Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION XVIII.: INTERESTS ADVERSE TO ADEQUATE REFORM—SUPPORT GIVEN BY THEM TO MODERATE, TO THE EXCLUSION OF RADICAL: TORIES—WHIGS—PEOPLE'S MEN. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 3
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SECTION XVIII.: INTERESTS ADVERSE TO ADEQUATE REFORM—SUPPORT GIVEN BY THEM TO MODERATE, TO THE EXCLUSION OF RADICAL: TORIES—WHIGS—PEOPLE’S MEN. - 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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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.
CATECHISM OF PARLIAMENTARY REFORM;
[* ]The Peerage Bill of 1719.
[* ]Cobb. Deb. xxiii. 99 to 106; May 8, 1812.
[† ]Ibid, anno 1810, xvii. 164; anno 1812, xxiii. 106-161.—“He,” Mr. Brand, “was ashamed thus to delay the House before empty benches; he expected a more full attendance of those members who usually voted on the same principles with himself.”
[* ]Of the existing system of representation, that part which regards the counties, found (as hath been already seen, § 7, 8), no very strenuous admirer in the person of Charles Fox. To that most powerful advocate of the cause of the people, the denomination of Lackland belonged with no less propriety, than to the monarch to whom we are indebted for the first of our magna chartas: nor, either in Wiltshire or elsewhere, have any seats been observed among the appendages of Holland house.
[* ]Report—27th March 1817,—on printed Votes, &c. p. 3.