, in the case of a bribe for example, it always is.
In the case of the vast majority of the number of voters that would be produced by the principle of universal suffrage,—half-a-guines, for example, or any interest equivalent to the interest corresponding to that sum, may, under a certainty of its being received, be stated as abundantly sufficient for the purpose. But, setting aside the case of an interest created by expectation of eventual good or evil—expected, as in that case, at the hands of some other person or persons, according to the direction known to have been given to the vote—it is not in the nature of the case, that from a vote given by a single one out of any such large number of electors as is in question—say for example three or four thousand—any assurance or operative expectation whatsoever, of any effective advancement of self-regarding interest to any such amount—no, not so much as to any such amount as the value of a single shilling—should be entertained by any man. By himself, nothing could the candidate in question, supposing him chosen, do for the advancement of any such individual self-regarding interest on the part of the voting elector; much less could the elector himself, by any disposition given by him to a vote, by which no effect whatsoever could be produced without the concurrence of a thousand or two of other votes.
Thus it appears, that by no indigenous—by no inbred—self-regarding interest, could any quantity of seductive or corruptive force, adequate to the purpose of effectual corruption, be created.
Not so in the case of such self-regarding interest, as in so many various circumstances is capable of being created by seductive or corruptive force, operating from without. In the present state of things, four thousand guineas for example, more or less, is said to be the average price of a venal seat. On this supposition, four thousand, minus one, being supposed to be the number of voting electors, two thousand guineas would suffice to carry the election; and, on any other election, supposing four thousand guineas the price paid,—here would be a couple of guineas, which any man, and every man, would have it in his power to receive by the selling of his vote. Here, then, is a quantity of corruptive force amply sufficient. Half-a-guinea per vote, or some such matter, has been spoken of, as the price habitually paid—and by whom paid? By a member eminent for probity as well in public as in private life; and this, in a borough, in which his probity—lying more within knowledge than elsewhere—cannot but be held in at least as high estimation as it can be anywhere else. But if, thus operating ab extra, an interest corresponding to the sure receipt of half-a-guinea suffices to determine the conduct of each one of a two or three thousand of electors, much more will four times that sum.*
True it is, that, in any such state of things as that which is here proposed,—at no such sum as four thousand guineas, or anything approaching to it, could the value of a seat remain. But, no such seat could remain, without possessing some value: and, so long as the seat possessed a venal value, so long would each one of the number of the votes on which the possession of it depended.
Thus minute is the portion of corruptive force which ought to be regarded as generally adequate to the production of the corruptive effect,—on the supposition that, as in the present state of things, the direction taken by the vote is in each instance known or knowable. On the other hand, let but this direction be to a certainty unknown to every individual but the voter himself,—the freedom—the complete freedom—of his suffrage, is the necessary result. In vain—at the instance, or for the satisfaction of any other person, at whose hands eventual good or evil is expected—in vain would he disclose, though it be ever so truly, the direction taken by his vote. Apprized, as every voter would be, that in such a case, not veracity but falsehood would be the course prescribed by a sense of moral obligation—under the uncertainty produced by the diffusion of a maxim to this effect, and by the universal declaration by which the observance of it might be enforced—by no elector could any adequate inducement be found, for putting in any such case any real restraint upon the freedom of his suffrage: by no other person, in the character of tempter, would be seen any adequate prospect of advantage—advantage, even from simple solicitation, still less from pecuniary expense, employed in the endeavour to divest the suffrage of the freedom so essential to the utility of it.
True it is, that it is only on the supposition, that on the part of the majority of the voters there exists, in the breast of each, either from self-formed or from derivative judgment, a practically adequate conception of the course dictated by his share in the universal interest,—true it is, that only in so far as this supposition is in conformity to fact, will the freedom in question, supposing it secured, be subservient to the great ends proposed: but, of the propriety of a supposition to this effect, proof sufficient for practice has already, it is presumed, been afforded. Nor as yet is the subject closed.
Freedom of suffrage being taken for the end,—it will soon (it is hoped) be generally seen and recognised, how essential, in every instance, to the accomplishment of this end, secresy of suffrage is, in the character of a means.
In what different ways freedom of suffrage is capable of being taken away,—to what extent, and by the influence of what descriptions of persons it actually and constantly is taken away,—these are among the topics, under which the state of the case will presently be brought to view.
So much as to the situation of elector: now as to the situation of representative.
For the purpose of this part of the argument, the situation of elector must be supposed to have been properly marked out and established: and, for the marking out and establishment of it, the fulfilment of the above condition—the investing of the suffrage with the above-mentioned desirable qualities—viz. virtual universality, practical equality, freedom, and secresy, must be regarded as effected.
1. Due dependence—i. e. dependence as towards constituents; 2. Due independence—i. e. independence as towards every other person:—these, together with universal constancy of attendance, present themselves as occupying in relation to this situation—as occupying, and on the same line—the first rank, in the scale of ends and means.
1. Dependence as towards constituents.—Understand dependence to this effect, viz. that, in the event of a man’s becoming, in the eyes of the acting majority of his constituents, to a certain degree deficient in respect of any of the elements of appropriate aptitude (viz. appropriate probity, appropriate intellectual aptitude, or appropriate active talent,)—it may, before he has had time, by means of such deficiency, to produce, in any considerable quantity, any irremediable mischief,—be in the power of his constituents, by means of a fresh election, to remove him from his seat.
2. Independence.—Understand as towards all other persons at large, but more particularly as towards C—r-General and Co., by whose influence alone, the nature of the case considered, dependence, as towards himself, can ever,—in the instance of any proportion approaching to a majority of the whole population of the House,—have place.
1. As to due dependence—i. e. dependence in relation to electors.
According to another supposition, the truth of which has, it is presumed, been proved,—on the part of the electors—at any rate, on the part of the great majority of them—there does exist the disposition to contribute towards the advancement of the universal interest, whatsoever can be contributed by their votes: by those votes, by the aggregate of which—that is, by the majority of that aggregate—will be determined the individuality of the several persons on whom, in the character of their representatives, will be incumbent the duty of acting their parts respectively, towards the accomplishment of that same ultimate and comprehensive end.
Unfortunately, by the essential and unchangeable nature of the two situations,—viz. that of C—r-General and Co. with the immense mass of the matter of good—(not to speak of a less, but still very considerable, mass of the matter of evil)—both matters not only capable of being made to operate, but, by reason of these same relative situations, at all times—without need of any active and purposely directed operation on the part of anybody to that end—actually and with prodigious effect operating in the character of matter of corruption,—the representatives of the people are, one and all, exposed to the action, and that an altogether intense one, of this same baneful matter. In this state of things, that which in the very nature of the case is altogether impracticable is—the keeping them in any such state, as that in which no such sinister interest would be capable of being, in any sensible degree, productive of any sinister effect. Towards preserving a man, then, in such a situation, from being thus corrupted, all that the nature of the case admits of is—so to order matters, that in the event of his becoming obsequious to the influence of the matter of corruption, and thereupon manifesting a deficiency in the element of appropriate probity, his power of doing mischief may receive a termination as speedy as the other exigencies bearing upon the case may admit.
2. As to due independence: independence as towards C—r-General and Co.
In regard to this endowment, what is manifest is—that by any direct means—by any means other than that which consists in the rendering the representative dependent by reason of his seat—dependent, therefore, in a degree which cannot be greater than that, whatsoever it be, which corresponds to whatsoever may, in his eyes, be the value of that seat,—nothing towards securing to him the possession of this endowment can be done. This being the case, this endowment resolves itself into the before-mentioned one—viz. due dependence; nor, in addition to the antiseptic power possessed by the due dependence, does it appear that by any circumstance referable to the head of independence—due independence—any ulterior security can be afforded.
That which, Monarch and Lords remaining, no reform in the Commons could prevent the Monarch from doing, is—the giving to any member of the Commons House, or to any person in any way connected with him, a useful and needful place, a needless place, a useless place, an overpaid place, a ribbon or other badge of factitious dignity, a baronetcy, a peerage: and so in the case of any number of the members:—in this state stands the mischief. But that which a reform in the Commons, so it be a radical one, can do, is—so to order matters, as that, on the occasion of the next general election that has place, the electors, if in their eyes the appointment wears the character of a bribe, shall have it in their power to rid themselves of the supposed betrayer of his trust:—in this state stands the remedy. In the way of punishment, not to be inflicted but on legal evidence, true it is, that against the bestowing of the matter of corruption, not on the member himself, but only on a person connected with him, nothing does the nature of the case admit of in the way of remedy: but, so far as concerns the withdrawing their confidence for this purpose, no legal evidence is necessary.
Such being the primary or principal securities, follow now two secondary or instrumental ones.
3. Impermanence of the situation; viz. to the degree in which it is secured by annuality of re-election:—by the annual recurrence of the elective process.
In two distinguishable ways does this species of instrumental security contribute to the two principal ones:—1. In proportion to the short-livedness of the power, diminishes, both to purchasers, and thence to sellers, the venal value of it;—the profit capable of being reaped by C—r-General and Co. by corrupting the representative in question, and engaging him to betray his trust: 2. The profit to C—r, and thence, in the shape of money or money’s worth, the price which he will be willing to pay, and thence the corruptible representative be able to receive. In the same proportion, moreover, increases the power of the antiseptic—the corruption-opposing—remedy, placed in the hands of his constituents: the sooner the time for re-election comes, the earlier will that remedy be applicable.*
To reduce to its minimum the quantity of time, during which it shall be in the power of the representative to continue in the supposed course of mischievous conduct, what would be requisite is—that immediately, on the supposed commission of any such breach of trust, it should be in the power of his principals, that is to say, of the majority of his constituents, to divest him at any time of such his trust.
But, to produce any such effect might require the keeping of the body of the electors in such a state of almost continual attention and activity, as would be incompatible with that degree of attention to their means of procuring and insuring to themselves, in their respective productive occupations, those means of subsistence, without which the requisite quantity would, to a more or less considerable extent, fail—and thereby mischief be produced, in a degree far more extensive than could reasonably be expected to be produced, by the difference between a possession capable of being revoked at any time, and upon the shortest notice,—and a possession, the termination of which could not be effected oftener than at the recurrence of some determinate and short period, such as that of a single year: in which last case, the maximum of the average duration of the supposed disposition to pursue a mischievous course would, vacations considered, be reduced to considerably less than the half of the year.
On this occasion, two inconveniences present themselves as requiring to be guarded against, viz. general want of preparedness, and particular and incidental fraudulent surprise. When,—for a judgment to be passed by the several bodies of electors, on the conduct of their respective representatives, a determinate and universally fore-known day is appointed,—the time capable of being occupied in the consideration of that conduct will, in every instance, be the same:—in every instance allowing of more time and opportunity for appropriate and universal preparation, than could have place upon any other plan. Thus much as to general preparation: now as to particular surprise. In this one word, surprise, may be seen a species of fraud, to which all public bodies stand exposed. By a particular knot of confederates, whose object is to carry some measure, which, in case of a full attendance, would not in their apprehension be approved,—a day is appointed—the earlier, in general, the more favourable to the fraud;—two connected objects being of course aimed at:—the one respecting attendance—to get in those from whom they expect support—the other, to keep out those from whom they expect opposition—in both cases in as great numbers as possible: the other, respecting preparation—in such sort that supporters may be as well prepared,—adversaries, such as cannot be prevented from attending, as ill-prepared—as possible; these objects are accordingly, in each case, pursued:—pursued by such particular means as the particular nature of the case happens to afford, and admits of.
By the fixation of a determinate and universally fore-known day, both these inconveniences stand excluded: but for such fixation, the door to both lies open.
4. Exclusion of placemen from the faculty of voting in the House.
The mischief, against which impermanence of the situation is calculated to operate as a security, is contingent receipt of the matter of corruption: he who to his seat in the House adds the possession of any other office, with benefit in a pecuniary or any other shape annexed to it,—every such man is actually harbouring in his bosom a correspondent portion of that pestilential matter, and is actually under the dominion of its baneful influence.
In the plan may be seen the reasons, by which the utility of the attendance of placemen in the House, with faculty of speech, and even of motion, is brought to view: and in the same place is shown, the inapplicability of those reasons to the faculty of voting,—and the sufficiency of this unnatural and baneful union to brand, with the just imputation of imbecility, whatsoever confidence can be placed in any assembly, in which a so certainly efficient cause of habitual improbity, breach of trust, and misrule, is harboured, and suffered to operate.
True it is, that to the case of the holders of places and pensions at pleasure,—to them and them alone does the demand for the exclusion in question present itself in its utmost force. But, to the case of the holders of places during good behaviour, as the phrase is—a tenure to the purpose in question not substantially different from tenure for life—the demand, though not in equal, presents itself as having place in sufficient force.
A place or pension of this description may be, and, it should seem, ought to be, considered as a sort of retaining fee. Gratitude—private gratitude—as towards the patron—this motive, though, in comparison of self-regarding interest, a social and laudable motive, yet in comparison, especially when acting in opposition to patriotism—a motive equally social, and operating upon the more enlarged and important scale,—it operates in the character of an instrument of corruption;—gratitude, viz. even when it is genuine, and stands alone. But, to whom is it unknown, that, in whatever breast fear or ambitious hope, looking to the future, has place,—gratitude, looking, or pretending to look, solely to the past—gratitude, wherever the past presents a pretence, is a cloak—a cloak put on by the self-regarding motive—a cloak presented by decency and prudence.
5. Universal constancy of attendance.
Be the place what it will, in which, if at all, the function, be it what it may, must be performed,—that function cannot be performed by a man who is not there. A maxim to this effect seems not to be very open to dispute.
Beneficial effects of such universal constancy—mischiefs resulting from the want of it—these, together with the means of effectually securing such attendance, may be seen in the plan itself.
The additional character, in which, on the present occasion, it seems necessary to bring it more particularly to view, is—that of an additional security against undue dependence in the only case in which it can be productive of practical mischief, viz. the case in which a majority, and that a permanent one, have been brought under the dominion of the corruptive influence. By absentation, every man who, in the case of a pernicious measure, is in his real judgment against it; but who, by the sinister influence of C—r-General and Co., is prevented from acting in consequence, at the same time that, were it not for such influence, he would attend and vote in favour of it;—by mere absentation, does every such man do exactly one half of the utmost quantity of the mischief that he could do by attending and voting in favour of the pernicious measure: and so, vice versa, in the case of a beneficent measure. On the other hand,—by supposition, the man being one who, on the occasion of the vote he gives, is, in the main, induced to be determined by consideration of public good,—then so it is, that, if the mischievousness of it be to a certain degree palpable, if he were in attendance, shame would suffice to prevent him from giving his vote on the sinister side. But, to the case of mere absentation, the cause of it not being known, shame cannot attach itself: here then, in so far as attendance and non-attendance are left optional, the half of every man’s effective influence in the assembly is left in the condition of a saleable commodity, capable of being sold to C—r-General and Co. without earthly restraint of any kind—not only without fear of punishment, under the name of punishment—but without fear of reproach or shame.
And thus it appears, that, after everything which, for the securing of probity—appropriate probity—in the breasts of the individual members, each in his separate capacity, against the assaults of corruptive influence, can be done, has been done,—universal constancy of attendance remains, in the character of a supplement, necessary to the securing, on the part of the aggregate body, the same indispensable element of official aptitude.
Now then, if, of an assembly constituted by a system of deputation, in which suffrage was at once virtually universal, practically equal, and completely free,—and that assembly composed of persons, each of whom was removable, at the earliest, in a week or two,—at the latest, in less than a year,—so it were that, by the means of corruptive influence always remaining in the hands of C—r-General and Co., even under a system of constantly universal attendance, a permanent majority could be bought,—then, on this supposition, the due and requisite dependence, viz. dependence on constituents, could not have place. But, that any such open corruption should readily have place, seems morally impossible. Even under the present system, spite of all its corruption, here and there a case has been seen, in which the corrupt will of C—r-General and Co. has experienced effectual resistance. Yes; even under the present system: how then could it ever be otherwise under a pure one?
That, even in so much as a single instance, or so much as any one occasion, any such general corruption should, in such a state of things, have place, seems altogether out of the sphere of human probability. But, to produce any permanent and unremedied bad effect, it would require that such corrupt majority should be a permanent one:—for, suppose it ever to cease, the majority of a single day would suffice to unravel the web of corruption, and devote the corruptionists, if not to punishment under the forms of law, at any rate to universal indignation and abhorrence, with a certainty of never more being reappointed to the trust which, by the supposition, they had thus abused.
Thus far as to the points of most prominent importance. Remain for consideration the arrangements necessary to the simplification of the mode of election, and thence to the exclusion of mischief in so many various shapes, such as delay, vexation, expense, drunkenness and tumult at elections,—and litigation in consequence of, and even antecedently, and with a view to election:—mischiefs that have place, and, to a certain degree, are even fostered, under the existing mode. But, in regard to these, reference to the plan itself may here suffice.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THIS AND THE ORIGINAL EDITIONS OF RADICAL REFORM.
So much for absolute views: now for a comparative one.
In the above explained list of principal arrangements—taking ten for the number—I find in the original editions of Radical Reform, these following, viz.—
I. Applying to the situation of elector, these three, viz.—1. Comprehension of all interests; 2. Virtual universality of suffrage; 3. Practical equality of suffrage:—these three—unless the first and second should be regarded as the same object under two different names.
But, in these same original plans, neither secresy of suffrage, nor therefore (as it seems to me) freedom of suffrage, are included.
II. Applying to the situation of Representative, these three, viz.—1. Operating in the character of an instrumental security, impermanence of the situation, viz. by means of annuality; and,—in so far as this suffices,—the two principal securities, viz. due dependence, and, to the extent of its operation, due independence; 2. Due dependence as towards electors; 3. Due independence as towards C—r-General and Co.
But, referable to this last head, in this same original plan two other securities which I do not find,—but which, in the character of instrumental securities, with reference to those principal ones, have presented themselves to my view as indispensable,—are—1. Exclusion of placemen from the right of voting; 2. Universal constancy of attendance.
Here, then, are four additional securities: two of them applying to the one situation, two of them to the other,—four additional securities, in respect of which I hold myself more particularly responsible.
Taking the other edition,—or, in case of difference, those other editions,—of Radical Reform, for the original edition or editions,—the edition composed of these same securities, with the addition of the four others, which, in the character of instrumental, and indeed indispensable securities, I have thus ventured to propose, may be distinguished by the name of my edition of Radical Parliamentary Reform, by anybody that pleases.*
Arrangements for the simplification of the process of election,—and thereby for the diminution of delay, vexation, expense, drunkenness, and disturbance,—are to be found not only in the radical reform system, but moreover, in principle at least, in some of the moderate reform plans: in so far as they are in this case, they belong not to the present head.
Of the Radical Reform Plan—so far as concerns annuality of election,—the unknown member of the House of Commons, at whose instance the rest of the House joined in that petition—(such in those days was the form)—to which Edward the Third twice, in the shape of a law, gave his sanction,—may be considered as the original inventor. In the late reign, viz. as above mentioned, in 1744, it found in Thomas Carew a parliamentary reviver, and in him and Sir John Phillipps (not to mention others) two most powerful advocates: on which occasion, as hath been seen, it did not want much of being carried. Within the compass of the present reign, has this same arrangement found in the Lords an advocate in the person of the late Duke of Richmond;* and, since his death, viz. anno 1809, in the Commons,† in the person of Sir Francis Burdett: but, of the degree of extension insisted upon by the Duke of Richmond, no inconsiderable part appears to have been given up by Sir Francis Burdett.
Finding that limitation already proposed, and from a quarter so respectable; finding it already proposed, and regarding it as promising—at any rate in a degree sufficient for a first proposal—to be effectually conducive to the purpose,—finding it already thus proposed,—and preferring, on every occasion in which a regard for the end in view will admit of such preference, union to dissension,—hence it was that, in the annexed Plan, drawn up anno 1809—and word for word as it stands at present—I adopted this same limitation. With the arrangement in that same state, I should, after the closer consideration recently bestowed upon the subject, be to a considerable degree satisfied. At the same time, after maturer consideration, on the one hand not seeing in it any source of danger, even though it were in a state of extension still more ample than that in which it was prescribed by the Duke of Richmond:—on the other hand, beholding in a limitation which I have ventured to propose a specific one—and that in my eyes a very important one, which will be brought to view under the appropriate head,—hence it is, that, to give a general intimation of the difference, the name which, in this my edition, is given to universal suffrage, is, virtually universal suffrage.
VIRTUAL UNIVERSALITY OF SUFFRAGE FURTHER CONSIDERED.
Now as to universal suffrage. Subject to defalcation, each for special reason,—in all eyes but those to which tyranny is the only endurable form of government,—what principle can be more impregnable?
1. Who is there, that is not susceptible of discomfort and comfort—of pain and pleasure?
2. Of what is human happiness, felicity, well-being, welfare—call it what you please—composed, but comfort and absence of discomfort—pleasure and exemption from pain?*
3. The happiness and unhappiness of any one member of the community—high or low, rich or poor—what greater or less part is it of the universal happiness and unhappiness, than that of any other?
4. Who is there, by whom unhappiness is not avoided—happiness pursued?
5. Who is there, by whom unhappiness ought not to be avoided—happiness ought not to be pursued?
6. Who is there, that, in avoidance of unhappiness, and pursuit of happiness, has not a course of conduct to maintain—which, in some way or other, he does maintain,—throughout life?
7. Who is there, whose conduct does not in its course take, on each occasion, its direction from a judgment of the one kind or the other:—from a self-formed or a derivative one?
8. Who is there, whose conduct is never, on any occasion, directed by any other than a self-formed judgment? Who is there that, in relation to the most momentous of the private concerns of his life, does not frequently find himself under the obligation of taking for his guidance a judgment of the derivative kind?—a judgment of no firmer texture?
9. How many are there, in whose instance the part taken by a man, in relation to his own private affairs considered all together, is not of greater importance to himself (not to speak of the whole community,) than any part could be, which, in relation to the whole number of public affairs taken together, could, even under a system of universal suffrage, ever come under his cognizance?
20. In so far as between the interests of the subject-many, and those of the ruling few, any such relation as that of incompatibility has place,—suppose, on the part of the ruling few, the prevalent—or though it were the exclusive—possession of appropriate intellectual aptitude, suited to the nature of the case,—in what way or degree would the interest—would the welfare—of the subject-many be benefited, so long as in those ruling bosoms, instead of appropriate probity, the opposite, improbity, had place?†
Security—general security—against misrule—in this are we to behold the only use and advantage resulting to the community from the utmost amplitude of extent, which, subject to the necessary defalcations, can be given to the right of suffrage? Answer: The main use and advantage? Yes, but assuredly not the only one.
Another is—(for is it not?)—the extent given to the pleasure—the pleasure of power* —derivable from the exercise of it. By the first English monarch of the Stuart race, the pleasure of scratching where it itches was pronounced too great a pleasure for a subject. On the same principle, in the eyes of many an aristocrat of the present day, so will the pleasure, attached to the exercise of a power, so furiously and indignantly grasped by the monopolizing hand. Yes: in the eyes of the aristocrat. But so will it be in the eyes of a lover of his country, or of a lover of mankind?
So much for the comfort of the elector. Come now the social virtues,—probity—benevolence—beneficence,—considered as not being wholly without hope of finding place one day in the breast of the representative: in this breast, virtue; thence in both breasts, comfort, for its fruit.
A third use and advantage attendant on the maximization of the extent given to this right, will it not accordingly be to be found in the proportionable extent which will so naturally be given to the demand, and thence to the supply, of those precious virtues,—considered as exercisable by men of high, on the occasion of their intercourse with men of low degree? (See, on this head, the Plan itself.)
The art and habit of affording, in the shape suited to each occasion, in the general intercourse of life, pleasure,—in which is necessarily included the negative art and habit of avoiding to produce displeasure—courtesy, in a word—the word as well as the thing derived from court—in common account, the diffusion of virtue in this shape, has it not been regarded as a use and advantage attached to monarchy? Yes:—nor surely without reason. But, when for its head-quarters it has the palace, in what way does it propagate itself? To the level of the lowest ranks it descends not, but as it were by accident, by slow degrees, and through an indefinite number and variety of channels. But, in the case here in question, reaching the lowest level at one step, it fills the whole atmosphere of society with its balmy influence.
3. Third collateral use—security afforded against vice in all its shapes, and for virtue in all its shapes.
4. By the same tie by which in this case the candidate is restrained from giving the reins to misconduct in the particular shape above mentioned, viz. insolence towards individuals in the particular situation in question,—by this same tie, with more or less good effect, is he restrained from misconduct in all other shapes in general—public as well as private: by the same spur by which he is urged to the making of the comparatively small sacrifices, necessary to the attainment of the reputation of urbanity within the limited circle in question, by this same spur is he continually urged to the making of those greater sacrifices—those continually recurring and perseveringly reiterated sacrifices, by which, throughout the whole field of a man’s influence, in public as in private life, pre-eminence in virtue is attained:—sacrifices of smaller present to greater future interest; sacrifices of self-regarding to social interest; sacrifices of social interest on a less extensive to social interest on a more extensive scale.
III. Now as to defalcations.—So far as concerns extension, the main object being comprehension of all interests,—suppose the defalcation in question capable of having place without prejudice to that object, slight may be the advantage that will suffice to warrant it.
First comes the principle, by which (saving always the rightful supremacy of the universal-interest-comprehension principle,) intimation is given of the propriety of defalcation, considered as applied to the extent capable of being given to the right of suffrage. Call this, for shortness, the legitimate-defalcation principle.
Next come an exception or exceptions, that may be found to present themselves as proper to be made to the application of this principle.
This principle is—that if, in the instance of any class of persons, it be sufficiently clear, that they neither are, nor can be, in such a state of mind as to be, in a sufficient degree, endowed with the appropriate intellectual aptitude,—then so it is that, in the instance of such particular class of persons, a defalcation may be made: made, viz. without prejudice to anything that is useful in the interest-comprehension principle.
The consideration, by which the principle is itself suggested, and the application of it directed, is the regard due to the quality of appropriate intellectual aptitude. In the case of this or that class of persons, suppose it clear that no such aptitude can, in any degree sufficient for practice, be reasonably expected to be found,—what follows is—that, from the extent given to the right in question, a defalcation may be made, correspondent to the extent occupied in the field of population by this class: and thus, without prejudice to the extent given to the universal-interest-comprehension principle.
Take now a few examples:—
I. Minors. By the word minors is immediately brought to view one vast class of persons, to which, without prejudice to the interest-comprehension principle, the legitimate-defalcation principle promises to be found applicable.
On this occasion, for forming a limit to the extent to be given to this class, what is evident is—that with full assurance, an age may be taken, such as, that from the extent belonging to the dominion of the universal-interest-comprehension principle, no defalcation shall be made by the application of the legitimate-defalcation principle: and even let the age fixed upon for this purpose be supposed to be too early an age, still one great advantage remains untouched;—which is—that in its application to individuals, the defalcation is not permanent; not permanent, but temporary only, and the utmost duration of it limited. As to the age most proper to be fixed upon for this purpose,—in this may be seen a topic neither unsusceptible nor undeserving of a separate consideration: but, for anything like a full consideration of it, neither time nor space can be allowed here. Under British law, in relation to private concerns at large, viz. in respect of the sole and separate management of those concerns taken in the aggregate, one-and-twenty is the age at which the right commences. But at a much earlier age does this and that particular right commence: such as the right of making a last will; and, what is more to the purpose, the right of choosing a guardian. And note, that though the concerns here in question are, in respect of extent, the public and universal concerns, and the importance of them proportioned to that extent, yet, on the other hand—instead of being, as in the present case, integral,—the right here in question is but a minute fraction of the integral or entire right of choosing the fraction of a guardian, for the management of those great common concerns.
For what remains, see the next head.
II. Females. As to persons of this sex, the sex in which the half, more or less, of the whole species is contained—usually, if not constantly, have they on this occasion been passed over without notice: an omission which, under a Mahometan government, might have place with rather less prejudice to consistency than under a Christian one.
The great leading considerations above brought to view—viz. the universal-interest-comprehension principle, the quality of appropriate probity and appropriate intellectual aptitude—these guides to decision, if they apply not with propriety to both sexes, it seems not easy to say with what propriety they can be applicable to either.
As to the interest-comprehension principle,—a task which, to the purpose of making application of it on competent grounds, presents itself as indispensable, is—the taking a survey of the state of the laws, by which at present the share between the two sexes is determined.
Thereupon, a sort of preliminary question presents itself as likely enough to be put:—Suppose—for argument’s sake suppose—the result to be, that on this part of the field of law, due justice has not hitherto been done to the weaker sex: on this supposition, can any such expectation exist, as that in the formation of a plan in relation to suffrage, any better justice will be done? The answer is—that, barring the intervention of this or that special obstacle, there seems no sufficient reason why any such justice should be despaired of. For, upon a spurt, upon the spur of the occasion, even against the general bent of permanent interest,—are now and then seen to be made, such sacrifices as, under the permanent, and habitual, and tranquil operation of particular interest, are never seen to be made.
As to appropriate intellectual aptitude—in the case of monarchy—in the case of integral possession of supreme and all-comprehensive power—by no man, perhaps, unless it be by John Knox, has physical weakness been brought forward in the character of an objection to the practice of vesting political power in the softer sex: by no man, even in the case of the electoral function, where, as in the instance of the East India Direction, the active or self-acting, including the imperative power, is in the hands of an aristocracy: an aristocracy, itself in England subject to the mixed monarchy, but exercising the electoral function in relation to the sort of local monarchy, by which, under the guise of a council, under the presidence of a governor, in British India so many millions are ruled.*
Although, in all these several instances, the propriety of the arrangement were confessedly established,—yet in the case of the democratic species of election in question, the propriety of it could not be stated as presenting itself in any such character as that of a necessary consequence. As to anything approaching to a decided opinion,—anything of that sort—any attempt towards it—would in this place be altogether premature. Of the few observations here hazarded, what then, it may be asked, is the use? The use (I answer)—the design at least, is—to show in what way, and with a degree of attention suited to its importance, the subject is capable of being treated, in respect to principle: of two modes of treatment, which may be the more proper one—on the one hand, the mode here exemplified, or on the other, this or a horse-laugh, a sneer, an expression of scorn, or a common-place witticism, the reader will determine.†
III. Soldiers and Sailors. If of these classes mention must here be made, scarcely can it be for any other purpose than to show that they have not been out of mind. From participating in the exercise of this franchise, all those who are out on foreign service stand excluded by physical, by absolutely insurmountable obstacles: this being constantly and unavoidably the case with many, and incidentally with all,—those, in whose instance the bar is not applied by physical obstacles, need the less repine, should the necessity arise of excluding them by legal ones. Individually considered, no tenable objection could surely be opposed to the suffrage of any individual of this so extensive and eminently meritorious a class of public servants. But, collected in a mass, under the command of C—r-General and Co., they might, in any part of the country, or in many parts of the country at once, be set a-rolling like an avalanche, overwhelming, as they rolled, the settled population of (who can say how many?) electoral districts. Here is a mischief; but a mischief to which, by a few regulations, no less obvious than the mischief, there could be no difficulty in opposing an effectual bar.
To the above perfectly obvious grounds of defalcation, add, for consideration, this one more, which will perhaps be found not quite so obvious.
IV. Non-readers. For shortness, let this be the name of the class: also, for shortness, take the following compressed intimation of the ground of the thus proposed defalcation, with the political and moral institution attached to it, and of the mode proposed for fixing the termination of it. Principle, not at variance with the universal-interest-comprehension principle: duration of the exclusion—not only temporary, but, to an indefinite degree, capable of being shortened by the exertions of the individual excluded.—Proof of the cessation of the cause of exclusion, public: matter, taken for the subject of the proof,—in the first place, the law by which the elections in question shall, in the here supposed state of things, have been regulated; to which might be added (regard being had to matter and applicable space) this or that portion of other appropriate matter:—but for any such details the present is no place.
For the collateral effects, moral and intellectual—of such an institution, inquire of the National Society:—inquire of anybody—those excepted whose wish—(for, alas! some such are there not?) whose undissembled wish has been, to keep us of the swinish multitude—to keep us for ever in our state of swine.
Defeasible as it is at all times at the pleasure of the excluded party,—if by this exclusion the exercise of the right may, in the instance of some person of full age, be suspended,—in the instance of minors, might not, on proof given, as above, of possession obtained of appropriate intellectual aptitude—might not the acquisition of it be accelerated?
So much for defalcation, considered as applicable to the extent to be given to this franchise. Behold now a principle of exception, operating as a bar to a little swarm of other defalcations,—such as, but for this consideration, would, on grounds more or less cogent, be apt to present a call—some of them a peremptory call—for acceptance.
This principle is the simplification principle. On the ground of deficiency, in one or other, or both, of the elements of the appropriate aptitude in question—viz. appropriate probity and appropriate intellectual aptitude—various are the classes that might be proposed for exclusion: foreigners in amity, foreigners in enmity but at large, outlaws, convicts, vagrants, insolvents, bankrupts, lunatics—these may serve as examples.
O rare simplicity! handmaid of beauty, wisdom, virtue—of everything that is excellent!—Simplicity—applied to every subject to which, without preponderant inconvenience, it can be applied—simplicity, though but a sort of negative good, is not the less a good. To the exclusion of sensible (which are the only real) evils, may it without scruple be applied, where the only evils that can result from the application are but, as it were, nascent and insensible: evils, for example, which,—though if they existed in a certain quantity, they might, or even would, be felt,—yet, in the greatest quantity in question, cannot be felt;—evils, in a word, which,—though but for the operation of counter causes, they would or might be productive of actual sensible sufferance or loss of comfort,—yet, by the operation of such counter causes, will be prevented from carrying that capacity into act.
So much for principle; now for application. Even at the place of election, much more in a judicatory of appeal constituted for the purpose,—among the accompaniments of every such investigation are the intimately connected mischiefs, with which all judicature is so liable to be infested, viz. delay, vexation, and expense. In all these may be seen real and sensible—acutely sensible evils. But, in the case of a right, which, how important soever, when taken in its integrality, is to all really effective purposes, such as the establishment of laws, and the execution of measures of administration, itself but the fraction of a fraction,—suppose that by the exceptionable classes, all of them taken together—that is, by the admission given to them, be they ever so exceptionable, no sensible change for the worse can ever, in all human probability, be made in the conduct of public affairs;—the consequence is, that the supposed inconvenience is ideal and theoretical merely, not actual and practical.
The simplification principle, thus explained,—apply it to the question as between the extent indicated by the word householders, and the extent here marked out as designated by the words virtually-universal suffrage. In the plan itself, on the occasion of which the attention was confined to householders, an expedient may be seen proposed, having for its object the maximization of simplicity;—the minimization of the triple yoke of inconvenience—the trinoda necessitas—composed of delay, vexation, and expense, which, by nature in a certain proportion, by sinister art commonly in a much greater proportion, has been made to press upon the neck of so many sorts of public, but most intolerably of all upon the neck of almost all judicial, proceedings.
Look at what is said in Mr. Cobbett’s LETTER on this subject to Earl Grosvenor (Cobbett’s Register, February 22, 1817,) and, in respect of simplicity, and its consequences as above explained, judge whether, compared with the householder plan, even with the benefit of the above-proposed instrument of simplification, the virtually-universal plan has not the advantage.
In this same view, note a principle of precaution, having regard to relative time. The evidence, on the ground of which a claimant’s title to the franchise is provisionally to be allowed,—let it be—not of the oral, but, as proposed in the plan, of the written kind—a document, suppose a card—suppose a ticket—penned, and authenticated, and allowed, at a time anterior to that of the election. By this means all discussion is excluded from that time: in the instance of each voter, the operation of voting may, as in the case of holding up of hands, be instantaneous. Forgery and fraudulent personation are the only causes of deceit left possible: and, forasmuch as by small numbers no promise of effect would be afforded, while among large numbers, the larger the number the fuller the assurance of detection,—no probability can this possibility have for its accompaniment.
VIRTUAL UNIVERSALITY OF SUFFRAGE—ITS UNDANGEROUSNESS.
On the topic of supposed or imputed dangerousness, after what has been seen already, accept the following observations, compressed to that degree of compression which time and place necessitate.
Objection:—Universal suffrage, universal hostility and anarchy.—Answer: No, not the smallest approach to any such evils.
Hostility?—under what provocation, and against what object? Provocation now, alas! but too abundant: in that case, absolutely none. Provocation, say you?—say, instead of it, its exact opposite. Yes: in place of provocation, and that inveterate,—fresh and never before experienced beneficence. Provocation—where should it find its object? In a branch of government, now for the first time, at the instance of the people themselves, repaired and improved for their benefit, and then placed in their own hands?
Suppose mischievous activity, on what occasion or in what shape should it exert itself? The sort of power which they would be called upon to exercise, what is it? Is it,—as in legislation and command, as well civil as military,—directly, immediately, imperatively, impressively, and coercively acting power?—No, but a mere exercise of the unimperative faculty of deputation—an exercise performed under the veil of the most tranquil and silent, and absolutely impenetrable and imperturbable secresy,—performed by a mere turn of the hand,—and, in the instance of each individual, in the same moment begun and ended:—a power which, if such it must be called, is but the fraction of a fraction: the power of making one of a vast multitude, the majority of which must join, ere they can seat so much as one man in an assembly,—one man, with whom another large majority must join, and with that large majority, the majority of another assembly, ere he can give effect to any power by which command is issued, and obedience produced.
Be the mischief what it may,—suppose the people, in any considerable number, inclined to effect it. In their eyes, or in any eyes, what sort of prospect of accomplishing the supposed obnoxious purpose could the nature of the case afford? How deep, as well as at the same time how hollow, must not the scheme of speculation be supposed to be, that is thus supposed to be entertained by the supposed precipitate and unthinking multitude? Of himself, not one of them could, so much as in expectation, have any the least part in it: if accomplished, the persons by whom it is accomplished must be the majority of a set of persons, all different from these voters; yet this majority composed of individuals, all of them without exception bent upon the execution of this same pernicious scheme:—and what could they hope to get by it? When, by the passions of a populace, mischief has been perpetrated or aimed at, is it by any such telescopic and deep-laid schemes that it has ever been aimed at?
No: it is not in the dangerousness and mischievousness—it is in the undangerousness and beneficialness of this and the other elements of reform, that, in the minds of the ruling and influential few, the opposition made to it has its real ground. Not in the want of light—pure and instructive light—in the political hemisphere—not in the want of it, but in the abundance of it, look for the true object of their fears. The increase of light—were that any part of their object, how to compass that object is no secret to them. Confined to the quarter in which, when it is of use to them—applied to the accomplishment of the grand object—the openly avowed object—the “prostration of understanding and will” at the feet of a priesthood, itself by original institution prostrate—and so lately so much more profoundly prostrated,* —at the feet of a prelacy, itself in a state of everlasting prostration at the foot of the throne—applied to this object, never can there be any want of anxiously directed activity. In regard to appropriate intellectual aptitude, what is the real, the everlasting fear?—lest it be deficient? No: but lest it be abundant. Yes: on the hemisphere of religion, to delude them with false and political lights—on the political hemisphere, to keep them plunged in the thickest darkness: such, in their “high situation,” is the policy of “great characters;” such, in the very nature of things, it is ever destined to be, when vouchsafing to determine the lot of the swinish multitude.
Of this supposed dangerous and mischievous right, by what mode and form of instruction would the exercise be prefaced and prepared? On the one part, would it be, as now, by haranguing—(by haranguing—loud, and, till the present state of things be replaced by a better, how can it be other than impassioned?)—on the other part, by thronging: by thronging, if not actually tumultuous, continually, by the naturally and incessantly increasing tyranny, expected or pretended to be expected to be found,—and for the sake of the thus manufactured pretext, always wished to be found—tumultuous? Oh no. On the one part, by a course of writing, on the other part by a corresponding course of reading? Oh yes:—the pen in hand—behold in this the true organ for administering sound, dispassionate, and undelusive information:—in the eye—in the stillness and leisure of the closet, applied to the silent paper, behold in this the true organ for the reception of the matchless blessing. Lips on the one part, ears on the other part:—behold in these the so imperfectly adapted—the only originally employable organs, in the fugitive, the ever questionable, the ever delusive information—the only information capable of being communicated and received by such organs,—the sole and sadly imperfect resource of immature, unlettered, and unenlightened times.†
As to speechifying and writing—and the comparative beneficialness and innoxiousness of the sort of information to be respectively looked for to the two sources. By speeches, many an assembly has been driven into precipitate and mischievous resolves: by writings, much fewer, not to say none. By speeches, followed on the spot by resolutions taken on the spot, falsehoods are asserted—means of detection excluded; in writings, scarce can falsehood be brought forward on one side, but time for detecting and refuting it has place on the other:—by speeches, imagination is fascinated,—passion in excess excited,—time for comprehensive conception and cool judgment denied;—substitute writing, no advantage can in any of these shapes be gained by any side, to the injury of any other. When tongues and ears are the organs of converse;—in an assembly, congregated under the notion of hearing speeches,—by its own clamours (and with what unhappy frequency is not this mischief exemplified!) by its own clamours—that is, by the clamours of a few impatient tongues,—on both sides of the question—or, what is so much worse, on one side only,—may not only all documents, but all argument, be excluded? whereas, in so far as pens and eyes are the organs,—by no power but that of a tyrant—of a tyrant about the throne, or on a bench—can any minds be deprived of the knowledge of whatsoever has been said, or can be said, on both sides.
Thus, not only in the first instance, but so long as the subject continued to be viewed no otherwise than at a distance,—that, in this state of mind, by the vastness and indeterminateness of the compound idea, produced by the combination of annuality of election with universality of suffrage,—conception should be at first bewildered, and the passion of fear kept in a state of excitation,—in this there is nothing strange: the strange thing would rather be, if the case were otherwise.*
Note here a little operation—an operation which may be performed by anybody who has leisure. Turn to the history of boroughs: pick out the most open ones: those in which the right has the extension indicated by the word householders, or by the word pot-wallers,—go back as far as recollection—recollection about individual character—can carry you,—say, to the commencement of the present reign. Under the head of each such borough, look over the list of the representatives, who from that time to this have sat for it:—this done, then it is that you may be in a condition to pronounce—whether, when compared with the seats, filled in the most generally approved and lauded mode, viz. the county seats (of which in the next section,) any distinctly-marked deficiency, in respect of any one of the three elements of appropriate aptitude, be to be found: appropriate aptitude, as divided into its never-to-be-forgotten three branches, viz. appropriate probity, appropriate intellectual aptitude, and appropriate active talent.
“Aptitude? elements?” cries a voice from Bond Street, “d—you and your three elements! No, no: property! property! that’s our sort! that’s the only element we know of—worth all your’s, and a hundred such put together.
“Oh no, d—e!” cries another from a four-in-hand, interrupting himself while in the establishment of a raw—“Oh no: you’ve forgot one—and that’s blood, d—e: look there, (pointing to the horse’s shoulder) look there,—there you have it, d—e. To be sure, to sit comfortably, a man should have both,—no doubt of that; but where one fails, t’other must serve instead of it. After all, blood’s our surest card: vingt-un runs off with property now and then—blood it can’t run off with: that sticks by us. Come, if you must have three elements, here’s an amendment for you,—Blood, Property, Connexion: these are our three elements—blood and property in ourselves; connexion in the good fellow we put in to think and speak for us. There now, you old fellow! off with your three elements—off with them to Utopia: ’twas there you got em from, d—e!”
Well, good gentlemen, look over the list I am speaking about:—look it well over—look at the seats—look at the sitting-parts they have been filled by—look at them well—and as little will you find any deficiency in the stock of your own legitimate elements—man and horse elements together—as of my swinish ones.
Look to the most populous of all populous boroughs! look to Westminster! Number of electors, even many years back, not fewer than 17,000: swine not all of them indeed—the Dean and Chapter being of the number—not to speak of Right Honourables and Honourables;—swine’s flesh, however, predominant—abundantly predominant: swinish the character, of the vast majority of that vast multitude.
Well then, look to Westminster—look first to time present—see now what you have there. See you not Lord Cochrane? What do you see there? See you not blood and property in one?—blood from ancestors—property from the source most prized—the source from whence all your oldest property sprung—enemies’ blood, with plunder for the fruit of it?—See you not Sir Francis Burdett?—have not you there blood enough and property enough? Look now a little back:—before you had either Cochrane or Burdett, had not you Charles Fox? had you him not as long as the country had him?
Even within this twelvemonth, when a vacancy was apprehended, what sort of man was it that was looked to for the filling of it? Was it a man of and from the people? Was it the Cobbett, with his penmanship, his 60,000 purchasers, and his ten times 60,000 readers? Was it the Henry Hunt, with his oratory? Was it not Cartwright, of the Cartwrights of Northamptonshire?—was it not Brougham, of Brougham?—and howsoever by these men the plea of Ulysses might be put in—“Neve mihi noceat quod vobis semper Achivi profuit ingenium,”* not the less were there the genus et proavi;† —and whether sitting for Westminster, or looked to for Westminster, the case of a man who had neither the blood element nor the property element, remains still without example.
Look at Bristol, the next most populous city. When a man was looked for, who should, if possible, stem the tide of corruption—that tide which so naturally flows so strong in maritime and commercial cities—who is it that was looked for? Was it the Spa Fields orator?—did he not try and fail there? Was it not Sir Samuel Romilly?—and though (from an irregularity, for which, by some country gentleman or other, whose aptitude was in his acres,—a Mr. Eyre, or a Mr. Frankland, which was it?—he was so consistently called to order,) the blood he had came from the wrong side of the channel, and with a something in it too nearly allied to puritanism to be relished by legitimacy,)—yet (not to speak of the swinish elements, which are of no value but in Utopia)—blood, such as it was, there was in him—blood?—yes; and property too,—though, whether then as now savouring of the realty, let others, who know, say,—to sanction it.
Look to the most populous among boroughs: look to Liverpool. When the same pestilential tide was hoped to be stemmed at Liverpool, who is it that great commercial port and borough called in to stem it? Was it the Cobbett?—was it the Spa Fields Orator? Here too, was it not Brougham, of Brougham?
Propensity to look wide of the true mark—to look to and to accept, in lieu of the only true and direct elements of appropriate aptitude, those supposed circumstantially but deceptiously evidentiary ones—blood—property—add if you please, connexion—this is not peculiar to English, it is common to human nature: yes, to human nature; and till that nature be transformed, never will the propensity—be it useful, be it mischievous—be rooted out of it.
Look to ancient, look to republican Rome. To protect them against the aristocracy, the people obtained a representative—a single representative—a representative whose style and title was, Tribune of the people: in the breast of this one individual was contained their Commons House. Well—this man—who to them was a host, and their only host—from what men, from what caste of men did they take him? From among themselves? Not they indeed. From whence then? Even from their oppressors—their very oppressors themselves—from the Patricians. Such (it has been observed by somebody, was it not Montesquieu?) such was their choice, for hundreds of years together.
Well;—in thus advocating virtually-universal suffrage—and as to absolutely-universal suffrage, though, preferably to the other, I do not, nor ever should advocate it—I should nevertheless, as Earl Grey did once, “prefer it to the present system;”—in thus advocating virtually, or though it were absolutely, universal suffrage,—what is given as above, is it all mere theory?—is it not practice to boot?—practice, or somewhat not very easily distinguishable from it?—is it not experience?
“Oh but,” says somebody, “this which you call practice—this, in support of which you are calling in experience—this is not any universal-suffrage plan—this is not even your own virtually universal-suffrage plan: this is but the householder plan.
Yes, to be sure, in name it is but the householder plan; though where a pot constitutes a house, how much narrower soever the ground of the right is, the right itself must be admitted to be a little more extensive. But, be that as it may, if so it be that what you insist on is, that, in the field of political arrangement, nothing should ever be tried, but what in the self-same shape has been tried already, then so it is that, on this part of the question, my pen is stopped. But, upon this principle, here or anywhere—at this time or at any other time—well or ill—can or could government ever be carried on?
On your side, for the future (not to speak of the past)—for the future, will you take it up, and steadily, and to the last, adhere to it? Vast as it is, and poisonous as it is vast, will you so much as pledge yourselves to be content with your existing stock of panaceas?—with your universal-personal-security-destroying acts?—with your universal gagging acts?—with your liberty-of-the-press-destroying statutes, and judge-made ex-post-facto laws?—with your universal-popular-communication-destroying acts?—with your acts for stopping up the ears of soldiers, and for engaging them, in the character of informers, to imbrue their hands in the blood of their brothers, their sisters, their fathers, and their mothers?—with your petition-rejecting and hope-extinguishing decisions and orders and resolutions?—with your resolves for rejecting petitions unheard, because, in aid of the pen, the press had been employed in giving the circulation to the matter of them?—with your sham precedents, brought forward for a colour to such liberticide resolves?
Well: if you shrink at this, remains still a possibility of your forbearing to insist here upon individual identity—of your listening to identity in principle and specie.
But if identity of principle will satisfy you, how, so long as you admit the householder plan, how can you be at a loss for principle in support of virtually-universal suffrage? Take in hand the fellowship of householders: take in hand the fellowship of universal-suffrage men: apply to each of the two fellowships the two tests of appropriate aptitude—the tests of appropriate aptitude, in those two of its three branches which apply to the case in question—the case of electors. Apply to them the appropriate-probity test: say, have you a sufficiency of it in your householders? Well then, on what grounds can you look for any want of such sufficiency in my universal-suffrage men?—of universal-suffrage men, although, instead of being, as here proposed, virtual, the universality were absolute. Your householders—is it their interest to possess, to retain, and upon occasion acquire property?—to acquire it (which to do would not, unless they could retain it, be of any great use to them.) Well then—among my universal-suffrage men, how many will you find, who would fail in any respect of being partakers in that same interest? Apply to them next the appropriate intellectual aptitude test: your householders—the interest which they possess in regard to property—the interest they have in possessing, acquiring, and retaining of it—that source, that sole and indispensable source of subsistence, and continuation of existence,—are they in a sufficient degree sensible of its existence? Then in what less degree, think you, would my universal-suffrage men be sensible to a matter of fact, to which (infants in arms and persons insane excepted,) no human being sensible to anything ever failed of being sensible?
In your eyes, and with reference to your habits and your means, the all of the sort of men to which the great majority of them belong is as nothing. Think you, that therefore, in their eyes, it is no more? The all of A, how much less is it in the eye of A, than the all of B in the eye of B? When you have solved this problem,—then, and not before, say that universal confusion and universal destruction of property would be the results of universal suffrage.
For its success, true it is, that this reasoning supposes, with reference to the formation of a judgment on the subject of it, the existence of a competent qualification in the shape of appropriate intellectual aptitude. Unfortunately, just at this moment—such of you as are honest—you have no such aptitude. Spectres have stalked in, and planted terror and confusion in your minds. Cobbett, in the character of Apollyon, the Destroyer,—Cobbett, with a universal-levelling machine in his hand,—Cobbett, with the Spa-Fields Orator at his heels:—these are your bugbears. From the contemplation of these hobgoblins comes the spirit of wisdom with which you are inspired.
Well then, take them up—to give your theory its finish, take them up, and plant them in the House of Commons. Chosen by the swinish multitude, behold them seated on the Treasury Bench:—in that situation in which anything may be done, there is nothing they would not be ready to do, so long as in any shape they saw anything they could get by it. Yes: of course they would. Yes: but, according to this theory of yours, they are to level all property, and, of course, by levelling it, destroy it. Now, by so doing, what is it they could get, either of them? Some property they have, each of them: that one of them that has least, some number of times the amount of the utmost that could be expected to be put into his pocket by the operation of the universal-levelling machine.
“Oh, but these men, even these, are not the worst. The worst, to be sure, they are that we as yet know of. But what you perhaps don’t see, and we do see is—the mob which is still behind them. This mob, which would begin with pushing them on, do you think it would end there? Oh no. No sooner were they seated, than after them it would be continually pouring in others that would be worse and worse. For, with the exception of us and ours, this is the way with all men. Their object—their constant object is—to do, in every imaginable shape, as much mischief as they can continually contrive to do:—such is their end; and for their means and their instruments, how can they do otherwise than take up and employ, and be perpetually upon the look-out for, the most mischievous agents that are to be found. Such being their constant study and endeavour—the constant study and endeavour of this mob of yours—this mob, that you and all that think with you want to set upon us and destroy us—what will be the consequence? The men they will be finding out and pouring into the House will be—each of them worse than every other—men, the least mischievous of whom will be mischievous enough to out-Hunt Hunt, and to out-Cobbett Cobbett.”
The universal-suffrage plan being considered in the character of a cause,—for the effect on the monarchico-aristocratical theory, behold, in the above scheme of universal mischief and its consequence, universal destruction given—given, not merely as a probable effect, but as one that, in a practical sense, ought to be regarded as certain. And, for the accomplishment—not to speak of the commencement—of this same scheme, what are the sort of beings that are to have existence? Human beings? Oh no: so far from it, a set of creatures, such as no man ever saw: a set of beings, in respect of the features essentially requisite for so much as the commencement of any such scheme, as opposite to all known human beings as can be conceived. Without one of the motives that are known of, and against the bent of all the motives that are known of—such is to be their course of action. Of no such motive as social interest are they to have any the smallest spark. As little are they to have of that sort of motive, self-regarding interest, on which the human species is in a more especial and necessary manner dependent for its existence. On this career of theirs are they to set out, bent upon destruction—upon destruction of all property,—and with it, or before it, of all that derive support from it, ending or beginning with themselves.
In the words wild and wildness seems to be condensed the substance of all the talk—(to call it reason or argument would be misrepresentation,)—say then the talk—by which universal suffrage has been opposed. Wildness? Oh yes; and but too much of it. But in what place is it that it will be found?—in the universal-suffrage plan, with the practice and experience on which it is grounded, or in the theory with which, against all practice and experience, it has been opposed?
True it is—but too true—as matters stand at present, they have not, all of them, means so sufficient as could be wished, to inform and qualify themselves: they have not—so much as the majority of them—any such sufficient means to inform and qualify themselves: they have not—the majority of them—means so sufficient as could be wished to inform themselves aright as to what good government is, or what the value of it: they have not—the majority of them—sufficient means of access to the documents on which the acquisition of this necessary knowledge depends: they have not any such sufficient means in any regular way to read the newspapers: they have not—many of them—nay, even the majority of them—they have not as yet so much as the requisite skill in the elementary art of reading.
True. But these their deficiences—whatsoever they may be—is it in these deficiencies that we are to look for the consideration—the sole, the chiefly prevalent consideration, or so much as any part of the consideration,—by which your anxiety, and your determination, to exclude them from the right of suffrage is produced? Alas! alas! no.—These deficiencies—there is not any one of them, that it would not be little less difficult to you actually to supply, than to will or wish to do so: there is not any one of them, which they could not supply without any assistance of yours; which they would not supply to themselves, of themselves, if left to themselves; which they could not to themselves supply,—if, instead of aiding them in, your wishes and endeavours were not employed in the preventing them from, the receiving of such supplies. Of these same supplies, there is not one of them that, in the American States, is not actually and abundantly received. Received? Yes: and of the supply thus received, what is the fruit? What? is it anarchy? No; but instead of it, the best government that is or ever has been:—that, with which yours forms so strong, not to say so complete, a contrast.
Look on this occasion—if by any means you can endure to look that way—look once more to the American United States. Behold there democracy—behold there pure representative democracy. In the shape in question, any more than in any other shape, what mischief do you see there? In the American United States is there no property? Has it ever been destroyed since the establishment of independence?—has it ever been destroyed there, as it was here, in 1780, by your anti-popery mob; and—(not to speak of Luddites, and so many other non-religious)—in 1793, by your Church of England anti-sectarian mobs, with orthodox and loyal justices of the peace (see Hutton’s Life) to encourage them? In any one of these commonwealths has any, so much as the slightest, shock been ever given to it? All this while, since that auspicious day—these supposed destroyers of all property and all government—the great body of the people, has there ever been anywhere that day, in which they have not had full swing?—has there ever been that day, on which, for the keeping of them quiet, any one of your panaceas has been applied;—applied, or so much as thought of?—yet has there at any time been that day, in which the door of that immense country has not stood wide open to the scum of the earth, as you would call it? and amongst others, to your own wild Irish—to those wild Irish, who by your misrule, and by the fear of your torture-mongers, have been driven into banishment?
“Oh, but,” says somebody, “what they have in America is—not the universal-suffrage plan: it is more like the householder plan: only still less popular:—it is actually the property plan.”
True: in individuality, as above, it is not the universal-suffrage plan; but, in principle, look once more, and say once more—where and in what, if in anything, consists the difference? The property—the income there acquired from landed property—there, even as here—consider, even where largest, how small it is, compared with the least amount of what is necessary for, and actually expended on, the means of sustenance.
Well but—will you then give us the householder plan?—will you give us the American plan? With either of those plans, we for our parts—I, for one—I, for my part at least, should be contented. Oh no: for opposition, indeed—for refusal—this or anything may serve: but for agreement—for consent—that’s quite a different affair:—no: in the way of concession, nothing.
After all, what need can there be for looking to any such distance? Intellectual aptitude? sufficiency of appropriate intellectual aptitude?—is that the question? Look at home. Once more look at home. Turn your eyes to Westminster. By the hand of virtue, in that great metropolis of reform, behold democracy—already for these ten years past—though with the mass of corruption, as it were a mill-stone, still overhanging and threatening, yet still seated on her throne:—Westminster, a field of contention, on which, till that auspicious moment, monarchy and aristocracy—the everlastingly leagued, yet everlastingly bickering, adversaries of good government—had, from the commencement of the dynasty, been tearing one another and the country to pieces:—impoverishing one another; poisoning the morals of the people. Instead of this system of abuse, behold freedom of election—perfect and unexampled freedom:—yes, freedom: and with it sobriety, temperance, tranquillity, security. And this under what system of representation? Even under the householder plan—the same which Mr. Grey proposed—which Earl Grey is so much afraid of:—the householder plan—the almost equivalent of virtually-universal suffrage.*
No exaggeration here: nothing but simple truth. In proof, take, in the most compressed state possible, the following facts:—within a certain circle—were that a very small one—all of them notorious—all of them everywhere uncontrovertible.† The Americans—they impose no tax upon the means of political information; you impose an almost prohibitory one. Why impose so enormous an one? Is it for the sake of the money? In some degree of course, yes: for where money is to be had, in what place and at what price is it not raked for? It is raked for in the courts that should be courts of justice, to the destruction of justice: it is raked for in the stores of medicine, to the destruction of health and life. Yes, surely, in some degree for the money, but in a still greater degree for the sake of the darkness: the same transparent cunning which, in the teeth of all argument, and without the shadow of a pretence, has so recently, yet repeatedly engaged you to deprive them of the use of the press for giving expression to their desires, engages you, in relation to all these affairs, which while they are yours, are at the same time so much their own, to keep them in the state of the profoundest ignorance possible, that in the existence of that ignorance you may have a plea for the perpetuation of it.
“Oh, but the information they get, it is, all of it, from Cobbett:—misinformation, all of it:—mischievous information:—a great deal worse than none.”
Well, be it so: what of that? The information you could give—yes, and would give too, if you gave any—that is good information, is it not? Well then: what is it that hinders you from giving it? Have you not money enough?—enough at any rate for such a purpose? Know you not of writers enough, who—all of them, as touching righteousness and piety, inferior to nobody but yourselves—would—though none of them, any more than yourselves, for the sake of the money, have any objection to the taking of it? Have you not your champions, with and without names, and with names worse than none?—names with which paper such as this ought not to be defiled? The same hands which circulate your substitutes to the Bible, would they not serve, yea, and suffice, to circulate whatsoever writings it might seem good to you to circulate, for the purpose of serving as antidotes, and by Divine blessing as substitutes, to all such others, by the influence of which good government might, in the fulness of time, be substituted to misrule?
“Oh, but to contend with jacobins and atheists!—with jacobins who would substitute the Habeas Corpus act to the abolition of it—atheists, who would substitute the Bible to creeds and catechisms!—to think of contending with such wretches on anything like equal terms!—to think of arguing with miscreants, for whom annihilation would be too mild a destiny!”
Aye—there’s the rub! Ever under a monarchy—whether pure and absolute, or mixed and corrupt—ever under a monarchy—everywhere but in that seat of licentiousness, a representative democracy,—does excess in force employ itself in the filling up of all deficiencies, in the articles of reason and argument: and, the more palpable the deficiency, the more excessive, the more grinding, the more prostrative, the more irresistible the force.
So much for us of the swinish multitude: so much for us and our ignorance. But you—honourables and right honourables—how is it with you?
You tolerate publication of debates. But is it for the sake of general information and the diffusion of it? Oh no: it is for individual vanity, and the gratification of it. He who is at the head of you—the ablest head you ever had—after he had fired off his speech against corruption—his furious speech, with the double-headed shot in it from top to bottom—his speech, in which all that is least mischievous in corrupt influence is fired upon with red hot shot, while all that is most mischievous in it is spared,—did he not send it himself to Cobbett,—to the Cobbett whom you would all crush?
What they are in want of is not so much the time as the liberty to inform themselves. What you are in want of—you who have time as much as you choose to have—you who, so many of you, have time, so much more of it than you know what to do with—what you want, what you want, is inclination—the inclination to inform yourselves.
Thus deficiency—the evil of it, be it what it may, is a removable one: from you it came, by you it is kept up: at your pleasure it lies to remove it. Leave them but the liberty: by their knowledge will your ignorance be put to shame.
Your deficiency—the evil of your deficiency—is that evil a removable one? Yes: establish reform, and that a radical one, you will then—and I will presently show you how—have removed it. But upon any other terms, it is absolutely without remedy. It is fixed to your freehold: it sticks to property: to your only element of aptitude: the only element you either possess or acknowledge. From property—from that plethory of the good things of this world in all their shapes, under which the man who is gorged with property is condemned to suffer—from that surfeit comes love of ease: love of ease—that appetite which, existing in excess—in that degree of excess, in which in your situation it does so generally and so necessarily exist—is indolence. But be the field of action what it may, indolence and information are exclusive of each other. Labour of the body—labour of the mind—in his spare time will the man, who being used to labour, loves labour—in his spare time—be it ever so small—will he do more, than will the man, who, being unused to labour, hates labour, do in his whole time.
Opulence, indolence, intellectual weakness, cowardice, tyranny: Oh yes, these five are naturally in one. From opulence proceeds indolence—from indolence, intellectual weakness—from intellectual weakness, cowardice—from cowardice, tyranny. A phantom of danger presents itself: could he but fix his attention upon it, and look steadily at it, the phantom would vanish; but, being unexercised, his mind is weak: he has no such command over it. The phantom haunts him: it continues terrifying him: it plants an ague in his mind:—in his delirium he catches at every straw that presents to his eyes the image of a chance for stopping his fall into the gulf which he sees yawning for him: his bowels, if amidst his entrails he ever had any, wither: to his sick mind, no feelings but his own present any tokens of existence:—no barbarity—no wickedness—so it but afford the glimmering of an addition to the stock of accumulated securities with which he has overlaid himself, comes amiss to him. Frantic at the thoughts of the danger to himself, with or without thinking of any exterior objects, he gives his fiat to the cluster of tyrannies by which the security of the whole people—his own along with it—is destroyed. Trembling with terror and terror-sprung rage, he lends his hand to the opening of the Pandora’s box, and pours forth the contents of it upon the heads of the whole people. And thus it is, and by this course—and even without the aid of sinister interest in any other shape—thus it is that, by the very fear—the groundless fear—of its destruction, security may be destroyed. May be? Yes: and, by that, and sinister interest in all its shapes together, if it be not already, is, while this pen is moving, on the very point of being destroyed.
Yes!—you pillage them: you oppress them: you leave them nothing that you can help leaving them: you grant them nothing, not even the semblance of sympathy: you scorn them: you insult them: for the transgression of scores, or dozens, or units, you punish them by millions; you trample on them, you defame them, you libel them: having, by all you can do or say, wound up to its highest pitch of tension the springs of provocation and irritation, you make out of that imputed, and where in any degree real, always exaggerated irritation, a ground, and the only ground you can make, for the assumption, that, supposing them treated with kindness—all their grievances redressed—relief substituted to oppression, they would find, in the very relief so experienced, an incitement—an incitement to insurrection, to outrage, to anarchy, to the destruction of the supposed new and never-yet-experienced blessing, together with every other which they ever possessed or fancied.
Levelling!—destruction of all property! Whence is it they are to learn it?—what is there they can get by it?—who is there that ever taught it them?—whose interest is it—whose ever can it be—to teach it them? How many of them are there, who would, each of them, be so eager to lose his all? The all of a peasant—to the proprietor how much less is it, than the all of a prince—the all of him whose means of livelihood are in his labour, than the all of him whose means of livelihood are in his land? Who again is it, that, in your notion at least, they are at this moment so abundantly looking to for instruction? Is it not Cobbett? With all his eccentricities, his variations, and his inconsistencies, did he ever attempt to teach them any such lesson as that of equal division of property—in other words, annihilation of it? In the whole mass of the now existing and suffering multitude, think ye that one in a score, or in a hundred, not to say a thousand, could be found, so stupid, so foolish, as either of himself or from others, to fancy that, if without other means of living, he had his equal share in the whole of the land to-day, he would not, twenty to one, be starved upon it before the month were out? Oh! if the men, in whom—truly or erroneously—they behold their friends, were not better instructors as well as better friends to them than you are, or than it is in your nature to be, long ere this would the imputation you are thus so eager to cast on them, have been as substantially grounded as it now is frivolous.
No, no:—it is not anarchy ye are afraid of: what ye are afraid of is good government. More and more uncontrovertibly shall this fear be proved upon you;—proved upon you, from the sequel of these pages, even to the very end.
FREEDOM OF SUFFRAGE FURTHER EXPLAINED—SEDUCTIVE INFLUENCE—ITS FORMS, INSTRUMENTS, &C.
Sub-topics proposed to be brought to view under this head. Opposite of freedom of suffrage, spuriousness:—efficient cause, by which—motives, by which—influential persons, by whom—modes, in which—situations, in and by which—instruments, by or with which—it is produced;—in respect of mischievousness, differences as between instrument and instrument;—seat-traffic as between proprietor and purchaser, how far mischievous;—penal laws for prevention of spuriousness, how far useful.
For the more effectual explanation of these several particulars,—distinctions, and points of agreement, not all of them (it is believed) as yet sufficiently noticed,—and for giving expression to these distinctions, here and there a word or phrase not as yet in general use,—must unavoidably be brought to view.
I. Efficient cause.—As in the case of election at large, so in the case of parliamentary election in particular,—the efficient cause, by the operation of which freedom of suffrage is or may be excluded—spuriousness to that same extent substituted,—may, with reference to the person operated upon, be termed, seductive influence:—it being understood that the sort of influence here in question is—according to a distinction already noted, the influence—not of understanding on understanding, but of will on will.
II. Motives.—As to the sort of motive, through which seductive influence operates, it may be either of the nature of hope, or of the nature of fear:—in the first case, it may be termed pleasurably-operating; or, in one word, pleasurable or alluring:—in the other, painfully-operating, painful, terrific; or, in so far as it operates with effect, coercive.
In general, when seduction is the word employed, the pleasurable is the sort most apt to be brought to view by it: but, of the two, as everybody feels, the painful—the terrific—is, in its general nature, the sort by much the more powerful in its operation; and, in the particular case here in question, it is by that that by far the greatest part of the mischief (it will be seen) is produced.*
III. Modes.—By seductive influence,—in whichsoever of the above two shapes it operates,—freedom of election may be excluded—spuriousness of suffrage in that same proportion produced and introduced:—introduced, viz. in either of two modes; the one direct, the other indirect:—direct, in so far as the situation of the persons to whom the force applies itself in the first instance is that of the electors themselves; indirect, in so far as the situation thus applied to is that of persons at large, considered in the capacity of candidates:—candidates actual or proposable.
Proprietor, proprietory seat, proprietorship; sole proprietor, co-proprietor; land-holding proprietor, office-bearing proprietor.* —Terrorist, terrorism; vote-compelling† terrorist; competition-repelling, competition-quelling or subduing, competition-excluding terrorist; land-bestriding, purse-brandishing terrorist:—Bribe-offering, bribe-giving, seducer or seductionist, corruptor or corruptionist;—bribe, in the pecuniary or money shape; bribe, in the quasi-pecuniary shape; ordinary bribe, bribe-royal:‡ —reference being had to the operative motive, viz. fear or hope, and to the situation operated upon. Of the objects meant to be respectively presented to view by these terms—of these objects, together with their mental relations—a general conception will, it is believed, present itself at the first mention; and, by the occasions on which they will come to be employed, whatsoever may be wanting to clearness or correctness will presently, it is hoped, be supplied.
IV. Instruments.—Free suffrage, proprietorship, terrorism, bribery:—behold in these the instruments by one or other of which every vote given by an elector is produced: by which, taken all together, the 658 seats in the House, taken altogether, are filled.
As to the votes,—the number of those which, on the occasion of each election, are really free, is the residuum of the number of those which, by any one or other of the above three instruments or modifications of the efficient cause of spuriousness, have been rendered spurious. Small, indeed, will probably appear to be the proportion of those in the filling of which free suffrage performs commonly the greater part; scarce one, perhaps, in which it constantly performs the whole.
As to free suffrage, of this instrument the nature is sufficiently explained, by its being said to be the result of the absence or non-operation of the several other instruments.
In regard to votes and the seats filled by them, the proprietor is already in possession of that which, antecedently to success, the terrorist and the corruptionist does but aim at. Proprietorship has for its effect the effect of terrorism or corruption consummated and perpetuated: freedom of suffrage excluded in perpetuity.
In relation to any seat or pair of seats, suppose amongst co-proprietors a disagreement as to the choice. In this case, a competition may have place: and room is made for employment to be given to the two remaining instruments, either or both of them, viz. terrorism and bribery.
So much as to the instruments themselves: now as to the field, and the different parts of the field, in which they respectively operate.
As to proprietorship, the field of its operation is composed of and confined to the proprietory seats: that being said, all is said.
As to terrorism, the county seats present themselves as constituting that part of the field, in which its operation is at the same time most conspicuous and most extensive: subjects of the oppression exercised by it, in the direct mode, electors alone; in the indirect mode as above, candidates, actual and proposable:—Candidates,—and through them electors again, viz. by the exclusion put upon the countless multitude of those persons, the worthiest of whom might otherwise have been taken for the objects of their choice. The shape in which, in this case, it operates in preference, is that of the land-bestriding terrorism. In this shape, and this alone, it operates, where there is no competition: electors being driven to the polling booth by the vote-compelling influence of the oppressive instrument—rival candidates driven from it by its competition-excluding influence. Comes a competition,—then it is that, in aid of land-bestriding terrorism, bribery and purse-brandishing terrorism are called in: the self-same money, while operating on electors in the shape of bribery, operates upon rival candidates in the shape of terrorism.
Thus stands the matter, in the case where the vote-compelling power of the instrument is, or is deemed to be, strong enough to operate upon the situation of candidate with such a degree of efficiency, as gives it the character, not merely of a competition-repelling, but of a competition-excluding instrument. By the opposite case, a demand is presented for a supplemental one in the bribery shape: in this case, while it is in the alluring shape that the influence operates on the situation of elector, it is in the terrific shape that it operates on the situation of candidate. In truth, it is only by the prospect of the quantity of force likely to be exerted by the instrument in its alluring shape upon the situation of elector in the event of a competition, that it can operate upon the situation of candidate with any such force as that which is indicated by the appellation of competition-excluding terrorism.
In the case of these county seats, if we look for the persons on whom, in the character of electors, it is in the shape of terrorism that the seductive influence operates, we shall find them—in the first place, tenants; in the next place, tradesmen, shop-keepers, artificers, and other persons of all sorts, in whose instance, by hope of custom for goods or labour, or by hope from any other source, or by a motive of a more irresistible nature from the same sources, viz. fear of loss—(fear, having for its object loss of any such profit or benefit, as in those or any other shapes had already been in use to be derived from the rich man’s expenditure—not to speak of any interest which he may have, or be supposed to have, with the superior givers of good gifts,)—consider themselves as more or less dependent on his good will, and those good offices, which may be among the expected fruits of it.
In this case, the instrument of force by which the voter is compelled and the vote extorted, is, on the part of the dependent elector, the fear of giving offence to, and thereby losing the good offices, and perhaps suffering under the ill offices, of the terror-inspiring candidate. In so far as—consideration had of the amount of the apprehended loss, and of the elector’s ability, in respect of his pecuniary circumstances, to preserve himself from it—the force is sufficient to engage the elector to take upon himself the expense of journeys to and from, and demurrage at, the election town,—in so far, terror—as being a force which in this case costs nothing to the person by whom it is applied—is the seductive force called into action: in so far as, in respect of its quantity, the force which in this shape is at the disposal of the candidate, is regarded by him as not sufficient,—seductive influence in the opposite shape, viz. bribery—seductive influence in this acceptable and alluring shape—is called in and employed, in aid of that which operates in the terrific shape:—indemnification, viz. against the expense of journeys and demurrage, is the cloak in which in this case the bribery is enveloped.
Thus much as to the situation of elector. Look upwards—look to the situation of candidate, and the instrument which you have just been seeing operate upon electors, in the shape of an instrument of alluring seductive influence—viz. the money spent in bribery—this same instrument you may now see in the shape of an instrument of terror, operating—and this, too, of itself, and without need of any hand to work it—operating upon the situation of candidate: operating, according to the degree of its efficiency, with the effect of a competition-encounter-repelling, a competition-quelling, or a competition-excluding instrument.
In the election town itself,—and within that circle, within which, by reason of vicinity to the town, all demand for expense of journey and demurrage, and consequently all cause and pretence for indemnification on that score, stands excluded,—the terrorism, in the above, viz. the purse-brandishing shape, finds not any place in which it can operate: and, as to rival candidates, actual and proposable,—the greater the distances between this central spot and the abodes of the respective voters thus purchasable, the more strongly coercive will be the force of the rival and terror-inspiring purse.*
Of terrorism, considered in respect of both the situations on which, and thence in respect of both the modes and directions in which it operates,—but more particularly in respect of the competition-excluding mode, the effect seems as yet, in comparison of its mischievousness, to have attracted but little notice.* In brief, so far as regards the competition-excluding mode, it may be thus expressed:—the reducing the quantity of appropriate official aptitude in the Honourable House, from that maximum to which a regard for the welfare of the community would seek to raise it, to that slender (alas, how slender!) scantling, which experience has brought to view:—a proprietorship in land, or a mass of property sufficient to operate with effect either in the way of terrorism, or in the way of bribery;—in the latter case, a surplus of ready money, to the amount of from £4000 to £5000 over and above what is necessary for habitual expenditure, and ready to be employed in the purchase of power in this shape;—an appropriate connexion with some person, who is himself in possession of an appropriate qualification, in one or other of those shapes:—in these behold the conditions, one or other of which is indispensably necessary, and at the same time altogether sufficient, to the purpose of a man’s being chosen to fill this most important of all offices. So as the purse be but full enough, no matter how empty the head.
Note well the persons, to whom, in this instance, the exclusionary force is in an immediate way applied: note well, that they are not the electors themselves, but persons at large, considered in the character of proposable candidates: note well the hand by which that same force is applied: note well, that it is not the hand of any individual human being, but the hand of the invisible nature of things—the offspring of the election system taken in its whole compages. Now then, all these circumstances considered, pregnant as is this state of things with a mass of mischief so immense, but at the same time so incalculable and inscrutable, great need not be the wonder at its having in so great a degree escaped notice.
The case of the county seats being thus explained, no further details can (it is supposed) be necessary for conveying a correspondent conception of the case of the borough seats. In so far as, by terrorism applied to the electors, the effect can be produced,—in this shape of course, as being free of expense to the seductionist—in this shape it is that the seductive influence is applied. At the same time,—in so far as the number of those, to whom in this unexpensive shape seduction can be applied with effect, being regarded as insufficient to carry the election, the assistance of bribery is regarded as necessary,—bribery is the shape in which it is accordingly applied: and here too, in so far as bribery is the force applied to the situation of elector,—purse-brandishing and competition-excluding terror is the instrument which, as above, applies itself to the situation of rival candidate, actual and proposable.
BRIBERY AND TERRORISM COMPARED.
Bribery and terrorism,—mischiefs compared. In both instances, what is it that forms the character of the case? Is it not the spuriousness of the will to which the effect is given? In both cases, is it not that the will, to which the effect is given, is the will—not of the person whose will it appears to be, and in pretence is intended to be, and in reality said to be,—but that of some other person, whose will it does not appear to be, and in pretence is intended not to be, and accordingly is not said to be?
Well: so much for the general nature and character of the effect produced, supposing it produced. Now, as to the degree of probability, as a mathematician would say,—is the degree of certainty, as other men say,—that belongs to this important and mischievous effect.
The quantity of interest at stake—for conception’s sake, be it money or money’s worth, for it comes to the same thing—say the sum at stake: this sum, being in the two cases the same—say, for example, £5;—for one instance in which you would find it producing this effect in the way of bribery, in ten instances perhaps you would find it producing that same effect in the way of terrorism.
Situations in which the effect depends,—two: that of the elector to be operated upon, and that of the proposed representative, by whom or to whose use the other is to be operated upon. Look, in the first place, to the first: for, unless it be with a prospect of accomplishment, an object is not aimed at. Here, if bribery is to be the instrument employed, behold the obstacles—the opposing motives—which the seductionist—the proposed representatives or his supporters—have to overcome: fear of punishment at the hand of the law—fear of reproach from without—and, in so far as conscience may be regarded as concerned in the matter, fear of reproach from within. In this same case, if terrorism is the instrument—and the only sinister instrument in the way to operate—by no one of the above obstacles does the power of the instrument find itself opposed. In the case of bribery, the operation has an external tangible instrument, viz. the money, or money’s worth; and the application of the instrument is rendered determinate by the circumstances of place and time, and by the necessary acts of intercourse betwixt man and man for the purpose. To the case of terrorism belongs not any one of all these exterior and determinate accompaniments:—no such tangible instrument does it admit of: of no such intercourse is there any need in it:—no external and determinate object does it present, to which any such inward sentiment as fear of reproach can attach. In this state of things the two first of the three restraining motives cannot, and the other (generally speaking) will not, operate.
Look now to the situation of the person—the proposed representative—by whom, or to whose use, the effect is to be produced. To the production of it by bribery, special application is on every occasion necessary: special application, and that attended with hazard in various shapes to him by whom, or to whose use, it is made:—hazard of scorn and reproach, instead of acceptance, at the time; in case of engagement, hazard of non-fulfilment; in either case, hazard of disclosure, followed or not followed by prosecution. To the production of the effect by terrorism, no special application is, with any such constancy, necessary: in many instances, it assuredly has place—perhaps in most: but there is no saying to what extent it may be produced, by the mere notoriety of the wishes of the person, in whose power is the source of terror:—by this general indication, with or without the assistance of any of those particular indications, of which, in infinite variety, the case is susceptible.
To the application and operation of the matter of seduction in the shape of bribery, the matter of wealth in the shape of ready money is necessary: and, in proportion as the desired effect is produced,—or rather as the endeavour, successful or unsuccessful, to produce the effect is exerted,—loss equal in amount to the expenditure is sustained. In the case where it is in the shape of terrorism that this same naturally useful, but accidentally misapplied and pernicious, matter operates,—though in this case, as in the other, the quantity of matter capable of operating towards the effect has its limits,—still, without loss in any shape to him by whom the profit is reaped, does it perform its seductive office.
In a word, so far as bribery is the instrument, loss is certain, profit precarious: so far as terrorism is the instrument, loss none; effect, if any, profit without loss.
In the case of bribery, the danger of punishment at the hands of law, together with the less uncertain, though less intense, suffering at the hands of general disrepute,—these together may be seen composing no slight obstacle to the procurement of agents, such as to the requisite disposition shall add the ability, necessary to the production of the effect desired. On the other hand, in the case of terrorism, operating in the way in question—while, as above, what may very well happen is—that no application of any kind whether made on the part of the terrorist himself, or on the part of any person in the character of an agent, shall be necessary,—yet in that same character scarcely will there exist that well-wisher to his cause, in whose instance any aversion to the task of conveying the appropriate intimation will have place.
Thus much as between bribery and terrorism:—now as to the two contrasted cases, in both which the force is supposed to be applied in the shape of terrorism,—in the one case by the power of the law; in the other case without the power of the law. Suppose an act passed—(many a worse law has been passed, is passing, and will be passed)—suppose an act passed, imposing a penalty of £5 on every man, who, being tenant of the Duke, Marquis, or Earl of Mickleland, viz. to his estate at Fearham, in the county therein mentioned,—and having moreover a right of voting at all elections in and for the said county,—shall, at any election of a knight to serve in parliament in and for the said county,—refuse or omit to give such his vote in favour of any such person whom for that purpose it shall please such his grace, or such his lordship, to nominate. Suppose for this purpose a bill moved for:—here would be an occasion for Whig eloquence!—here would be fretting, and fuming, and vociferation! Even now, supposing any such bill moved for—(not that—considering the more convenient shape in which the same effect is produced for the benefit of both parties—not that in either there exists any the smallest interest exciting any one to move it)—highly questionably it might be,—nay, even now, while everything that is most atrocious, and most fatally destructive of what little remains good in the constitution is passing every day—questionable it might be, whether a bill to any such effect would make its way through the two Houses.
Well:—but in a law to such an effect, in point of efficiency and thence of mischievousness, would there be anything comparable to what has place in this behalf, in the existing and everlastingly lauded state of things? Sums the same, of the thus legitimated influence of property, would the force be equal to the already “legitimate influence” possessed by that same representative of, and substitute to, probity and intellectual aptitude, in the present state of things? No: a dead letter, or not much stronger, would be the five-pound penalty. By the profit of it, even if levied and received, would be covered but a small part of the expense. Instead of the lordly and angry hand,—by this or that friendly and commissioned hand (such are the powers of appropriate legal arrangements) might the profit be received: by an appropriate microscope, a flaw—such as all proceedings are kept exposed to—might peradventure be discovered; but before this, by the very attempt, as indicated by the purchase of the first piece of parchment by which the proceedings were commenced, might such a storm of odium be raised, as the nerves of his grace, or his lordship—though he had been a Sir James Lowther—would not be able to stand.
So much for the case in which,—neither by him whose endeavour it is to impose it, nor by him whose endeavour it is to avoid it,—the loss is any otherwise to be looked for, than through the ever-wavering and perpetually-delusive hand of the man of law. Contrast it now with the case in which the source from which it is looked for, is a force, which without need of any such treacherous and inadequate instrument may be applied at pleasure. In the former case, odium maximized; vexation and expense certain; execution distant and uncertain:—in this case, execution at pleasure; odium covered up; no vexation, no expense.
In the instance of vote-compelling terrorism, the establishing it by law is, as above, as yet but a supposition. In the instance of competition-excluding terrorism, it has, as everybody knows, now, for above this century past, been matter of fact: (year 1710: Act 9 Anne, c. 4, § i.) £300 landed property—and that too in a particular shape—the minimum: £300 a-year, going as far as a thousand a-year at least, money of the present time. At that time the monied interest being particularly strong among the Whigs, the landed interest among the Tories,—Tories strong in the House of Commons,—so it was, that, on the occasion of the exclusion thus endeavoured to be put upon the genuine elements of appropriate aptitude in favour of the spurious ones, monarchy and aristocracy acted with conjunct force. In both creeds, property is probity, was then a fundamental article. Well:—after all, triumphing over sinister theory, experience forced upon men the conviction, that, with the Birmingham article employed to the exclusion of the genuine one, business could not go on. So completely had the absurdity of the idea been demonstrated,—anno 1784 and thenceforward, that of the two great leaders of the opposite parties, Pitt the second and Charles Fox—each in his day a minister—a situation in which, if any, the demand for appropriate probity should have been at the highest pitch—the one had from the first no more than a minimum—and that to the last drowned in debt: the other, not even that minimum. Well: neither of them having on principle,—one of them not having even by law,—a right so much as to sit in the House, how come they to be there? Answer: Oh—by the usual instruments—House-of-Commons’ craft and lawyer-craft—the difficulty had been removed. Lawyers had been to work, and set up a manufactory of sham qualifications. Lawyers got their fees; disqualified men, their seats;—the work, which should have been performed by sincerity, was bungled out by the more acceptable hand of fraud: and thus, in the Blackstone phrase, everything was as it should be.
Thus much for the comparison between the case of the seductionist whose instrument is bribery, and that of him whose instrument is terror: the situation in both cases being that of an individual. The same representative of the source of the power being in this case, as in the two former, still the same.
Compare now the situation of the individual operating in the character of terrorist, with that of the universal seductionist: the seductionist, by whose hand, though by no means unpractised in the use of terror, the instrument of seduction most extensively and conspicuously employed is—the instrument mostly known by the name of bribery, or corruption:—the instrument of alluring influence.
By both seductionists—the individual terrorist and the universal seductionist—in whichsoever of his two shapes the latter may, on the occasion in question, be found operating—the same mighty mass of advantage is possessed:—in the one case, as in the other, without personal application—without application so much as by agents—yet, with the sure assistance of agents, and these unpaid—in abundance—may the desired effect be purchased. No expense—not so much as of thought: no exposure to rebuff and scorn:—no exposure to that sort of disappointment which, in case of engagement, is produced by the breach of it on the other side:—no exposure to legal punishment—to public reproach—nor so much as to reproach of conscience:—all these so many millstones hanging over the head of the venal, and, comparatively at least, innoxious sinner, whose sin has taken upon itself the nature of bribery.
But in all these cases, the less efficient the restraint, in these and all other imaginable shapes, opposed to the pernicious effect,—the greater, in each instance, the probability of its taking place: the greater, in each instance, the probability of its taking place, the greater the extent to which upon the whole it will take place, and thence upon the whole the greater the mischievousness of it: in each instance, in which it is efficient,—the result being, in both cases, of one and the same nature, viz. the giving effect to the will of some other man, instead of that of the voter, by whom the vote is given as the expression of his own free will,—the comparative aggregate mischievousness of the two practices is great in proportion to the extent in which they respectively have place.
Yes: compared with the system of terrorism, the system of bribery is virtue. Under the system of bribery, both parties are pleased: the giver of the bribe gets what he most desires; the receiver of it what he most desires: both parties are gratified; both parties are contented; in both situations you see smiling faces, indexes of contented hearts. Under the system of terrorism, whatsoever feeling of satisfaction can have place, look for it on one side only: and even on that side scarcely can it have place, without having for its alloy the apprehension of odium, and that odium just:—frowns above; gloom below:—sympathy, satisfaction, nowhere.
Turn back now to what is said on the extent of the right of suffrage: note once more the collateral uses attached to the amplitude of that extent: apply these considerations to the present case. In comparison of what has place under terrorism,—urbanity, though under the system of bribery not so much cherished as under the system of freedom, finds a door naturally open to receive it: not so under terrorism. Whence the difference?—The answer has been already given: Of the benefit that may be acquired by the receipt of a bribe a man has no need, equal to what he has of that, of which—he having already the habitual possession or fixed expectation of it,—terrorism threatens him with the loss. Whatsoever be the magnitude of his bribes, yet, suppose him to a certain degree obnoxious, whether it be in public or in private life—and in particular if it be, for instance, the man whose sole trust is in those means of sinister influence, he may, to an extent more or less considerable, experience the mortification of seeing them refused. Repression of insolence is therefore in his situation prescribed by considerations, and urged by motives, which, in the case of the secure terrorist, or the possessor of a proprietory seat, have no place.
Thus it is that—each being considered separately—bribery, if not absolutely, compared with terrorism at least, is a useful practice. Terrorism having place on one side, place bribery on the other,—the lesser evil, if evil it be now to be called, becomes positively useful, by the check it is capable of giving to the greater evil. By the terrors inspired by a full purse brandished on the other side, the vote-compelling terrorist may himself be either driven out of his seat, or so wrought upon as, in respect of it, to bear his faculties more meekly than he would otherwise. Himself incapacitated—by peerage, for example—or disinctined,—the nominee, to whom, under the influence of this check, he has recourse, may (it may thus happen) be a person less unpopular—in any, or every respect, less unapt—than the person who, but for this salutary restraint, would have been the object of his choice.
Of one mischief with which terrorism is pregnant, while bribery is altogether pure from it, no more than a slight hint can in this place be afforded. Producing with so much more disastrous an efficiency the same common disease, viz. spuriousness of suffrage,—the force of terrorism operates at the same time towards the suppression of the only remedy. By the same tyranny, by which the demand for reform is created, the petition system, in which alone it can originate, is endeavoured to be crushed. Desperateness is thus another symptom added to the malignity of the disease: and to this symptom the influence of bribery is happily inapplicable. By mere situation,—no expense in any shape, not so much as in the shape of thought,—does the bare image of the frowning terrorist repel from the paper—repel in countless numbers—the hands by which, if free, it would have been signed: while, strong as is the interest by which, in so many places, the disbursement of the money necessary to the purchase of votes is produced,—on no occasion is any interest strong enough to produce any such disbursement, in the quantity necessary to the purchase of signatures to petitions, to be found.
Interested alike in the preservation and increase of abuse and misrule in all its forms,—monarchy, and the aristocracy that crouches under its feet, operate—with united force operate—as in case of votes—even without exertion—still more powerfully of course if with exertion—towards the keeping the door as closely shut as possible against the only remedy. The situation in this case operated upon is that of the aggrieved subject, who—but for the frown of inexorable tyranny—would have become a petitioner, but who, by the spectacle of the united thunderbolts suspended over his head, finds his hand arrested, and the complaining paper prevented from receiving his signature.
Not satisfied with operating in the quiet and negative form of restraint,—coercion is at this moment busying itself in the positive and more galling form of constraint,—under the guise of declarations of loyalty, circulating or stationing declarations of abhorrence as towards the only remedy:—under the G—s as under the Stuarts, woe be to petitioners!—grace and favour to abhorrers!
PURCHASE OF SEATS—IN WHAT CASES MISCHIEVOUS—IN WHAT BENEFICIAL.
In comparison of purely gratuitous,—nomination for what in law language is called valuable consideration—is it upon the whole a pernicious, a beneficial practice, or a matter of indifference?
Answer: In each instance, which of the three qualities belongs to it will, in this, as in all other cases, depend upon the manner in which the universal interest is affected by it.
In comparison of the person, who but for the sale would have been seated in the way of gratuitous nomination,—the course taken by the possessor by purchase, will it be more beneficial, less beneficial, or neither more nor less beneficial, to the public interest? In this question may be seen the answer to the last preceding one.
For this last question, from no other source can any answer be deduced than from the consideration of the quality and quantity of the effective influence exercised by the individual in question, in all shapes taken together, during his continuance in the seat.
Individuals being unknown, as to the quantity nothing can here be said. Quantity being supposed the same,—as to the quality, which depends on the direction taken by it, thus much, and thus much only, can be said,—viz. that for ascertaining it, in so far as it is capable of being ascertained, the only criterion which the nature of the case affords is,—the consideration of the situation occupied by him with reference to party. Tories, Whigs, People’s men, Neutrals—taking him during the whole of his career together, with which of all the several classes thus denominated, has he acted?
In the course of this inquiry, the persuasion which the author has all along found pressing upon his mind with irresistible force is—that, to the disposition, the Tories or King’s men add already not only the power, but the practice, of driving the country down headlong in the descent that terminates in the gulf of pure despotism:—that—such is the state of interests—the Whigs, whether in or out of office, are driving, and would continue to drive on in that same course; though in both situations with a degree of force and velocity more or less inferior to that which belongs to the nature of their naturally and almost constantly successful rivals:—that, if it be among the decrees of destiny, that in its way to that abyss the country shall at any point be stopped,—it can only be by the energy of the people, headed and led by the few people’s men by whom any place shall have been found in the House, reinforced by such of the Whigs, if any, in whose view, as the prospect of perdition comes nearer and nearer, the shares they respectively possess in the universal interest, may come to present itself as exceeding in value their respective shares in the particular and separate interests possessed by them in virtue of their connexion with the party to which they belong.
In this view of the matter—barring the application of the only remedy as above—the arrival of unmitigated despotism being, sooner or later, a result altogether certain,—the only effect of which, in this respect, the practice in question, or any other, can be productive, is that which respects the predicament of time: the causing it to take place a little sooner or a little later than it would otherwise.
Of the practice of venal, contrasted with that of gratuitous nominations, is the acceleration or the retardation of this catastrophe most likely to be the effect? I answer—the acceleration; and for these reasons:—
It being the property of money and money’s worth, when applied to the accomplishment of any object, to apply to the minds on which that accomplishment depends, a quantity of influencing force, over and above whatsoever would otherwise be acting on those same subjects in that same direction,—the effect of the venality, i. e. of the purchases made by means of it, will in this case be—to give to the party, whichsoever it be, by whom they are made, an accession of strength beyond what it would possess otherwise.
The accession of strength, whatever it be, which may be derivable from this source,—by which of the several denominations is it likely to be devived in the greatest quantity?—Answer: By the Tories:—by that party, headed as they are and supported by C—r-General and their interest and their affections identified with his.
As it is, the number of members belonging to this denomination,—not to speak of persons without doors—corruption-eaters, and corruption-hunters, and blind-custom-led men, and indifferentists taken together,—seems at present to be far greater than that of all the other denominations put together: and, as despotism advances,—and while this sentence is writing, it is advancing in seven-leagued boots,—the number will be receiving continual increase. Proportioned to their number will be the aggregate amount of the quantity of ready money in their hands, applicable to this convenient purpose: and,—quantity of money in hand the same—of him whose prospect of appropriate return is nearest, the biddings will naturally be higher than of him whose prospect is more distant.
Thus much as to the general tendency of the practice. But, from this general tendency, supposing it admitted, does any such proposition follow, as that to the character of a true people’s man it belongs to lay down to himself any such rule as that of abstaining from it? No, surely: but exactly the reverse. The greater the velocity of the disastrous descent, the more strenuous are the exertions by which it should be endeavoured to be retarded.
For my own part, had I some ten or twenty millions of money at my disposal,—I would, though to an opposite purpose, effect the very monopoly, the mischievousness of which, reference being made to the at present established practice, has just been represented as being in the direct ratio of the extent of it. Instead of buying land with the money for my own kindred, I would buy liberty with it for the people. With that money, not only should I buy up all the existing venal borough seats and county seats, as they came to market, but I should raise to the rank of venal ones many others which now are not so. With that money in hand, I could and would open honourable eyes, in sufficient abundance: I would enable them even to see—(oh the astonishing sight!)—that liberty is better than slavery, sincerity than imposture, good government than misrule, the absence of waste and corruption than the presence, dependence on the people than dependence on an essentially insatiable shark with his subsharks—the love and respect of the people, than their merited abhorrence.*
SECRESY OF SUFFRAGE—ITS IMPORTANCE FURTHER DEVELOPED.
In the situation of Election voters,—in the character of a security for freedom of suffrage, and against spuriousness of suffrage, not only the utility but to a great extent the necessity of secresy,—in the character of a security against all seductive influence operating from without, whether in the shape of terrorism or in the shape of bribery (that is, in every shape whatever, gratitude of the purely social kind excepted,) its necessity—in a preceding section (Section V.) and in the Plan itself, all these tutelary properties have been brought to view.
Turn back to Section X.—behold once more the troop of dependents driven to the poll-booth, with stewards in front and rear, to prevent desertion. By the protecting veil of secresy, suppose now the direction given to the voter completely hidden—hidden from all tyrant eyes—say, would any such trouble ever be given to stewards? By terror may a man be driven to the place of election,—true:—but, under the shield of secresy, it is not by terror that, when he is there, the direction given to his vote can be determined.
But, in this same case, secresy, as it excludes terrorism, so does it exclude bribery: for, though by gratitude and sympathy alone what may happen is—that a bribe shall in this case be productive of the desired effect,—yet such is the feebleness of the chance, as to exclude (it should seem) all probability—all practical probability, and thence all adequate expectation—of effecting by this means the desired purpose. Where the engagement is of such a nature, that the act of contracting it is a transgression against the laws of morality and political probity, who is there that can fail to acknowledge that the fulfilling of that same engagement is—not an atonement for that first sin, but a repetition of it? If this doctrine be just and true,—nay, whether it be so or not,—in a case such as that in question, endeavours to instil this antidote into the mind to which, in the way in question, the matter of corruption has been applied, seem little in danger of being either deficient or ineffectual.
Now, suppose universal suffrage established, or suffrage to such an extent as not to exclude paupers. Let but the direction given to the vote be completely unknown to all but him who gives it,—a pauper—having no prospect of gain in the event of his giving it in favour of the less fit candidate—nor of loss in the event of his giving it in favour of the more fit candidate,—would, if the delivery of his vote seemed to him worth the trouble—would naturally, if in his own conception unable to form a judgment of his own—would, of course, among such persons as he beheld within his reach—look out for those whose reputation, in respect of the joint qualities of appropriate probity and appropriate intellectual aptitude, stood highest,—from them endeavour to learn which of all the proposed candidates was, in their opinion, the fittest—and give his vote accordingly. Such would be the case under the system of secresy. How would it be under the system of publicity? His subsistence—his very existence—depends upon the pleasure of the local magistracy: his vote would be as absolutely at their command, as the voting ticket at the command of the hand by which it is dropped into the box. Think of the proportion borne by those who already are in a state of pauperism, to those who are not yet fallen into that disastrous state. This vast part of the democracy would be completely in the hands of the removable nominees of the crown. Yes:—in the hands of titled country terrorists, and corruption-eating and corruption-hunting court divines, ready to join hand in hand with hubble-bubble city corruptionists, for the protection of a commissioned associate, in the habit of exercising to his own use, on condition of exercising other arts to the use of court and treasury, the “useful” art of “poisoning,” so long as it were upon such and such alone of his Majesty’s subjects as it should please them to consign to contempt and torment by the appellation of “ale-drinkers.”
And thus, by the new instrumentality of universality of suffrage, if unprotected by the necessary shield of secresy—thus, without commotion or drop of blood shed, the constitution would be changed; changed from its present state, of an impure but not yet to a certainty altogether unpurifiable mixture, into a pure and ever unamendable despotism.
In correspondent obedience to one of those solemn ordinances, which have been so often passed for show,—with the exception of the metropolis, at which it is kept collected in greatest quantity,—all military force is, at all parliamentary election times, ordered at a distance from the place: as if for a troop of dragoons, by whose sabres the mask would be so effectually cut off, and by any the smallest movement of which, in this line of parliamentary service, the whole country, if by anything it could be, would be thrown into a flame,—as if for any such instruments of terror there could be any the slightest demand, when, without the stirring so much as of a finger or a tongue, the object can be and is so effectually accomplished by the invisible and motionless spectre of terrorism. Thus are gnats strained at, that camels may be swallowed.
Such being the state of things, by what strange accident—by what strange delusion—can it be, that, in the situation in which so vast a proportion of the whole body of the people are held down by the indissoluble bonds of civilized society,—the necessity of secresy in the character of a shield to freedom, in the character of a security against spuriousness of suffrage—at any rate under the joint yoke of monarchy and aristocracy,—can have been made to conceal itself from any eye? In such a case, how is it that a man can avoid seeing, that by publicity terror is armed, by secresy disarmed?
A man ought—every man ought—to sacrifice in every case—to sacrifice in this case in particular—his own personal interest to the universal interest. Good:—there we have an antecedent. Ergo, so he will: there we have the consequent. Well: if in the consequent there be any truth, here are we already in Utopia: no need of penal laws; no, nor so much as of sermons.
Call a man names—hard to any degree of hardness—slave, coward, or if there be anything harder,—by any such insult will he in any degree be disposed to practise the self-denying lesson, thus preached to him by a censor, who himself is all the while sitting upon velvet?
On this occasion, as on any other,—if, in any imaginable way, without determinate and preponderant mischief, means can be found for reconciling private with public interest, and thus saving both from sacrifice,—can any valid reason be given why such means should not be employed?
Suppose that, by any such expression of scorn, ninety-nine men out of a hundred, or though it were but one out of the hundred, could thus be engaged to devote themselves to ruin,—to ruin, or though it were but any the slightest inconvenience,—how is it that, while the useful and desired effect might as completely and surely be produced without inconvenience in any shape,—how is it that by any such discipline the sum of happiness would be increased?
This shield, without which all pretence to freedom is imposture,—in what sort of situation could any objection to the use of it have found either origin or acceptance? Only in one or other of these two: the one is—that of a man who—his whole dependence being in terrorism, in bribery, or in a mixture of both—beheld in the freedom secured by secresy a bar to his designs; the other, that of a man to whom—that same situation exempting him from all such sensation as that of fear on any such score—no idea of any such sensation had ever presented itself as likely to have place, among the multitude whom he saw at his feet; or, if it had, had never otherwise presented itself than as a matter of indifference.
In conversation even, and that a confidential one, with a man now no more, ballot being mentioned by me as a causa sine qua non of freedom, he made wry faces, muttered out the word nasty, and turned off the discourse. He was a patron of seats; his votes wavering: he was a great landholder; and not the most popular among landholders.
“Cowardly dogs!” said an expert swimmer, who having crossed a deep river at his ease, looked back and beheld his companions, some of whom could swim, lingering on the other side—“cowardly dogs! are not ye ashamed of yourselves?”
As to any supposed difficulty with regard to the accomplishment of the purpose, altogether groundless would be any objection on that score. With notorious and undisputed constancy is the effect accomplished, for example, at the India House.* In the sort of situation here in question, should any inconvenience be found to attend the mode there employed, others might and would be devised in plenty, every one of them exempt from inconvenience.
No: not in the invention of a mode by which the purpose shall be accomplished,—but in the devising of a mode by which—to remotely situated as well as to conniving eyes—the purpose shall be made to appear to be intended and accomplished, while in effect as well as design the opposite purpose is accomplished,—in this lay the only difficulty. Turn now to Honourable House, and in that seat of self-proclaimed honour, behold this difficulty, after having, during a course of ages, been constantly surmounted, at last by miracle rendered for ever unsurmountable. Turn to Morning Chronicle debates, and therein you may see, that on the 6th of February 1817,—the time of Honourable House having already for a whole hour been occupied in the organization of a ballot for a committee of secresy,—up, from the opposite side of the house, starts Mr. Brougham, and with the exception of one out of one-and-twenty, reads the names of the members, the choice of whom was to be the result of all this secresy.
Comes the next day (7th February 1817,) and, in speaking of the ballot, the noble lord at whose motion this time-consuming process has been carrying on, admits it to be open to the insinuations “that had been conveyed;” “still, however,” says the report, “he did not think that the House would join . . . . . in reprobating a practice established by the usage of ages.” Of no imposture which, for the delusion of the public, Honourable House had been in use to practise—of no such imposture would even the most public detection afford to Honourable House any inducement strong enough to engage honourable gentlemen to cease practising it. In and to Honourable House itself, such is the portraiture given of the said Honourable House by a noble lord, who, at that same moment, is seen occupied in the giving direction to it, and the intimacy of whose acquaintance with its true character could not without injustice and folly be contested.
Not the less pertinaciously maintaining by argument the excellence of this “usage of ages,”—even the principle of universal suffrage (“it had been contended,” he observed, “by many”) would not be productive of a fair representation of the people without it. True: but between the many and the one there was one difference: the ballot thus advocated by the many was a real one: the ballot advocated by the one was a sham one. “High,” in the tone of scorn and sarcasm, was the epithet thereupon given to the “authority,” by which the use of the instrument of freedom is thereupon stated as recommended: “high,” as who should say contemptible. Now if contempt there must be, where will be the fittest object for it to be found?—in the titled would-be impostor, who knowing a practice to be a sham, attempts to pass it off as genuine,—or the untitled good man and true, who holds up to view as sham that which he sees to be sham, and as genuine that which he sees to be genuine?
For illustration,—the effect of ballot, as applied to other situations, presents some claim to notice. Whatsoever be the situation, and the ultimate effect,—the effect which secresy has for its proximate result is—the enabling the voter to give effect to his own will, to the exclusion of every other. This being true in every case,—in the situation of a public trustee, consider it in the character of a security for appropriate probity:—a security for the faithful execution of his trust. In this situation, whatsoever be the nature of this public trust, and of the public interest, for the support of which the trust has been instituted,—in so far as, in his own view of it, his own individual interest coincides with such public interest, secresy is the mode and the only mode, that affords an adequate assurance of the fulfilment of the intended purpose. On the other hand, when (the situation in which he is acting being here likewise that of the holder of a public trust) the danger is—that, in his own view of it, the tendency of his individual interest is, on the point in question, opposite to the public interest—to that public interest for which he is in trust,—insomuch that he thereby stands exposed to the temptation of sacrificing such public to his own private interest,—in any such situation, the greater the publicity is that is given to his proceedings, the stronger is the check, such as it is, the tendency of which is to restrain him from joining in such sacrifice: consequently, on the other hand, the more entire and assured the secresy,—the stronger the temptation, and the greater the facility afforded to such sacrifice.*
Now transfer in idea the ballot to Honourable House—adjourned (suppose) to Utopia, for the purpose of so ordering matters that on this one occasion the practice of Honourable House shall not be tainted with imposture. Suppose at the same time a member, in whose instance dependence and independence preserve (both of them) the customary relations: independent as towards the swine who dare to style themselves his constituents, he is dependent constitutionally dependent—as towards the Emanuel of Judge Blackstone. First, let the case be one, in which,—whether in his individual capacity merely, or in his capacity of partner in the universal interest, or in both capacities together,—he would, in his own view of the matter, be a sufferer by the proposed measure if carried; say a bad or needless tax:—at the same time, were he to oppose it, he would, from the resentment of the said Emanuel, in his own view of the matter be in danger of becoming a sufferer to a greater amount: in this case, secresy will in his instance operate—and that with indisputable effect—as a shield to appropriate probity. Now, let the case be one in which, in the same capacities, and in the same eyes as before, he would be a gainer: say that of any one of the swarm of bills for the extirpation of English liberties—any bill, in a word, for the fastening, in a manner still more excruciating if possible, the joint yoke of monarchy and aristocracy upon the neck of the swinish multitude: in this case, instead of being a shield to appropriate probity, secresy would be a shield to the opposite improbity.
EXCLUSION OF PLACEMEN, &C. FROM THE RIGHT OF VOTING—MISCHIEVOUSNESS AND PROFLIGACY OF THE OPPOSITE ARRANGEMENT.
On the topic here brought to view, something has been said already, in a preceding section (§ V.;) something also in the Plan itself: in each of these places something; and surely in either of them enough to satisfy any reasonable and unprejudiced mind: in a word, any mind whatever, that is not led blindfold, either by sinister interest or interest-begotten prejudice, or by an undiscriminating regard to custom: custom, that blind guide, to the guidance of which, if to the rejection of reason, none but the blind submit themselves.
Placemen seated by the king, with right of speech, and even right of motion: placemen from all the departments of government, from which a demand for information can present itself—each of them with right of speech and motion—but in every case without vote:—this is what is there proposed.†
Decompose thus in idea the existing practice, though as yet it never has been decomposed in practice. Perform this operation for yourself, gentle reader, if so it be that your habits and faculties are suited to the task—suited to the performance of the operation; or, at any rate, to the conception and remembrance of the result of it:—if not, turn, at any rate, from this section; else, nothing that you will see in it can be otherwise than misconceived.
Let there be no mistake. By nothing that has here been said, or will be said, is any such foolish insinuation meant to be conveyed,—as that, to the possession of an office under the crown—accompanied with any such mass of profit as shall be found adapted to the nature of it,—to the possession of any such situation, when considered by itself, any mark of reprobation ought to be annexed. To the case in which it operates with the effect of a bribe—a regularly repeated bribe—to this case, and to this alone, is everything which has been, or will be, said of offices, in the character of masses of the matter of corruption, meant from first to last to be applied. No:—considered in its own nature—considered even in any connexion, other than that of the sort here in question—office is no more a bad thing than money is a bad thing. Censure passed on office thus connected, is no more a censure passed on office at large, than censure passed on a murder committed for the sake of money with a knife, would be a censure on the use of money or on the use of knives. Considered in this point of view,—and independently of the particular connexion here pleaded against,—as it is with any one office, so is it with every other:—to no part of the official establishment—whether among those parts in which the office is in the gift of the monarch, or among those of which the patronage is in any other hands;—neither to any such part, nor to the whole taken in the aggregate;—has anything which is here said been ever meant to have any application.
If the sitting in perpetual judgment over the conduct of the several functionaries, possessors of offices in all the several departments of government—if this be not of the number of the functions properly belonging to, and, in show at least, exercised by the Commons House,—what other functions are there that can be said to belong to that same House? If, in so far as exercised with propriety and effect, this function of the House has not its use,—to what good use, with what good effect, can its other functions—all or any of them—be exercised?
In the situation of those functionaries, who, under the official name of judges, are judges and nothing more,—an incident which of necessity has sometimes happened, is—that, of a suit, in which one of these judges has been a party, being instituted and carried on in a judicatory in which his seat on the bench was situated;—of course, when the cause has come to be heard, he has been anywhere but upon that bench. What would his brethren—what would the bar—what would the audience—what would the public—have thought and said, had he staid and voted there? If, in a word, the judica-teipsum principle—the principle brought to view by Blackstone, for the purpose of condemnation—and illustrated by the story of the sinning and repentant pope, who, in virtue of a sentence passed by himself upon himself, was burnt alive,—were, on any of those seats which are called benches, realized?
In the situation of any one of the twelve, say rather of the fifteen superior judges,—on the occasion, though it were of but one single cause, and that between individual and individual,—suppose a man convicted of having received a bribe:—by bench, bar, audience, public—what would be thought and said of him, as above? By the very height of its improbability (for assuredly few political suppositions can be more improbable,) the case serves but the better in the character of a case put in the way of supposition, for the purpose of argument.
Well—here, in the Commons House—in the instance of every member by whom a political situation of any other kind, under the patronage of the crown, is at the same time holden, this judica-teipsum principle, as above explained, is it not exemplified and realized?
In any such instance—on any occasion in which, by any such member, in case of a division, a vote is given—the other situation having either money or money’s worth attached to it—the taint of bribery, is it in any degree less strong upon the case of such member, than if a bank note—say of a hundred pound—had but just before been received by him?—received, under an engagement, “implied,” or (if Mr. Speaker pleases) “express,” that such or such should be the direction given to his vote? Oh no: it is abundantly more strong; for, in the section in which the comparison has been made between bribery and terrorism, this has been shown already. At any time at which a quarter’s salary is put into his hand, the effect of it in the way of seductive influence,—is it in any degree less than that which would be produced by money to the same amount put into his hand (suppose him not in that or any other office,) under a stipulation—implied or express as before—that during the next ensuing quarter, on every occasion on which a vote should come to be given by the Cabinet Ministers,—such of them as were in the House,—his vote should be on the same side with theirs? Less, did I say? Not it indeed; but much greater. Why? Answer: Because, in the case of a bribe, so called,—the amount of it, being on each occasion fixed, is on each occasion limited: whereas, in the case of the bribe not so called—of the bribe received under the name of salary attached to an office,—though that one office and no other is in the man’s possession, yet in prospect,—by the side of it, beneath it, and above it,—each with its emoluments, is a cluster of other offices—a cluster boundless in number and value—for self and friends.
In the highest—in the most comprehensive—in the in every way most important seat of judicature in existence,—in the judicatory in which the lives and fortunes—the everything—not of A and B only, but of all the inhabitants of the whole empire—not to speak of those of almost all other countries on this globe—are, day by day,—if not actually at stake,—liable to be at stake, in the exercise given to its powers,—do the men in question,—in a number, on almost every occasion, capable of deciding the part taken by the whole House, and thence by the whole Government,—as often as the conduct of the partnership to which they belong is called in question, sit and act, each man as judge in his own cause: each of them, in respect of every vote he gives (I speak of those who to their seats add offices of emolument, from which they are removable at the pleasure of the crown,) each of them tainted with the matter of corruption; and that, as hath been shown, in a form, in comparison of which bribery is purity.
Suppose this told of a foreign country:—with what horror would not the state of government in that country be regarded! with what commiseration that of the wretched people!
Think then of the American United States!—think of the sentiments with which, on so many accounts—and on none more particularly than on this account—the condition to which we are doomed, cannot but be regarded by a citizen of those happy States!
Storm of indignation in the breast of Honourable Gentleman:—at this page, should his patience have lasted him thus long,—down, not improbably, goes the page on the floor, and then the foot upon it. Never but of one complexion—and that the purest—are his conduct, his intentions, or his motives. Self-regarding interest—the motive corresponding to that interest—the sort of motive, on the general predominance of which over every other the whole species is continually dependent for its very existence,—never for any such sordid motive can any place be ever found in so honourable a breast.
A hundred to one,—for want of the habit of examination, no tolerably clear conception has he, on any occasion, of the springs of action by which his own conduct is determined: no tolerably clear conception of anything that is passing in his own mind.
On the present occasion,—supposing him able to endure any such task, as that of forming a comparative estimate of the degrees of mischievous efficiency, as between corruption in the shape of bribery, commonly so called, on the one part, and corruption in the shape of place-holding and place-hunting on the other,—in the following queries he may perhaps find some assistance, while occupied in that more instructive than pleasant process:
1. Whether, if on any occasion, in effect or in intention, the measure brought upon the carpet by the minister be mischievous, or the measure opposed by him beneficial,—in which case his opposition, in so far as effectual, is mischievous,—whether, in any such case,—for securing, as far as depends upon votes in that House, the production of the mischief,—any means more effectual than the sort of arrangement in question could be devised?
2. Whether, in the case of punishable bribery,—the bribe being either in possession or in prospect,—the connexion between the desired end and the criminal and punishable means, can, in any degree, be closer than—or even so close as—in the present case?
3. Whether, by the impunity which in the bribery case has not place, and in this case has place, the strength of the temptation, or the probability of its being yielded to, is diminished?
4. The like questions, with regard to the ignominy and reproach which in the case of the bribery have place,—and which in the present case find their place occupied by honour and respect;—at any rate in the breasts of the custom-led and unreflecting multitude?
5. Whether, in the case of the bribery, the quantity of the matter of good,—operating, whether in the shape of money, money’s worth, or any other shape, in the character of matter of corruption,—is not fixed, and by being fixed, limited?—and whether,—to the quantity of that same precious matter, in the shape of offices and so forth, capable of being held by himself, or by connexions of his of all sorts and sizes—relations, friends, dependents—in countless multitudes—held by the side of him, underneath him, and above him—his own situation being, at the same time, compared with the moment at which a bribe in the ordinary form is received, a permanent one,—and, unless it should please him whose place is above all a perpetual one—whether, to the quantity of this same seductive matter there be any determinate limits? whether, compared with that of a mass of the matter of corruption, applied and received in the shape of a bribe commonly so called, the seductive power of a mass of that same matter, in the shape here in question,—in the eye of imagination, inflamed as it is by desire,—be not as infinity to one?
6. Whether, in the connexion which thus by positive institution has been established between the public mischief and the private benefit, there be any the smallest public use?—the smallest public use,—or, except the creation, preservation, or increase of the public mischief, any other assignable intended use or effect than the production of the private benefit?
7. Whether, if in any of the imputations here attached to the monstrous conjunction in question—the conjunction of the perpetually accountable situation with the situation to which account is perpetually rendered—whether, if in any of these imputations there be anything really grievous to the feelings of any one to whom they apply, there has ever been a time at which it has not been in his power to rid himself of it?—and whether there has ever been a time at which it has not been in the power of the majority of those who find their profit in the monstrosity, to rid the country of it?
8. Whether, when, in a case of imputed delinquency, all other evidence, and that sufficient, is against a man,—any other resource be left to him than the vehemence of the protestations by which he makes assertion of his own innocence?—and whether, from any such vehemence, the probative force of such his evidence receives in the eye of reason any increase?*
Suppose a prize offered, for him, by the fertility of whose imagination that political arrangement should be proposed, which, with a view to justice and public utility, should be most flagrantly flagitious;—to any purpose but that of corruption and misrule, the most grossly and palpably absurd:—could any other be found capable of making a match for this? Oh no: not although every man who ever gave himself to politics were to employ his whole life in the research. Suppose such a prize offered,—would all the poetry, added to all the oratory of the right honourable the president of the board of controul, suffice him to win it?—No, not even though the Quarterly Review and British India were left to themselves, and the whole mass of his powers concentrated upon this one object.
A constitution, with this poison—slow, but not the less sure—in the bowels of it! Rotten, even from the time that this poison was injected into it, must have been the Matchless Constitution,—rotten at the core—and, of such rottenness, what we are now suffering is among the fruits.
As a match for Utopia, suppose a Cacotopĩa discovered and described,—would not filth in this shape be a “fundamental feature” in it?
For fear of the influence of the crown in a relatively subordinate sphere,—judges forsooth in certain courts—though in certain courts only—judges, in courts where four of them sit together, though not in the court in which the powers of all four are condensed into one breast—judges in these relatively subordinate situations, fixed firmly on their benches,—while on the benches on which the fate of these men and all others depends,—the judges, on whom the whole of the business depends, are thus kept—kept for ever—in a state—not only of dependency, but corruptedness! Behold here another gnat strained at, while camels and cameleopards are swallowed.
Search the whole fabric through, where will an end be found to this tissue of hypocrisy:—to this mixture of sham securities and real mischiefs—of sham securities provided, and real mischiefs fostered?—efficiency to bad purposes, coupled with inefficiency to good ones?
Hypocrisy? Yes: over and over. Can any hypocrisy be more shameless—more transparent—than that which is manifested in marking bribe-taking with punishment, and, as far as may be, with infamy, while, in the person of a so-styled representative of the people, place-holding under the crown is held in honour? The place-holding held in honour!—Why? Even because the corruptors and the corrupted—the bestowers and the receivers of the matter of corruption—have need that so it should be. Bribe-taking marked with punishment and with infamy!—Why? Even because the corruptionists,—by whom the matter of corruption, together with the impunity and the honour, is given and received in that other—in that wholesale and so much more profitable shape,—have no need of it in any such petty and retail shape. By vituperating it in the shape in which it is of no use to them, men think to earn—and, if they do earn, it is without expense—the praise of virtue: of that virtue, the vice opposite to which has taken such full and never disturbed possession of their practice and their hearts.
Limit the number of those pretended representatives of the people? of these real representatives of the monarch? Limit the number of those public trustees into whose hands, as sure as quarter-day comes, the bribe by which they are hired shall be paid? Limit the number of those men who, on the bench of justice, as often as they become malefactors, shall sit in judgment on their own conduct and that of their accomplices? Well: when, for the purpose of this limitation, a bill is ready for passing, tack on then to it a rider, limiting the number of street-prostitutes that shall be employed as teachers in any boarding-school for young ladies.
Once upon a time, and once only,—into one of the plans of moderate reform, peeped (it will be seen)—and with congenial modesty—a proposition for a limitation to this effect. Once, and once only: nor does it appear that, on that one occasion, a proposition so daring—so innovational—so Utopian—so near to Jacobinical—found any one to second it.*
Oh blessed Constitution!—that in which (for of this you will find men ready to assure you) business could not go on, unless, in this way, delinquents—and those upon the largest scale—were judges in their own cause! And thus it is that, in the mind of every man who thinks, impeachment—the sole legal remedy against misrule—has been blotted out of the list of remedies.
Give me a place—give me a peerage—give me court favour: I will pocket £10,000 of the public money—I will confess I have done so,—and with honour on their lips—proclaiming each man his own honour—noble lords shall declare me innocent.
Oh Matchless Constitution!—And so, in this Matchless Constitution—such is the nature and virtue of it—business could not go on,—unless, besides being judges, each one of them in his own cause, those by whom everything is done, were not—every one of them—throughout the whole course of his service—corrupted: corrupted in a mode of corruption beyond comparison more effectual and more mischievous than that of bribery!
Look now to the United States!—look to the General Congress! See whether, in that head seat of democratic government, corruption in any such shape is in any instance to be found. What! does not business then go on in Congress?—in Congress, where, in the very last year that was, there was a surplus to the amount of a fourth of the year’s income, instead of a deficit, as here, to the amount of a sixth?†
Take the heir-apparent of a duke—(alas! poor duke!)—take him, and, having seated him in the House of Commons, put him into a coloured sinecure, to serve as a substitute to an automaton for signing papers: his hand to the papers; the will by which it is directed, together with the judgment, such as it is, that belongs to that will, safe lodged all the while in another place. In this one picture behold the anti-jacobin triad—Waste, Corruption, and Oppression: waste made of the salary; corruption, the purpose it is applied to; Oppression, the channel through which for such purposes it is extracted. Behold the lauded preparatory seminary for the training of young nobility to business: behold a training school for young nobility, in the true anti-jacobin style: behold in the triad the true and everlasting object of anti-jacobin worship: behold now the regius professor of piety in the Honourable House: behold him—should any such blasphemy as this assault his eyes—behold him rending his heart—not at the sight of the waste—not at the sight of the corruption—not at the sight of the oppression—but at the allusion which, with the help of Mr. Attorney-general, he will have descried: the allusion made to a something more sacred than the Bible—to a substitute, which, with all-embracing, and blessedly efficient, orthodoxy, is put into the place of that old-fashioned miscellany—a substitute which, in the Established Church of Scotland, a man would no more rend his heart about, than in the Established Church of Morocco.
Reader, is the language here too warm for you? Turn to the Plan itself, there may you find the substance of it in as cool a state as the coldest heart can desire.
In any language—warm or cold—let him, who thinks he can, produce an answer to it.
Look once more to the United States:—see—whether, in that seat of democracy—of representative democracy—where swinish rulers are chosen by swinish multitudes—see whether, in that seat of illegitimate incorruption and good government—any such monster is to be found, as a man constituted judge—perpetual judge—in his own cause?
Oh blessed Constitution!—a constitution in which it is become a fundamental principle—become, I say—for for centuries it was otherwise* —that, among those who rule, there shall not be a man who is not judge in his own cause! Can it be matter of wonder, that among men thus self-qualified for the function of rendering justice—men,—in whose instance the sacrifice of universal interest to particular—of social interest upon the largest scale to self-regarding interest upon its own narrow scale—of duty, in a word, to interest, is matter of constant and universal practice—should not be to be numbered among those who are given to change?
And in this state is the Constitution, which in this very state, on pain that shall follow, we are called upon and forced to love!
Say, Mr. Wilberforce, how long shall a state of things like this be looked upon with no other than a smiling and admiring countenance? How long shall reform, and not abuse, be the object of all fears? When immorality is thus operating—operating upon the largest scale—say, what in this world is religion good for, if, instead of a check, immorality finds in it a support?—if, instead of a support, morality finds in it a substitute?
The man who, with open eyes, lauds the constitution with these sins in it—sins circulating in every vein, and tainting every fibre—the man who, with open eyes (and your eyes,—have they not had time to open themselves?) lauds and cherishes all these sins, say, where is the sin among them all, of which the guilt does not lie upon his head?
Sad—oh sad condition of human nature! Conceive, if you can, the enormity so atrocious, that, so as this one circumstance be but superadded to it,—viz. that of its having been habitually practised—practised with impunity by men in power, and under the protection of the law—will not, if by any strange accident exposed and complained of, find in that quarter a host of inexorable and indignant supporters and defenders—in that of the suffering multitude, alas! with how few exceptions!—so many indifferent and incurious observers, if not prostrate venerators! Presented at first in its true colours, and by its proper phrase, it would not perhaps have gained acceptance: presented in an improper phrase—dressed up in false colours—it passes without objection,—and, for ages after ages, the country is tormented by it.
Ah! when will the yoke of Custom—Custom, the blind tyrant, of which all other tyrants make their slave—ah! when will that misery-perpetuating yoke be shaken off?—when, when will Reason be seated on her throne?
UNIVERSAL CONSTANCY OF ATTENDANCE—ITS IMPORTANCE.
Plan of this Section.
Actual state of things in respect of attendance:—Mischiefs from non-attendance, viz. 1. In respect of moral aptitude; 2. In respect of intellectual aptitude; 3. Mischief by securing greater attendance on the corrupt side.—Interests, by the play of which, the numbers in attendance are determined.—Inconsistency as between the licentiousness as to this point in this situation, and the comparative strictness in other public situations.—Remedy from any exertions of individuals impossible—but by reform, the disorder incurable; the constitution already subverted by it.—Abdication, whether not more truly predicable of Honourable House than of James the Second.—The incurableness of the disorder, and the consequently incurable corruptness of Honourable House, declared by Hatsel, chief clerk of the House.
Such are the sub-topics, under which the matter of this section will be found.
Mischiefs individually seated—mischiefs collectively seated:—to one or either of the two heads thus distinguished, will be found referable whatsoever mischiefs can be seen flowing from this source.—Mischiefs individually seated—those of which, the seat of them being in the character of the individual individually considered, the nature may be understood from and exemplified in the effect produced by them, in the case of any one such individual:—mischiefs collectively seated—those of which the seat cannot be found in the state and condition of any individual, individually considered; but of which the source, as well as the seat, will be found in the state and condition into which the whole House, taken in the aggregate, will be seen to be put—put by the use made of the habit of individual delinquency in this shape, in the character of an instrument of public mischief in a variety of shapes:—an instrument of packing, employed in the art and mystery of political packing, as applied—to the securing on each particular occasion, out of the mixed mass, a predominant proportion of corrupt matter in the composition of the assembly—and to the use made of corrupt measures—not only of each of them, individually taken, considered as applied to its own particular corrupt purpose,—but of all of them, collectively or separately, considered as employed in serving as instruments of extension, for the keeping out of uncorrupt ones.
Confined to the individually seated part of the aggregate mass of mischief flowing from this source, may be seen to be the slight view of it given in the Plan itself, as well as in the general sketch given of the system of Radical Reform in Section V. In the present section, that more complex part, here styled the collectively-seated part, will, according to the intimation above given, be taken up and laid open to view.
Actual state of things in respect of Attendance.
Instead of being what it is pretended to be—a check upon the power of the monarch, the power of the Commons House an instrument of misrule in his hands—an instrument by which he has been enabled to sacrifice, and accordingly has sacrificed, the universal interest to a cluster of particular interests, of which his own personal interest is at the head. Behold, in this state of things, the mass of abuse, to which it is the object of parliamentary reform to devise and to apply a remedy—an appropriate and adequate remedy. Among the requisites for the accomplishment of this object, is the detecting and holding up to view in its true colours, every particular abuse which shall have been found to enter into the composition of the aggregate mass—every arrangement, every custom, which, in the character of a co-operating cause, may be found contributing to the production of the disastrous effect. In the instance of such of the component abuses as have as yet been brought to view, notorious in general has been not only the existence and the nature of the abuse, but, to a considerable degree, the extent to which it has place. In the instance here in question, the existence: yes; and in some measure the nature of it. Not, however, even this entirely:—not, assuredly, in all their magnitude and variety, the evil consequences: and, as to the extent to which it has place, information on this head—information in any tolerable degree adequate—is a treasure that remains yet to be dived for, in the ocean in which it lies drowned.
For the taking and presenting of a clear, a correct, and complete view of the state of the House in this respect, during a given period—say from the commencement of the present reign—the following present themselves as the heads under which matter should be collected. Sources of information, the journals of the House, the votes of the House, and such accounts as are extant of the debates: accounts, of the incorrectness of which, supposing them in this or that instance incorrect,—any more than of their incompleteness, supposing them incomplete, as, unless by accident, they always are—no member can have any moral right to make complaint, until he has done whatsoever may be in his power towards the removing, in the one only way, the inconvenience in those its two distinguishable shapes:—
1. Number of days on which, in the course of each year, the House was sitting, and, in it and by it, business, in some shape or other, accordingly done.
2. Number of days in which the Speaker took the chair; but, for want of the requisite number of members (viz. forty) business could not be begun upon:—whereupon, the hour being arrived, adjournment took place of course.
3. Number of days in which, business having been begun upon—the requisite number of members present therefore complete—so it was, that by the departure of members, a deficiency in the number present, as compared with the number that should be present, having been produced, and notice publicly taken of it,—the business was stopped, and an adjournment thereupon took place of course.
4. Number of days in which, a deficiency having as above taken place, the business went on notwithstanding; the Speaker sitting all the while and beholding the deficiency, but no other member standing up to notice it.
5. Numbers of the members on both sides, on the occasion of the several divisions which on the several days took place. The list of these divisions, with the numbers, being rendered as complete as may be,—then will come to be made a selection of two contrasted classes of cases:—one, in which, the importance of the question being in a remarkable degree high, the numbers were in a remarkable degree low; the other, in which, the importance of the question being in a remarkable degree low, the numbers were in a remarkable degree high.
6. Calls of the House—numbers of them in each year: with the numbers in the respective divisions, if any, which took place on the days respectively appointed.*
Remain two other topics, in relation to which, any information, supposing it attainable, could not fail to afford additional instruction; but of which, so far at least as regards time past, the attainment presents itself as hopeless, unless possibly in a very small number of instances.
7. On the occasion of each division, numbers absolute and comparative of place-holders and non-place-holders. From a document of this sort, what would be shown with certainty is—the number of the individuals belonging to one species of the genus corruptionist, viz. corruption-eaters: but, under the species corruption-hunters, no precise number of individuals could ever be distinguished; under the influence of the ever-attracting, and scarcely-resistible, cocagne above spoken of,—the difficulty would be, among the whole remainder of the numbers voting on this side, to find so much as the single individual, who did not appertain to this latter species, and thence to the genus in which it is included.
8. Number of members present at the time of the division, compared with the numbers present at different portions of the length of time employed in the debate. In ordinary tribunals, the two operations—oyer and terminer—being expressly included in the same commission, and oyer being regarded as forming a useful, not to say a necessary, preparative to terminer,—he who performs either of them, performs both: in this extraordinary tribunal, not inconsiderable (as everybody knows) is the proportion of those distinguishing more than distinguished Honourables, who, regarding oyer as a useless formality, come to the terminer at once: by which principle of dispatch, a proportionable saving of time is effected. Quere: on the occasion of each division, the number of these economists, and the quantity of the saving effected by each?
Mischiefs from Non-attendance:—Mischief 1. Mischief in respect of Moral Aptitude.
Only by regard for regularity is produced the mention made of this topic in this place. In the Plan itself, may be seen how, in the licence given to dereliction of duty in this shape, is contained a sub-licence,—by which, without danger of shame or reproach in any shape, every man is empowered, within any given space of time, to produce exactly half the effect which, within that same space of time, could have been produced by an uninterrupted series of votes, given by him in support of a series of measures, not only corrupt but scandalous: so scandalous, and that to such a degree, as that,—whatsoever had been his wishes,—had he been present, he could not have prevailed with himself to abstain from voting in opposition to them in every instance.
Mischief 2. Intellectual Mischief—Deficiency in respect of appropriate Intellectual Aptitude, and appropriate Active Talent.
Probity being supposed not deficient, principally upon appropriate intellectual aptitude depends the propriety of the direction given, on the several occasions, to a man’s vote: in the case where it is not with himself that the measure has originated, principally upon appropriate active talent the aptness of the matter of which his speeches are composed: in this case, certain it is with himself that, singly or in conjunction with others, the measure has originated, on intellectual aptitude, as evidenced by the choice made of that same measure, and of the more particular measures, if any, including the occasional penning of written instruments—for example, motions, resolutions, and reports of committees—which, as being subservient to it, are included in it: but upon appropriate active talent, in another shape, depends the matter of those several instruments.
That, in respect of these two so intimately connected elements of aptitude, a general and predominant state of inaptitude is among the natural and naturally unavoidable effects of the whole system taken together, is a matter which, in some sort, has already been brought to view. On the one hand, necessity of hard labour, in both these elementary shapes, to aptitude in the aggregate shape in question; on the other hand, exclusion put upon the hard labour, and thence, upon the aptitude, viz. by rank and opulence:—of rank and opulence together, the effect being to put a man already, and even to a greater amount, in possession of that sort of consideration which, but for these unmerited advantages, might, in the character of an adequate reward, have sufficed to extract from him the exertions necessary to furnish his mind, and in sufficient quantity, with those same endowments. By rank, opulence, or connexion, is a man put in possession of this office: by the pride, joined to the indolence derived from the same sources,—is he, in respect of the endowments here in question, more or less disqualified from the exercising, with any benefit to the universal interest, the power attached to this most important of all offices.
Of these three modes of entrance into a seat, connexion is that by which the greatest chance for any tolerable stock of these endowments is left. Why? Because, in the instance of a patron, rendered such by proprietorship, or by terrorism,—what here and there will happen is—that, on failure of all persons connected with him by natural relationship, some person or other shall, by the possession, or reputed possession, of the endowments in question, in a degree more or less distinguished, have been recommended to his choice.
In this state of things,—to men seated by connexion, with the addition of men seated by profession, but in a more particular degree to the latter,—of these two intellectual endowments will such stock as is to be found in Honourable House be, generally speaking, almost confined: at any rate, small indeed, in proportion to the whole number (658,) will be the number of those in whose instance, otherwise than in company with the one or the other of these two marks of distinction, any tolerable stock of these endowments is found discernible. In that House, the term conntry gentleman, is it not a sort of by-word?—is it not commonly regarded as presenting, in one word, the idea of a sort of character, compounded of mental indolence, mental vacuity, and mental weakness?
In those two quarters, then—connexion and profession—in these two quarters are the two intellectual endowments in question almost exclusively looked for.
Well: and in those same quarters suppose them found,—what is the consequence? The universal interest, is it by this means benefited? On the contrary, much more probably is it injured. Only in so far as these two intellectual endowments are in the same breast united to the one moral one—only in so far as they are united to appropriate probity—will the universal interest receive from them any net benefit:—only on the terms of this auspicious union, will it so much as escape the being sacrificed. But, the higher the degree in which, by the individual in question, they are possessed, the higher will be the price which, at the constantly overt market, of which C—r-General is clerk, they will fetch: the higher the price, the higher the temptation, and the less the probability of resistance.
In this state of things—the promiscuous multitude being by intellectual weakness prepared for the reception of mental poison—the select few, by sinistrously-derived strength, for the injecting of it—observe what will be the effect of the cluster of arguments, comprehendible under the common appellation of the argumentum à superficie ad superficiem—arguments from surface to surface—appositely employed. Gorged with public money obtained on false pretences out of the taxes—behold a man, whose whole political life has been employed in helping to give increase to waste, corruption, and the consequent oppressions,—summoning up, when the time comes, all his powers, to the duty of guarding this complication of disorders against the only remedy: and the history of any one such individual is the history of a class. Quicquid recipitur, recipitur ad modum recipientis—says a maxim of the old-school logic:—a maxim in which more instruction is contained than can often be obtained from any such musty source. Of whatsoever is received, correspondent to the constitution of that by which, or him by whom, it is received, will be the effect. On a mind prepared by sound and manly instruction for the resisting of it, poison such as that would have no effect: but those with which it has to deal, are minds that, by want of instruction, or by such instruction as is worse than none, have been prepared for yielding to it: instruction, by which the whole duty of man is summed up in the “prostration of understanding and will” at the feet of a set of men, tied by every bond that corruption can devise, to those habits of self-blinded partiality, with which all prudence and all justice are equally and utterly incompatible.
The more attentively the stock of evidence, which the nature of the case, and the existing state of things, affords, is looked into,—the more clearly will the operation of the above causes of inaptitude be seen exemplified, and their efficiency demonstrated.
Look at the debates: yes, and if to such a degree your patience will suffer you to draw upon it, look into these same debates.
To so prodigious an extent, not only no mark of active talent, no mark of intellectual aptitude—but, on the contrary, proofs, and, how deplorably abundant!—and that on the most important occasions—that of no such part of man’s frame as the intellectual, has any use been so much as attempted or endeavoured to be made. In the volitional, with the passions and affections by which it is put in motion, in the volitional and sensitive parts alone, are any marks of exercise discernible. Vituperation—in the strongest as well as most unqualified terms that passion can supply,—vituperation, altogether unaccompanied by indication made of any specific grounds for the opinion, or pretended opinion, thus involved in, and indirectly expressed by it—such, with the addition of more or less of the matter of trivial fallacy, in its several shapes, of which a list might be made out,* —is the matter, of which in general—and in a more particular degree on the occasion of the great topic here in question—speeches, honourable and right honourable, may be seen to be composed. With a degree of energy, proportioned to the dangerousness of the disease, and the salutary efficiency of the proposed remedy wild, visionary, impracticable, mischievous, and so forth,—are the imputations cast upon it,—gross ignorance, conjoined with mischievous madness, the attributes ascribed to the authors and supporters of it.
By the barking of a dog—by the screaming of a parrot—might as much light be seen thrown upon the question, as by this or that speech (and by how sad a proportion of the whole number of speeches!) reported—and for the most part to no small advantage—as having issued from the lips of honourable gentlemen, right honourable gentlemen, noble lords—not to speak of noble and learned ones. By the votes of those and other inferior animals, is indication given of the state of the will and the affections: by the speeches of so many unfeathered bipeds, by whom such large draughts are drawn upon us for our respect, and so much sufferance brandished over our heads in the character of punishment, for the purpose of extorting from us that sentiment, or at any rate the outward show of it,—by these speeches, is the state of that same faculty, and of those same affections, expressed and indicated: affections as pure from all admixture of reason, in this case as in those others.
Let not what is thus said be misconceived. Not to any such effect as that of weakness in argument does the indication here afforded mean to point. No: it is merely to the utter absence of all argument—of everything which, on the individual by whom it is uttered, could have passed for argument. Opinion, ungrounded opinion—this is what we have from them: nor even that in its own shape, but disguised in the garb of a mere expression of will, mixed with that of the passion which produced it. And this passion,—with what sort of expectation is it manifested? Even with this, and this only:—such is the height and weight of the authority of the orator, that by the mere perception of his supposed self-formed judgment, will the desired direction be given to the derivative judgments, of all those by whom that perception has been obtained.
From what cause, then, this expectation? Oh, from this cause: not only probity but wisdom are among the appendages of rank and opulence:—to him are known to belong these primary and only essential requisites—therefore so of course do those derivative appendages: from the very causes of his inaptitude does he derive the assurance of his aptitude. Idiosyncrasies apart, a man of twenty thousand a-year will accordingly speak with twice the persuasive force of a man of but ten thousand a-year: a man who is everlastingly noble, with some number of times the force of one who is but honourable. Such is the expectation of the man himself: and unhappily—such is the force of inveterate prejudice—neither is that expectation by any means so groundless as it is to be wished it were.
Mischief 3. Mischief by securing greater Attendance on the corrupt side.
A matter, which henceforward should be never out of mind, is—it is only on the supposition of the existence of a number of members, in whom,—in a degree adequate to the placing of their votes on the several occasions on the proper side,—the several elements of appropriate aptitude are combined,—and these on each occasion in a number sufficient to the outnumbering of such of the members as, by sinister interest, by interest-begotten prejudice, by indigenous weakness, or by adoptive prejudice, are stationed under the dominion of C—r-General and Co.—only on this supposition can any such copious attendance be anything better than an object of comparative indifference.
On this supposition, here once for all brought to view—on this supposition, as in the character of a necessary basis, must be considered as grounded everything which in the course of the present section remains to be said.
In the present state of things—and, in a word, under any other than what is looked for from the proposed radical reform—the existence of any such majority on the side of uncorruption (unless it be on this or that extraordinary occasion, on which,—in the minds of the several corruptionists, in sufficient numbers—whether corruption-eaters, or but corruption-hunters,—it happens either to some particular interests of their own, or to their share in the universal interest, to operate with such a force as for the moment to overbalance the force of their partnership share in the corruption concern)—any such superiority of numbers on the side of uncorruption, presents itself as being,—even on the supposition of the most perfect and universal constancy of attendance,—altogether hopeless. Thence the demand for the other proposed articles in the system of reform;—for, supposing this single one adequate to the purpose of securing the effect desired, the advantages expectable from reform would, in so far as concerns virtual universality of suffrage, be reduced to those above distinguished by the appellation of collateral: and these and all the others put together might, upon a fair account taken, be found scarcely sufficient to compensate for the evils of change.
But, when the state of interests comes to have been fully seen into, what amongst other things will be seen is—that scarcely would the repugnance produced by all the other articles put together, exceed that which this single one would of itself be sufficient to produce: and that, by no instrument of less cogency than that composed of the system of radical reform taken in all its parts, could abuse in the one shape here in question be excluded.
Another memento, which in this place it may be of use to give, is—that the state of things, the existence of which is, on the occasion, and in the course of the ensuing observations all along assumed, is—that the course of action, to which, on the part of the servants of the crown, the particular mischief here in question—the established course of transgression—is rendered subservient, is more or less mischievous. Why? Because the effect of it is—to secure to their measures, be they what they may, an undue advantage: an advantage, the property of which, on each occasion, is to be of no use but to the wrong side as such; and not to be capable of being reaped, but through the instrumentality of that mass of seductive influence, which has been shown to be in their hands.
Follows now an indication of the collectively-seated portion, of the mischief produced by the habit of non-attendance in its present shape; and an indication of the sinister interest by which that habit is put to use and fostered.
Too manifest to need explanation or comment is the sinister interest which the ministerial leaders have, in the absence of members whose votes,—together with their speeches, if any,—would have operated on the opposite side.
Sinister interest of the day—sinister interest of the session:—in the sinister interest here in question, these two branches may be distinguished.
The sinister interest of the day is that which regards the business of the day: the fewer the adversaries present, not only is the victory the more assured beforehand, and the more signal afterwards, but the time consumed in making, hearing, and answering speeches, and the labour in making and prompting speeches, is by so much the less.
In respect of neither of these sinister interests would the habit of absentation be of use to C—r-General and Co. if the number of absentees were as great in proportion on his side as on the opposite side. But of this there is never any fear: the means, viz. the sinister influence which they have in their hands, being adequate—not only to the purpose of securing conformity in case of attendance,—but, for the purpose of such conformity, adequate moreover to the more difficult purpose of securing attendance.
True it is, that in this instance as in most others, whatsoever the ministerial side for the time being has in possession, the opposition side has in prospect. But in this case, between possession and prospect so mighty is the difference,—that, compared with so substantial an instrument of compulsion as that which the ministry have in their hands, that which the opposition leaders have in theirs is but little better than a phantasmagoric image of it.
In the sinister interest of the session, note moreover two distinguishable branches: the efficient or effective; and the preventive or defensive.
First, as to the efficient or effective sinister interest: it consists in the increased facility, as well as certainty, given to the adoption of all such measures as it may be the wish of the administration to see carried into effect. As the session, and along with it the season, advances, the attractions of the town diminish; those of the country increase. The motives or inducements, by the force of which absentation is produced, gain in strength; and the number of the individuals, in whose instance they are preponderant, receives continual increase.
If the diminution of numerical strength produced by the operation of this cause were the same on both sides, no such sinister interest as that in question, would have place on the ministerial, any more than on the opposition side. But, for a counterpoise to the force of this cause of absentation, the ministerial side has a power, of which their adversaries are destitute. With the highest degree of efficiency, as above shown, the cabinet ministers command the attendance of the removable corruption-eaters of the inferior classes, as also the corruption-hunters; and this with a degree of efficiency proportioned to the estimated value of their respective possessions and prospects.
Of the nature of the defensive or preventive interest, some intimation is already given by the name thus employed for the designation of it: by the same cause by which certainty and facility are given to their own enterprises, certainty is given to the defeat of all adverse measures on the other side. Of all adverse measures? “Good,” says somebody; “but what are they, these measures, which, with reference to the side in question, come under the denomination of adverse measures?” Answer: All measures whatsoever: measures directly, or specially adverse—measures indirectly, in a general way adverse;—by these two adjuncts stands expressed the only difference.—By every measure carried into effect by the adversary,—by every such measure,—be it what it may, if popular, reputation is gained; and whether popular or not, power displayed. “There must not be two Chancellors of the Exchequer,”—is one of the few sayings remembered of Pitt the second.
But, whatsoever assurance of ultimate frustration may, in this way, be afforded,—the same periodical cause of flight adds a further assurance from a still more advantageous source, viz. preventive anticipation, or preoccupation of the House. Partly in virtue of the established rules of proceeding, partly in virtue of the majorities, on the habitual existence of which their continuance in their situation depends,—the members of the cabinet possessing at all times an all-comprehensive command of the aggregate mass of the business of the House—a command by which are determined, not only the choice of the elementary parts to be admitted into that mass, but the order in which they shall respectively be admitted,—admittance for the whole mass of their own measures is at all times of course secured: admittance to the measures, and therefore command of the quantity of time necessary for that purpose. This portion being thus sure to them, whatever portion might otherwise be occupied by business not originating in themselves, it is therefore their interest to minimize.
For this purpose three expedients present themselves to their hands:—1. One (which belongs not to this head) is the deferring the commencement of the session to as late a point of time as possible; in which way, moreover, the interest of the pillow is served at the same time with the general interest of corruption; say, staving off sessions: 2. Another is—the inserting into the whole length of the allotted period, on as many pretences as can be found, times of recess as many, and each of them as long as possible; say, maximizing recess: 3. A third is—the rendering as large as possible the number of the days in which, by the original or incidental failure of the numbers made requisite to give validity to the proceedings, the carrying on of the business is prevented; say, maximizing barren days.
Now then, on every day on which it suits their purpose that the number of members necessary to give validity should be present,—by means of their official whippers-in, it is evidently in the power of the treasury to secure, and by circular letters and word of mouth applications they accordingly do secure, the presence of that necessary number: this object thus secured, in the same hands being likewise the legal powers of giving to the whole session whatsoever length it may happen to their purposes to require,—on every other day it is therefore their interest, as above, that this condition to validity should remain unfulfilled, in such sort that nothing should be done. From no barren day, nor from any number of barren days, can the sinister interest of C—r-General be subjected to any loss: because, for any day or number of days thus lost at an anterior part of the session, it is in his power to add at the posterior part as many as he pleases: at this posterior part; that is, at the part at which the ratio of the number on the opposite side to the number on his own side will be less and less.
By a conspiracy on the part of the opposition members, to flock into the scene of action in numbers greater than usual, on this or that particular day, what might now and then happen is—the cabinet junto’s being taken by surprise: and in this way it is, that this or that thing might happen to be done, which could not by any succeeding majority be undone: evidence, for example, procured, and admission thus given to lights, which could not afterwards be extinguished. To obviate any such inconvenience, a sort of rule of courtesy has, with the concurrence of both parties, been established; viz. that no motion of considerable importance shall be made without previous notice. In this rule, however, it does not appear that motions having for their object the procurement of official evidence have in general been considered as included: hence an accident which is said to have now and then happened is—that evidence, which, in case of an attendance sufficiently full, would with the most inexorable effrontery have been refused, has by surprise been extorted. One mode of denying justice, and by far the most effectual, is the denial of the evidence necessary to the obtaining of it: the most effectual,—because by the mere production of the evidence, justice, in so far as depends upon the tribunal of public opinion, will frequently be done. Rule—general, not to say universal; whenever, to a motion for special evidence, denial is opposed,—that denial has self-confessed delinquency at the bottom of it. By the tribunal of public opinion it ought to be taken as and for confessional evidence, and that evidence conclusive: taken as conclusive evidence, and judgment as for the utmost possible amount of the thus concealed guilt pronounced accordingly.
In this way,—of the useful measures which otherwise might have been brought to maturity, some are prevented from being brought forward so much as in the way of motion: and thus far even conception is prevented: others, in the instance of which conception has not been prevented, are prevented from being productive of the desirable and desired effect; and in this case, and in this way, abortion is procured.
To the quantity of effect produced by those means of barrenness and abortion, of which, as above, with more or less facility the manufacturing is in the hands of the minister,—is added that of another set of means, neither the existence nor the efficiency of which depend, in any considerable degree, in any direct way, upon any exertion of his, but the existence of which, together with that of the system under which they are bred, will of course find on his part a degree of protection proportioned to the service derived from them by his own sinister interest. To this head may be referred—
I. The avocations produced by the separate, and consequently, with reference to the public service, the sinister interests appertaining to the several professions: viz. those of—1. Lawyers—practising lawyers; 2. Army officers; 3. Navy officers; 4. Diplomatists; 5. Governors and other persons in office, in any of the several distant dependencies.
II. The avocations specially incident to the situation of the members for Ireland, taken in the aggregate.
Thus, to each particular interest is the universal interest made to give way: and, by these particular interests, not only is absentation produced on the part of the individuals, but, in many instances, and to a no inconsiderable extent, not only for the accommodation of individuals, but for the accommodation of a whole professional class, is this or that particular business, or class of business, put off. Thus, by means of terms and arrests, it having been originally contrived, by and for the particular interest of the lawyer-class, that during certain periodically-recurring portions of every year, denial of justice should have place,—so it is, that for the incidental accommodation of this or that individual partner in that separate and sinister interest, the whole business of the nation is moreover incidentally put off. And, forasmuch as in their situation of corruption-eaters, among lawyers, the crown lawyers—essentially acting partners in the firm of C—r-General and Co.—are constantly in the number of the members,—while corruption-hunters are naturally more numerous on the prosperous than on the unprosperous side of the House,—here may be seen another advantage, which the great sinister interest of C—r-General and Co. draws to itself from the cluster of lesser interests with which it is surrounded.
Interests, by the play of which the numbers of Members present are determined.
As in the physical, so in this part of the political world, by the conflict and compressure between the centripetal and centrifugal forces, is, at each instant, the locus of the several objects in question determined.
In the physical world have been observed physical attraction and repulsion; to which, by inference and supposition, have been added primæval impulse.
In this part of the political world, behold as analogous counterparts, analogous to those of the physical world, moral attraction and repulsion: instrument of moral attraction and desire, pleasure;* productive of a corresponding interest, and operating in the character of a motive: instrument of moral repulsion, pain;† productive also of a corresponding interest and desire; and, though in a direction opposite to that just mentioned, operating also in the character of a motive, and capable of operating with much greater force.
First, as to centrifugal interests: for, as above, such for shortness may be the term employed for the designation of that class of interests, the force of which, as applied to this part of the political world, operates in a centrifugal direction, as above explained: interests, the tendency of which is constantly, and the effect but too frequently, to reduce to the state of an exhausted receiver the condition of Honourable House: to produce a vacuum, of which, in the case of any receptacle of the physical kind, it might not be altogether easy to produce so perfect an example. On the one hand, miscellaneous interests—on the other hand, ministerial interest—interest peculiar to the ministerial side of the House, but more particularly to the case of such of the leading members whose station is on that side. Of the first operation by which the class of centrifugal interests requires to be divided, behold, in the sub-classes thus distinguished, the two results.
Among miscellaneous interests may be distinguished—on the one hand, interests of universal operation—interests incident to all men as men—say, for shortness, universally-operating interests—on the other hand, interests peculiar to profession or office—say professional interests—interests of the professional purse; in some cases, interests of the counting-house: and so, in the case of office, official interests or interests of the office.
For the designation of all or any of these particular interests, in so far as with reference to that portion of the visible business of which the House is the seat, it happens to them to operate in the character of avocations, may be employed the appellation of centrifugal or house-clearing interests.
To the head of interests common to all men as men may be referred—1. Interest created by the aversion to labour—say interest of the pillow; 2. Interest incidentally created by miscellaneous private business—say interest of the closet;‡ 3. Interest created by the love of pleasure taken in the aggregate:—the tendency of the sort of interest in question being in this case sinister, say accordingly, interest of the cup of Circe.
Next and lastly, as to centripetal interests:—house-filling interests they cannot be styled; for so it is, that on no one day was the House ever filled by them.
But for this or that particular interest, operating in the character of a centripetal force—operating in a direction counter to that of the above-indicated centrifugal force—operating in a direction opposite to that in which the force of the above-mentioned confederacy of sinister interests acts, as above—operating in a word, in so far as they are effective, in such sort as to produce attendance,—the House would of course constantly, as in fact and experience it is so frequently, be a desert.
Miscellaneous interests,—ministerial interest:—in this may be seen a division, which, as it has served for the cause of absentation, may with like propriety and convenience be employed for the marshalling of those counter-causes by which a limit is set to the operation of the above repulsive cause.
To the head of miscellaneous house-peopling causes may be referred—1. The hope of strengthening a man’s own interest; i. e. preserving or raising the man’s station in the scale of public repute: of public repute, whether on the ground of appropriate aptitude, with reference to the situation, or on the mere ground of the power and reputation dependent on it;—2. Hope of serving a friend, i. e. rendering good offices to the individual, or class of men in question; whether through sympathy, or in hope of return in the like shape;—3. Hope of serving the party, viz. to which, if to any, for the time being it happens to the individual in question to have attached himself;—4. Hope of witnessing an interesting debate: say, in this case, interest of the amphitheatre.
“Well:—and in the whole list of the official causes of attendance—in the whole of the entire list thus professed to be made out—is no place to be found for that cause which consists in a sense of duty? Candour! what is become of candour? Charity! what is become of Christian charity?” Answer: By neither of these virtues is misrepresentation in any degree or shape prescribed.
If, in any degree capable of being taken into account, any such virtuous motive had place,—658 being the number of the members, in whose instance the right in effect, and in name the duty of attendance has place,—no such phenomenon as that of the House in the state of a desert would on any day have place. Unhappily, in fact and experience, not a session, perhaps, was ever seen, in which a number of such universally-assumed holidays were not seen to have had place, in that high school of self-licensed truantism and indiscipline.
Among the efficient causes of attendance, remain those interests, the operation of which is confined to the ministerial side of the House: those interests, of the operation of which one part of the effect has already been seen under the head of Mischief 3—mischief, by securing greater attendance on, and greater effect to, the corrupt side.
By the subordinate, as well as the superior official situations, may be seen shared the interest of the sceptre in its three distinguishable forms: viz. 1. Interest corresponding to the present pleasure of power—pleasure derived from the present possession and exercise of power; 2. Fear of losing it, or seeing it decrease; 3. Hope of giving increase, or at least stability, to it.
In the instance of those by which the superior situations—say, for greater distinctness, the cabinet situations—are occupied, this interest of the sceptre suffices, for the most part—suffices, without any such fear as that of eventual punishment in the shape of dismission—to secure, in a state of tolerably habitual constancy, the fulfilment of the duty of attendance.
In the inferior situations,—but for the wholesome fear last mentioned, insufficient to secure the bearing of this burthen with any tolerable degree of constancy, would be all the sweets of office. Therefore it is, that, for securing the production of so indispensably necessary an effect,—to the general fear of being deprived of these sweets by casualties applying to the whole party, is, and cannot but be, added the special fear of being eventually deprived of them: deprived of them, even by the superior and regularly-protecting hands, should any inexcusable degree of weakness be manifested, in respect of those exertions of self-denial which are necessary to the opposing an effectual resistance to the attractions presented by the interest of Circe’s cup,—with or without those other interests which have been stated as operating in conjunction with it.
But if, even in the case of actual corruption-eaters—of those in whose instance those sweets are already in possession, thus faint and unsteady is the operation of those causes, by which a tendency to attendance is produced,—judge how much fainter and fainter it cannot but be, in the several more and more remote situations—of corruption-hunters attached to corruption-eaters in possession, and corruptionists who are such but in expectancy—considered in their several continually receding situations, viz. of those imaginary corruption-eaters in chief—of imaginary corruption-eaters in subordinate situations—and of those imaginary corruption-hunters, whose melancholy station is at the furthest point of distance.
In the plan in question, as in every other, to the particular cluster of interests which spring out of his own particular situation, in the instance of every man is added the share he has in the universal interest. But, by this interest alone, unaided by any of these others, would the House, with any tolerable degree of regularity, be supplied with a number sufficient for the carrying on of the business?—for the carrying it on in any manner whatever, good or bad? The answer is already given. Not even with the aid of all these separate particular interests is the effect produced, much less by the single power of the share thus possessed in the universal interest.
Not that, in default of all these other interests, produced as they are by the existing causes,—the machine of state would be in any great danger of falling to pieces: kept together in some way or other, no fear but that in that case it would be. Kept together; but how? For its immediately operating cause or causes, the effect would have an interest, or cluster of interests, created for the purpose.
Of such factitious interest, or cluster of interests, would you see an example? Look to the House of Lords. For the giving exercise to that branch of the supreme power,—which is so useful, not only to the high branch by which it is exercised, but to one still higher,—three is the number of persons that has been made necessary;—three, and no more, the number that has been made sufficient. Now, of what persons this triad, is it composed? Answer: Of the Lord Chancellor, of the noble chairman of committees, and of a prelate—out of the thirty prelates, right reverend and most reverend, some one by whom the blessed comforts of religion have just been administered to the congregation so composed. And of the care thus taken by each of his own share in the universal interest, what in these several cases is the immediate cause? In the instance of the Lord Chancellor, his office of speaker, with the mass of emolument in the shape of salary, fees, and patronage, attached to it:—in the instance of the noble chairman of committees, his salary, with its et cæteras. Remains the prelate—the only person of the three, for whose benefit, to pay him for the care thus taken by himself of himself, no special immediate interest is created—created in manner as above at the expense of swinish multitude. Obvious is here the contrast, with the sort of injustice which it involves. In excuse for such an irregularity, all that can be pleaded is, that the number of the right reverend and most reverend persons thus loaded—English and Irish together—being thirty, a thirtieth part of the time of the whole session measures the quantity of the load thus imposed upon any one of them, without special recompence.
From the example thus exhibited in a sphere of superior dignity,—learn, as above, the mode in which in the similar, howsoever inferior, sphere in question, the immediate interest necessary to the preserving the machine from falling to pieces, would, in the hypothetical case in question, be created. Power without obligation in the regions above—obligation without power in the regions below—such is the scheme of division and distribution appointed and carried into effect. To the Diveses the good things; to the Lazaruses the evil things. Propose that, in any such his high situation, noble lord or honourable gentleman should stand engaged thus to take care of his own interest without being paid for it,—noble lord or honourable gentleman would stand aghast at the injustice.
Inconsistency of the Non-attendance ad libitum in this, in comparison with the indispensable Attendance in other offices.
This, unless that of the Monarch be excepted, beyond comparison the most important of all offices—the very office, under the eye of which the business of every other office, without exception, is liable to be brought for censure: this—of all offices in virtue of which any business at all is done—(for sinecures, acknowledged in that character—sinecures, whether profane or sacred, are not here in question)—this, of all offices of business, the office in which neglect of duty is at the same time more extensive—more habitual—more constant—more manifest—more manifestly mischievous—more scandalous than in any other. A sort of riddle this: but the solution comes along with it. Power supreme: power unincumbered with obligation:—situation irresponsible:—in these few words and phrases, behold the solution of it.
Look at the situation of the twelve Judges: look at the situation of the eleven Masters in Chancery:—look at the situation of the Commissioners of the Customs:—look at the situation of the Commissioners of the Excise:—look at the situation of Commissioners of the Navy:—in all those offices, so comparatively narrow in respect of their field of action—so inferior in respect of the extent and importance of their business—where will you see anything like it?
In the situation of Member of the House of Commons may a man remain for a whole parliament: no efficient obligation for so much as a single day’s attendance—sees M.P. written after his name,—swaggers, and franks letters—throws upon the shoulders of the swinish multitude the burthen of payment for his private correspondence. This, and more, is what in that public situation a man may do for his private benefit, without rendering to the public, in any shape whatever, an atom of service.*Call of the House:—yes: if so it be that he is within call, and grudges the trouble of sending a false excuse. But more on this head a little further on.
In one point of view, more flagrant is this abuse even than sinecurism. By sinecurist, as such, nothing at all is done: nothing is there that, so long as that title belongs to him, can be done by him. But if not anything at all, so neither can any mischief be done by him. Thus as with sinecurist. How is it with Honourable Gentleman? For no one good purpose is he under any obligation whatever to bestow a single moment of attendance: while, for all bad purposes, he may attend as often as he pleases.
Sinecures professed being thus disposed of, look through the whole scale of office:—begin at the bottom, end at the top; see whether, at any one point in it, any such monstrosity is to be found.
Look at the exciseman. Were but a small part of that truantism which is committed by Honourable Gentleman manifested by the exciseman, dismission—(unless he had good borough-interest)—dismission would be his portion, nor that portion undeserved.
“Speak of me in the same breath with a fellow such as that!” cries Honourable Gentleman, swelling, strutting, and making up to the glass, to view himself—“compare me to an exciseman!—a man of my property!—a man of my ‘influence,’ and that ‘influence,’ all of it, so legitimate! Chair! chair! Look to the chair, sir! is it not legitimate? have you not told us so?”
“Oh yes, sir—all of it legitimate—the influence of your property, if so it be that you have any, and that property of the right sort. But this property of yours, is it of the right sort?—is it of any sort? Was it really by property that you forced your way in?—was it not by connexion that you crept your way in?—and whatsoever it was that brought you in, are you now really worth a groat? No: nor yet half a groat, if your name be Sheridan, or . . . . But for proving the species here, one name is enough.
“An exciseman!—compare you to an exciseman! Sir, if your title to respect were as sure as that of an exciseman, much surer would it be than it is. Of an exciseman, two things are sure to be true: 1. That in a shape appropriate with reference to the situation into which he has procured himself to be placed, he possesses in some degree the connected qualifications of appropriate intellectual aptitude, and appropriate active talent; for without them he could not be what he is; 2. That by means of these same endowments, service to the public is—in a certain shape, and a certain quantity, actually rendered by him. In his instance, both these good things are sure to be true—in yours, which of them? Sir, neither the one nor the other: no, nor any other whatsoever.”
Up now to the opposite end of the scale. Lift up your eyes to the throne:—behold the man that sits on it. In principle or practice, even in that situation, is any such monstrosity to be found? In that situation, few, assuredly, if any, who, if asked, would deny that, in their ever-legitimate situation, the power belonging to it is a trust. Here, in this country, by our own monarch, by our Prince Regent, in so many words—while Fox was the word of words—was it not declared so to be?
So much for principle. But here, in this case—what unhappily is not true in every case—we have not only acknowledged principle, but, in some degree, even accordant practice. To papers upon papers does the monarch give his signature: to papers, not for his own benefit merely, but for the people’s likewise:—to papers to which his signature must be given, and is given, or the machine of the state would fall to pieces: to papers for everybody’s use: not like honourable gentleman’s signature, for his own use, or that of his own connexions merely, and to save them the expense of postage.
Let there be no misconception. Mark well the point that is here in question. Not the quality, not the goodness, not the value, of the service performed—but the fact—the mere fact—that service is performed: not the propriety of that which, in cases of attendance, is done,—but the fact—the mere fact—of the attendance.
Individual Delinquents blameless—who blameable.
Of the view thus given of the state—not of the representation—not even of the misrepresentation, but of the non-representation—the habitual and established non-representation—together with the causes by which it is produced, what is the practical object? That on individuals,—considered in the character of persons in whose breasts, on each or any one of the particular days appointed for business, by sermons as from a pulpit,—to any such effect as that of producing a strict fulfilment of the duty here in question,—any such sense as what is called a sense of duty, may, on any reasonable ground, be expected to operate? No—no, indeed: as well to the deaf adder, or to the congregation to which no minister but St. Anthony ever preached, might any such sermon be addressed. By any individual, to whom anything in the way of reproach or so much as of exhortation, having for its object the increasing the frequency of his attendance, were addressed,—the answer that would be given—nor that commonly an insufficient one—is altogether obvious. “By no vote of mine,” would he say—“by no vote of mine, unless accompanied by an adequate number of other votes on the same side, would any adequate effect be produced. But, with the exception of the ministry, of no such requisite number can any sufficiently grounded assurance be ever entertained. In their hands is seen and felt a mass of power, of which, to a certain extent, and that a sufficient extent, the efficiency stands assured—power exercisable at all times:—to the pack which they keep belongs an establishment of whippers-in, to whose voice all such dogs as have a certain collar about their necks are instinctively obedient: to them it does belong to compel them to come in. To them? Yes, but to no one else: in their hands is the already sensible and tangible whip: to the opposition leaders, nothing but the phantasmagoric image of it: to no others, so much as that image!”
Under circumstances such as these, where is the individual ever to be found, on whom reproach can ever find room to attach itself with any decided force? “Everybody’s business is nobody’s business:” not less true than trivial is that familiar adage.
One case indeed may be assigned,—in which, on some better ground than as above, blame might find spots to fix upon. Suppose an adequate remedy brought to view, and endeavours used for the giving effect to it: on that supposition, what it would be difficult to find, would be—not the person on whom blame—just blame—would attach, but the person on whom it would not attach, in the event of his omitting to use any endeavour in his power towards the accomplishment of that end. Just blame?—just reproach? Yes: but to what effect any such reproach, whatsoever were its justice? Answer: To no effect at all, supposing the stream of general and preponderant interest to run in opposition to it. But of this further, when the interests, which occur in shutting the door against every efficient system of reform, come to be brought to view.
Honourable House incorrigible: this Disorder incurable: the Constitution subverted by it.
Well now, note what has been seen:—1. The nature of the species of delinquency in question; 2. The vast—the undeniable mischievousness of it; 3. The impossibility of the mischief’s ever finding a remedy in the exertions of individuals on individual occasions; 4. The sinfulness of the sin, in the breast of every individual who, after proof seen of its sinfulness, shall forbear to contribute his best endeavours, by whatsoever sweeping measure may be most surely effectual, to purge the House of it: to cleanse the House from it; and if so it be that he himself is of the number of the sinners, thus to bring forth the only fruits meet for repentance. All these things seen, exists there that man, in whose eyes the wish, to behold the concurrence of the votes necessary to the substitution of appropriate probity in this shape to the opposite improbity, brings with it any so much as the minutest chance for its accomplishment? If so, too plain indeed will be, if it be not already, his mistake.
On this occasion, as on all others, before you put yourself to any expense in the article of argument, look first to the state of interests:—think to overcome the force of interest by the force of argument? Think as well to take Lisle or Mantua, by peas blown out of a peashooter. The man who hastened to Rome, to convert the Pope to Protestantism—never let him be out of mind. When the Pope has put on Protestantism, look then to Honourable House:—then it is that your eyes shall behold Honourable House putting on uncorruption in the room of that corruption which sits now so easy on it. Think then whether there be that imaginable shape in which uncorruption would sit upon Honourable House more gallingly than in that of universal constancy of attendance!—a shape, under the pressure of which—unless they respectively gave up their seats—the land-officer, the sea-officer, the diplomatist, would have to give up their commissions,—the governor or other office-bearer in the distant dependencies, his office,—the lawyer his practice,—the official lawyer his office and his practice,—the fox-hunter, for months together, his dogs and horses,—the opera-fancier, his operas,—the Bond-street lounger, his lounges.
Address yourself to the man who sits by proprietorship—address yourself to the man who has come in by terrorism—address yourself to the man who has come in by bribery—address yourself to the man who, through proprietor, terrorist, or bribe-giver, has come in by purchase:—with the exception of some half-hundred or thereabouts, address yourself to any one of the 658:—tell him that his situation is a trust, that to fulfil that trust is a duty—tell him that the situation of monarch is a trust—that the Prince Regent has declared it so to be—and that in the hands even of the Prince Regent it never has been, nor ever can be, a perfect sinecure;—talk to him in any such strain:—so you may if you please, but first prepare yourself for a horse-laugh in your face. “The Prince Regent indeed! Yes: to him it is indeed a trust, it is not for him to do nothing but what he pleases. O yes; duty, and duty enough, has he to do: papers upon papers must he sign, when the time comes; it is for that that he is where he is. Sir, my case—be pleased to understand—is quite a different one. At this time, and at all times, I can do, sir, and I will do, sir, as I please. When it is more pleasant to me to go in than to stay out, I go in: when it is more pleasant to me to stay out than to go in, I stay out. This, sir, it is to be independent: this, sir, is the duty of an independent Member of Parliament: this, sir, is the use of a man’s being a Member of Parliament.”
Well now, honest reader, what you are supposing all the while is—that principles such as these are but the principles of individuals:—principles which, in so far as they are really harboured and acted upon, are but the accidental result of individual profligacy and insolence: principles too, which, in the representation thus given of them, are in the beat of argument more or less exaggerated. Alas! if such be really your thoughts, in sad truth you are in an error:—an error which you will be but too deplorably liable to fall into, should any such expectation be entertained by you, as that on that seat of self-proclaimed honour, any real regard for duty—even for acknowledged duty—is to be found. Duty as to constituents?—duty as towards swinish multitude? “Oh no!” cries Honourable House, “leave that duty to the swine.” Duty to Honourable House? Yes: on this occasion, at any rate, that duty, and no other, is the duty Honourable House knows of. Now in all this is there anything of misrepresentation?—anything of exaggeration? Read now, and judge.
Honourable House has its rules and customs: behold now one of them. Unless forty members or more are present, business cannot be begun upon:—here you have a rule. But when Honourable House so pleases, motion having been made and seconded for that purpose, what is called a call of the House is made. A day is named—always a more or less distant one—and, on that one day, attendance on the part of all and singular the members is commanded. Look once more at this rule—at this custom:—whatsoever be its name, constituted by this rule or custom, here you have a duty—an obligation established. Established? Aye: and, as often as Honourable House shall so please, enforced: for, not a member is there who, should he fail of paying duty and homage to Honourable House, either by attendance or excuse, may not—would not peradventure—by order of Honourable House, be imprisoned: imprisoned and squeezed for patronage-swelling fees. Well then—in the obligation either to attend or send excuse—here you have not only an obligation, but an obligation, as often as it shall please the Honourable House, made perfect: here you have indeed a duty. A duty? but towards whom? Even towards Honourable House, by whom, and by whom alone, it has been created,—by whom, and by whom alone, when enforced, it is enforced. But in this very duty—a duty thus created, and no otherwise enforced—in this very duty you have the abrogation of all duty as respecting the service at large—of all duty as towards the people in the character of constituents. Obligation, confined to one particular occasion—what is it but licence as applied to all other occasions? Thus it is that of Honourable House it is the law—the will—the pleasure—the constantly-entertained and frequently-declared pleasure—that, in regard to attendance—except in obedience to command issued by Honourable House,—Honourable Members shall at all times do as they please. And this is what was to be proved. Now in this, is there anything misrepresented? anything exaggerated? As towards constituents—as towards swinish multitude, of obligation not so much as the weight of a feather: not so much as that sort of obligation, the levity of which is recognised by moralists, distinguishing it as they do by the name of an imperfect one.
Proposing at the same time that all other things shall remain as they are, and therefore as “they should be,” in or out of the House,—suppose then a man to stand up and propose, that on the part of honourable gentlemen who risk nothing by it, attendance—a duty not occupying half the year—should, for and during so moderate a portion of each man’s time, be rendered as constant and universal, as on the part of soldiers, who, the whole year, and on every day in the year, risk their lives by it:—To any such effect, any such proposal would it be endured? The whole House, would it not be in an uproar? A voice crying, make a stand! make a stand! aye, and with echoes too—echoes from both sides,—would it not once more be heard, and from the reforming side of the House? To the pious among honourable gentlemen, would not the preacher of this part of the whole duty of man be as surely an atheist—to the political, a jacobin—as if his motion had been for universal suffrage? Say, how should it be otherwise—when, by the one measure as by the other, the best interests (as the phrase is)—the best interests on both sides—would alike be elbowed out, and made to give place (oh intolerable thought!) to the universal interest?
No: assuredly not to Honourable House are these arguments, or any part of them, addressed: their interest is to remain as they are and what they are, so long as the injured people and their brave defenders shall behold them sitting there. No: not to the deaf adder—not to that deaf adder, whose deafness has been produced by the charms of sinister interest, will any such charms as can be contained in argument be addressed. The ears which by the voice of honest interest—of that interest, the voice of which is in unison with universal interest—are prepared to listen to arguments, pleading the cause of that interest—these, and these alone, are the ears, to which, with any the slightest expectation of their being listened to, these arguments, howsoever in form and by compulsion addressed to any other quarter, are, or in sincerity and reality can be, addressed.
Abdication—more truly predicable of Honourable House, than of James II.—Quere, as to Forfeiture.
Think now of James the Second. How he governed, every body knows. Think how he fled from his trust, and how by Honourable House he was declared to have abdicated it. Well then—this trust of his—by what sort of conduct on his part was it that he abdicated it? Till the moment when, for the purpose of the moment, it pleased Honourable House to change the sense of it, did not—in every other instance in which an office of any kind is mentioned, does not—the word abdicate mean giving up intentionally and from choice? And that tyrant—one of the most tenacious of all tyrants—would anything short of the most unsurmountable necessity have ever forced him to give up either the office, or so much as a single atom of the power belonging to it? So much for him whose name was king: turn now to him or them whose name is legion. See whether, from that time to the present—or say for shortness since the Irish Union—by the vast majority among the members of the House—the exercise of the whole trust belonging to the House, has it not been deserted:—deserted, and if desertion be abdication, abdicated? If, spite of all his endeavours to continue in the exercise of the functions belonging to a trust, a man may thus legally be said to have abdicated it—and be dealt with as if he had abdicated it,—how much more truly—how much more justly—where the forbearance to exercise them is most notoriously his own free—his own even licentiously free act?—and of any one man, to any number of men?
If, for grounding a practical consequence in other places, the word abdicated—the great parliamentary word, which, by the hand of lawyer-craft, by which this sense was forced into it, Honourable House forced upon the other House,—if this word be not of itself yet strong enough, take in hand the word forfeiture:—take along with it the word non-user:—consult Mr. Justice Blackstone: see whether—be the office what it may—private or public—and if public, “whether it concerns the administration of justice or the commonwealth,”—of two causes of forfeiture, non-user be not one:—a cause, yea, and “of itself a direct and immediate cause.” In all this, is there anything of subversion? anything of sedition? Be it so: but on whom shall fall the punishment? On me? It is not I that have made the sedition: all that I have done is to find it:—to find it, even where myriads upon myriads have found it before me. I am not the delinquent—the seditionist—the enemy of government. I am the informer—the servant of government—the unpaid as well as spontaneous informer—which is more than all informers are.—Judge Blackstone—if you want the seditionist—in him you have the seditionist: his body let Lord Sidmouth take up, and set to rot along with the living ones—unseen and unseenable—in one of his bastilles.
Yes: if parliamentary doctrine is to be taken for authority, and that authority decisive, who is there—what lawyer at least is there—that does not see, on how much better and truer ground, than the power of the monarch in that day, may the power of Honourable House in these our days be deemed and taken to have been forfeited—forfeited to and for the use and benefit of the people?
Let me not be mistaken. What I mean here to say is—not that the Honourable House is, exactly speaking, a corporation:—not that to the King’s Bench—the judicatory by which corporations are purged, and persons wrongfully acting as members of them ousted,—it belongs to purge Honourable House. No: if to the lot of Honourable House it should ever fall to be purged, the judicatory by which the purge is administered must be of a constitution, and above all, of a complexion, somewhat different from that of the Court of King’s Bench. At present, all I mean is—to point the attention of the proper judicatory, whatever it be, to the description, as above, of the case by which, according to Mr. Justice Blackstone, the demand for a purge of this sort is created.
The Incurableness of the Disorder—and the consequently incurable Corruptness of Honourable House—declared by Hatsell, Chief Clerk of the House.
Is not this yet enough? Of misrepresentation—of exaggeration—of rash and ungrounded, or insufficiently grounded inference—of any such imputed result of audacious hostility,—after what has already been seen, can any charge—any suspicion—still remain? Well then: call in John Hatsell—call in the man, who, while in his place the chief servant, has long by his works, descriptive of the practice of the House, and published for the use of the members, been looked up to as the oracle of Honourable House: to a man in his situation—will anything of hostility—and if of partiality, partiality on the adverse side—be imputed?
Hear, then, what is said by him of the non-attendance and its consequences.
“It not being customary of late years,” says he, vol. ii. p. 68 to 72, “to enforce the calls of the House by taking Members who do not attend into the castody of the Serjeant, in the twenty years that I have attended at the Table,” (date of this second edition, 1785,) “there has not occurred a single instance: although at the time of ordering the call, there is always a resolution come to, ‘that such Members as shall not attend at the time appointed, be taken into custody.’ It does not become me to determine, how far this lenity of the House, in admitting every trifling excuse that is offered, conduces to the end proposed—or whether it would not be better not to order a call, than to make it nugatory by not enforcing it.” Such, then, in the thus honestly published as well as declared opinion of the most competent of all judges, was at that time the state of the disorder itself. Behold now what in the same opinion are among the effects of it.
“The controul which theindependentMembers of the House ought to have over the conduct of theMinistersis,” says he, “entirely lost.”
Well:—if this be not a subversion of the constitution, what else can be? If it be not by this, that what was best in the constitution of this country was distinguished from what was worst in the worst of other governments—by this, viz. that a body of men chosen by the people,—so chosen and so circumstanced, as not to be in any state of dependence as towards the servants of the monarch chosen by the monarch,—that this body of men, so chosen and so circumstanced, possessed “a controul over” those same servants of the monarch,—by what else was it that this same constitution was ever thus distinguished? Well then:—in the thus declared opinion of this official and intelligent, as well as assiduous, observer of the conduct of the House,—already, at the time when this was written by him—already, in the year 1785—was this “controul . . . entirely lost.” This said—this disastrous truth proclaimed—and this said—by whom? by an adversary—a hostilely partial adversary? No: but by a most faithful, zealously attached, universally respected, and not too sparingly rewarded, howsoever richly deserving—servant.—In what way, too?—in the way of speech spoken—spoken in the heat of debate, and without time for reflection? No: but in a cool didactic and written treatise, the result of the viginti annorum lucubrationes—the twenty years’ lucubrations he had just been speaking of—and this republished without alteration, in a second edition, after the opportunity taken of receiving any objections, could any objections have been made, to what he had thus been saying in the first.
If then, even at that time—even in 1785—even before the Pandora’s box was opened upon it, which was opened by Pitt the second, and now again and with additions re-opened upon it—if even then the constitution was “subverted,” in what sort of plight is it now? But, if the subversion—so full of horror in the eyes of Mr. Speaker,* had, at the very time when he was thus giving expression to these horrors, already taken place,—the subversion of such a subversion—is it not restitution? is it not among the objects which, by every safe and legal means, every true lover of his country ought to contribute his utmost endeavours to the accomplishment of? When subversion is the calamity that has taken place, what better can happen to it than to be subverted?—when captivity was the calamity that had taken place, what better could have happened to it than to be led captive? By a stronger, suppose a weaker man set with his feet where his head should be: what better could happen to him than to find himself set on his legs again?
Of the declaration made by Honourable House of the forced abdication of James the Second, the day is no secret. Of the declaration voluntarily made by the same Honourable House of its own voluntary abdication, as above, the day is not more dubious: Thursday, the 10th of May 1744—there it is.—Commons’ Journals—Report that day from “Committee appointed to consider of the most proper methods to enforce a more early and constant attendance of the Members upon the service of the House.”. . . . Resolutions, five in number: whereof three, and three alone, on the subject of constancy—meaning, of course, on the part of every one, as well as of every other of the Members. Of these three—all of them together, had they been carried into effect, inadequate—the first and third put aside, the only one agreed to never acted upon—never from that time till the present: viz. “That no Member do absent himself from the service of the House, without special leave of the House.”†
Thus, in the opinion of this faithful servant, but not less intrepid and still unquestioned censor of the House,—the constitution had even then been subverted,—and in the disorder mentioned by him—viz. non-attendance—in this free and generally prevailing abdication—the subversion had its cause. Well then: in this same opinion, this cause—was it of the number of those which are capable of being removed? Not it indeed; for with the following note do these Observations of his conclude:—“It appears, from the Report of May 1744, how inadequate every measure has been, that has been hitherto proposed, to prevent the evil: nothing can correct it entirely, but a sincere desire in the Members themselves to attend to that duty for which they were elected and sent to parliament.” Nothing, says he, can correct it, but—what? A sort of desire, the existence of which, to any such extent as would be necessary, would be an effect without a cause: for, in the situation in question, of any such desire, so long as man is man, the existence has been shown to be impossible.
Now of this dereliction of duty—this most deliberately determined—most perseveringly maintained, and still maintained—dereliction of duty—of acknowledged duty,—is either the existence or the cause, or the intended perpetuity, open to dispute? The existence, you see it in the journals:—the cause of it, is it not in the non-existence of due dependence, coupled with the existence of that undue dependence which is the effect of it?—the perpetuity, is it not secured to the disorder, by the nature of its cause? This so determinately perpetual dereliction of acknowledged duty,—does it not, of itself, afford an indisputable demand for a remedy from without, by which the determination shall be put an end to?—for a remedy by which the cause will be removed?—for the only remedy by which, in the very nature of the case, it ever can be removed?
REPRESENTATIVES—IMPERMANENCE OF THEIR SITUATION—ITS IMPORTANCE:—OBJECTIONS—THEIR GROUNDLESSNESS.
On this part of the field, into a comparatively small compass must be compressed whatever can here be said: by the joint pressure of time and space, no inconsiderable quantity of matter, that had been collected for the purpose of this section, has, for the present at least, of necessity been extruded.
Utility and usage: to one or other of these heads may be referred whatsoever matter can here find room for the reception of it. Utility, as deducible from the unquestionable principles of human nature, as manifested by universal experience: usage, a source of argument, the demand for which will be seen to arise—partly out of the connexion it has with utility through the medium of experience; partly out of the means of defence it will be seen to afford against adverse prejudices and fallacies.*
I. First, as to utility.
In the Plan itself, from impermanence in general,—and, in the way of example, from annuality in particular,—four advantages—beneficial consequences—uses, in a word—are stated as resulting: whereof three having more particular respect to appropriate probity; the fourth to appropriate intellectual aptitude, and appropriate active talent.
I. Consider, in the first place, the case of each member, taken individually.
1. In the first place, the shorter the term he has in his seat,—the nearer, in cases of imputed misconduct, the term at which any mischief produced by such misconduct may be made to cease;—and, in the way of example to others, the more impressive the sort of punishment involved in a removal produced by such a cause.†
2. In the next place, by lessening, by the amount of the difference in the length of the term in the two opposite cases, the inducement which a candidate could have to launch out into expenses too great for his circumstances,—lessening thereby the danger of his coming into the House in a venal state.
2. Next, consider the case of the whole House, taken in the aggregate.
3. The smaller the length given to that service, the smaller the length of sinister service which a corruptly-disposed member will have to sell; the smaller, consequently, the length which it will be in the power of C—r-General and Co. to purchase.
4. The greater the number of the parcels into which the present length of service is broken down, the greater the number of those lengths of service which, for the continuance of a given length of corrupt service at the hands of a majority of the members, C—r-General and Co. will have to purchase; and thence the greater the chance that the aggregate number of the masses of the matter of corruption at his disposal will prove insufficient for that pernicious purpose.
5. Of the utility of the proposed transitoriness, in the character of a security for appropriate intellectual aptitude and appropriate active talent,—the proof, it is imagined, will not be much in danger, either of experiencing denial, or so much as escaping spontaneous notice. By discourses indicative of ignorance or intellectual weakness—by constant silence and inactivity—by absentation or slackness of attendance—by any one or more of these features of unfitness,—in the instance of every member in which they respectively have place, may his inaptitude, absolute or comparative, be betrayed, and indication given of it to his constituents. In this way, partly by original exclusion, produced by self-conscious inaptitude without trial,—partly by subsequent exclusion produced after and by trial,—produced, in a word, by the light of experience—may the House be cleared:—cleared, not as now, of those natural, and unpaid, and necessary—yet alas! how insufficient!—guardians to its aptitude in all shapes, and more especially to its probity—those constituents, in whose faces it so frequently, and always so needlessly, shuts its door under the name of strangers—and whom, as such, it clears itself of, as the phrase is, in the character of incumbrances and nuisances;—but of the multitudes of those real incumbrances and nuisances with which, in the situation of members, it is, under the existing system, to so great a degree infested; viz. empty-headed idlers, who, in default of all other means of consuming time, drop in now and then,—and, to save themselves from the trouble of thinking, throw themselves into the ever-extended arms of C—r-General and Co.—thus giving their support to misrule—saying, and perhaps fancying, they are supporting government: thus, and even without need of being purchased, contributing to the formation of the waste-and-corruption-and-oppression-producing majority; and, at the same time, by the amount of what might have been their share of the spoil, leaving undiminished, and by so much the larger, in the hands of the arch-corruptionist, the mass of the matter of corruption,—in readiness to be employed in the purchase of such other of the members, in whose instance, on the one hand, the demand for the matter of corruption is more importunate; on the other hand, the return they are capable of making for it, in the shape of pernicious service, more valuable.
Under the existing system, not only has C—r-General no interest—no positive interest—in the largeness of the number of members endowed with a more than ordinary share in these accomplishments; but, on the contrary, he has a positive interest in the smallness of that number. In addition to those measures which for keeping the machine from falling to pieces, must be carried into effect, the object he has to accomplish is—the carrying into effect—in number, extent, and value, to the greatest extent practicable—such others, as shall in the highest degree be conducive to the advancement of his separate interest. Now, for this purpose, true it is—that, in a limited number, men provided in the highest degree with these endowments,—as well as at the same time prepared at all times to make the requisite sacrifice in the article of probity,—are, on the occasion of the use made of them,—necessary. At the same time, for speech, motion, and occasional penmanship, suppose this number, whatever it be, completed:—this done, every individual above this number is a nuisance: the greater the value of his talents, the higher are his pretensions raised: the higher his pretensions raised,—and the greater the danger lest, by inadequacy of the quantity of the matter of corruption at command, he should be disappointed, and by discouragement driven to the other side: and moreover, the greater the number of these men of pretension, the greater the danger lest, by the quantity of time respectively employed by them in the display of their respective pretensions, a greater quantity on the whole might be consumed, than any demand he might have for delay, on the score explained in the section on non-attendance, could require: in which case they would be proportionable sufferers—sufferers, and to no use—in respect of the interest of the pillow.
Annuality of election, forsooth, a wild—a visionary arrangement? wild and visionary, when, within the view of those by whom it is thus denominated, stands the vast metropolis—its population little less than the tenth part of all England—the great seat and example of representative democracy—in which, for so many centuries past, the vision has been realized? realized, and all the time with such illustrious good effect, and without the shadow of inconvenience?
But here, perhaps, lest argument should be altogether wanting, comes a sudden turn to the opposite side: and now, with an air of triumph, at the bottom of this potential impermanence is shown eventual permanence: permanence—which, should it ever be actual, will be excessive.
Cases may be shown (it has been said)—cases in which, under annuality of election, the same person has been seated for life: here, then (it has been added,) where mutation has been the object thus aimed at, not mutation but perpetuity has been the result.
Be it so: but by this result, what is it that is proved? that the potential impermanence is a bad arrangement? By no means: but rather that it is a good one. Why? Because, under this instrument of good discippline, so good has been the behaviour of the functionary, that no fault has been to be found in him: no hope of supplanting him conceived by anybody else.
And, after all, in the particular instance here in question—in the Common Council, chosen by the liverymen of the city of London—of this potential impermanence is it so clear that any actual permanence, in such sort and degree as to have become productive of mischief in any assignable shape, has frequently, if ever, been the result?
In what character is it that impermanence is meant to be established?—in that of an end? an independent end? No surely: but in the mere character of a means—a means leading to an ulterior result in the character of an end: leading in a word to good behaviour, the result of appropriate aptitude in all shapes on the part of the functionary. Well then suppose the end fulfilled, what signifies it how matters stand with regard to the means?
What! from the circumstance of a man’s being, by the free suffrage of the undisputedly proper judges of his conduct, repeatedly and uninterruptedly—each time by the light of an additional body of experience—pronounced fit for his trust,—from this circumstance, standing as it does alone, will you infer him to be unfit? Grant that, in some situations, so it may be, that by nothing better than mere negative merit on the one part, and on the other part by the force of habit—by the property which habit has of superseding reflection—so it might happen, that a man of inferior merit might, by his continuance in the situation, put an exclusion upon a man of positive and superior merit,—still, in a situation such as this—a situation covered with a lustre, of which, in its present sordid state, it is not in the nature of the representation to afford an example,—small surely is the danger, but that by a swarm of competitors,—no expense having place by the terror of which any man can be excluded,—the attention of the electors will be sufficiently called and pointed to the probable degree of comparative aptitude, on the part of the provisionally accepted object of their choice.
But, should the case prove otherwise—or even for fear the case should prove otherwise—how easy would it be, by a slight amendment, to provide, that after having without intermission sitten for such or such a number of years, a member should, for the space of one year—or, if so it must be, some greater number of years,—cease to be eligible?—and so toties quoties?
The argument, which from potential impermanence infers probably excessive permanence,—in what circumstance shall we find the source of it? In great measure, not improbably, in the sort of paradoxicality that belongs to it, and the ingenuity and depth of thought that present themselves as evidenced by it. Here, as elsewhere, dig a little way, you get a paradox: dig a little further, you get the solution and exposure of it.
Give to the observation the utmost credit that can be due to it,—in the way of practice nothing more would result from it than a suspension—such as that proposed. But a sort of misconception, than which nothing is more common, is—the taking up an observation, the result of which, supposing it ever so well grounded, is but the need of a corresponding amendment to the proposed plan,—and then, without further thought, swelling it out into the shape of a peremptory objection, calling for the exclusion of the plan altogether.
II. Next, as to the question of usage.
Supposing, that from sufficient argument, the question of utility has received its answer—and that decision in favour of the proposed impermanence,—this being supposed, not improperly may it surely be observed, that to any such question as that about usage, any endeavour to find an answer is but a work of supererogation. That for centuries past, no such impermanence has had place, is altogether notorious: to what use, then, it may be asked, bring forward—even supposing it to have had place—an ancient usage, which has had for its opposite a more recent usage?—a usage bearing date in times more remote from, and thence more dissimilar to, our own—having for its opposite a usage less remote, and less dissimilar?
To this question may be returned two answers:—1. One is—that howsoever, in the eye of superior reason, the argument grounded in utility may be more substantially probative,—yet, constituted as human nature is—at any rate, at the stage beyond which the public mind is not yet advanced in this country,—the argument from usage—and in particular from ancient usage—affords a promise of being more efficiently persuasive.
2. Another answer is—that, on the present occasion, the argument from usage may, when considered in a certain point of view, be seen to come under, and in that way to coincide with, and operate in confirmation of, the argument from utility. Against the proposed impermanence, objections have been made on the ground of supposed confusion and instability: and, from words such as these, proportioned to the vagueness—to the confusedness—of the ideas attached to them in the minds of those by whom they have been employed, hath, as usual, been the portentousness of the eventual public calamities, brought to view by heated passions and excited imaginations, in the character of consequences,—and the intensity of the confidence with which the eventual arrival of these same calamities has been predicted.
Well then:—as to these points, such (it will be seen) as follows, is the state of facts. Age after age,—a degree of impermanence superior even to that which is here proposed, had place. And, during all that time, of this same impermanence what was the effect?—confusion?—instability?—anything, to the designation of which any such words could be employed? No:—but, on the contrary, the very result which, in the here proposed plan, is proposed as the proper end in view, or object to be aimed at; viz. on the part of the representatives of the people, dependence where due—dependence on the people: thence independence where due—independence as towards the monarch:—on the part of the monarch, dependence where due, dependence on the people—in a word, democratic ascendency.
Thus did matters continue, until—by the civil wars produced by contested title as between the Houses of York and Lancaster—by the successive conquests, and states of subjection—abject and universal subjection—to which those wars gave birth—by the final triumph of Henry VII., his almost unexampled rapacity, coupled with a degree of frugality altogether unexampled—by the vast and altogether unexampled mass of treasure precipitated from that source into the coffers of his son and successor—by the still more enormous mass of treasure absorbed from the patrimony of the church—from a mass of landed property, which, so long before as the year 1362, had been computed to amount to one-third part of the whole kingdom* —absorbed, in a word, principally from the dissolved monasteries, and at the same time, with a correspondent profusion, scattered abroad by that furious and sanguinary tyrant—so it was, that by the united force of terrific and alluring influence, every such sentiment, as that of independence as towards the monarch, wanted but little of being eradicated from every English breast.
In regard to the duration, coupled with the frequency of parliaments—the following are, in general terms, the results already obtained, from a not as yet quite completed search,—now making by a friend (on whose accuracy and judgment, as well as candour, I have a well-grounded confidence,) into the several authentic sources of information already published, with the addition of others, as yet unpublished, and some of them as yet unnoticed. When the search has been completed, I hope and believe it will be laid before the public in all its amplitude:—
I. As to frequency.
1. That, from the year 1258 (42 H. III.) down to the year 1640 (16 C. I. c. 1,) the monarch, in so far as he could be bound by an act of parliament, stood bound to hold a parliament once a-year at the least. Thus far as to the law.
2. That as to the usage that had place in pursuance of the law, from the year 1265 (49 H. III.) down to the year 1484 (1 R. III.) beyond which date the search in question has not yet extended—being a period of upwards of two hundred years—small is the number of years, in which a parliament does not from the documents appear to have been summoned; and in those instances, supposing no such summons to have had place, the omission may, with few or no exceptions, be accounted for, either by the absence of the Monarch in a foreign country (France or Scotland,) or by the existence of a civil war in the heart of the kingdom.
Thus much as to frequency.
II. Now as to duration.
3. That in all that time there is but one instance, in which the same parliament appears to have continued for and during a portion of time so long as a year: and that, in that one instance the duration was not so long as thirteen months.
4. That in that time, it appears that in a number of instances, within the compass of one and the same year, two, three, and even as many as four different parliaments, were held: so that the clause and oftener if need be, was not a mere random anticipation, having no ground in experience.
5. That, of what is now understood by a prorogation, the earliest instance that has been found is one which took place anno 1407—(8 H. IV.;) that, in some few instances anterior to that time, it appears as if, during the Christmas or the Easter holidays, something of an adjournment took place: But that in some even of these instances, the parliament that met was a fresh parliament; fresh writs of summons having in these instances been issued.
6. That however, in regard to the question of impermanence—impermanence in any such degree as that indicated by the word annuality—none of these cases of prorogation are material: inasmuch as whatsoever may have been the number of these prorogations, in no instance does it appear that the same parliament continued in existence so long as a whole year; that one excepted, in which the extra duration was not more than a few days.*
Speaking of the parliament that was held anno 1407 (8 H. IV.)—“This,” observe the authors of the Parliamentary History, vol. i. p. 306, “is the longest parliament we have yet met with:—it was continued nearly a year, which was an innovation on the ancient constitution, taken notice of by several historians as a great blot on this reign.”—There—honourable gentlemen—behold in those grave and universally respected authors of the Parliamentary History—the history so much lauded by the late Judge Barrington, brother of the above-mentioned existing bishop—behold in them another set of jacobins, to be added by you to Dean Swift,—and to those predecessors of your’s, who, so lately as in the last reign, were so near making a majority in favour of annuality.—Where, in their view, was the innovation?
Of the body of proof thus promised, and already in part afforded, so small is the quantity that would suffice to repel—not to say to transfer—the imputation of ignorance and wildness—the charge which with such unfortunate and unfortunately groundless confidence, has, from so many quarters, been thrown out.
Now then: when thus it will have been seen, that no otherwise than by a course of unquestionable tyranny and misrule was that so much more felicitous, though earlier state of government subverted,—what is the consequence? Even that, as for the benefit of a race of monarchs, a reign of manifest usurpation is regarded as if blotted out of the line of usage—so, and with no less propriety, for the benefit of a nation, may a like usurpation, though committed by monarchs, yet if committed to the manifest violation of the rights of the nation, acknowledged as such by unrepealed laws, in the formation of which monarchs have concurred,—be considered as blotted out:—a felicitous—and, in that only rational sense, a legitimate—course or line of government,—obscured only, but not blotted out, by an infelicitous and thence an illegitimate one. In this way, if imagination be to be called in (and why it may not with as much propriety be called in and employed in support of, instead of in opposition to, reason and utility, let any one say who thinks himself able,)—if imagination be to be called in—imagination, with its favourite instrument, the word right, used in a figurative and moral sense, that insensibly it may be taken and employed in a legal sense—why should not usage—usage so long continued, so extensive, and so steady—be regarded as creative of right? and that right suspended only in its exercise—suspended and not destroyed—by the intervening interval of wrong?
If so, and supposing the facts to be what they are here stated to be,—then so it is, that for the claim made to the benefit of short parliaments, to the ground of practical and manifest utility,—as bottomed upon the relations between interest and interest,—may be added the ground of constitutional right. Usage,—is it consigned to disregard? Utility remains sole arbiter, and annuality triumphant. Usage,—is it regarded and consulted? Right, is it considered as created by usage? Here, then, to the ground of utility, is superadded the ground of right.
Two or three centuries of right, followed by two or three centuries of palpable wrong;—is it not time—high time—that right should be restored—that subversion should be subverted? Legitimacy—monarch’s legitimacy—does it stand upon ground so substantial in any case—as right—people’s right—in this case?
In regard to usage, considered in the character of a circumstance by which, on the field of government, it is proposed that conduct should be directed, or at any rate influenced,—in what character, for the purpose of any such application, does it require to be considered?—in that of a guide, by whose course our course, as by one sheep that of other sheep, ought blindly to be determined? determined—and that with a degree of deference more and more implicit, the earlier the times—and thence the less experienced in themselves, as well as the more dissimilar to our own—the times in which this usage had place?
No assuredly: but in the character of a source of instruction—of instruction, to be derived from an attentive scrutiny into the relations, of what nature soever, observable as between the circumstances of the past time in question, and the circumstances of the present time: as a storehouse, in which reason may find matter to work upon; not as a pillow, on which, without prejudice to security, indolence and imbecility may sleep on and take their rest.
A point which, supposing it true, is to be proved, is—that, in the primeval times in question, not only was the degree of impermanence in question in a state of habitual existence,—but that it had for its cause, for its accompaniment, and for its consequence, that very state of things—that very democratic ascendency, for the re-establishment of which it is here proposed in these latter times.
Assuredly, in the development of this proof, no great difficulty will be found. For what purpose was it that a parliament—including the assembly composed of representatives deputed by the people—in a word, a Commons House—was wont to be called together by the monarch? Answer: To get money. Well: and if, without the trouble of calling together and treating with these deputies, he could, in his view of the matter, have got the money he wanted, would he at the same time have subjected himself to all that labour, and to the risk of finding it to be—what it sometimes actually proved to be—labour in vain? Not he indeed. That he should have done so, is not in human nature. Well then: so often, and so long, as he was at all this pains to prevail upon the people to supply him with money,—so often and so long did he feel himself as towards the people—as towards the great body of the people—in a state of dependency; and, for centuries together, this state of dependency was one uninterrupted state:—a state of dependency—not as now, as towards a comparatively small confederacy of men,—the majority of them pretending, and falsely pretending, to be representatives freely chosen by the great body of the people, and themselves acting in a state of corrupt dependency under himself. Well:—this, then, and nothing more, is what has been meant as above by democratic ascendency: the sort and degree of democratic ascendency, for the establishment of which it is that the system of arrangement here proposed, under the name of radical parliamentary reform, is contended for: the establishment,—for which the word re-establishment will, it is hoped, be seen to be the no less apposite appellative.
With relation to these our times, to both those other portions of time the appellation of old times belongs without dispute. The appellation of good old times—if to either, to which, then, shall it be given? Shall it be to those later times, when,—sometimes for the gratification of the everlastingly conjunct, and mutually inflaming and inflamed appetites—thirst for money and thirst for power,—oppression was constant, universal, and unchecked—waste always unchecked, and, except in those reigns in which frugality was stained by oppression, raging* —and corruption, if less abundant than at present, rendered so no otherwise than by its being, in respect of the demand for it, in so great a degree superseded by the more surely efficient, and, to a tyrant hand, the so much more pleasant instrument—viz. terrorism? Shall it not rather be to those old times, in which due dependence was so firmly established in both its indispensable branches—dependence of the monarch on the people’s representatives—dependence of the people’s representatives on the people their constituents: due dependence everywhere; corruption nowhere;—unchecked waste, unchecked oppression, nowhere?
MODERATE REFORM—ITS ARRANGEMENTS—THEIR INADEQUACY.
Comprised or comprisable under the denomination of moderate reform, what are the arrangements which at different times have been proposed?
The inadequacy, and little less than uselessness of them, even on the supposition of their being, all of them, brought forward together, and comprised in one proposal, and carried into effect—
Much more the inadequacy of them, taken singly, or in any number less than the whole—
Such are the sub-topics, destined for consideration in the present section.
Supposing moderate reform, in its most perfect shape, thus inadequate,—supposing radical reform, as hereinabove described, the only remedy that presents any tolerable chance of proving adequate,—whence happens it, that by a set of men professing themselves “Friends of the People,” and, as such, enemies to corruption,—to corruption—the radical disease for which reform has all along been looked to in the character of the only remedy,—whence comes it, that by these men the adequate remedy has all along been rejected?—the inadequate one, if any, embraced and brought forward?
For a solution of this problem, the source or principle referred to and employed will be the state of interests. But, to show in what particular way, in the case here in question, the state of interests thus operates—operates in such manner as to oppose an insuperable bar to every proposition for adequate reform from such a quarter, will be the business of the ensuing section.
For a general conception of the aggregate mass, of the distinguishable arrangements, capable of presenting a title to a place in the system distinguished by the appellation of The Moderate Reform System,—take, in the first place, the following analytical table of the several proposals for parliamentary reform, brought forward in parliament since the commencement of the present reign:—moderate and radical taken together:* —
On these occasions, the following are the heads to which the several proposed arrangements that have been brought forward, have presented themselves as referable:—
Proposed Arrangements applying to the situation ofElector.
i. Arrangements, giving extension to the electoral franchise, or right of suffrage, and thus making advances more or less considerable towards virtual universal suffrage.
1. In the case of a county seat, admitting copyholders, Nos. 11 & 14.
2. In the case of a county seat, admitting leaseholders, No. 11.
3. In the case of the proposed number of additional borough seats (or inallborough seats?) admitting householders at large, Nos. 11 & 13.
Proposed Arrangements applying to the situation ofRepresentative.
ii.—giving Increase to the number of Seats regarded as not venal, viz.
4.—1. County seats, Nos. 1, 2, 7, 14, 15.
5.—2. County-division, or territorial-district seats; viz. Seats formed by division of counties into such districts, Nos. 11, 13, 14.
6.—3. Populous town seats, Nos. 2, 7, 12, 14.
iii.—applying Diminution to the number of Seats regarded as venal, viz.
7.—1. Suppression without compensation proposed, Nos. 2, 5, 12, 14, 15.
8.—2. Suppression with compensation proposed, No. 7.
iv.—excluding from all seats a part,—but a part only, and that an indeterminate one—of the number of the Members regarded as sold to the C—r-General, by the circumstance of their holding situations of profit, from which they are removable by him at pleasure.
9. To the at present established septennial duration of the power conferred by a seat substituting triennial, No. 11.
Proposed Arrangements applying to both situations; or rather to that ofElector,and that ofCandidate.
v.—diminishing the Expenses and other inconveniences incident to Elections.
10.—1. By causing the poll to be taken in districts of small extent, carved out of the electoral districts: say voting-districts, or sub-districts, Nos. 11, 13, 14.
11.—2. By causing the poll to be taken for all places on one and the same day, Nos. 11, 13.
12.—3. By inhibiting every elector from giving his vote in more places than one, No. 11.
These six clusters of arrangements—consider them now in their respective bearings upon the state and condition of the two situations in question; viz. that of elector and that of representative: including in the latter case that of candidate, or proposed candidate.
I. As to that ofElectors.
In the account given of radical reform, taken according to the present edition of it (see § 5, § 6,) four expedients or arrangements were stated as essentially necessary, and of the goodness of their title to that character, some presumption, it is hoped, afforded. These are,—1. Virtual universality of suffrage; 2. Practical equality of suffrage—i. e. practical equality in respect of the quantum of the influence exercised by the several electors in virtue of their respective suffrages; 3. Freedom of suffrage; 4. Thence, as an indispensable instrument of freedom, inviolable secresy of suffrage.
Consideration had of their mutual relation and relative importance, with as much, perhaps, if not with greater, propriety—this order might have been changed, or even reversed.
1. First, then, as to secresy of suffrage. Upon the effect given to the principle here in question depends, as hath been so often observed, freedom of suffrage—freedom, viz. in both its contrasted modes,—freedom as against terrorism, and freedom as against bribery.
In no individual scheme of reform, capable of being designated by the generic term moderate reform, is any such proposition in favour of secresy of suffrage to be found.
2. Consequently, no such security as is afforded by that principle against non-freedom, alias spuriousness of suffrage, in whichsoever of those two modes it is considered.
3. As to virtual universality of suffrage. Originally, by those advocates for reform, who in 1792 and 1793 acted in a society under the title of the Friends of the People,—in the instances of what has hereinabove been designated by the name of the householder plan, no inconsiderable advance was made. But to the county seats it was not proposed that this extension should be applied: and of the existing county seats it was proposed (anno 1797,) that from 92 the number should be increased to 113:—increased by 25: a little more than a fourth.* Moreover, the leader of that eminently useful association having since put from him an arrangement so effectual,—scarcely does it seem at present entitled to be numbered among the arrangements belonging to moderate reform: from the system of moderate reform it seems to have been as it were expelled, and driven for refuge into that of radical reform.
Be this as it may,—to the giving force and effect to the universal interest, in the struggle which it has to maintain against all partial interests in general,—and in particular against the hitherto irresistible separate and sinister interest of C—r-General and Co.,—the efficiency of virtual universality would, it has been shown (§ 7, 8,) be altogether precarious,—without the assistance of freedom, and thence of secresy of suffrage. Hence it is, that without that shield to freedom,—by whatsoever plan—whether the abovementioned householder-plan, or any other, any advance were made towards virtual universality of suffrage,—it would be matter of some uncertainty, whether, with reference to the universal interest, service or disservice would be the effect of it.
4. Lastly, as to practical equality of suffrage.
Reference had to the existing state of things—towards the sort of equality here in question, an advance—nor that an inconsiderable one,—would be made by virtual universality of suffrage,—on the supposition that full effect would be given to virtual universality; even supposing that, were it possible, no separate attention to practical equality would be paid. Still, however, without such separate attention, the most effectual provision that on that supposition could be made for practical equality, would remain in a state very far from complete. Take, for example, New Sarum and Gatton: by the application of the principle of virtual universality to those two boroughs respectively—those same two boroughs still continuing to fill each of them a parliamentary seat—the contrast which the state of those two seats of snug proprietorship would, in respect of equality as between the effect of one right of suffrage and another—the contrast which the state of those two seats of snug proprietorship would form with the state of Yorkshire, for example,—would be no less striking than at present.
In any all-comprehensive advance made towards this species of equalization, would evidently be included the breaking down of the several counties, each into two or more less extensive electoral districts.
In no edition of moderate reform have I been able to observe any such decomposition advocated. By Mr. Brand,—whose edition, together with that which was once Earl Grey’s, may be stated as being the two by which the advances made towards radical reform were most extensive,—this decomposition is indeed distinctly brought to view,—but no less distinctly is an exclusion put upon it.
But in the section (§ 10) in which bribery and terrorism are brought together and confronted,—it has been shown how, as well by the vote-compelling as by the competition-excluding operation of it, the seductive force of terrorism is increased: increased by and in proportion to the geographical extent possessed by an electoral district:—in proportion to remoteness from the poll-book,—expense and consumption of time by journeys and demurrage will have been seen to be increased; thence, to a proportionable extent, exclusion put upon such electors, in whose instance the repelling force of those inconveniences is not overcome by the compelling force of terrorism; oppression and spuriousness, in the case of all those, in whose instance to the pressure produced by the expense and labour of the journey, is added the obligation of contributing by their suffrages to the advancement of a candidate, to whose advancement they are absolutely or comparatively averse.
Out of the six above-stated clusters of proposed arrangements proposed by moderate reform,—such, then, is the inefficiency of the three first—viz. 1. Those having for their object, or professed object, the giving extension to the electoral franchise; 2. Those having for their object, or professed object, the giving increase to the number of seats regarded as not venal; 3. Those having for their object, or professed object, the diminution in the number of seats regarded as venal: and in these three groups will be found comprised all those which have immediate relation to the situation of elector.*
Next as to what regards the situation of theRepresentativeBody and itsMembers.
In relation to this part of the election system, three in number are the arrangements which, in the present edition of radical reform, are proposed as so many essential arrangements, necessary to the establishing in that quarter the union of due independence with due dependence: viz. 1. Exclusion of placemen from the right of voting (leaving them always in possession of the right of speech and motion;) 2. Measures, such as shall be necessary, for the securing on the part of each member a constant and punctual attendance on the service of the House; 3. Impermanence of the situations respectively occupied by the members in virtue of their respective seats; viz. that degree of impermanence which corresponds to and is produced by the annual recurrence of the election process.
Observe, on this occasion, the object and use of these several proposed arrangements:
1. By the first of them, a correspondent degree of independence, as towards C—r-General, is produced on the part of the members, individually considered.
2. By the second of them,—besides the additional sureties afforded for intellectual aptitude and active talent,—a remedy, in the nature of a check, is provided: provided against that disorder, which, in addition to the improbity it gives birth and assistance to on the part of members individually considered,—gives birth and support to the various devices by which C—r-General and Co. contrive to give increase to the aggregate of the effect, produced by the aggregate mass of the matter of corruption in their hands; viz. by keeping out of the House, on the several particular occasions, a number, more or less considerable, of the members by whom, if present, a check more or less efficacious might be opposed to their particular measures.
3. The third has for its object—the giving the necessary strength to those ties by which the dependence of representatives on their constituents is established.
Arrangements belonging to the general head in question, three: the two first for due independence, the third for due dependence.
Observe now what appears to be the habitude of moderate reform, as towards these several last-mentioned proposed arrangements:
1. In relation to the first, it seems rather difficult to say, whether, in what has been proposed, as above, moderate reform, considered in its present state, ought or ought not to be considered as taking any part.
For the purpose of shutting the door of the House against actual corruption-eaters—persons actually sitting with the bread of corruption in their mouths—a proposition, as above noticed (viz. in § 13,) was indeed, in one instance (anno 1810,) brought forward. But, by the honourable gentleman (Mr. Brand) by whom, on that occasion, it was brought forward, it was, on the next occasion (viz. anno 1812,) abandoned.
On this occasion, supposing its title to a place in the budget of moderate reform admitted,—a simple reference to what (in § 13) has been said on the subject of its inadequateness may here suffice. By the place it leaves to the domini, among the corruption-eaters,—while the acknowledged fures are excluded,—the principle, instead of being reprobated, is approved and confirmed.
2. As to the second point, viz. attendance. Of the disorder produced by the violation of this duty—the fulfilment of which forms a necessary preliminary to the performance of every other,—in no one of all the several proposals, included in the moderate reform system, are any symptoms to be found, indicative of any the slightest glance, as having ever been directed towards this object: to the disorder itself,—nor consequently to any arrangement considered as presenting the prospect of a remedy. On this subject, moderate reform, in every one of its editions, maintains the most completely uninterrupted silence.
3. As to the third point, viz. impermanence: impermanence of the situation of representative, as constituted by annuality of election.
As to this matter, for the purpose of reducing to its minimum the length of the term, and thence raising to a corresponding maximum the degree of due dependence—of dependence, on the part of each representative, as toward his constituents,—under radical reform, the comparatively short time indicated by the word annuality is insisted upon as above; viz. the reduction of the at present established long term indicated by the word septenniality, to the dimensions of this short term.
On the other hand, on the occasion of the reduction, which, in some degree or other, both editions of particular reform concur in proposing,—moderate reform insists at stopping at the stage indicated by the word trienniality. Triennial parliaments it admits of and calls for: against annual parliaments it insists on shutting the door.
That, in comparison of annuality, the remedy indicated by trienniality is inadequate,—and in what respects and degrees it is so,—are questions, the answers to which may afford matter for a separate section.
Remain two proposed arrangements, the utility of which, as far as they go, is here admitted; but, in relation to which, the doubt is—whether, having, as far as appears, been deserted by the men who at one time were their advocates, and who still continue to belong to the denomination of reformists—viz. moderate reformists,—they can with propriety be at present regarded as having a place in the moderate reform system: whether, from having in former days been sound, practical, and necessary, they may not, in the eyes of existing moderation, have become wild and visionary. These are—1. The householder plan, as above mentioned: an article of the number of those which apply more especially to the situation of electors. This, as far as it goes, is an advance made towards virtually universal suffrage: and, in that character has been mentioned, as an arrangement which—though not completely adequate—might, by radical reformists, for the present at any rate, be acceded to without much reluctance.
But, by a radical reformist it could not be refused to any electoral district—to any part of the population: whereas, by no moderate reformist, by whom it has ever been advocated, does it appear that the application of it has been proposed—any further than to such town electoral districts, as upon his plan were proposed to be established: at any rate, to some of the counties in their capacity of electoral districts.
Lastly, as to the plan for exclusion or reduction of the expense, delay, vexation, and disorder, at present attendant on, or incident to, the election-process;—viz. 1. Voting by districts; 2. Carrying on the process in all places on the same day; 3. Arrangements to prevent the same person from giving his vote in or for places more than one.
Neither of the second, nor of the third, of these proposed arrangements, do I find any mention in my own Plan (drawn up anno 1809) as herein printed. Regarding at that time their importance, as being—howsoever in an absolute view considerable,—inferior, in a comparative sense, viz. as compared with the others herein brought to view,—it has never yet happened to me to apply to either of them any considerable portion of attention: useful and unexceptionable, in so far as practicable,—such is the character in which they have, on each occasion, presented themselves to a cursory glance.
In regard to voting by districts,—in the ensuing Plan of radical reform it may be seen presented in a shape rather more determinate, it is believed, than in any of the moderate reform plans: nor, in any one of them, does it seem to present itself in a form sufficiently determinate for contrast and discussion.*
TRIENNIALITY INADEQUATE;—ANNUALITY NECESSARY.
Comes now what remains to be said on the subject of impermanence.
The conflict is between annuality of election and trienniality.
I. Compare, then, the two degrees of impermanence—in the first place with a view to appropriate probity.
1. In the event of misconduct, the remedy is by a better choice. In the case of annuality, behold here promptitude maximized; in the case of trienniality, degree of promptitude no more than one-third of what it is in the other case.
2. So, in respect of discontinuance of choice, or, in one word, removal, considered in the character of punishment, operating in the way of example to others.
3. In respect of expense, whence, in case of excess and consequent pressure, temptation to venality. In the case of annuality, behold here the temptation to expense minimized: in the case of trienniality, the temptation thrice as great.
N. B. By the secresy of suffrage, here proposed as an arrangement essential to the utility of radical reform, the temptation to expense being altogether, it is believed, taken away,—if this be admitted, the advantage attached to annuality on this score will, as to a considerable portion of it, be to be left out of the account.
Under annuality, for the purpose of corruption-hunting, scarcely would it be worth the while, of a man deficient in probity, to offer himself a second time to choice, thereby exposing his character to scrutiny: at any rate, small, as above, is the price which C—r-General would be at the same time able and willing to give to him;—prompt the time at which his power of doing mischief might be put to an end.
Under trienniality, three years is the term for which every man may sell himself to anybody:—three years, the term for which his service may be bought by C—r-General:—three years, the time given to him to remain in a complete state of independence as towards constituents; thence in a state of complete dependence and mischievous obsequiousness, as at present, as towards his purchaser. Trampling on his duty—doing the work of political uncleanness with greediness, during the whole of the two first years, with a part more or less considerable of the last,—just at the close of the term—(adequate active talent being supposed to be in his possession)—by some dashing and momentary display in the exercise of the art of popularity-hunting, the corruption-hunter may have promised himself—and perhaps not altogether without success—the satisfaction of thus atoning for his past misconduct, in the eyes of a never-with-sufficient-universality-or-constancy-attentive, and thence for ever too indulgent, people.
Even under a system of radical reform—of reform in all other particulars such as here proposed—in all other particulars (suppose) perfect—such, in here and there an instance, may, in this particular, be the result of an unfortunate choice once made. But, in other particulars,—for want of this or that other of the features essential to completely efficient reform—whether it be virtual universality of suffrage, practical equality in respect of the effect of the right of suffrage, or secresy, and thence freedom of suffrage,—suppose the system so constructed, as that it shall be in the power of any individual to secure to himself the perpetual command of a seat;—on this supposition,—if by indolence, by unpopularity, or by any other cause, it should happen to him to have become disinclined to occupy the seat in his own person any longer,—there remains the seat, which he may find himself in a condition to give or sell to this or that other Honourable, by whom the like pernicious use may be made of it: and so—parliament after parliament—so long as the seat continues in his hands.
Exactly in this case would the representation continue to be,—supposing that mode of moderate reform adopted, of which the reduction of septenniality to trienniality is the principal, if not the only feature.
II. Next as to appropriate intellectual aptitude and active talent.
In the case of annuality,—in the event of deficiency—absolute or comparative—in respect of these endowments—both or either of them,—in the case of annuality, behold here, as above, promptitude of the remedy maximized: in the case of trienniality, promptitude no more than one-third.
Here, then, is a three years’ term,—during which a man, whose appropriate talents are, all of them, with or without his probity, either in his acres or his purse, may fill a seat with useless matter as at present:—matter at best useless, and naturally prone to become worse than useless: for, generally speaking—(though, alas! in one way, exceptions are not altogether wanting)—the more destitute a man is of natural dignity of character—of natural title to estimation and respect—the stronger his inducement to sell himself to C—r-General;—purchasing in exchange factitious dignity, in the shape of baronetcy or ribbon,—for self, or for relative, friend, or dependent, in any one of those, or of some other more substantial shapes. And howsoever, for no more than a single vote, with whatsoever constancy and punctuality repeated, the least valuable of these implements may be deemed too great a price,—yet, if by one such article bestowed upon one individual, seats more than one should be to be commanded, the bargain may here and there be, by both parties, found a convenient one.
Referable to this head, comes now an objection ascribed to Mr. Brand. Under annuality, the term not long enough for gaining the requisite stock of experience: under trienniality, the term long enough.*
Answer. 1. In this respect, during the whole of the first year, annuality and trienniality are exactly upon a par. Under annuality,—in the election of the second year, every representative, who has served the first year, will, in respect of presumable aptitude, have, in this respect, the advantage of every candidate, or proposed candidate, who has not as yet served. And by this consideration, in default of determinate considerations pleading on the other side, it seems natural that the choice of the electors should be determined.
But by the bye, in either case, of what avail is opportunity of acquiring aptitude, any further than as the opportunity is improved? And, under the existing system, unless it be on the part of a dozen or two, where is the motive? See above, in various places. And what, accordingly, the disposition and the habit? See the section on Attendance.
2. The idea of detaching speech and motion on the one hand, from vote on the other, and by that means securing, even on the part of the ministerial side, a supply, so much more to be depended upon than at present, of appropriate aptitude in the shape of active talent—this idea not having entered into the design, nor perhaps into the conception, of the honourable gentleman,—on this supposition, the comparative smallness of the quantum of intellectual aptitude possessed by such of the members as have votes, will not have presented itself to his view. On the supposition of radical reform, the men for whose decision the arguments on both sides are presented, will be a set of men who have no interest in a wrong decision: and, in default of self-formed judgment, the opinion from which derivative judgment will, in their instance, be derived, will, in that state of things, wherever, in the balance of reason and argument, the scales hang tolerably even, be most naturally the opinion delivered by the members of administration:—by those members, to whom not only speech, but motion, is proposed to be so extensively and uniformly secured.*
In the imputation meant to be conveyed by the words wild and visionary, and so forth—(for by honourable gentlemen the charge of finding sense for their eloquence has, along with so many other burthens, been left to us of the swinish multitude)—in the number of these conjecturable imputations, on this occasion likewise, are we to place the charge of tendency to produce disorder? But if to parliamentary elections of any sort a charge of this sort attaches, it must assuredly be to elections of that sort, which would have place under the system of virtually universal suffrage. Under that head (see § 8) the proof, it is hoped, will be found tolerably sufficient, that, in no instance, under that system, of mischief,—in any of the shapes in which the term disorder is ever employed for giving expression to it,—would there be any reasonable ground for apprehension. But if not even on the supposition that the widest possible extent were given to the right of suffrage, still less on the supposition of any less narrow extent: and if not in any one year, then not in three successive elections for three successive years, any more than in one such election having place in the first of these same three years.
If, in either case—viz. in case of annuality, or in case of trienniality,—under radical reform—or even, to go no farther, under virtually universal suffrage,—tendency to disorder were worth a thought,—rather on the case of trienniality than on the case of annuality should the thought be bestowed. Why? For this plain reason—Because, the longer the term in the seat, the greater the value of the seat; the greater the value of the seat, the stronger the incitement in both situations,—that of candidate and that of elector; the stronger the excitement, the greater the temptation to disorder in every shape.
On this occasion likewise, if it be worth while, look once more to experience. During the ancient period above mentioned, while parliaments were changed, not merely every year but oftener,—from impermanence, even when carried to that degree,—in any such shape as those which are included under the head of disorder,—in what instances does inconvenience appear to have ever had place?
“Nay, but,” it may be said, “no wonder. During all that period, parliamentary service was a service of burthen,—not, as now, of profit: the object was not to get into it, but to keep out of it.”
Answer. Yes: accidentally, but not uniformly: especially considering that in those days the servants were paid for the service, and that by the proper hands—their masters: and as to disinelination, it was, unless by accident, disinclination—not on the part of servants as toward the service—burthen and pay together—but on the part of the masters as towards the expense of paying for it. As to the statute of Henry the Sixth, though by it great concourse is proved—great concourse the state of things, competition the probable cause of it—disorder, instead of being proved, is disproved.
Well, if this ancient experience will not suffice—and small indeed to the present purpose must be confessed to be its value—look to ancient and modern experience combined in one—linked together in a long and uninterrupted chain, having for its last link present time. Look to the metropolis:—look to the city of London:—look to the common council:—electors the whole body of the liverymen, in number several thousands:—elections annual:—districts in which the votes are taken, sub-districts. In what shape was disorder ever seen here?
“Nay, but,” says the adversary, “this sample of yours is not a fair one. Your universal-suffrage men—or even your householders—speak of them in the same breath with the London liverymen? men who are not only householders, but such substantial householders?”
I answer: Not in the poorest classes, any more than in the richest, will disorder in any shape have place, where no cause of disorder in any shape has place: and, by the means so often brought to view, every imaginable cause of disorder has been shown to be removed. Even in the present disastrous times—under the pressure of such unexampled cause of irritation—in the vain hope of obtaining mercy and relief at the hands of their oppressors—what multitudes have we not seen collected together—multitudes in ten times the number that would ever be present at any such elections as those here in question;—and yet,—to the sad disappointment of those tyrants by whom disorder below is so eagerly looked for, as a pretence for, and thence an instrument of, tyranny above,—not a spark of disorder visible.
Will not that suffice? Look then to Westminster:—number of inhabitants, 162,085; number of electors, at least 17,000; voters not distributed among sub-districts, but driven all together—all into one and the same pollbooth: compared with the case of annuality, existing interests rendered the more stimulating by the superior value of the object of competition, and by the rareness of its recurrence. Freer from disorder in every shape is it possible for election to be, than (see p. 472) in this great city—its population part and parcel of the contiguous population of more than a million—it has been for these ten years past?
Well: to secure, and for ever, the same undisturbed tranquility all over the three kingdoms,—nothing on the part of Honourable House but the will—so it be but sincere—is necessary.
On the ground of general principles, were the advantages on the side of annuality ever so slight—or even altogether wanting—especially when it is considered that, under the original system, not only was it actually established, but the good effects of it were even at that time so manifest and undeniable—on this ground, ere with any colour of reason, or pretence, or any hope of the reputation of sincerity, trienniality can continue to be set up in preference to it, can it be otherwise than that some grounds—some specific and determinate grounds—must, in support of such alleged preference, be produced?
Towards the close of the reign of Charles the First, (16 C. I. c. 1,) at the opening of the Long Parliament—the so often repeated and so long observed engagement, for the annual holding of fresh parliaments, having been so long and so continually violated as to have become in men’s conceptions obsolete,—trienniality was, for the first time, established by law instead of it. Trienniality and not annuality? Why? Because, at the commencement of the struggle, parliament did not feel itself strong enough to exact anything more: to exact the restoration of the original and so thoroughly approved, but unhappily so long despaired of, state of things.
In Charles the Second’s time, (16 C. II. c. 1,) the legitimacy and despotism which led to the Revolution, having for four years been reseated on the throne,—the provisions extorted from the piety of the father being found too efficient, were repealed: these repealed, others, the merit of which consisted in their inefficiency, substituted.
In William’s time, (6 W. and M. c. 2,) the inefficiency of the provisions dictated by Charles the Second having been so fully and so superfluously proved by experience, others less inefficient were substituted. Here, too, however, instead of being annual, the duration was made triennial. Triennial? Why? Because by this time the value of a seat to the occupant was pretty fully understood: and, for the giving to it the utmost duration, and thence the utmost value which at that time had ever presented itself as endurable, the two above-mentioned precedents furnished honourable gentlemen—the honourable gentlemen of those days—with a pretence.
Comes the new dynasty of the Gwelfs, and now one of the first acts of the first of them (1 G. I. c. 8) was to poison the constitution of the country: of that country, the voice of which had called him to the throne. Most probably the scheme was in the greater degree, if not exclusively, the scheme of the honourables among his advisers: the benefit to them being as manifest, as to the ill-advised monarch it was problematical. Their constituents had seated them for three years: they seated themselves for four years more. An analogous retaliation would have been another Gunpowder Plot—not contrived only, but executed. How long shall principals continue bound by chains of iron—trustees by nothing but cobwebs? According to these men, to such a degree was the nation adverse to the new king,—all the official establishment, added to all the army and the majority of the peerage, would not, without the continued service of these honourables, have sufficed for his support. Well then: if it was so—(not that it was so)—what was he better than an usurper, fenced about by this guard of petty tyrants? The monarch was no usurper: he was fairly seated. Not so honourable gentlemen. What shall we say of their successors?—successors seated by the original sin of their forefathers—seated by the same breach of trust?
Remains one short observation, by which much sad matter is brought to view. In the situation in question, only in proportion as it contributes to strengthen the ties of their dependence, is impermanence, and thence annuality in comparison of trienniality, of any use: only, therefore, in the case, and to the extent, of that portion of the whole population of Honourable House, who are in any degree dependent for their seats on the good opinion of the persons styled their constituents: and how small that minority is, which is composed of the persons whose presence is not a nuisance and an insult to the whole people of the United Empire, let them say, to whose industry the melancholy secret has been revealed. Before the Irish Union, anno 1793, according to the Friends-of-the-people Society, of the 558 seats,—by patrons, 154, seats filled, 307; not known to be so filled, 251; known majority of sham representatives, 56. Since the Union, anno 1812, according to Mr. Brand,—of the 658 seats, by patrons (i. e. single patrons, acting as such in severalty) 182, seats filled 326; add ditto, filled by compromise between forty pair of Terrorists, seats filled, 80:* total 406 and more: representatives not known to be sham, 252, and no more: known majority of sham representatives, 154 and more.
INTERESTS ADVERSE TO ADEQUATE REFORM—SUPPORT GIVEN BY THEM TO MODERATE, TO THE EXCLUSION OF RADICAL: TORIES—WHIGS—PEOPLE’S MEN.
A sort of paradox—a sort of riddle—here presents itself. Behold it in the following train of conflicting circumstances.
Of the function of the Members of the Commons House as such—representatives sent, or supposed to be sent, by the body of the people, to officiate in the character of their trustees and agents, sole use the securing on the part of the servants of the monarch a due dependence on the will—on the supposition that the will will be governed by the interest—of the whole body of the people. Seductive influence of the monarch and his servants a bar to that use. Removal of this bar the proper object of every change that under any such name as that of parliamentary reform can be proposed. The mode of reform called radical, as above explained,—this the only change by which that removal can be effected. Moderate reform a change altogether inadequate. Such the state of things which (not to speak of other eyes) to the eyes of the set of men in question has been all along lying open.
Now as to the line of conduct pursued by them under and in relation to this same state of things. Among the professed advocates for parliamentary reform, on the part of the confederacy of leading men, styling themselves (for, at the formation of the confederacy thus they actually did style themselves)—styling themselves Friends of the People—and, at that time, by one great preliminary service of unspeakable use, really acting as such,—on the part of these men, and in particular on the part of such of them as are or have been in possession of seats in that same house, a declared hostility towards every adequate plan of reform—an exclusive preference given to that altogether inadequate one. Under the state of things thus described,—in the repugnancy between profession and practice—professions so universally kept up by so vast a body, composed of men of the most respectable characters, in the highest walks of life—in this repugnancy—in this sort of inconsistency—lies the riddle.
Here then we have the riddle. In the state of interests, on the part of the body of men in question—in this source and no other—will the solution of this riddle, by any person whose curiosity may happen to have sent him in quest of it, be to be found.
Follow now the sub-topics under which the matter of this Section will be found:—
I. Sole clew to political conduct, interest.
II. Tories—Whigs—People’s men:—general coincidence of interests as between Whigs and Tories.
III. Particular points of radical and efficient reform, by which the joint interests would be affected.
IV. Reforms to which they would be equally irreconcilable, though contributing nothing to democratic ascendency.
V. Country gentlemen—opposition of their particular interests to efficient reform, and thereby to the universal interests.
VII. Uses of this exposure.
Sole clew to political conduct, Interest.
In this public situation, or in any other, be the individual who he may, have you any such wish as that of possessing either a clew to his conduct in time past, or a means of foreknowing his conduct in time future? Look to the situation he is in, in respect of interest. Have you any such wish in regard to an aggregate body? Look still to interests:—look to the situation which the whole or the majority of that body are in, in respect of interest.
In the case of an individual unknown, it is your only clew: in the case of a body—meaning the governing part of it,—except in so far as, by accident, the view taken by it of its interests may have been rendered erroneous by weakness,—it is a sure one.
Yes: in this one short phrase, the state of interests, every man has at hand a glass, in which,—when set up in the field of morals—and more particularly in that compartment of it which embraces politics,—any man, who is not afraid of seeing things as they are, may at all times see, what it will not at all times be equally agreeable to him to see. Where the object or objects which it presents to his view have something more or less of unpleasantness in them—where the effect of them is to check the vivacity of that swaggering and strutting pace, which, when in their vibrations before a looking-glass, pride and vanity are so apt to assume,—nothing is more natural than that the eyes should have a tendency to close themselves. But, on this occasion, let a man’s eyes be closed by him ever so fast, in those same eyes at which it began, will the compression terminate: it will not communicate itself to any other.
In the case of a man by whom a public situation in any way efficient is occupied,—the correctness of the conception which he himself has of what is passing and about to pass in his own mind,—and in particular of the springs of action by which his own conduct has been and is in a way to be determined,—is, to the public at large, a point as indifferent as it is unascertainable: but, to that same public, a conception as correct as can be formed in regard to these same springs of action, and the share they have respectively had, and are in a way to have, in the production of the several effects, is frequently a matter of no inconsiderable importance.
In the view of giving what facility it may be in my power to give to an inquiry of this sort, in the hands of any such persons, by whom the need of engaging in it may happen to be felt, I will accordingly in this place, notwithstanding the repetition involved in them, venture to submit two rules or directions: the one positive, the other negative.
1. Positive Rule.—To satisfy yourself beforehand, what, on a given occasion, will be the course a man will take, look to the state of interests: look out for, and take note of the several interests, to the operation of which the situation he occupies stands exposed.
2. Negative Rule.—In your endeavour to satisfy yourself, what, on the occasion in question, is the course he will take, pay no regard whatever to professions or protestations:—to protestations, by whomsoever made, whether by the man himself or by his adherents: never to professions and protestations, directly made, in and that very shape: still less, to professions and protestations muffled up in any such disguise, as that of a storm of indignation poured forth upon the malignant and audacious calumnistor, by whom any such expectation is held up to view, as that the conduct of the men in question will on that occasion or any other, be in any degree likely to receive its direction, from those springs of action, on the predominant force and efficiency of which the preservation of every individual is every day of his life dependent.
A case,—in which, by the application of the above rules, it may here and there happen to a man to be led into a conclusion, more or less erroneous,—is that of an individual. For, in the case of an individual, the most correctly framed general rules will every now and then find themselves put to fault, by the unconjecturable play of individual idiosyncrasies.
Far otherwise is it in the case of a body of men; more particularly in the case of a body, the motives of which are in so great a degree open to universal observation as those of a political party. The larger the body, the more unerring the indications afforded by those rules.
Take, for example, the case of universal suffrage and the late Duke of Richmond. By what tolerably intelligent mind, knowing nothing of him but that he was a duke, could any such expectation have been entertained as that of finding in this duke an advocate—a zealous and persevering advocate—for universal suffrage? Yet, by this or that incident in the interior of his life—some temporary heart-burning, for example, between this great aristocrat and his monarchical cousin,—the apparent mystery might perhaps have been—may still perhaps one day be explained,—the paradox removed, the riddle solved.
Accordingly, that there shall never again be a duke, in whose instance universal suffrage shall find a zealous advocate—is a prediction, which the observation of that one case should suffice to prevent a man from being forward to utter: and so in regard to each of the several features, essential to radical, i. e. to efficient—parliamentary reform. But that there never will be a time, in which all dukes, or so much as a majority of the fellowship of dukes, will, under any other impulse than that of fear, join in the advocating of any such arrangement, may without danger of error be pronounced with unhesitating confidence.
So in the case of the Whigs, considered with a view to radical parliamentary reform. That, among those members of parliament, who at present, on the occasion of a party-question, are in the habit of voting in and with the party so denominated, there are not any, who, at any time, will be found advocating this only efficient bulwark against the ocean of ulterior misery with which the country is threatened,—is a prediction happily no less improbable than it would be uncomfortable. But that, by any other impulse than that of fear—by any impulse other than that by which the conduct of their more prosperous antagonists, the Tories, will be directed—neither the whole body, nor so much as the majority of the numbers of the party in question, will ever be engaged in any such self-denying course,—is a prediction which, by a short glance at the state of the interests bearing upon the situation in which they stand, any man may feel himself compelled inwardly to join in, as well as warranted in uttering, with an unhesitating, howsoever melancholy, confidence.
That by an absolute monarch—not only under him, but even in the place of him—a representative democracy should be established,—this, even this, is upon the cards. By no other means could so heroic an act of beneficence be exercised:—by no other means could so vast and unperishable a treasure of love and admiration be collected and laid up:—by no other means could so novel and striking a manifestation of talent and genius be displayed:—by no other means could even so vast a mass of power be exercised: power exercised, and for ever, over posterity: a power, with reference to which, the vainest and most selfish of despots—Lewis the Fourteenth—recognised, and foretold, what those who came immediately after him experienced—his impotence.
Of voluntary surrenders of monarchy—surrenders made into the hands of expectant and monarchical successors, there is no want of examples: not even in modern—not even in European history:—Charles the Fifth of Germany, monarch of so many vast monarchies—Christina of Sweden—Victor Amádeus of Savoy—Philip the Fifth of Spain:—here, in so many different nations, we have already four examples. But, on the part of an aristocratical body, of the surrender of any the minutest particle of power which they were able to retain, where is there as much as any one example to be found?
Tories—Whigs—People’s men:—general coincidence of interests as between Whigs and Tories.
To this purpose at least, all—and to every other purpose, almost all—in whom in all its several forms parliamentary reform finds opposers, may be considered as belonging to the class of Tories.
To this same purpose, all by whom, to the exclusion of radical reform, moderate reform is advocated or supported, may be considered as belonging to the class of Whigs.
In respect of all the several elements belonging to the system of radical reform,—and in particular according to the edition here ventured to be given of it, it has been seen what,—with the exception of a certain confederacy of particular and sinister interests—are the exigencies and demands of the universal interest—of the interest of the whole people. Those by whom that universal interest is advocated, may, for distinction’s sake, be termed People’s men.
Now then, so it is, that in respect of these same matters, Tories and Whigs—both parties (it will be seen) acting under the dominion of the same seductive and corruptive influence—will be seen to possess the same separate and sinister interest:—an interest completely and unchangeably opposite to that of the whole uncorrupt portion of the people.
That which the Tories have in possession—viz. the matter of good—the object of universal desire in all its shapes:—the matter of good—the whole of it, by the relative situation of C—r-General and Co. on the one part, and the members of both Houses on the other part, converted into matter of corruptive influence—the Whigs have before them in prospect and expectancy.
In the first place, as to waste and corruption, corruption and waste. Of the Tories, it ever has been, and ever will be, the interest—to keep that portion of the substance of the people, which is expended in waste and corruption, as great as possible: so of the Whigs likewise. Under non-reform, this quantity will be left untouched: under moderate reform, the reduction in it, if any, would be minimized: under radical reform, it would be maximized.
In the next place, as to seats. Of the Tories, it is the interest—that the power belonging to the seats which they have at their disposal—that, therefore, in number as well as value, the seats themselves—should remain undiminished. On the part of the Whigs, so far as concerns the seats at their disposal, behold the self-same interest.
Partly to proprietorship, partly to terrorism—(not to speak of bribery)—to terrorism, as well of the competition-excluding as of the vote-compelling species—are the Tories in the greater proportion indebted for their seats. To the same instrument of subjection—to the same extinguisher of freedom—without any ascertainable difference in respect of proportions—are the Whigs indebted for their seats.
Of the Tories, in respect of their seats, it is the interest to be absentees ad libitum: absentees for the purpose of half the effect of corruption as above explained: absentees—for the purpose of private interest, dissipation, and idleness. On the part of the Whigs, with the exception of that corrupt purpose, in which none but those in power can be partakers—still the same sinister interest.
Among the Tories, it is the interest of all persons who have seats at command, to enjoy, clear of obligation, the full private benefit of those situations, and of the power they confer: clear of obligation in every shape, and in particular, clear of all such obligation as that of possessing any the smallest grain of appropriate aptitude. In respect of interest, the Whigs, if taken individually, will be seen to be in that same case.
Not having in possession, nor in any tolerably probable and near expectancy, any share in the existing mass of the matter of corruption;—no public money at their disposal—no peerages, no factitious dignities;—hence so it is, that—setting aside their respective masses of private property,—in the power attached to the seats they possess in the two Houses—but more particularly in the most efficient of the two—they behold the sole efficient cause of whatever pre-eminence they can hope, as a party, to possess in the scale of influence. In the eyes of the people at large, the sort of corporate union they have been wont to maintain among themselves, presents itself to them as securing to them a sort of chance of entering, once more, on some unknown occasion, be it for ever so short a time, into the possession of efficient and profitable power. In that auction, at which, by greater and greater manifestations of obsequiousness, the favour of C—r-General must, by all competitors, be at all times bid for,—impossible as it is for them—incompatible with their distinctive character—to outbid, or so much as to come up to the present occupants,—it is not in the nature of things, that any possession, which it may be supposed possible for them to attain, should be of any considerable continuance: of any continuance beyond that of the longest of those short-lived ones, which past experience has brought to view.
But if ever, as a body, the Tories go out altogether, the Whigs as a body, being the only formed body in existence, must come in: come in—and, being a body, come in together. Here, then, such as it is, is a chance: and the thing of which it is a chance being, so long as it lasts, a mass of power never much less, and now not at all less, than absolute,—thus it is—especially to those of them who elsewhere have nothing but this chance—thus it is that, being their everything, were it even much less than it is, it could not be prized at anything less than the full value. And, the smaller the portion which is thus left to them, it being their all, the more, rather than the less pertinacious, will be their determination to preserve it undiminished.
Thus, without any need of concert—most probably, therefore, without any assistance of actual concert—has a sort of tacit cooperation been kept up between the two contending parties: an alliance in form but defensive, but in effect but too offensive, against the people and their interests.
Particular points of Radical and efficient Reform, by which the joint interests would be affected.
In regard to seats, by the interest of the Tories it is required, that, as well in respect of the number of seats in their possession, or within their grasp,—as also in respect of the value of those several seats—taken in all the elements of which in such a case value is susceptible—things, if in the sense of particular and sinister interest they cannot be made better, should at any rate continue as they are. Without any the smallest difference, all this may it not be predicated of the interest of the Whigs?
I. As to the number of these seats.
Of the particulars above brought to view in the character of arrangements included in the present edition of radical reform, the following will be seen to concur in lessening the number of the seats in the possession of the present possessors; meaning by present possessors, not merely the existing individuals, but moreover all others whose possession will be the result of the same causes. These are—1. Virtual universality of suffrage; 2. Practical equality of suffrage;—i. e. practical equalization of the quantities of population and territory respectively comprised in the two proposed sorts of electoral districts, viz. population and territorial districts; 3. Secresy of suffrage; thence, 4. Freedom of suffrage.
As to the particular means by which this general effect will be produced, they will not be far to seek. By the virtual universality, in conjunction with the practical equality, the present possessors, together with those who would have been their successors, would be excluded from the proprietory seats: by the same causes—with the addition of the secresy, and its fruit, the freedom—all those to whose possession either terrorism or bribery would be necessary, would in like manner stand excluded:—excluded as well from such seats as they are now in the habit of filling, as from all such other seats, to the acquisition of which those same modes of seduction would be found necessary.
All seats being thus laid open to all candidates, self-proposed and proposable,—whatsoever advantage would remain to the existing occupants, would be the result—either of habit on the part of electors, or of good reputation, already acquired, in respect of the several elements of appropriate aptitude so often brought to view: of which reputation, the evidentiary cause might be either of a direct nature, consisting of service already performed in this same line of public service, or of a circumstantial and presumptive nature; the presumption derived from virtue manifested, or supposed to have been manifested, in other parts of the field of action, public or private: among which that negative sort of virtue, which consists in the innoxious and unoffensive application of the matter of opulence to the use of the possessor and his particular connexions, is in little danger of being overlooked or undervalued.
II. As to the value of these same seats.
Impermanence of the situation—necessity of constant attendance—exclusion from official situations, unless on condition of losing the right of voting:—by the conjunct operation of these several arrangements, would the value of all seats be reduced: reduced in the instance of all seats without exception, by whomsoever occupied; the reduction therefore attended with a correspondent sensation of loss, in the instance of all existing occupants of such seats.
As to those members who, in the existing state of things, add to the profitable possession of official situations, the not altogether useless, though not additionally profitable right, of exercising controul over, and sitting in judgment on themselves and one another, in the character of representatives of the people,—the effect which the change would have in their instance, would be the obligation of making their option between the assurable possession of the profitable office, and whatsoever chance they might respectively have of obtaining the unprofitable vote.
1. Virtual universality of suffrage; 2. Practical equality of suffrage; 3. Freedom of suffrage; 4. Secresy of suffrage: under the head of arrangements applying more immediately to the situation of elector, have these four articles been conjunctly brought to view: under the head of arrangements applying more immediately to the situation of representative, the three following:—viz. 1. Impermanence of situation—say, as particularized by the word annuality; 2. Efficient obligation to constancy of attendance; 3. Exclusion of placemen from the right of voting—though not from the right of speech or that of motion.
By the set of arrangements thus applying to the situation of elector,—by these would the existing seats be slipt from under the individuals by whom, when not otherwise more profitably or pleasantly occupied, they are at present filled: by the set of arrangements thus applying to the situation of representative, would be stript off a great part—who shall say in what sad proportion the greater part?—of the value which, but for so merciless a defalcation, might have been found attached to such newly furnished seats, as by the operation of the first-mentioned set of arrangements, would be substituted to the existing ones.
Annoying—lamentably annoying—would all these several innovations be to the Tories:—little less so would they be to the Whigs. Sole difference,—the difference between possession and expectancy—and that confined to the option which, in so far as office is concerned, would be to be made, as above, between vote and office.
MR. OLDFIELD’S RECAPITULATION.
Reforms to which they would be equally irreconcilable, though contributing nothing to democratic ascendency.
By trienniality alone, next to nothing, if not absolutely nothing, would be done.
Even by annuality, little more: the application of it would in England be confined to the small number of cities and boroughs, in which the number of individuals participating in the right of suffrage is considerable enough to operate as an antidote, more or less efficacious, to the poison of corruptive influence.
Two arrangements might be mentioned, by which, taken together, more—much more—would be done, than by annuality taken by itself: viz. 1. Exclusion of placemen’s votes—speech and motion, as proposed, reserved; 2. Universal constancy of attendance, supposing it really effected.
By neither of these arrangements would any the slightest ground be afforded for the imputation of jacobinism: by neither of them would any the slightest advance be made towards the restoration of democratic ascendency: by neither of them would any extension be given to the right of suffrage.
Still, however, in whatsoever degree efficient,—deplorably short of adequate would be the above pair of remedies, without the addition of that other, which in a late reign was so near being applied, viz. the limitation to the prerogative in respect of the right of creating peers. Part and parcel of the legitimate influence of property, when swollen to a certain bulk, is that of conferring on the possessor a sort of right to a peerage: a sort of constitutional, customary, half-legal right; subject of course to the universal condition of being in league with the party in power at the time being. Thus it is, that, on one side or the other, all the families in the three kingdoms, within whose field of vision this highest lot in the inventory of corruption is included, are everlastingly enlisted in a state of irreconcilable hostility with the universal interest. If neither Pulteney nor Pitt the first—each the first man of his time—could withstand the temptation of this bait, think how it must be with the herd of fox-hunters! Within the circle thus marked out, suppose one man proof against the force of the enchantment—suppose this one miracle: comes the next generation, the miracle is at an end. And, while the as yet uncoroneted class of seat-owners and irresistible terrorists—proprietors of seats by descent or conquest—are thus held in corrupt thraldom, by a coronet with no more than four balls on it,—the already coroneted proprietors of the same fractions of the integer of despotism are kept in the same state of fascination by coronets of superior brilliancy.
In the last reign but one, a never renewable concurrence of circumstances gave to reform in this shape the concurrence of two out of the three branches of the legislature.* In the minds of the peers of those days, the consideration of the defalcation, to which the value of the honour would be subjected by every increase given to the numbers of the sharers—this interest, minute as it was, obtained, by the advantage of proximity, the prevalence over the remote, but so much more valuable interest, in respect of which that order of men are sharers with the whole body of the ruling few in the profit of corrupt misrule. Taught by so long a course of intervening experience, the peers of present time are better calculators. By the Lords Temporal, jacobinism—by the Lords Spiritual, atheism—would be descried, in any attempt to defalcate any the smallest atom from that part of the mass of corruptive influence which operates in this shape.
As to the exclusion of placemen’s votes,—scarcely more fully entitled to its name was the celebrated self-denying ordinance, by which—with the exception of Cromwell—the members of Charles the First’s Long Parliament were reduced to the same sad dilemma, of making each of them his option between two incompatible offices. In that way was corruption at that time rooted out, because there existed a Cromwell, and there existed puritans: neither in that way—nor, much it is to be feared, without convulsion, in any way—will corruption at this time be rooted out: for we have now no Cromwell: we have now no puritans.
“Oh! but this is nothing but your own surmise—your own ungenerous and groundless surmise—one of the fruits of your own selfish, and wild, and visionary, and jacobinical and atheistical theory.”
Good gentlemen—if I am indeed so ungenerous as to behold men as the Almighty made them,—and as they must be, on pain of ceasing to exist;—if such is indeed my theory,—it is neither in any respect without its sufficient warrant in the universally, and necessarily, and undeniably prevalent principles of human action,—nor yet (for so it happens) without its grounds, in the shape of special evidence, applying to this particular case.
To the Whigs—these securities against corruption—securities, as far as they went, so efficient—to the Whigs, would they any one of them be endurable? Not they indeed. Annuality—with all its wildness and visionariness—annuality would be far less intolerable. How should it be otherwise? By exclusion of placemen’s votes, prospects would be destroyed: by obligation of attendance, ease would be transformed into hard labour: by limitation applied to the number of the peerages, the triumph of property over probity would be arrested in its course.
Exclusion of placemen’s votes might be submitted to by such of them by whom indolence or want of talent would be recognised as excluding, in their own instances respectively, the slender portion of endowment necessary, and,—in the case of all but the few leaders,—sufficient, to the earning of the pay thus to be earned; but, in every eye without exception, the most visionary of all imaginable visions would be that by which the fulfilment of incontestable duty—though in the field of time not covering near so much as half the year—(see Report, 27th March 1817, p. 20) were to be regarded as either practicable or desirable.
As to what regards constancy of attendance,—the proof, as shown already under that head, stands upon your own journals.
As to what regards the exclusion of placemen’s votes, I call in Mr. Brand. To the nerves not only of Whigs, but of Whig-Reformists (of course altogether moderate reformists,) so intolerable was found to be the odour of this instrument of purification, that on the only one of the two occasions on which Mr. Brand executed the originally announced design of an annual reproduction of his proposition for parliamentary reform,* he found himself obliged to leave out this most efficient and unobjectionable of his proposed arrangements: and even then—such had been the offence taken, at the injury done to the party, by propositions admitted on the former occasion in favour of the people—from 115 against 234, his numbers were reduced to 88 against 215.†
On this same occasion, another too efficient proposition, omitted by the same honourable reformist, was—that for the taking of the votes in parochial or other such small districts.
On this same second and last occasion, in a word, everything that had been before proposed was reduced or altered to that for the abolishing, in some way not mentioned, the proprietory seats, and the giving an increase to the number of the county seats: to the number of the sources of that terrorism, by the consideration of which, the mind of Charles Fox had, as above (§ 7,) been repelled from the idea of that measure.
Note that, from their giving in the first instance the support of their votes to a proposed arrangement of reform, it follows not by any means, that honourable gentlemen have any the smallest liking to it, or any the slightest intention to continue their support to it: even from speeches—nay even from motions—in support of it, neither can conclusions in affirmance of inward favour and intentions be drawn with any certainty: for, by maturer reflection, operating upon intervening experience,—further and true lights showing the falsity of the lights by which they had at first been guided,—original deviations from the path of consummate wisdom lie at all times open to correction. Witness Earl Grey, and Lord Erskine, and Mr. Tierney, with et cæteras upon et cæteras.
On these occasions—as on all occasions—one object at least, if not the only object, is to make display of numbers, and thus strike terror into ministerial bosoms. That object accomplished or abandoned—the expedient has, well or ill, performed its office, and, like a sucked orange, is ripe for being cast aside.
Not in any such degree exposed to error are the conclusions that present themselves from the opposite course. When, upon any measure of reform, an honourable back has been turned,—expect, ye good men and true, to whom disappointment is a treat—expect to see turned again, with a smile, towards reform in that or any other shape, the honourable visage that belongs to it.
Country Gentlemen—opposition of their particular interests to efficient Reform, and thereby to the universal interest.
To the interest of the great landholders—whether in the situation of country gentlemen, employing their influence in the providing of seats for themselves or their connexions,—or in the situation of peers, conferring, in the character of patrons, seats on any but themselves—radical reform, would it not be generally and undeniably prejudicial in a variety of ways?
1. Of the circle,—filled by those in whose eyes the perpetual vision of a coronet, suspended over their head in the aërostatic region, occupies the place of the Labarum or the New Jerusalem,—mention has just been made.
2. In virtue of the principle of practical equality of suffrage, the counties, in the character of territorial election districts, would—most, if not all of them—require to be broken down and divided. To the class of persons in question, what in this respect would be the consequence? That a gentleman, who in an entire county beholds at present an Edom over which he may cast forth his shoe, would find this integer reduced to a fraction—a fraction corresponding to the number of the electoral districts into which the county would be divided. Say, that for procuring to him, as before, a seat,—the fraction, in which the greatest part of his territorial property is situated, would suffice. So far, so good: his station in theHouse would remain unchanged. But the county—from his importance in the county—from every part of his influence but that immediately and exclusively attached to his seat in the House—a defalcation, proportioned to the number of the fractions, would be produced.
Of the electoral districts into which the county is divided, let four (suppose) be the number: from each of them, one seat to be filled. On this supposition—in the field of his present dominion, instead of one joint-potentate, he would have three to share with him: instead of one Pompey, each Cæsar would have three Pompeys.
3. Even in that one of the four supposed fractions, in which his territorial demesnes were principally or exclusively situated,—his possession even of the one seat in question might lose much of its present security.
Once more, in the force of terrorism—of competition-excluding terrorism—does not a knight of the shire behold his surest dependence? If yes, then proportioned, as above shown (§ 7, 8,)—proportioned to the extent of that same shire—is the pressure of that force.*
For my part, if it depended upon me, gladly would I give up annuality,—if at that price, even though it were confined to the population districts, I could obtain the householder-plan, accompanied with secresy of suffrage:—compensation given for proprietory seats, and even for close boroughs. I feel, as sensibly as any one of them can do for any other, the plague which it would be to honourable gentlemen—year after year, as regularly as the year comes—to set, each of them, his stewards to drive to the poll-booth his portion of the swinish multitude:—I feel still more sensibly the plague which it cannot but be to be so driven:—in no instance, by the idea of uneasiness, considered as having place in any human breast—honourable, any more than swinish—and not outweighed by greater satisfaction elsewhere,—is any such sensation as that of satisfaction ever produced in mine. Quantity of corrupt matter, the same, in both cases:—by the reproduction of it every year, instead of once in every three years, much would be lost to individual comfort: nothing gained to public security—security against oppression and legalized pillage. Nothing will I conceal,—nothing will I exaggerate. Even by the exclusion of the whole number of corruption-caters,—supposing their places filled by an equal number of corruption-hunters, nothing more than the difference in effect between fear of loss and hope of gain would be gained. No: nothing more than that difference: but whether that difference would be slight and inefficient, let any one judge, after making the case his own, and asking himself which would be the greater—his grief on losing his all, or his joy on doubling it. Always, at the expense of the least suffering possible, would I obtain the good I look for. Many men deserve reward:—no man deserves punishment. When a surgeon cuts into a limb, is it because the patient has deserved the smart? No: but that the limb may be healed. Reward is—punishment is not—a thing to be deserved.
For my own part—not much should I want of being satisfied, for and during the short remainder of my own life—could I but see the quondam Friends of the people repent of their repentance: repent of it, and no more said: it would be too hard upon them to ask them for the reasons of it. But freedom!—freedom!—wheresoever given—by whomsoever given—all suffrages must be free—or they are worse than none. For and with the people the thing might surely be done, with the Friends of the people—and those not friends in name only—for their leaders.
Uses of this Exposure.
Of this display of the state of interests—of this exposure, melancholy as it is—melancholy and inauspicious, but not the less necessary—what now is the practical use?
Answer.—1. That those who, on looking into themselves, have the satisfaction of beholding in themselves merit sufficient for the purchase of a stock of popularity of the true and everlasting fabric, ample enough to afford adequate compensation, not only for the supposed lost seats, but for the reduction in the vulgarly estimated value of those new ones, to which they might look with such well-grounded confidence,—that these men, if any men there be that can behold themselves in this description,—happy enough as they would be not to need the adding to the stock of their other merits the merit of self-denial,—may come forward,—come forward, and, instead of sitting with folded hands to see us crushed, or lending their hands to the work of crushing us, condescend to head us, and lead us—us of the swinish multitude.
2. That those who, to a stock of merits in other less assured shapes add a supplement of sufficient strength in the rarest of all shapes, self-denial—pure and genuine self-denial—may join those others in the same generous course.
Yes, peradventure, here and there, at one time or other, may be found a few such superior minds. Such was the Duke of Richmond’s: he did not scoff at universal suffrage: he advocated it. He himself framed—he himself made public—a plan of reform,—and that plan was founded on it.
Yes—in this or that House—nay, even in each House, to-day or to-morrow—may be found here and there a few such eccentrically generous minds: and these the people will have for their leaders: and these their leaders will be adored:—in lifetime they will be worshipped; and, after death, passing through death to immortality, they will be immortalized.
But, to be thus immortalized, they must have been transfigured into people’s men:—Whigs they would be no longer, but renegadoes.
3. That, when these refined spirits are thus drawn off, and lodged in their proper receptacle, the heart of an adoring people, the power of the caput mortuum, which they will have left behind—the weight of it at any rate in the scale of authority—may find itself reduced to its true and proper amount.
As to these last—whatsoever arguments, grounded on the principle of general utility—on the respective relations of the two rival modes, the moderate and the radical, to the universal interest,—whatsoever arguments of this only genuine stamp it shall have been their good fortune to have found—will, on this occasion as on others, like all other arguments drawn from the same clear fountain, operate, and tell with their due and proper weight. But the argument in the shape of authority—the argument which, being composed of the alleged self-formed judgment of the supposed closely thinking few, seeks to supply, as it were from an inexhaustible fountain, matter for the derivative judgment of the loosely thinking many—of this argument, in proportion as, the state of their interests being laid open, the direction in which the prevalent mass of interest operates is seen to be adverse to the only efficient mode of reform—of this instrument of delusion, the force and efficiency will evaporate.
Arguments of that only genuine stamp being inacessible to them—none such, on their side of the case, being afforded by the nature of the case—what then will be their resource? Answer: Henceforward, as till now, silence, storm, or fallacy. But, of the stock of such arms as the arsenal of fallacy offers to their hands, a part not altogether inconsiderable—and that among the readiest at hand—has already been brought out:—brought out, pre-exposed to a damping atmosphere, and thus rendered unfit for use.
In all this truth, unwelcome as it cannot but be, mark well—there is nothing of vituperation. Employed on this occasion, vituperation would be as ill-grounded as it would be useless. Man is a compound of nature and situation. Such is the force of situation here, no probity of nature can ever have power to resist it. If these men were to be stoned, how many are there among us, who, upon trial, would be found entitled to cast the stones? That which, in this behalf, these men do and forbear to do,—what is there in it which those who are most angry with them would not—with few exceptions indeed—do and forbear to do in their place? Thus sad—and, but for the silently increasing strength of their own minds, hopeless—is the condition of the people. Everything, that in any shape has power at its back, is either Whig or Tory. The Tories are the people’s avowed enemies. Man must change his nature, ere, to any radically remedial purpose, the Whigs—the great body of the Whigs—can be their friends.
In so far as, to the receiving on any occasion protecting assistance at their hands, real sympathy is necessary,—it may now be imagined whether, by the great body of the people, any such affection can ever be reasonably looked for from the body of the Whigs.
Happily, to the receipt of such assistance to a certain degree, on most parts of the field of government except this all-embracing one, no such feeling, it will be seen, is in that quarter necessary.
Between that aristocratical confederacy and the great body of the people, in respect of most matters of detail separately taken, the community of interests may be stated as being commonly to a certain degree sufficient for their purpose.
On no occasion, under the ever-increasing weight of the yoke of oppression and misrule, from any hand other than that of the parliamentary Whigs can the people receive any the slightest chance—(talk not of relief—for that is at all times out of the question,) but for retardation of increase. As to liberty of speech,—to all such purposes, everywhere out of the House, it is already gone. In the House, the Whigs still have—and probably for some time longer will continue to have—possession of that instrument, without which no resistance can be made. In the sort of struggle, faint as it is, which from time to time the Whigs contrive to summon up strength enough to maintain against the ever overbearing force of their antagonists,—scarcely any way without serving in some way or other the interest of the people, can they so much as endeavour to serve themselves.
Not that, by such hands, abuse in any shape can be eradicated: for the benefit of the eventually succeeding nursery-men, each stool must be preserved: meantime, however, even by such hands, there is scarce an abuse but may be clipped.
The time, will it ever come, in which, on the one hand, so intolerable will have become the system of misrule—so grievous the yoke of despotism,—on the other hand, in the eyes of the Whigs, so plainly hopeless the chance of their ever being, though it were but for a moment, taken into power,—that, in their calculation, the value of their share in the partial and sinister interest will no longer be greater than that of their share in the universal interest? The time, will it ever come, in which, in each man’s estimate, the system of misrule and oppression will have swollen to such a pitch, that, on the occasion of the sacrifice made of the universal interest on the altar of despotism, he has more to fear in the character of a victim, than to hope for in the character of priest? This will depend—partly on the degree of precipitation or caution with which the system of despotism proceeds on in its course—partly on the joint degree of discernment and public feeling which shall have place on the part of the Whigs. But the great fear is—lest for their saving themselves and the country together, the time may not already be too late.
Already a Lewis, G—will before that time have been made a Ferdinand. Individuals or bodies—without means of communication, nothing effectual can be done by any two parties for mutual defence. Between mind and mind, sole instruments of communication these three:—the tongue, the pen, and the press. By the pen, without the aid of the press, nothing effectual can in these days be ever done. Of what will be done, and that without delay, for the depriving the people of the use of the press, an earnest has been already given: given in the here several times alluded to, but elsewhere too little noticed, decision of the House of Commons. As to the tongue, under one of the late liberticide acts, two London aldermen, sitting at Guildhall, have sufficed to put an end to all public use of that instrument, on this or on any other part of the field of politics. In this state is civil liberty. In Liverpool, already has the arm of persecution been raised against the Unitarians. In this state is religious liberty.
The heart is pierced through and through with the melancholy truth. Yes: all that rule—all that even think to rule—are against the people. Causes will have their effects. Sooner or later, unless a change takes place, the people—the people, in their own defance—will be against all that rule.
A parting word or two, respecting the pamphlet lately published by Mr. Evans.—Time forbidding all examination of it with my own eyes, the following is the result of a report made to me by an intelligent friend. With little or no exception,—historical facts, authorities, arguments, nay even proposals—in favour of radical reform: conclusions—conclusions alone—in favour of moderate. Historical facts and authorities, many and important ones: many which, could I have found time for the gleaning of them, I should not have failed to add to the number of the notes above distinguished by the name of Shield Notes: I say shield notes; the others—for want of room—and with much more of satisfaction than regret—being omitted.
Under these circumstances, it cannot but be my wish that every person into whose hands this too long work may fall, may yet add to it the pamphlet of Mr. Evans.
Another word or two on the mode of treating the subject.
In the section on impermanence,—to the duration expressed by the word annuality, the objection made by Mr. Brand, on the score of want of experience, will have been seen. Of the argument so employed on that occasion by the honourable gentleman, the source being the same, viz. the principle of general utility, as that from which, on every part of the field of politics, my own arguments are drawn on all occasions,—to that argument, so far as regards the legitimacy of the source, it was accordingly impossible that any objection could be entertained by me. The sort of business in question, be it what it may,—in the choice of a functionary for the performance of it, appropriate aptitude—aptitude with reference to that same business—being the term by which the end properly belonging to the subject—the proper and all-comprehensive end—is brought to view,—appropriate probity, appropriate intellectual aptitude, and appropriate active talent—each of them with reference to that same end—are on all occasions the terms employed by me as capable of serving, when taken together, and as serving accordingly, for giving expression to all the several constituent parts or elements, so often mentioned, of that fictitious whole: endowments, by the possession or non-possession of which, in so far as in each instance the matter of fact is capable of being ascertained,—whatsoever be the function in question,—and whosoever the person chosen for the exercise of it,—the propriety or impropriety of the choice may be, and ought to be, determined. In the setting up of this particular standard, as the standard suited to the nature of the particular subject, may be seen one instance of the application made of the above-mentioned leading principle—the principle of general utility. In the standard of comparison thus set up, may be seen the basis of the annexed Plan: and, on the occasion in question, to this same standard (it may be seen) did the discernment and judgment of the honourable gentleman in question conduct him likewise:—the case being such, that, in the position in which he stood, not only did the subject, but the side in which, in relation to that subject, his position was, admit of his drawing his argument from that same clear and quiet source. From that same source—as on all occasions, so on this,—were of course drawn the arguments which it fell to my lot to find on the other side. Between the one and the other, the reader, the state of whose mind in respect of interest leaves him at liberty to form an unseduced and unbiassed judgment, will have had to decide.
To find so much as a single instance in which the question was argued upon such ground, as well as with such temper—all logic, no rhetoric—was a real treat to me. Had all the arguments, from that as well as other quarters (I speak of the assembly, not of the individual,) been of the same temper as well as from the same source,—the ensuing Plan shows not only the source from which, but the sort of temper in which, and in which alone, everything which came from me on the subject would have come.
In preserving while thus occupied that same cool and quiet temper,—in preserving it from beginning to end,—not any the smallest difficulty did I ever experience: as little should I experience in discussing with any person that same question, point by point, so that the arguments were on both sides drawn from that same source. In that same temper, from that same source, in that same course of argument, by that one honourable gentleman was that one step made: but, in any sort of temper, on that same ground, in that same course of argument, and on that same side, to take another—at any rate, to take many such other steps—so it were upon terra firma, and not in the region of air and clouds—would not, I am inclined to think, by any honourable gentleman on that same side, be found an altogether easy task: not even by the honourable gentleman in question, who of all moderatists, in so far as he seems to be at liberty to give expression to his own sentiments (for it has been seen under what a yoke he has been working,) seems to be least remote from radicalism.
In respect of temper, is there a reader to whom the cause of the difference observable between the Plan itself and the Introduction to it is an object of any the least curiosity? I will answer him without disguise. For any eyes that could find patience to look at it, was the Plan itself designed. A few exceptions excepted—(and those—alas! how few!)—for swinish eyes alone this melancholy Introduction,—not for honourable ones. Against interest—against a host of confederated interests—what can argument do? Exactly as much as against a line of musketry.
A last word on the new oppression to which we are now doomed, viz. the suppression of petitions:—the closing up of that channel, through which, under the protection of the bill of rights, from that time down to that of the present session, we possessed, all over the kingdom, the means of knowing one another’s thoughts on the subject of our common interests.
Framed by that masterly hand, which is so consummately adequate to every work it undertakes—(ah! would the times were such as might allow it to undertake none but good ones!)—framed by this exquisite hand, I see just come out a set of arrangements, admirable as they are new, for giving the most efficient and timely, the most in every way commodious, publicity to the proceedings of the House. The first specimen has just reached my hand: but, from amidst these flowers, a snake,—how can I help seeing it?—lifts up its head and threatens me:—“Any petitions, or other proceedings, which may occasionally be printed by special order, might follow as a supplement or appendix to the votes, not impeding their daily delivery, and be printed and circulated afterwards with due diligence, according to their length.”
Any petitions? Yes: and therefore any petitions, even for parliamentary reform—even for radical reform—even for the wild and visionary reform—may henceforward be printed, so it be by special order. But for dissemination of any such visionary matter, in its whole extent, or in any considerable portion of its extent, any such special order, will it be generally obtained?—was there any design that it should? Till now, even of those visions was the substance in use to be inserted in the votes: and thus, on so easy a condition as that of putting on the uniform of prescribed respect, petitioners, in all parts of the United Kingdom, might, without fear of adding to the troubles of Mr. Attorney-General, have had the possibility of coming to the knowledge of one another’s minds.
By a former decision,—so perfectly pretenceless, and here more than once alluded to,—seeing the use of the press interdicted to petitions for reform—seeing that clause of the bill of rights which regards petitions, thus in part already repealed by a decision of the House of Commons,—how can any eye, how averse soever, avoid seeing another wound, and that a still more desperate one, now given to the liberties, which, by that so much celebrated, but alas! how vague and imperfect, law, were in part professed—in part intended—to be secured?
So far as concerns the new matter added, admirable as these new arrangements are,—since the day on which, in addition to the power, the talent requisite to the making of them found its way into the chair from which they issued, has there ever been a time in which the demand for them did not exist? No: but not till now has the demand been so imperative for this—the final—suppression of all pernicious visions.
Addition—compression—acceleration—to whatsoever has been done in any one of these ways, never was applause more sincere than that which has here been paid: as to postponement—so far as necessary to the acceleration of the essence, postponement of the mass at large is a small price paid for a great benefit. But suppression—saving special order or special motion—suppression thus final,—and, among the matters suppressed, the matter of all petitions—and, among these petitions, all petitions for reform,—here lies the evil: and a more protentous one, where shall it be found?
Economy, forsooth, the motive! O rare economy!
From the suppression of the whole quantity of matter proposed to be suppressed, the greatest quantum of expense, upon and out of which a saving, to a greater or less amount, can by possibility be made, £2000 a-year:* and, out of this aggregate mass, what would be the greatest amount of saving that could be made by the suppression of petitions alone? A few hundreds a-year, or perhaps only a few score. But the sum thus to be saved by the suppression of petitions—suppose it to amount to the whole of the £2000—which, however, is impossible. For this £2000, would any man, who was not an enemy to English liberties, be content to sell so valuable a portion of them as this? To sell this—now that so many others have so lately been torn from us?—this, on the preservation of which depends perhaps the only chance yet left to us for the recovery, or the preservation, of any of the others?
If, of all places imaginable, the place chosen for the seat of economy—and such economy!—must be the Chapel of St. Stephen—once the great sanctuary of English liberties,—might not even there some more proper source or object for it be found? Suppose, for example, under the head of expense, the saving made were made of or upon the money so regularly consumed, in that same place, in the periodical pampering, performed at the expense of the people upon their self-styled representatives:—upon these sometimes self-styled servants of the people, while so many of their masters are perishing every day for want of necessaries?
By the first glance, at the first specimen of the new arrangement in company with the report by which it was explained, was the suspicion in question awakened:—within the compass of ten days, behold the confirmation it has already received from experience.
Since this beautifully, and, in every part but this, irreproachably, commodious regulation has been acted upon,—five instances of petition for reform have occurred: in one of them alone has the printing been ordered: in every other of the four instances, suppression has been the result. In the one instance in which the printing was ordered, how came it to be ordered? Because, on the part of the member by whom it was presented, there was a real desire that no such suppression should take place. In the four other instances, how happened it that the petitions were thus suppressed? Because, in the instance of the honourable members by whom they were respectively presented, either there was an opposite desire, or whether the petition was circulated or suppressed was a matter of indifference.
Last date of the first Number, viz. 45, of the paper printed upon the new plan, under the title of “Votes and Proceedings of the House of Commons,”—24th April 1817. In this number, p. 392, follow two articles in the words and figures, following:—
“36. Reform in Parliament, &c. Petition of Wolverhampton, presented.”
“74. Reform in Parliament, &c. Petition of persons residing in Andover, presented.”
That this was the first paper printed in pursuance of the new arrangement, appears from the two articles following, viz.
“76. Votes and Proceedings of the House,—Resolution of 28th March, as to a more convenient method of preparing, printing, and distributing them, read.”
“77. Ordered, That the votes and proceedings of this House be printed, being first perused by Mr. Speaker, and that he do appoint the printing thereof, and that no person but such as he shall appoint do presume to print the same.”
(N. B. To no such effect as that of either of these two last articles, has any article appeared (down to the 3d of May) in any succeeding number of these votes.)
Votes, &c. No. 48, 25th April 1817, p. 396.
“31. Taxation and Reform of Parliament, &c. Petition of Provost, &c. of Linlithgow; to lie on the table.”
Votes, &c. No. 47, 28th April 1817, p. 400.
“37. Retrenchment of Expenditure, Reform of Parliament, &c. Petition of inhabitants of Dunfermline, relating thereto; to lie on the table.”
In this same No. 47, p. 400, note the following articles:—
“38. Academical Society of London,—Petition for permission to continue their debates; to lie on the table, and to be printed.—[Appendix, No. 4.]”
N. B. Members stated as belonging to the universities or inns of court: one of them a Member of Honourable House. Society close: no swinish multitude: class thus favoured, the gagging—not the gagged. Privileged orders, partaking, or preparing to become partakers, in the separate and sinister interest. It required the undaunted zeal of Mr. Recorder Sylvester to find any objection here.—See Morn. Chron. 3d May 1817; proceedings of the London Sessions, May 2d.
To manifest his respect for the principles and interests of Honourable House, what is it that the generous hardihood of the learned gentleman would not be ready to do—yea, in the very teeth of Honourable House?
“39. Distress and want of employment,—Petition of inhabitants of Birmingham; to lie on the table, and to be printed. [Appendix, No. 5.]”
Distress great; about reform, nothing.—Useful ground afforded for the new job: for diverting from the only remedy the attention of the suffering people; for leading them to suppose that their distresses are really an object of regard; and, as of course, for giving increase to influence.
Votes, &c. No. 50, 1st May 1817, p. 412.
“20. Reduction of taxes, Reform of Parliament, &c. Petition of inhabitants of St. Ives (Hunts,) &c.; to lie on the table, and to be printed. [Appendix, No. 7.]”
In this one behold the instance—the only instance—in which, after presenting the petition, the member moved that it be printed. This member was Sir Francis Burdett.
The only inducement which Honourable House can have to submit to any such measure as this of its own reform—this sole inducement being composed of the desires of the people, as made known to one another as well as to Honourable House—which reform never can take place, but in proportion as the particular interest of Honourable House is made to give way to the universal interest—is it now in human nature, that by Honourable House anything should be omitted which, in the eyes of Honourable House, can, consistently with the rules of human prudence, be done towards the prevention of so unpleasant an effect?
That in this or that instance, for some time after the introduction of the new arrangement, no resistance should be made to a motion for giving to these applications, how unwelcome soever, the before-accustomed circulation, is altogether natural: especially when, by any such resistance, such a pressure as that which it would be in the power of Sir Francis Burdett to apply, would have to be encountered. Yet even already, out of five petitions, is the extinguisher dropped upon four: this under the green tree—judge how it will be in the dry?
“Why load the parliamentary press with any such useless trash? These petitions—either they agree with one another, or they disagree. Do they agree? from some one manufactory do they all come. Do they disagree? the greater the disagreement, the more conclusive the proof of wildness—of visionariness—of the impossibility of doing anything that shall be generally satisfactory to the swinish multitude.” Behold here an argument, ready to serve, and to prevail—and at all times—for the suppression of that which is to be suppressed.
Has no such plan of suppression been ever formed,—or, one having been formed, will honourable gentlemen prevail upon themselves to relinquish it? Nothing can be more simple or unobjectionable than the remedy:—standing order, that every petition that has been received shall be printed of course, and in due course. On motion duly made, suppose an order to this effect refused:—of the justness of those suspicions, which, consistently with any regard for the public welfare, could not be suppressed, would any such refusal fall anything short of the most conclusive proof?
That which, in each instance, is given as and for the petition of such and such persons, might it not be proper that by some of those tokens, which everywhere else are in use—(for example, the insertion or omission of inverted commas)—information should be given, whether the matter so printed be the very tenor of the petition in question, or only the purport?—the petition at length, or an abridgment?—an abridgment compressed to any degree of compression, from the minimum to the maximum inclusive?—the discourse, in a word, of the exactly ascertainable persons whose discourse it purports to be; or the discourse of some other person, neither ascertained, nor by any person, except those who are in the secret, ascertainable?
Good Sir Francis (through this channel I now address you, it being the only channel through which it is in my power to reach you)—Good Sir Francis, look at the Appendix to the Votes, 1st May 1817, p. 8:—look at the paper, No. 7, in which may be seen enveloped, in the above-described cloud, the account of the St. Ives’ petition printed at your instance. Tell us, on your approaching commemoration day, to which of all the above-described descriptions we are to refer it.—12th May 1817.
[* ]In the Pamphleteer, No. 17, for January 1817, vide Vol. V. p. 278.
[* ]Parl. Reg. xv. anno 1784. Commons, Earl Nugent. “He (Lord Chatham) had often said, that Hanover was a mill-stone about the neck of England, that would weigh her down, and sink her.”
[* ]In the pension list are still to be seen the pensions enjoyed by divers ladies, procured for them by a certain duke, they being relations of his by marriage, then in a state of infancy; their father, a hero of the turf, living and dying in the bosom of affluence.
[† ]Whatsoever blanks may eventually be observable in the remainder of this work, the prudence of the printer is the virtue to which the honour of them will be due. In the present instance, for filling up the deficit between the C and the r, the candour and sagacity of the reader may employ the letters onservato, or any others, if any others there be, which in his view may be more apposite.—(Note to the original edition.)
[* ]Behold the connexion between waste and corruption, in the view taken of it by divers statesmen at divers periods.
[* ]Upon a necessarily hasty search, made into such documents as happen to lie within my knowledge and my reach,—the following are the amounts of such part of the army, as appears to have been employed—employed for the same sort of service as that one above, for which the 53,000 have been employed. To match the present and last year, the years here exhibited, by the description of years of ordinary demand, have all of them been years of manifest and complete peace. Out of the hundred years in question, no more than 29 (it may be observed) are on this occasion brought to view. Of the comparative smallness of this number, there have been three causes:—1. About half the number of years have been years of actual war. 2. Of the remaining fifty or thereabouts, being years of peace (i. e. years in no part of any of which was war actually carried on,) twenty-nine was the only number, concerning which, in the sources of information in question, any information could be found. In consideration of their being so nearly in agreement with each other, and at the same time forming so considerable a majority, twenty out of the twenty-nine are here inserted, under the above head of years of ordinary demand. In the case of the remaining nine years, ranked, as will be seen, under the contrasted head of years of extra demand,—the circumstances of the times not being, for any such purpose as the present, capable of being subjected to a particular examination,—the very circumstance of the superiority of the numbers, in so much smaller a number of instances, has been regarded as constituting an adequately conclusive proof, that in those years respectively there existed some special cause of alarm,—either from within or from without, or both,—of such a nature, as to cause the condition of those years to make an approach more or less considerable to the condition of war years.
*∗* From Chandler’s Debates, years 1717, 1728, 1729, 1734, 1737, 1738, 1740, 1741, 1742. From Almon’s Debates, 1752, 1753, 1764, 1765, 1766, 1767, 1768, 1770, 1789, 1790. From Annual Register, 1769, 1771, 1774, 1784, 1786, 1787, 1788. From Almon’s Parliamentary Register, year 1775.
[* ]So long as, in any shape, offences, having for their object relief from the mischief of misrule, are committed,—the laws, whatever they are, that have been made for the punishment of them, are thereby proved insufficient; and thus it is, that, for the self-same offences, fresh and fresh laws, continually increasing in extent and severity, must be made.
[* ]Existence, however, it has, and—viz. at Hone’s, 55, Fleet-street, and 67, Old Bailey; Hone being editor of the Reformer’s Register—that existence may even at this day be had for twopence. The title is—The Right of the People to Universal suffrage and Annual Parliaments, clearly demonstrated by the late Duke of Richmond.—In this LETTER of his, the Duke is against secresy of suffrage. By a sort of sentimentality, with perhaps a little of self-regarding interest, perceived or unperceived, at the bottom of it, was his objection—for such as it is, there is but one—dictated. A little further on, it may be seen what a contrast the Duke’s logic on this head makes with that which had dictated what he has said on the two others. As to his bill—date of it anno 1780, it is not to be found in the Parliamentary Register, but was published by itself, first (it is said) by Ridgway, and just now (Feb. 1817,) by Hone.
[* ]Reader, mark well the following parallel: when read, go back a few pages, apply it to pages 5 and 6. I.
a the actual receipts of revenue at the treasury, including the balance at the commencement of the year, and excluding the proceeds of loans and treasury notes, will amount to about the sum of 47 millions of dollars: that, during the same year, the actual payments at the treasury, including the payment of the arrearages of the war department, as well as the payment of a considerable excess beyond the annual appropriation, will amount to about the sum of 38 millions of dollars; and that consequently at the close of the year, there will be a surplus in the treasury of about the sum of 9 millions of dollars . . . . . The floating debt of treasury notes and temporary loans, will soon be entirely discharged. The aggregate of the funded debt, composed of debts incurred during the wars of 1776 and of 1812, has been estimated with reference to the 1st of January next (1817,) at a sum not exceeding one hundred and ten millions of dollars.