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NOTES ON THE NEWSPAPERS 1834 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume VI - Essays on England, Ireland, and the Empire 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume VI - Essays on England, Ireland, and the Empire, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by Joseph Hamburger (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982).
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NOTES ON THE NEWSPAPERS
Monthly Repository, n.s. VIII (Mar., 1834), 161-76; (Apr., 1834), 233-48, 309-12; (May, 1834), 354-75; (June, 1834), 435-56; (July, 1834), 521-8; (Aug., 1834), 589-600; (Sept., 1834), 656-65. Headed as title. Running titles: left-hand, as title; right-hand, as sub-titles for each “Note.” Each month’s entries signed “A.” Not republished. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “Notes on the Newspapers: in the Monthly Rep. for March 1834, April 1834, May 1834, June 1834, July 1834, August 1834, and September 1834” (MacMinn, 38). The numbered headings for each month’s entries have been added. In Somerville College there is a proof set of the “Notes” for Mar., 1834, with, on one page, four corrections (which were made): “Divorse” is corrected to “Divorce” (160.8); “when they see a place uncovered,” is added in the margin (160.17); “ume” is corrected to “une” (160.22); and a quotation mark is added after “boue;” (160.22). Also in Somerville College are tear-sheets of all of the “Notes,” with four corrections that have been adopted in the present text: “Reformed Ministry” is corrected to “Reform Ministry” (151.17-18); “not” to “but” (213.35); “base” to “lease” (243.26); and “acts” to “arts” (262.17). There are two other corrections marked, perhaps not in Mill’s hand, that have been adopted: “Alliance” is altered to “Affiance” (173n.20), and “Pedrillo” to “Pedro Garcias” (224.7). For comment on the “Notes,” see lviii-lix above.
Notes on the Newspapers
NO. I, MARCH, 1834
The Session now commencing will probably decide, in the minds of the many, who wield the physical force, the question whether anything is to be hoped from the higher classes, and whether the people shall, or shall not, take their affairs into their own hands.
In the first Session of the Reformed Parliament, many allowances were made, which will not be made again: the new legislative body had the full benefit of the reluctance to consider a first trial as final; and the novelty of the situation was such that the public were bewildered, and did not themselves see with sufficient clearness what ought to be done, to render them very severe judges of their representatives for what they left undone. The public had expected much, but did not know exactly what. They felt sure that the Reform Bill[†] must somehow be a great good to them, and they trusted that those who had been sufficiently their friends to give them the Bill, would find the means of making it have its natural effects. The first session taught them that they were not to expect this: the Reform Ministry and the Reformed Parliament would do no good spontaneously. The second will show whether they are capable of doing any when they are forced. If this trial should also fail, we live in times when mankind hurry on rapidly to ultimate consequences; the next question will be, what is the easiest and most expeditious way of getting rid of them.
Were Ministers in their senses, when, in so critical a position, they opened a session, perhaps destined to be the most important in our annals, with a speech, if possible, more unmeaning even than the common run of King’s speeches? A speech studiously framed in such language as to promise nothing—to commit the Government to nothing?
Ministers are ignorant of the very first principles of statesmanship. The one maxim of a wise policy, in times of trouble and movement, is that which Madame Roland recommended to the Girondists: “Take the initiative!” Be you the first in the field, with whatever purpose. Whatever you do, do it before you are forced to it: do it while you may be supposed to have willed it, and not to have been passive instruments of some other will. If you would not be like dead twigs on an eminence, ready to be swept away by the first gust—if you would be something and not nothing—could you not for once seem to have a purpose, a plan, an idea, of your own! Could you not assume what gives dignity even to wickedness! Do good, do even evil, but let it be from choice. If you cannot show a worthy character, show some character: if you cannot be loved, prithee be hated, but be not despised!
Among modern statesmen, at least in England, the wisdom of the serpent seems even more infinitely rare than the innocence of the dove.[*] The curse of a highly civilized state of society, are the half-honest, the men of feeble purposes. Scarcely any one has character enough to be either good or wicked. Give us rather a “bold bad man,”[†] a villain as villains were of old, with a strong intellect and a strong will. Give us for a ruler one who could and would do right whenever it was his interest; who could and would prevent all wrong, but such as he chose to promote: not men who, for want of courage to do either good or harm, fold their hands and let harm come.
If the vessel is merely to scud before the wind, what need of a steersman? We do not support a Government that we may ourselves redress our own grievances. We want rulers who do not wait to be told by us how we wish to be governed; men who can teach us what we should demand, who can at least anticipate our demands, not slowly and grudgingly obey them. We want men from whom it shall not be necessary to extort all they give, men who shall not, instead of gaining, actually lose popularity by every fresh concession.
We want, in short, men who on every great question will act as the present Ministers have acted on the Reform Bill, and on that alone.
The people were anxiously waiting for the propositions of the Ministry on Municipal Corporations, on the Poor Laws, and on the abuses in the Church. The speech says, that the reports of the Commissioners on these several subjects will be laid before Parliament, and will afford them “much useful information,” whereby they will be enabled to judge of “the nature and extent of any existing defects and abuses, and in what manner the necessary corrections may in due season be safely and beneficially applied.”[‡] Not even a promise to propose anything. They may have something to propose, but their minds are not yet made up. When are such minds ever made up? It is literally true, that the only two things to which the speech either directly or by implication pledges the Ministry, are, first to propose a “final adjustment” of Irish tithes, (the extinction of which was announced by Mr. Stanley two years ago,)[*] and this “without injury to any institution in Church or State;”[†] secondly, not to consent to a repeal of the Union with Ireland. On this latter point, indeed, the speech is as explicit, and as emphatic, as heart could wish. They will resist Mr. O’Connell even to the death. The collective energy, courage, and determination of the entire Cabinet, have been all thrown into this one act of what they doubtless deem antique heroism and magnanimity.
The debate which ensued, and which, as those say who were present, was as flat and dull as if the Session had already lasted six months, made no further disclosure of the purposes of Ministers: but in the course of the evening it was discovered, that they intended to propose some trifling amendment (it did not appear what) in the marriage law, and that they hoped, but were not sure, that on the subject of English tithes, some measure might be brought to completion in the present Session. It has further transpired that they do not mean to propose a registration of births, marriages, and deaths; that they have not decided whether or not to re-introduce the Local Courts’ Bill;* but that there are two things, besides the repeal of the Union, which they are firmly determined to resist: any alteration in the Corn Laws,[‡] and any separation of Church and State.
Is this the way to retain any hold on a people every day becoming more alienated from the higher classes, and every day growing in the capacity and in the habit of organized co-operation among themselves?
On the showing of these very men, a great change has taken place in the structure of society, and has, through their instrumentality, been communicated to our political institutions. Power has passed from the few into the hands of the many. On their own showing too, the many are most imperfectly informed, most liable to error, and likely to make a most dangerous use of their newly-acquired power, unless they somewhere find wiser guidance than their own. Accordingly, the Whigs deliver to them, by word and deed, the following instructions: “We are the wisest and most excellent persons in the world; the only persons who are fit to govern you, as all, except Tories and anarchists, acknowledge. But do not expect from us any thing to improve your condition. If that is your object, you have only yourselves to look to. We, if you would but let us alone, desire no better than to leave every thing as it is. Some things we do not mean to give you, say or do what you will: you shall not have cheap bread, nor be allowed to choose your own parsons. But whatever else you ask for, you may have, by making us sufficiently uncomfortable; for we are a liberal and enlightened Administration, and are always ready to quit any spot as soon as it is made too hot to hold us. Therefore, if you want us to stir, make ready your fuel and light your fire. But as long as we conveniently can, we are your men for upholding existing institutions. We are the pillars of the Constitution, and it cannot be in safety if it rests any where but upon us, because of our yielding nature. If the Tories had it, you would storm and rave, and blow down it and them together; but we, you see, go upon castors, and, you are aware, do not absolutely object to being pushed from under it when we must.”
What is this but exhorting the people to incessant agitation? “We will yield nothing to reason,” say the Whig ministry, “but every thing to clamour.” These are the men who call Radicalism dangerous. It is Radicalism to demand that the people may be ruled by men of their choice; men, therefore, in whom they can confide; in whose hands they may place their affairs, and feel at liberty to be quiet. Whig policy, on the contrary, relies on a perennial conflict between opposite principles of evil: on the one hand, a Government, which, never attempting to originate any good, neither has nor claims public confidence; and on the other, perpetual agitation.
It is policy like this which alone can render the prospects of our country and of the world seriously alarming. The people are always eager to follow good guidance, and the sole danger is of their not finding it. Intelligence abounds among the English democracy; but it is not cultivated intelligence. It is mostly of the self-educated sort; and this is commonly more microscopic than comprehensive: it sees one or a few things strongly, and others not at all: it is the parent of narrowness and fanaticism. The coming changes, for come they must and will, are fraught with hope in any case, but also with peril, unless there be found to lead the van of opinion, to place themselves in the front rank of the popular party, a section of the wisest and most energetic of the instructed classes; men whose education and pursuits have given them a wider range of ideas, and whose leisure has admitted of more systematic study, than will, for a long time to come, be possible, save in occasional rare instances, to those who labour with their hands.
It cannot be but that there are such men in England; but we know not where to look for them in public life. The present Ministers not only are incapable of being, but do not even attempt to seem such men. They have neither the intellect, the knowledge, the energy, the courage, nor even the wish. They are wanting in the very first of the necessary conditions,—faith in improvement; without which it is impossible to take the lead in a nation which not only believes in, but demands improvement. They have no belief that the very measures which they are instrumental in carrying, will have any beneficial consequences. To their minds the Reform Bill itself was but a prudent and necessary concession to popular opinion. What can be expected from such men, but what we find? that they will never do any thing till they are forced, always do as little as they are permitted, and endeavour that even that little should lead to nothing.
There is a question which a short time must solve, and on its solution the fate of this nation entirely depends:—Can the higher classes, before it is too late, furnish the country with ministers, who, together with strong popular sympathies, have the capacity and the energy to lead, and not wait to be driven?
* * * * *
The House of Commons have availed themselves of this affair to pay largely that peculiar tribute to virtue, which vice, according to the old proverb, loves to render.[*] They have made a truly edifying exhibition of rigid morality. Mr. Shiel’s fate is a great moral lesson; he has been made a signal example of the inconveniences of being found out. If Mr. Shiel be guilty of what is laid to his charge,[†] a high-minded man might look down upon him; but how, in reason, is it possible that the present House of Commons should do so? No one does or can despise in another person his own vices: and contemptible as a man’s conduct may be in itself, we can never without the sincerest pity see one man singled out from a multitude, and mercilessly immolated for being proved to have done what all the others are known to do; made the scapegoat of those whose only advantage over him is that of Lady Bellaston in the novel,[‡] that nobody calls them what every body knows they are.
Who, that knows any thing of the sentiments and conversation of public men, is not aware, that there is hardly one of them who has the slightest scruple in doing what is imputed to Mr. Shiel,—voting and speaking contrary to his private opinion, for the sake of retaining his seat? There were many present that evening, who could have pointed at the instant to at least two hundred members, and said to each of them, “On such a day you did so.” It is a thing so perfectly understood, that allowances are made for it as for any other nécessité de position: men talk of it to each other as they would of the most innocent or laudable act of their lives. There is indeed a tacit understanding that these things are not to be mentioned in the hearing of the reporters: but when such conduct is spoken of in private to their own circles, the only thing which could excite surprise or offence would be, to pretend to be shocked at it; that would be resented, as an attempt to impose upon themselves, to overreach the fraternity. But the public are fair game.
If all who hear and are disgusted at such conversation were as indiscreet as Mr. Hill, how many a curious tale would be revealed! In the last Session it was reported to us, on undoubted authority, that an English county member, of far greater weight in the country and in Parliament than Mr. Shiel, after having voted on an important division decidedly on the wrong side, (which for once happened to be against the Ministry,) said to an acquaintance, “That vote was the dirtiest I ever gave; but my constituents in * * * compelled me to it.” We do not believe that this member thought he had done wrong; it was something in his favour, that he was evidently conscious of having done what he would willingly have avoided. We would on no account do the injustice to another which has been done to Mr. Shiel; and we should not give publicity to this anecdote, if we were not well assured that no one, not already acquainted with the facts, will recognize the individual.
Since the above was written a Committee has been appointed, at the instance of Mr. Shiel’s friends, to investigate the charges against him, and the inquiry has terminated in his complete and honourable acquittal.[*] His first accuser, Mr. Hill, has made all the reparation in his power,[†] but too late to save his own credit, which has received a shock it will not easily recover. Lord Althorp pleads guilty only of having acted imprudently as a man and as a minister; though he confesses, that he had given a false impression of the purport of what his informant told him.[‡] To misunderstand and misstate facts to the injury of another, is that only imprudence? Would it not have been as easy to put the question to Mr. John Wood before as after uttering the calumny? Lord Althorp will not escape so easily as he probably flatters himself: he is more deeply culpable than he perhaps thinks, and it will require many good deeds to obliterate the memory of this act of criminal recklessness.
The debates on this affair will reveal to the world without, much more, we suspect, than they previously knew, of the state of parliamentary morality. If Mr. Shiel had really done what Lord Althorp imputed to him; if in private society he had declared himself favourable to the Coercion Bill,[§] while in Parliament he was speaking and voting against it; few, very few members of parliament would have been entitled to throw the first stone: but the act itself would have been not the less a disgraceful one, and no electors could, without great folly, have again returned such a man to Parliament. Yet all those who took part with Mr. Shiel, not content with excusing the man, exculpated the act too: it stands recorded as their opinion, that a man whose private professions are at variance with his public conduct, does no wrong; it was what they were all liable to. That they are almost all liable to it is too true, and they would have felt the confession a most humiliating one, if they were not from habit callous to their own ignominy. Sir Francis Burdett went furthest, and was the most unabashed, in his avowal that in the moral code of Parliament hypocrisy was no vice.[*] This is not the first time that Sir Francis Burdett has made himself conspicuous by uttering sentiments even more scandalously immoral than the House is accustomed to hear: not that he is in reality worse than the rest, but on the contrary better; for he is more unconscious, less of a hypocrite himself, and when he speaks out what they all think, does it in mere naïveté.
The Examiner of February 16th has commented upon the whole affair in its best manner; taking a just and discriminating view of the case as it affects Mr. Shiel, and reading a lesson to the members of the House, such as they seldom receive, and still more seldom profit by.[†]
* * * * *
The Times announces that this complication of jobbing and vandalism is to be abolished, and that the clerks of the Post Office, instead of enjoying, to the prejudice of rival dealers and of the public, an entire monopoly of the trade in foreign newspapers, and great privileges with regard to English ones, will henceforth be prohibited from dealing in newspapers either English or foreign.[‡]
Who will say after this that exertions for the reform of abuses are lost labour? But six months ago, the French Postmaster General[§] was here on a mission to negociate for the free circulation of newspapers between Great Britain and France: but the private interests concerned in the privileged traffic were too strong both for the influence of the French government, and for the collective wisdom of our Ministers; who, observe, had at the very time two Commissioners in France,[¶] to impress upon the tardy and unenlightened understandings of the French government the benefits of free trade. When the failure of the negociation was announced, the press made some severe remarks, after which the matter dropped, or seemed to drop; and now when nobody expected to hear any thing more about it, the animadversions have produced their effect, the obstacles have given way, and the abuse is to be extirpated. Abel Handy was not so far wrong when, having exhausted all possible means of extinguishing the conflagration, he reflected that “perhaps it would go out of itself.”[*] Evils very often go out apparently of themselves, after human exertion seemed to have done its utmost in vain: but the evil would not have been got rid of, if the exertion had not been made.
The Times has, in an excellent article, pointed out the further measures which are necessary to render the destruction of the Post Office monopoly of any avail.[†] The French Government must be invited to renew the negociation. The newspapers of either country should circulate in the other post free, as English newspapers do in England, or at a very small postage duty. The arrangement should be extended to any other country whose Government is willing to accede to it. If free trade in silks and broadcloth is important, free interchange of ideas and feelings is still more so, both for the maintenance of peace and friendship among civilized nations, and for the advancement of civilization itself, by the mutual blending and softening of national peculiarities.
* * * * *
Mr. Ward has obtained what it was very proper should be granted,—a Committee to make arrangements for preparing accurate lists of the majorities and minorities;[‡] those which now appear in the newspapers being supplied by individual members, irregularly, and often inaccurately. On this occasion, the Chronicle has an article, in the main, excellent; but in which much greater stress is laid than we can see any reason for, upon the importance of mere regularity of attendance.[§] We yield to no one in the rigour with which we would hold a legislator to the discharge of his duty, but we protest against considering the constancy of his bodily presence as a test of it. So long as the people of Great Britain do not see fit to give salaries to their representatives, and so long as talents and energy are of scanty growth among those who are born to riches, the people must either renounce being served by men of talents and energy, or consent to their withholding from Parliamentary business as much of their time as is necessary for gaining their subsistence. A member, indeed, who is in independent circumstances, owes all his time to his constituents; but he does not owe it to them to waste that time in listening to the floods of meaningless, pointless, endless talk, which are poured forth in tenfold profusion under the excitement of a numerous audience. The real business of Parliament is all transacted in thin houses, and could not be got through if the members attended regularly. A representative of the people, it is said, should be always at his post. His post! As well might it be said that a good soldier should be always mounting guard. The post of a good and wise legislator is his own study: it is there that all good laws are made, all improvements in human affairs really elaborated. To look at the present practice, one would imagine that the government of a great nation was performed by talking and hearing talk. It is performed by thinking. If (not to mention Committees) seven or eight hours out of the twenty-four, as large a portion of time as what are called the respectable classes usually devote to gaining their livelihood, are to be passed in hearing bad speeches—of all occupations (if occupation it can be called) the most deadening and dispiriting; what time remains for reading, what for meditation, for conversing with persons of appropriate knowledge, for preparation, either by studying the great questions, or by carrying on that general mental culture, which renders a person’s opinion worth having, even on what he has not studied?
Were there any concert, or mutual understanding, among the faithful delegates of the people, all the objects which it is sought to compass by exacting attendance, would be provided for, without the endless waste that now takes place of valuable time, which, for the interests of constituents, might be far more profitably bestowed. There would always be a certain number of members standing sentinels, to stop any unforeseen mischief, by denouncing it to the public, or, if necessary, by counting out the House. There are some, such as Mr. Hume, to whose tastes and faculties this mode of serving the people is so congenial, that their “post” would really be at the outposts, and they would attend constantly. When occasions arose on which public duty required that all should be present, either at the debate or at the divison, all would attend. But these occasions, though of frequent, are not of daily occurrence; and, at other times, he is good for very little who cannot serve his country to better purpose elsewhere, than by destroying his health and exhausting his spirits in a crowded assembly. The lives of several valuable Members of Parliament, and almost the whole usefulness of many more, have fallen a sacrifice to regularity of attendance. The main question is, not how often has a member attended, but what he has done when he did attend? However irregular his attendance, he should be honourably acquitted if he can appeal to valuable services actually achieved, as a proof that his time on the whole has been well expended for the public benefit.
These remarks will no longer apply, or at least not in an equal degree, when for the first time common sense shall be at length applied to the distribution of public business; when the cumbrous machinery of a multitudinous legislature shall no longer be put in motion for purposes for which it is manifestly unfit, and to which it never would have been applied, but that the simple means which would be efficacious to the end are not in existence. Can there be a spectacle more like Smollett’s vast machine for cutting a cabbage,[*] than the two Houses of Parliament engaged in passing a Divorce Bill, or a Turnpike Bill, or a Bill to enable a Joint Stock Company to sue and be sued in the name of an individual? When the numbers of the House of Commons shall not exceed two or at most three hundred—when local representative councils, of twelve or twenty members each, shall be constituted for the transaction of local business—when the necessity of legislating for individual cases shall have been obviated, to the extent it easily might, by well-considered general laws enacted once for all—when statesmen shall arise whose logical habits shall enable them to foresee and provide for large classes of cases at once, instead of merely darning holes in the laws, or laying on, as at present, when they see a place uncovered, a little patch of law just large enough to cover it—and when the preparation of Bills for Parliament shall be the duty of a responsible Minister of Legislation, aided by a standing Commission of the first jurists in the nation, an arrangement without which all the representative Governments of Europe are in danger of making, in the words of General Lamarque, “une halte dans la boue;”[†] —then, perhaps, and not till then, the business of Parliament will neither, in quantity or quality, be such as to justify any of the members in withholding constant attendance.
* * * * *
The prosperity of the country has better availed the Ministry than their own counsels. Last year they squandered a considerable surplus revenue in remitting, not taxes, but halves and quarters and half-quarters of taxes. They seemed to have found the secret of giving away a large sum of money so that nobody should be even temporarily the better for it. They left themselves with the interest of twenty millions of new debt to provide for, and resources not more than equal to the existing expenditure. But an increasing revenue has been to them like a rising tide; by its assistance they have found themselves in deep water where they had reason to expect rocks and shallows. The revenue of the year exceeds last year’s estimates by a million and a half; and having effected (for which we give them all reasonable credit) further retrenchments to the amount of half a million, they have two millions to meet the expected charge of 800,000l.; leaving a surplus of 1,200,000l.; about equal to the produce of the house-tax, which accordingly is to be taken off. The abrogation of this tax will certainly afford relief: this time the remission of taxation will be a benefit to somebody; but to whom? To the most clamorous and troublesome; not to the most overburthened.
Are the “low Radicals,” as the Times calls them,[*] altogether wrong, when they affirm that the Reform Bill has but created what they term a shopocracy,[†] in the place of, or rather by the side of, the aristocracy; and that the people are still to be sacrificed for the joint benefit of both? The first use which the middle classes have made of their power, is to shake off their burthens, leaving those of the working classes as great as ever. The window-tax is objectionable; but a house-tax, honestly assessed, seems to us as unexceptionable an impost as exists, and one of the very last which an enlightened policy would have abandoned. Mr. Byng, indeed, “wishes to see all direct taxes abolished:” this we suppose passes for “good old English feeling:” English liberty has always felt itself seriously aggrieved by the visits of the tax-gatherer: an Englishman, being free born, dislikes extremely, not the burthen, but to see the face of the man who lays it on. If Mr. Byng were mortally wounded by an invisible weapon, he would think he died a natural death. Let but the “keen knife see not the wound it makes,” he will never “peep through the dark and cry ‘hold, hold.’ ”[‡]
This is very childish; or rather like, not a child, but a hunted hare, who thinks she escapes her pursuers by hiding her face, and managing not to see them. Direct taxes are the best of taxes, because there is least of juggle about them, and least uncertainty upon whom they really fall. With taxes on commodities there is always so much doubt, or at least such interminable dispute, who pays them, that it is impossible to agree upon a mode of imposing them so as to bear equally on all classes and on all fortunes. Besides, to be productive, they must be laid on articles of general consumption, and of such the poor consume more, in proportion to their incomes, than the rich. A poor family consumes proportionally much more bread, more beer, more tea, more sugar, than a rich family. No tax can be perfectly just, but a direct tax. And, where the rent of land, the best of all sources of revenue, has been permitted to become the property of individuals, of all direct taxes none practically speaking is so eligible as a house-tax. It is the best of income-taxes. What a man pays for his habitation measures his income, not perfectly indeed, but better than any tax-gatherer can; and makes all those allowances which an income-tax never makes, perhaps never can make. No income-tax can be precisely graduated according to the precariousness, the variableness, the limited or unlimited duration of incomes: all which circumstances a fair house-tax allows for, because they are all taken into consideration in hiring or buying a house. In short, a house-tax (except that a miser may escape it) realizes far more perfectly than an income-tax, the perfection of an income-tax itself,—that of being proportioned not to what a man has, but to what he can afford to spend.
But it was not by considerations so subtle and refined as those of the comparative justice or policy of different taxes, that this question was destined to be decided. When the Reformed Parliament met, the people of England, that part of them at least who are called the “better classes,” commenced a contest, not to reduce the public expenses, but to shift off their burthen each man from himself upon all the rest. In this ignominious scramble, the shoparchy have carried off the lion’s share. The house-tax, though it did not touch the poor, was unpopular, because it fell disproportionately upon the middle classes, and spared the higher: and the aristocracy, having to choose between its equalization and its abolition, made a compromise with the middle classes, and removed the tax, to avoid paying their just share of it. The reconciliations, like the quarrels, of the privileged orders, are always at the people’s expense.
We should give Lord Althorp some credit for the manifest reluctance with which he gave up this tax,[*] if we did not remember how perseveringly, last year, he defended those inequalities in its assessment,[†] which so disgusted the public, and which are the real cause of its unpopularity. If instead of defending those inequalities he had remedied them, the clamour against the tax would have been stilled. Now, it is too late.
We observe by the Chronicle report, that when Mr. Hume recommended as a substitute for the present tax on wines, what if practicable would be so greatly preferable, an ad valorem duty, on the ground that by lightening the pressure of the duty on the cheaper wines, it would enable the poor to drink wine for a shilling a bottle, the House laughed.[‡] The idea of wine at a shilling a bottle, and poor men drinking it, altogether overset what little seriousness nature had bestowed upon them. The House is not aware how much it often betrays by a laugh. Tell me when a man laughs, and I will tell you what he is. We make no comment upon the good feeling or the good sense of this exhibition. What we would point attention to is, its inherent vulgarity. There has been some discussion whether the House of Commons has become less gentlemanly in its composition since it has been said to be reformed. This we cannot presume to decide: but, gentlemanly or not, a more essentially vulgar assembly than it is and was, both before and since, we sometimes think could scarcely be found in Europe.
* * * * *
The liberal papers are exulting in the success of the liberal candidate, Mr. Baines, yet they all overlook what forms in our view the chief importance of the victory.[*] If Mr. Baines had been a Tory, we should still have hailed as one of the greatest triumphs hitherto achieved by liberal principles, the return to Parliament of a man who has gained all his reputation and his success in life as editor of a newspaper. It is time that the ostensible power should be where the real power is, and that those who have long, by persuasion or by compulsion, dictated to the Legislature what laws it should make, should no longer be thought unfit themselves to take a direct part in making those laws.
The social position of the newspaper press in this country is altogether anomalous. In all the circumstances by which we are surrounded there is no more striking indication of a society in a state of moral revolution. If there be a law in human affairs which seems universal, it is, that the respect of mankind follows power, in whatsoever hands residing. In England, however, the seat of power has changed, and the respect of mankind has not yet found its way to the new disposers of their destiny. Nobody denies that the newspapers govern the country; hitherto (it is true) much more by making themselves the organs of opinion already formed, than by influencing its formation; yet to an immense extent in both modes. To mention a striking example, we affirm without fear of contradiction from any one who has watched the progress of opinion, that Mr. Black, the Editor of the Morning Chronicle, has been the great proximate cause of the law reforms now in progress, and of the downfal of that superstition which formerly protected the vices of the courts of law and of the magistracy from the denunciations of opinion and the controlling hand of the legislator. Sir Robert Peel first, and Lord Brougham afterwards, have only reaped the harvest which he had sown.
Allowing, however, that the newspaper press is but an instrument, and not an independent agent, the two Houses of Parliament have for many years renounced all pretension to being anything but the more or less reluctant instruments of that instrument. Yet, a year or two ago, even Radicals would have turned away from the proposition of returning a newspaper editor to Parliament; because newspaper editors, as a class, have only talents, and have not rank or fortune. Even now, we are convinced that most of Mr. Baines’s supporters would have voted in preference for the greatest dolt among the rich manufacturers or bankers of Leeds, if he would have professed as strongly their political opinions. The occupation of a journalist is under the ban of society. An individual here and there, though with difficulty, escapes the stigma, and is placed, by personal qualities or adventitious circumstances, as high in conventional estimation as a barrister is placed by his mere calling. But the profession is decidedly not a gentlemanly one. It stands about on a level with the lower branches of the legal profession. The fact is almost universally admitted, that an editor, and that an attorney, may be a gentleman. Nay, many go so far as to say that some are so.
Another anomaly is, the very different degree of solicitude which society bestows upon the training up of those who are its real teachers, and of those who only pretend to be its teachers, having long ceased to be so in reality. We once heard the profoundest observer and critic on the spirit of the times whom we ever knew, dilate upon this topic.[*] Observe, he said, what an apparatus is put in motion, what large sums of money are expended, what a world of trouble is taken, to educate a select individual from his infancy upwards, for the ultimate end of placing him in a pulpit,—from whence he discourses to the people, in language which nine-tenths of them scarcely understand, matter which has altogether ceased (it may almost be said) to have a meaning to them; which never reaches their intellect, their imagination, or their affections, and has lost all power over their will. Meantime, there has arisen a new set of instructors, who really do govern the minds and conduct of the people, who have succeeded to the place which the clergy formerly filled, and are, however unworthy in many respects, the sole priesthood of our time; and the rearing up of these men, the work of qualifying them for the highest and most dignified office to which a human being can be called, is abandoned to chance, that is, to all manner of demoralizing influences. The priest of the nineteenth century struggles into existence no one knows how, and having served his apprenticeship in some cellar or garret which society never looks into, sets up his pulpit in a newspaper-office, and there, from the materials which he has picked up, and the faculties which it has pleased heaven, not society, to bestow upon him, preaches to the world how they are to think, feel, and act; and they follow his instructions.
This parallel is well fitted to give rise to reflections, which whoever follows up, will be led much further than he is probably aware of.
Mr. O’Connell’s Bill for the Liberty of the Press[*]
The Radical party in the House of Commons is a rope of sand.[†] It is not only without a head, but without members or a body. It is not a party; the Radicals in Parliament are incapable of forming one. No body of men ever accomplished any thing considerable in public life without organized co-operation; and these seem incapable, not merely of organized, but even of casual co-operation. The evil consequences of this incapacity display themselves most of all, in the case of those who aspire to be, and in some measure deserve to be, distinguished as the instructed and philosophical Radicals; for they appear to be incapable, not only of acting in concert, but also of acting singly. There is always a lion in the path.[‡] One is too despairing; he thinks no good is ever to be done; another is too fastidious; he will not “mix himself up,” or “allow himself to be confounded” with somebody or something: another is too timid, another too indolent, another too unenterprising. With one or two exceptions at most, none of them have sufficient strength (there needs no little) to stand alone: they will never be any thing but ciphers, till they are grouped together with a unit or units at their head; yet they cannot, it would seem, endure the imputation of acting together. Not only there is no principle of attraction among them, there seems a principle of repulsion. They do not even verify the old story of John doing nothing and Tom helping him. They will not be helped to do nothing. Each man is immovably bent upon doing his nothing single-handed.
The consequence is, that the men who will neither lead nor be led, are passed by; and those who do not wait to be led, become the real leaders. We have heard it spoken of in a tone of complaint, that Mr. Hume, or that Mr. O’Connell, hold themselves forth as the parliamentary leaders of the popular party in the nation. For our part, so long as Mr. Hume and Mr. O’Connell are the only persons who are never unprepared to stand up for the cause, in season and out of season, whatever may be thought of them by fine people, and to force discussions on all the great questions, whatever may be the unwillingness of the House, we hold these gentlemen to be the leaders of the Radicals in fact, whatever some who allow themselves to be called Radicals may say or wish to the contrary. And, although they may often execute the office in a manner which compels us to wish that the people had other leaders, or rather that those who are so good were still better, we make an immense distinction in our estimation between those who continually accomplish far more than any one thought there was reason to expect of them, and those who accomplish less.*
Those who do not originate any thing, must consent to act with, and under, those who do, or to be nothing. There are members of the House in whose hands, far rather than in those of Mr. O’Connell, we would gladly have seen such a question as the Liberty of the Press: but we are well assured, from experience, that not one of them would have moved hand or foot in the matter, if a bolder man had not led the way. We give Mr. O’Connell the greatest credit for introducing the subject; and we now trust, that those who have the capacity may have also the will to assist him in rendering the very imperfect measure which he proposes as perfect as possible.
Mr. O’Connell’s measure, if we may judge from his opening statement, goes, as it appears to us, too far, and not far enough. He seems to have taken nothing into his view but personal libels. He said not a word of any provision for the free discussion of doctrines, or of institutions, although this is, if possible, still more important than even the liberty of criticising the conduct of public functionaries. On the subject of religion, that on which beyond all others discussion ought not to be restrained by law—being already restrained so much more than is consistent with a wholesome state of the human mind, by mere opinion—Mr. O’Connell avows his intention of not innovating on the existing law; though, greatly to his honour, he has not flinched from declaring, in the strongest terms, that, in his opinion, discussion on the subject of religion ought to be perfectly free. But restrictions of a similar nature exist on the subject of politics also, and Mr. O’Connell has not yet said that he proposes to remove them. We cannot so much as conceive any great improvement in the law of libel, not commencing with a declaration that it shall be lawful to controvert any political doctrine, or attack any law or institution, without exception; in any manner and in any terms not constituting a direct instigation to an act of treason, or to some other specific act to which penalities are attached by the law. Mr. O’Connell has held out no promise of any such provision.
On the other hand, Mr. O’Connell goes farther than we are able to follow him, when he proposes that in all cases of private libel, truth should be a justification. Where, indeed, the imputation is not upon the private, but upon the public character of a public man; or where the act imputed, though belonging to private life, is in its nature public, (for instance, any violation of decency in a public place,) or has already received publicity, (for instance, by the proceedings of a Court of Justice,) we think, with Mr. O’Connell, that the truth of the charge ought to be a sufficient defence; and we would even allow the alleged libeller to clear himself, though the charge be false, by showing that he had good grounds for believing it to be true. But we would not permit the press to impute, even truly, acts, however discreditable, which are in their nature private. We would not allow the truth of such imputation to be even pleaded in mitigation. The very attempt to establish the charge by evidence, would often be a gross aggravation of the original injury. We see insuperable objections to allowing the details of a person’s private conduct to be made the subject of judicial investigation, at the pleasure of any malignant accuser. We are not insensible to the prestige attaching to the word truth, and we go farther than most persons would like, in maintaining that it is good to speak the truth, whatever be the consequences. But it is not the letter of the truth, it is the spirit that is wanted; and, unhappily, the letter is all that admits of being substantiated in a Court of Justice. Every one knows how easy it is, without falsifying a single fact, to give the falsest possible impression of any occurrence; and, in the concerns of private life, the whole morality of a transaction commonly depends upon circumstances which neither a tribunal nor the public can possibly be enabled to judge of. Let any person call to his recollection the particulars of any family quarrel, for example, which has come within his personal knowledge, and think how absolutely impracticable it would be to place before the public any thing approaching to the most distant likeness of the real features of the case! The moral character of the transaction cannot possibly be understood, nor even the evidence on which the facts themselves rest, be properly appreciated, without a minute acquaintance with a thousand particulars of the character, habits, and previous history of the parties, such as must be derived from personal knowledge, and cannot possibly be communicated. Any “truth” which can be told to the public on such matters must almost necessarily be, with respect to some party concerned, a cruel falsehood: and only the more cruel, if what tells against the party can be proved in a Court of Justice, while what would tell in his favour may be in its nature unsusceptible of such proof.
The proper tribunal for the cognizance of private immoralities, in so far as any censorship can be advantageously exercised over them by opinion at all, is the opinion of a person’s friends and connexions; who have some knowledge of the person himself, and of the previous circumstances, and therefore something to guide them in estimating both the probabilities of the case and the morality of it. And even their knowledge, how insufficient it generally is! and how doubtingly and hesitatingly a conscientious and modest man will usually draw from such imperfect evidence, conclusions injurious to the moral character of a person of whose position he must necessarily be so insufficient a judge! Is not that the meaning of the Christian precept, “Judge not!”[*] And when the individual who is nearest, and best informed, can scarcely ever be sure that he is informed sufficiently, it is proposed to authorize a general inquisition into private life by the public at large! the public, who cannot in the nature of the case be informed but in the loosest and most defective manner, nor can be qualified by previous knowledge to estimate the trustworthiness even of such partial information as is in its nature capable of being laid before them!
* * * * *
NO. II, APRIL, 1834*
It is a common excuse for people who promise little, that what they do promise they perform. Like most other stock excuses, this plea is much oftener made than established: one thing, however, is unquestionable, that they who promise little ought to perform all they promise. The King’s Speech[†] made but one promise, the settlement of Irish tithes; and Ministers have produced a measure, which, if proposed many years ago, might have really settled the question, at least for a season. But concessions in politics almost always come too late. When reforms are granted, not because they are eligible in themselves, but because it is not considered safe to refuse them, it seems to be in their very nature that they should always lag behind the demand for them. There seldom arises an immediate necessity for conceding anything until the storm has risen so high that it cannot be prevented from ultimately sweeping away everything.
It was right to retain a land-tax equal to the present amount of the tithe. In Ireland, where the intermediate class of farmers scarcely exists, the whole produce of the soil is shared between the labourer and the landlord. But the labourer in Ireland being reduced by competition to the mere necessaries of life, which he is sure to retain as long as he occupies the land; and the residue, whatever its amount, being the landlord’s; all imposts charged upon the land subtract so much from what would otherwise be paid to the landlord: it is therefore the landlord who in reality pays them; if they were laid directly upon him, his situation would not be altered; if they were abolished without equivalent, he would be the sole gainer.
The course, therefore, would be very clear, if there were no existing contracts between landlord and tenant. A tax payable by the landlord might be substituted for the tithe payable by the tenant, and the landlord left for compensation to the natural course of things. The tenant would then, without any special enactment for the purpose, pay, on account of rent alone, the same amount which he now pays for rent and tithe: the tithe would be blended with rent, collected without a separate process, and would cease to figure as an individual grievance; while all the odium would be saved, of collecting from the bulk of the Catholic population a tax expressly designed for the pockets of the Protestant clergy. The provision for the Church would then be seen to be, what, in Ireland, it really is; not a burthen upon the public, but a certain portion of the rent of land, which the State has not permitted individual landlords to appropriate, but has retained in its own hands for another purpose.
But during the currency of existing leases, the tithe, if exacted at all, cannot justly be levied from any but those who are at present liable to it. If paid by the landlord, it must be recoverable from the tenant; because the landlord cannot, until the expiration of the lease, be indemnified by an augmentation of his rent. On this shoal it requires no prophet to foretell that the measure will be wrecked. During the existing leases, the present grievance will continue; and does any one think that without far more drastic remedies the present constitution of society in Ireland can last as long as the unexpired leases? For the next few years the Bill does not abolish tithe, but, as Mr. O’Connell observed, merely makes the landlord the tithe-proctor;[*] and a few years, in the present condition of Ireland, are an eternity.
Even when the leases expire, the tithe will not merge in the rent by operation of law, but only at the option of the landlord. Unless there be a stipulation to the contrary in the new lease, the tithe (or land-tax, as it is to be called) will still be kept separate from the rent; and any landlord, whose purposes, either political or personal, it may happen to answer, may still force the Catholic peasant to individualize the tithe; to distinguish it from his other payments; to be distinctly conscious on each occasion how much exactly he is paying to a Church which he detests.
Since the above observations were written, the Bill has been printed; and we preceive that it does not even free the tithe from the chief objection which lies against it as tithe—its perpetual increase. By an Act passed in 1832, the tithes of every parish in Ireland are already compounded for;[†] and the land-tax now to be imposed in lieu of tithe, is to be of the same amount as the composition. The composition, however, under the Act of 1832, is not fixed, but variable every seven years, according to the price of corn. As, in the progress of population and cultivation, the price of corn tends always to a rise, the new land-tax, instead of being a fixed charge, will be augmented every seven years, and the memory of tithe will be kept alive for ever, by the periodical readjustment of the amount. This is an error in principle, of the first magnitude: but its practical consequences will merge in the general failure of the measure; which certainly will not last unaltered for seven years.
* * * * *
The landowners of England are remarkable for being always in distress. Upon no portion of the sons of men does the common destiny of our race seem to press so heavily. This speaks but ill for their own wisdom; for they have wielded during one hundred and forty-five years previous to 1832, the entire powers of the British Legislature, and still compose the whole of one House of Parliament, and a majority of the other: they have done their best indeed to possess the whole of that too, as they compel every man, before he becomes a member of it, to make oath that he is one of their body. Persons thus circumstanced must be either very unskilful or remarkably conscientious, if they do not contrive to make some other people distressed instead of themselves. If the landlords have not effected this, it has not been for want of trying. All that laws could do they have done to force other people to buy from them every description of the produce of the soil at their own price. All that laws could do they have done to secure to themselves, as borrowers, at the expense of the lenders, the advantage of a low rate of interest. They have exempted their land from several of the taxes. Of their local burthens they have reserved to themselves the entire controul; for the county rates are voted by themselves in quarter sessions, and the administration of the poor laws is entirely in their hands. The army, the navy, and the civil patronage of the State, belong to them almost exclusively. The lay-tithes are theirs for their own use, the ecclesiastical tithes for the use of their younger children. When new land has been inclosed, it has usually been distributed, not among the poor, but among the landlords.
Being thus accustomed to have every thing their own way, it may appear extraordinary that they should be always complaining of distress. But is not that the very reason? A spoiled child is always dissatisfied. No spoiled child has all that it asks for, and the more is bestowed, the more it is indignant that anything should be withheld. If it meet with no resistance from human will, it is angry that the laws of nature are not equally compliant; and so are the landlords. Let it not be imagined that we contest the fact of the distress. Distressed they are, for they never have so much money as they would like to have. Most of them have not even so much as they spend. This they feel, quite sincerely, as a grievous hardship and wrong; and consider themselves injured men if something is not done to relieve them from it.
Really, since they compel us to say it, there is no class whom, as a class it would better become to bear patiently any unavoidable diminution of their incomes, since a far smaller proportion of them than of any other class have acquired even the smallest part of those incomes by their own labour. Society is their creditor for every thing, and their debtor for nothing. In return for its protection and guarantee to their great fortunes, few indeed among them ever did any thing for society but what they think they do by being “large consumers,” and “spending in the country” the money which they draw from it. Their property must be protected because all property must be protected; those who by the accident of birth obtain the large prizes have a right to enjoy them, but not a right to find fault with the course of nature, because the riches they were born to, have turned out less than they expected; especially if the true and only cause of their distress be their own improvidence.
Because a territorial Aristocracy, a class notorious in all the countries of the world for spending all it has, is always needy—because people whose income is in its very nature subject to fluctuations, greatly increased by laws of their own making, and who invariably live up to the full measure of that income when at the highest, are put to considerable inconvenience when a change comes, and to make their suffering less are often tempted to make it ultimately greater, by obliging their tenants to share it—is that any peculiar affliction, any visitation from heaven upon the unfortunate “agriculturists?” When Ministers, in the speech from the throne, countenanced the cry of “agricultural distress,” they gave a virtual sanction not only to unfounded complaints but to unjustifiable claims. Their predecessors would not have committed such a blunder. The Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel, whether they had seen through the delusion or not, would not have expatiated upon an evil when they did not intend to propose any remedy.
Ministers were taunted with this inconsistency, in the debate on Lord Chandos’s motion,[*] deservedly; and they met the taunt by a piece of inconceivable mal-adresse. They said that the agriculturists must look for relief to a diminution of the poor rates, and that a Bill was about to be brought in, which would have that effect.[†] If this be the tone in which they mean to advocate Poor Law Reform, it were better, grievous as are the evils to be remedied, that the question should sleep for a season. To swell their majority by a few votes on a division which decided nothing,[*] they held forth to the world their contemplated poor law amendments as designed for the pecuniary benefit of the rich; which consequently, it will immediately be inferred, must be at the expense of the poor, and must therefore be tyranny, and to be resisted with the utmost force. For a momentary convenience they courted popular odium for their intended measure; they incurred the risk, first of not being able to carry it, and next of not being able to execute it, by representing it, contrary to the fact, as a piece of unfeeling selfishness. We know, and perfectly agree in, what they meant to say. The administration of the poor laws, which has produced so much evil to the poor, has produced evil to the rich too; and the amendments which are absolutely required by the interests of the poor themselves, will also alleviate, and wherever they have been tried have alleviated, the burthen of poor rates. But to legislate for the poor with that for the principal object, would be the act of a demon. Neither Ministers nor the Poor Law Commissioners are liable to such an accusation. The exclusive object of all which the Commissioners propose[†] is the good of the working classes themselves; and their recommendations ought to be adopted, even if the effect were to double instead of diminishing the poor rates. Ministers know this, and, we firmly believe, are actuated, in whatever changes they may propose, principally by this motive. But do they forget that the very ground which will be taken against any measure of Poor Law Reform, the great engine of prejudice and calumny against its authors and promoters, will be the assertion that it is a mere contrivance for reducing the poor rates? Whoever chooses to affirm this, may now quote, or affect to quote, their own authority for it. And this mischief is done to stop the mouths of an agriculturist or two for a single night! The agriculturists were present; the public were absent: and it was with Ministers as it is with most persons of infirm character—the small immediate motive prevailed over the greater but more distant one; to be out of sight, was to be out of mind.
Mr. O’Connell’s Declaration for the Pillage of the National Creditor[‡]
Mr. O’Connell is almost the only public man now living, who is, in himself, something; who has influence of his own, and is not one of those whose influence is only that of the places they fill, or the class or party of which, for the time, they may happen to be the representatives. Almost alone among his contemporaries, he individually weighs something in the balance of events, and though far inferior to Mirabeau, may yet say with him “Ma tête est aussi une puissance.”[§] No man ever exercised a great ascendancy by personal qualities, in whose character there was not much to admire: and in times like these Mr. O’Connell commands a far larger share of our respect than many of whose honesty we think far more highly. It is very true that a perfect character is the same in all ages; but our estimation of imperfect ones must vary exceedingly, according as their good qualities are merely those of their age, or are those which raise them above their age. Mr. O’Connell lives in an age in which to have a character at all is already a considerable distinction, and to have courage to act up to it, an extraordinary one; an age in which the rarest of all men is he “qui bene est ausus vana contemnere;”[*] in which even a man of no very scrupulous conscience, who dares to will great things, or at least things on a large scale, and finds in himself and his own qualities the means of accomplishing them, extorts from us more admiration by the contempt which he thus manifests for a thousand paltry respectabilities and responsibilities which chain up the hands of the “weak, the vacillating inconsistent Good,”* than he forfeits by not having sufficient greatness of mind to choose worthier objects or worthier means.
In Mr. O’Connell’s case we felt the more inclined to overlook much in the politician which is objectionable in the man, because we deemed it certain from his position (even if to his personal feelings it were a matter of indifference) that the main direction of his exertions would always be on the popular side, and that he would render valuable service to the popular cause. But there are political crimes of so atrocious a character, that whoever is accessary to them, must for the common safety be cast out of the communion of honest men: every politician who thinks, or even would be believed to think that in politics there is a right and a wrong, must endeavour that the line drawn between himself and such men, may be as broad and as conspicuous as possible. We consider the pillage of the fundholder to be a crime of this description; and Mr. O’Connell, having advocated it, ought to be put into political quarantine, until he purge himself by confession and retractation.
Mr. O’Connell is much mistaken if he imagine that, by the course he has adopted, he is serving Radicalism, or recommending himself to the better part of the Radicals. He is playing into the hands of the Aristocracy. The fundholder has more to fear from them than from the Radicals. Accustomed, by their paramount influence over the Legislature, to take, when it suits them, what is not their own; feeling that the country is clamorous for a reduction of its burthens, and not knowing how they should contrive to live, if deprived of the power of taxing the public for their own benefit—the landholders are under constant temptation to appease the anger of the public, not by restoring to them their own, but by plundering somebody else and presenting them with a part of the spoil. The most inveterate enemies of the fundholder are a party among the landlords: and although the majority, we trust, would shrink from any personal participation in the mingled folly and atrocity of a national bankruptcy, we cannot expect from them any strenuous resistance to it. The only tried friends the fundholder has, the only combatants who plant themselves in the breach whenever he is assailed, who are ever ready to peril their influence in his defence, are Radical writers. To whom but to the Westminster Review, or Tait’s Magazine, or the Examiner, can the fundholder look, to place the justice of his cause in a striking light before the public? While the Quarterly Review was urging Parliament to rob him;[*] while Earl Grey was proclaiming in the House of Lords that the robbery was greatly to be deprecated, but that necessity had no law, and nemo tenetur ad impossibile;[†] while Sir James Graham was writing a pamphlet expressly to prove that 30 per cent. ought to be struck off from the national debt and from all private mortgages;[‡] nobody repelled these iniquities with any thing like energy or indignation but the Radical press.
There is much to be said for paying off the national debt by a tax on property; treating the debt of our fathers as a mortgage upon the property which our fathers left, and therefore a charge upon those to whom that property has descended, and not upon unborn generations of those who have nothing but their labour. This proposition may become a popular one among the Radicals generally. But, if the landlords attempt to effect a compromise with the profligate portion of the Radicals, and save themselves who contracted the debt from paying their due share of it, by cancelling it either wholly or partially, they must be plainly told, that they may have the power of determining where confiscation shall begin, but not where it shall end. Of all kinds of property, the public funds consist the most peculiarly of the savings of honest industry, and the pittance of the widow and the orphan. These may be the first robbed, but let the robbers rely on it, they shall not be the last. The people consent to bear with a most mischievous and demoralizing inequality of fortunes, for the sake of the security which springs from the general inviolability of property. But let that inviolability be once seriously infringed, that security destroyed, and it will not be, and ought not to be, longer endured that there should be men who have 100,000l. a year, while others are starving. Ere long it would be told to the Aristocracy in a voice of thunder, that if the funds are confiscated to the state, the land shall follow; and, if necessary, not only the land, but all fortunes exceeding 500l. or 1000l. a year. Not a tenth part of the fundholders possess any thing approaching to the smaller of these sums.
We subjoin two passages from two Radical writers, each of which contains in a small compass some of the considerations by which the attempts of robbery to give itself a colourable pretext, may best be counteracted. The first is aimed directly against the proposition with which Mr. O’Connell has chosen to identify himself—that a large portion of the debt having been contracted in a depreciated currency, the interest ought not be paid nor the principal liquidated in money of the ancient standard:
The restoration of the ancient standard, and the payment in the restored currency of the interest of a debt contracted in a depreciated one, was no injustice, but the simple performance of a plighted compact. All debts contracted during the Bank restriction, were contracted under as full an assurance as the faith of a nation could give, that cash payments were only temporarily suspended. At first, the suspension was to last a few weeks, next a few months, then, at furthest, a few years.[*] Nobody dared even to insinuate a proposition that it should be perpetual, or that, when cash payments were resumed, less than a guinea should be given at the Bank for a pound note and a shilling. And to quiet the doubts and fears which would else have arisen, and which would have rendered it impossible for any Minister to raise another loan, except at the most ruinous interest, it was made the law of the land, solemnly sanctioned by Parliament, that six months after the peace, if not before, cash payments should be resumed. This, therefore, was distinctly one of the conditions of all the loans made during that period. It is a condition which we have not fulfilled. Instead of six months, more than five years intervened between the peace and the resumption of cash payments.[*] We, therefore, have not kept faith with the fundholder. Instead of having overpaid him, we have cheated him. Instead of making him a present of a per-centage equal to the enhancement of the currency, we continued to pay his interest in depreciated paper five years after we were bound by contract to pay it in cash. And be it remarked, that the depreciation was at its highest during a part of that period. If, therefore, there is to be a great day of national atonement for gone-by wrongs, the fundholders, instead of having anything to refund, must be directed to send in their bill for the principal and interest of what they were defrauded of during those five years. Instead of this, it is proposed, that, having already defrauded them of part of a benefit which was in their bond, and for which they gave an equivalent, we should now force them to make restitution of the remainder!
That they gave an equivalent, is manifest. The depreciation became greatest during the last few years of the war; indeed, it never amounted to anything considerable till then. It was during those years, also, that by far the largest sums were borrowed by the Government. At that time, the effects of the Bank restriction had begun to be well understood. The writings of Mr. Henry Thornton, Lord King, Mr. Ricardo, Mr. Huskisson, Mr. Blake, &c. and the proceedings of the Bullion Committee, had diffused a very general conviction, that the Bank had the power to depreciate the currency without limit, and that the Bank Directors acted on principles of which that evil was the natural consequence.[†] Does anybody imagine that the loans of those years could have been raised, except on terms never before heard of under a civilized government, if there had been no engagement to pay the interest or the principal in money of any fixed standard? but it had been avowed, that to whatever point the arbitrary issues of the Bank might depress the value of the pound sterling,—there it would be suffered to remain.
What avails it, then, to cavil about our paying more than we borrowed? Everybody pays more than he borrows; everybody, at least, who borrows at interest. The question is not, have we paid more than we borrowed? but, have we paid more than we promised to pay? And the answer is,—we have paid less. The fundholder, as the weaker party, has pocketed the injury; he only asks to be spared an additional and far greater one. We covenanted to pay in a metallic standard; we therefore are bound to do it. To deliberate on such a question, is as if a private person were to deliberate whether he should pick a pocket.*
The argument of our second quotation relates less to the morality than to the political economy of the question. It is from the excellent Catechism on the Corn Laws, by Colonel Perronet Thompson. We quote from the seventeenth edition:
To rob the fundholders of their interest, after having spent their capital, would, besides all the evils of breach of contract, have the hardship of an ex post facto law, with the unique addition of being made in the teeth of the invitation of an existing law. The nation which should do it, would virtually declare itself incapable of contracting any national engagement, or performing any national act. A community must either acknowledge the possibility of being bound to-morrow by its act of to-day, or it must disband; for if it declares its own incompetency, it will be treated with as a community by nobody. And for any thing that could be gained by such a proceeding, it might as well be proposed to gain by robbing all the individuals who had red hair. The individual robbers might gain by it, but the community could not gain; because the red-haired men are themselves part of the community. If the principal expended could be called back again, it would be a different case. But nobody can seriously believe, that by what has been called applying a sponge to the national debt, the community would be one shilling the richer; or that by robbing one individual of five pounds per annum in order to put it into the pocket of another, the smallest progress would be made towards recovering the hundred which was spent thirty years ago. A man might as well try to repair the loss of a leg, by shifting the deficiency from one side to the other. If every individual was a fundholder in the same proportion that he is a tax-payer, it would be clear that the attempt was only shifting the leg. And it is the same when the case is as it is; except that the fundholders are the smaller party, and therefore might possibly be robbed.
And this is not the fallacy of saying that a national debt is no evil. It is a very great evil; and the worst thing about it is, that there is no getting rid of it. When a million is borrowed and spent, the evil is inflicted then; and not by the shifting of the interest from one pocket to another afterwards. It is not the evil that is denied, but the possibility of getting rid of it by refusing to pay the interest.
The magnitude of the evil or punishment is the same as if there had been inflicted a judicial necessity for throwing the amount of the interest annually into the Thames. For if the money had never been borrowed, the man who is now the fundholder would have had the principal in his pocket; and the tax-payer would have saved the interest, which is the same thing to him as saving it from the Thames. But there is a special provision of Providence that when money has been thus raised, no possible dishonesty shall get rid of the burden. If the principal had been borrowed from Prester John, the community might possibly gain by cheating him of his interest. But since the interest is owed to a component part of the community, it is in the constitution of things, that the community, however inclined to the practice of larceny, can gain nothing by robbing itself.
To propose that the fundholders should contribute, in their separate character, to any imaginable object of national expenditure, is as unjust as to propose that certain of the creditors in a case of bankruptcy should suffer the average loss of the creditors in general, and have a sum struck out of their original account besides. The fundholders pay all taxes like other men, and to attack the amount of their claims upon the public besides, is precisely the operation supposed in the case of the bankruptcy. They make no objection to paying at the same rate as other people, to a property-tax, or to any other. What they object to, is being taxed and plundered too.
That people have been miserably cheated nobody doubts, but not by the fundholders. The fundholders have lost and not gained, in their character of fundholders; and they have borne, and do bear, their share of the general suffering besides. How the suffering is to be diminished nobody seems able to tell. A gone-by Government indulged itself with an unjust war, of the expense of which it never paid a shilling, and has left the whole for us. The immediate defendants are out of reach; they are where nobody will go to fetch them. All that is left for us in the way of recovery, is the possibility of recovering something from the interests in favour of which the fraud was enacted. And to this, if Corn Laws go on,[*] it will come at last, though probably not till the necessity is such as to be equally convincing to all parties.[†]
* * * * *
It is not astonishing that in an age of barbarism men should commit barbarities. That Lord Chatham, one of a generation of statesmen among whom common humanity seems to have been almost as rare as common honesty, and in an age in which nothing was esteemed wickedness by which nobody suffered but the common people—that Lord Chatham should have seen no harm in impressment, can surprise no one; but it is equally unexpected and unwelcome to find Lord Chatham’s authority quoted for it now, as conclusive, by a Reform minister.[§] Necessity! so well described by Milton as “the tyrant’s plea;”[¶] it is also Sir James Graham’s, and no one has yet, in our own day, or in any preceding, carried impudence so far as to pretend that there can be any other. It is difficult not to feel degraded by the very act of replying to so base a pretext. Necessity! yes: to borrow the apt expression of a vigorous writer, “it is exactly the sort of necessity which men are hanged for;” the convenience of taking the property of other people without paying for it, with the aggravation of its being their sole property, and the slight additional circumstance that the entire wealth of the nation is yours to purchase it withal, if you must have it. If the whole matter were laid before a community of ignorant savages; if they could be made to conceive the clamour, the indignant uproar, which rises from all the benches of a certain assembly at the bare suggestion of laying a sacrilegious finger upon anything which borders upon a vested right, upon anything which by the utmost straining can be construed into property, and then could be shown the spectacle of the same men hallooing on their leaders to denounce and insult men for asserting the vested right of the labourer to his own bodily powers, and calling it injustice to knock him down and rob him, not of his purse, seeing that he has none, but of all the property he has, his labour, in order to save to their own pockets a fractional part of the wages for which he would consent to sell it—would not the assembly of savages deem the assembly of civilized Christians fit objects for a hurricane to sweep from the earth? What would they think if they were then told, that this same assembly had just voted twenty millions for the redemption of negro slaves?[*] These men are not fools, mere absolute fools they cannot be; they cannot think that kidnapping our own countrymen, and keeping them to forced labour for the whole or the better part of their lives, differs from negro slavery: why, every one of the incidents is the same, down to the very cart whip! call it, if you please, the cat. There is identity even in the wretched apologies which are set up; the captains, or masters, are an ill used, calumniated race of men, and free labour, forsooth, would be vastly dearer![†]
This was written last year. This year the exhibition has been repeated,[‡] though with some abatement of the former insolence, and a salvo to some Members of tender consciences, in the form of an amendment,[§] which, as we learn from the newspapers, was not too shallow to answer the purpose of an excuse for voting with the Ministry. Sir James Graham successfully fitted his measures to his men.
The pertinacity with which the power of tyranny is clung to, even by persons of the least tyrannical disposition, is almost incredible. We should forget it, if we were not continually reminded of it by the proceedings of public men.
Any person who defends slavery, is perfectly consistent in defending impressment too. Such a person thinks, with Callicles in the Gorgias of Plato, that the weak are by nature the property of the strong, and that if you can, with impunity, seize a man by main force, keep him in fetters till his spirit is broken, and compel him by threats and blows to labour for your profit, you have a right to do so.[¶] A man may think this, or at least practise it, without any imputation on his intellect. He only proves himself to be a ferocious animal, who being unrestrained by the ordinary ties of conscience or humanity, must be bound down by cords, or manacled with chains, to prevent him from doing mischief to others.
But the misdoings of the Whigs do not arise from the abuse of reason; they arise from deficiency of it. Like most public men, they are often judged with too much harshness in respect to intentions, because they are presumed to have that qualification which is necessary to the admission of a witness in an English court of justice: “the faculty of distinguishing right from wrong.” Of lukewarmness in the performance of some of their most important duties, of the want of a stronger active principle of honesty, we fear they can by no means be acquitted. But we believe them to be wrongfully suspected of positive knavery; because few persons are aware how much in human conduct that looks like knavery, is sufficiently accounted for by defects of the intellect. There is a strong and growing impression in the country, founded upon the conduct of Ministers on this question, and on many others, that their denunciations of slavery, as well as their advocacy of Reform, were tricks to get into place, or to secure themselves in it. But this, in reality, does not follow; and to suppose that it does, argues ignorance of the incapacity of ordinary minds, either to feel or think for themselves. Any one who had really felt the detestableness of slavery; whose imagination had represented to him its horrors, or whose reason had made sensible to him its shocking immorality, could never have thought of impressment without similar detestation. But there are men in abundance, and most of the Whig Ministers seem to be of the number, whose own minds never tell them anything which is not first shouted to them by the voice of a united world. Left to themselves, they would never have found out that there was anything condemnable, either in impressment or in slavery: but when, for thirty years, they had grown accustomed to hear dinned in their ears, by men who had found it out for themselves, that negro slavery was a blot upon our national character, an enormity, a crime, a sin, it at last appeared so to them. In thirty years more, by an equally intense expression of national abhorrence, their consciences might, we dare say, be awakened on the subject of impressment too.
But what words can be found to characterise Sir James Graham’s amendment? The grievance was, that you seized upon men by force, and robbed them of their only property, their labour:—the remedy proposed is, that instead of going out into the streets, knocking down the first man you meet, and robbing him, you shall for the future draw lots whom you will rob; the power, however, of knocking down in the streets not being given up, but still held in reserve to be used in cases of emergency!
It is hardly worth while to ask the question, how seamen are to be induced to submit to a registry which they will know is intended to facilitate catching them for the purpose of being robbed? Nor need we do more than just allude to the vehement objection at first made on account of the expense, to so important a public institution as a registry of births and marriages,[*] while expense is no objection to registering men for the purpose of robbing them.
Our indignation when we think on the lives which have been filled with bitterness, and the noble hearts which have been broken by the pressgang abomination, gives way to astonishment at the quality of the understanding which can think to justify it by such arguments, or to uphold it for a short time longer by such miserable evasions.
* * * * *
On personal grounds we should regret the defeat of Sir John Campbell: there are few persons connected with office for whom we have so real a respect. In his peculiar department he is most valuable; at once an eminent lawyer and a strenuous law-reformer. In his general conduct he manifests this great superiority over almost all other official people, whether Ministers or underlings, that his opinions always seem to be the growth of his own mind; and he therefore is not afraid to commit himself by enunciating them. He is not one of those who, never talking but by rote or from tradition, never know whether they may venture to assent to a proposition which is not in their books. He has what so few men have, reasonable self-reliance: and this quality, along with that preference for truth and reason on all subjects which usually accompanies the capacity for comprehending them, render the Attorney General a most useful Member of the House of Commons, and one whose absence from it would be a public misfortune.
But Sir John Campbell cannot fail to find, in a short time, some door open for his readmission into Parliament; and, meanwhile, it is matter of just rejoicing that the Ministry have received a lesson, of a kind which they can understand. If you seek to make an impression upon a Minister, there is a much surer method than argument; arguments serve well enough to convince him that he is in the right; but to make him conscious of being in the wrong, there is nothing like the loss of votes. The present Ministry are, in this, remarkably like every other Ministry. The way to move them is not to overthrow their syllogisms, but to turn out their candidates. This is the only point where they are always vulnerable; and, fortunately, it is by no means hard to be come at. Here, indeed, lies the chief reason for preferring a Whig to a Tory Ministry. The check operates much sooner. To defeat a Tory candidate, the independent electors must come to the poll; to annihilate a Whig, they have only to stay away from it, and leave the rest to the “natural influence of property.” A Tory Ministry is in no danger, except from great positive unpopularity; but mere indifference on the part of the public is fatal to a Whig Ministry.
This ensures on the part of the present Ministers greater deference than would be paid by the Tories to public opinion when actually declared. To foresee, indeed, what will probably be the public opinion a month hence, or what judgment the public will pronounce on any measure not yet laid before it, is what no reasonable man will expect from them. To be capable of this, they must be either philosophers or men of the world; and their misfortune is that they are neither. They are unskilled alike in books and in men. They have neither theory nor experience.
To the world at large, the Dudley election tells only what was known before: to Ministers, it was, we should think, a revelation of something they dreamed not of; namely, that the nation were not perfectly satisfied with their conduct. And, lest they should fail in drawing this inference, their fast friends and supporters, the Times and Chronicle, have undertaken the kind office of instilling it into their minds, accompanied by suitable admonitions.[*] The Times reads them a severe lecture on the folly of half-measures. The Chronicle bestows on them a catalogue of their errors of omission and of commission,[†] and tells them they have lost the confidence of the country. On this the Examiner remarks:
Upon any discomfiture of the Ministry, such as the defeat of the Attorney General at Dudley, it is very frankly told its faults by journals which, so long as the tide flowed smoothly, have countenanced and encouraged it in all its errors. The first deviations from the right course are the deviations which should be closely watched and corrected; but the supporters of Government in the daily press are silent, or apologists, or approvers, of such declensions, till they have extended to a broad departure from the just line, and brought Ministers to a position of conspicuous disgrace. Which is the time to tell a man that he is in the wrong path? when he first steps into it; or when, exhausted and bemired, he has wandered miles from the right way? The information may be better late than never, but it would have been better at first than at last. The attempt, however, to correct the first false step has been censured and resisted as an act of hostility. The angry remark has been, “Why point out the little deviation from the right path in which they have advanced so far, and deserve indulgence? Apply yourself to commending their line of movement where it has been well directed, instead of ungraciously dwelling on the present declension of some few degrees.” Now we could never understand the kindness of not telling a man when he was going wrong, especially when marching straight into a slough; nor, on the score of his having travelled right up to a certain point, could we admit that he had earned a title to lose his way, and that it was ungrateful to admonish him that he had mistaken his course. But this was for some time fashionable doctrine, and when Ministers were first truckling to the Tories and adopting Tory principles, as upon sinecures and the duration of Parliaments, and falling into divers Tory practices, and putting forth the hacknied Tory pretences for them, our animadversions upon these backslidings were called “attacks upon the Ministry,” instead of attacks upon the errors which would ultimately disgrace and ruin them. When these things have advanced to a certain pitch, and public opinion recoils and marks its displeasure with some rebuff to the Ministry, their former flatterers or apologists turn round upon them, and recite the long catalogue of the faults which have been cherished, instead of nipped in the bud. They then say, “It is now time to speak the truth.” It was not time to speak the truth when the men were first going wrong, and easily to be better guided; but it is time to speak the truth when, having been cheered on in the wrong direction, they have stuck in the slough.[‡]
There is nothing surprising in this. Ministers are treated by the newspapers as they themselves treat the public. They shape their conduct to the convenience of the day, leaving the morrow to shift for itself; and the newspapers praise or blame them by the same rule. The newspapers are a greater power than the Ministry, but are mostly as far as they are from having any lofty conception of the dignity of their mission. They have no particular motive to warn the Ministers, until the evil hour arrives: why should they sail against the stream? when the tide turns, so can they. What Ministers may expect from them is, to be encouraged in their faults, and never forgiven for the consequences; flattered while each blunder is in progress, and reproached with it when it is consummated. This fair-weather friendship answers the purposes of the newspapers very well, but those of the Ministers very ill. A Ministry, however accustomed to the evolution, cannot halt and wheel round with the same rapidity as a newspaper can. Ministers are known men, with the public eye upon them, noting their words and actions; all they say and do is remembered, and helps either to found a reputation or to destroy it. But a newspaper-writer nobody knows; nobody thinks about him, or inquires who he is; nobody remembers to-day what he wrote yesterday, nor will remember to-morrow what he may choose to write to-day. He can afford to praise a Ministry up to the last moment, and then turn round upon them. Few, indeed, are the journalists whose support contains in itself any guarantee of permanency.
Fortunately a journal, like a Ministry, may be very faulty and yet very useful. Judge the Times or the Chronicle by their faults only, and they would be insufferable; yet, without the Times and Chronicle, what should we do?
* * * * *
It is vain and wearisome to beat the air with never-ending discussion of exhausted questions. Who supposes that the landlords’ monopoly is standing at this day for want of arguments to batter it down? All has been said on the Corn Laws: and it is now to be proved by other means than words, who is strongest. If the decision last night[†] does not convince the manufacturers of this, they must be unconvincible. Argument may be overcome by argument, but will must be vanquished by will. The time of calm discussion is gone by, and that of agitation must commence. The people are convinced, they are now to be stimulated. Reason is satisfied; the appeal must now be (however little the word may be relished) to passion. Injustice was never hurled from its throne by men who remained cool. The people must show that when they are wronged they can be indignant, and that the deliberate profession of a determined purpose to persevere in wronging them, can only be expiated by the complete loss of political influence.
Sir James Graham—who was selected as spokesman of the Ministry, solely, we presume, because he had written a pamphlet, and published it with his name, in which the landlords’ monopoly was condemned;[*] —Sir James Graham placed the maintenance of the monopoly on its true basis.[†] He said openly, that the bread-tax must be endured, because the landlords would be ruined if it were abolished. If rents were to fall twenty per cent., (he said,) the greater part of the landed property of the country must change hands. The landlords, then, are so deeply in debt, that they cannot keep their estates if compelled to live honestly; they must therefore be allowed to plunge their hands into the pocket of every person who lives by bread, in order to keep themselves out of the Gazette. They cannot afford to be landholders unless we pay them for it. We must tax ourselves to give them salaries for being a landed Aristocracy. We thank them for nothing. Their creditors will do it gratis.
A bolder language must be held to these people than they have been accustomed to. The landlords have hitherto been the ruling power, and, like all ruling classes, have been estimated at whatever value they chose to put upon themselves. If there were a man to whom nobody dared tell that he was not a god, he would end by believing it. Almost every member of the House of Commons really is, and all have sworn that they are, landlords;[‡] to such Sir James Graham was quite safe in thinking that he had said enough, when he said that without a subsidy from the public the landlords could not remain landlords. But what concern is it (except as a question of humanity) of any but themselves? Are the present landlords so much more precious to us than any other landlords, that when they cannot live upon their own means we should subscribe to enable them to live upon ours? If they are so deeply in debt that they own no more than twenty per cent. of their nominal incomes, and are mere receivers of the other four-fifths for the benefit of their creditors, the sooner they abandon their false position, cease to pretend to a character they have no right to, and let the real owners of the land become the avowed owners, the better. Land is power; and power cannot be more fatally placed than in the hands of spendthrifts by station; of men who have to maintain the externals of a large income with the resources of a small one; of men with the wants and habits of the rich, and the fortunes of the poor.
One word here on the philosophy of Aristocracy. The theoretic foundation both of Toryism and Whiggism; the moral and philosophical basis of all the modern European aristocratical politics; the justification of that paradox in practical ethics, the doctrine that the working bees should be governed by the drones, is the axiom, so dear to Aristocracy, that those who have the greatest stake in the country are the fittest to govern it. When the doctrines of Oligarchy are at variance with the interests of Oligarchy, we see which gives way. Who so far from having a stake in the country as needy rich men? people accustomed to profuse expenditure, which they have no longer the means of keeping up; through whose hands large incomes are constantly passing, only to be paid away to other people; to whom great wealth is constantly shown, while nothing of it is theirs except its wants—wants which have become unconquerable, and which they are under the strongest temptations to find the means of supplying at whatever cost? It is false that poor men, as such, are dangerous in a State; but those who are really dangerous are the poor who are miserable if they are not rich. Over such men not only the interest of others, but their own permanent interest has no hold; it is worth their while to be ruined in two years rather than to economize in one; they are dishonest debtors, bad landlords; gamblers themselves, they compel all under them to be so; rather than submit to a diminution of their rents to-day, they would run the risk of losing them altogether to-morrow, by forcing their tenants to exhaust the land; they are dishonest legislators; they must have a bread-tax, and their sons and nephews must have a provision out of the other taxes. In an age of conspiracies such men are conspirators; Catiline was such a man.
If the class to which Sir James Graham belongs, are in the condition which he describes, they may be an Aristocracy, but they are not a landed Aristocracy; they are a debtor Aristocracy: an Oligarchy not of the rich, but of the grasping and dissipated poor. Have they “a stake in the country?”[*] No. But let the land pass from them to the mortgagees, the real owners, there would be a landed Aristocracy; the new landlords would have a real, not a pretended stake in the country; we should be governed by the rich, since that is so great an advantage; and at least the land, in which we are all so deeply interested, would be in the hands of men, who, instead of ruining it for posterity in order to have this year a few more pounds to spend, could afford to lay out money without any immediate return for the increase of its productiveness at a distant period. Though there are many reasons for desiring this change, we are not anxious to see it; let the existing race of landlords save themselves if they can; but it must be honestly. We will not help them to pay their debts with a slice off the loaf on every man’s table.
We have but one observation to add. Such questions as these are tests of the sufficiency of the Reform Bill; they gauge, if we may be permitted the metaphor, the strength of the popular influences in the House of Commons. When we say, that all the people’s representatives should be elected by the people, we are told that the influence of the people, is the influence of the numerical majority; that minorities have rights, and that unless particular classes are allowed to have representatives as well as the people, the majority will not be satisfied with justice, but will demand injustice; will not content themselves with security against being plundered by minorities, but will insist upon plundering the minorities in their turn. Be it so. Produce to us then a Parliament which holds the balance even; which obliges each party to be content with justice, and allows neither to plunder the other; and we will acknowledge that the Parliament is reformed enough. At present it is proposed to free the immense majority from the most insupportable of their burthens, the most flagrant of their injuries; this is refused, avowedly for the pecuniary benefit of the present landowners, and the refusal is backed by a majority of 312 to 155.[*] The interest, or supposed interest of the landowners, therefore, is an overmatch for obvious justice and the interest of all the rest of the community together, by more than two to one. Here is a case for a further Parliamentary Reform, which the stupidest can understand. We demand, then, further Reform. We demand it on the ground, not of any preconceived theory, but of the recorded failure of the present experiment. The Reform Bill has been tried, and proved wholly insufficient.
To Mr. Poulett Thomson, Mr. Littleton, Mr. Ellice, Lord Howick, and the other Members of the House connected with the Ministry, who spoke or voted in favour of Mr. Hume’s motion,[†] belongs the praise of the seraph Abdiel,[‡] —that of submitting to temporary defeat in a cause certain of ultimate triumph. Lord Althorp did not give his vote to the cause, but he gave it his good word, saying, with much naïveté, that he voted against it, but could not speak against his own conviction.[§] Perhaps a time will come, when he will think it as impossible to vote against his conviction, as to speak against it.
* * * * *
Mr. O’Connell has had the merit of being the first to speak out, we mean in Parliament, what every rational person thinks, that oaths of office, and oaths taken by Members of Parliament, are worthless formalities, which do no good whatever, and much harm. His declaration drew forth adhesions from several Members, in particular an animated one from Dr. Lushington, who brought upon himself a sarcastic reply from Mr. Stanley, by the strength of his commendations of bold policy.[*] The lesson to Ministers was good, though the occasion scarcely required it; where would be the boldness of abolishing these frivolous ceremonies? It is not courage that is wanted, but common sense.
When you require a man, before he is admitted into Parliament, or accepts an office, to swear that he will not attempt to change the existing form of government, or to destroy the Church, or some particular institution in the State; is it supposed that you ever in reality prevent the nation from abolishing their Constitution or their Church, if they cease to think them essential to the public well-being? It would be monstrous, if one generation could thus tie up the hands of all succeeding ages, and impose its institutions upon the most remote posterity, against their will. The living will never submit themselves to the tyranny of the dead. Happily, though self-conceited legislators may say to their own handiwork esto perpetua, it is out of their power to make it so. As soon as it ceases to be thought worth preserving, it will cease to be preserved. But this they may do; they may render it impossible to make the most necessary alteration without perjury: which is much the same thing as to establish prejury by law.
If it be of importance that there should be sacredness in oaths, or in any solemn engagements, legislators should beware of compelling or tempting men to bind themselves not to do, what it may possibly be the dictate of their duty to do. Cases must occasionally occur of incompatible obligations; cases in which, whatever course we adopt, we unavoidably violate some moral duty, or we should rather say, some general rule, of which the observance is important to morality. But to all conscientious persons, except those of the strongest intellect or the most decided character, such an alternative is extremely distressing; and it is under cover of these extreme cases, lying exactly on the boundary between guilt and exalted virtue, that laxity of principle most commonly creeps in. It is of the utmost moment to the maintenance of a high standard of moral sentiment among the mass, that such cases of what may be termed justifiable immorality should rarely occur, and when they do occur, should not be forced forward into public notice and discussion. We are persuaded that the applause lavished upon Brutus and Timoleon, whether merited or not, has had a strong tendency to create indulgence for private crimes when supposed to be committed from public motives. Infidelity to engagements is far more likely to propagate itself by example than assassination. How much, then, have those to answer for, who arbitrarily create, in the most extensive sphere of publicity, a conflict of duties, of which this is sure to be the result! who compromise the sanctity of the most binding of promises, by exacting it where its observance may possibly be a breach of obligations still more sacred! For there is no limit to the baneful consequences which an institution may produce, if it be not altered, when all other things are altering around it. And the framers of the oaths have so contrived matters, that be these consequences what they will, there shall be no means of averting them without a previous perjury. Is it a trifle to have made it unavoidable, that, in a contingency which is not improbable, which in a given lapse of time is virtually certain, it shall be the study, not of bad men, but of the best and most pure-minded, to reconcile themselves to the intentional evasion of a solemn promise? to preach to the mass of mankind that oaths are not binding? to invent artful contrivances for slipping their heads out of the yoke of a positive engagement?
Such is the morality inculcated both with precept and example, by the organs of the political Church of England. Sir R. H. Inglis avers, that human society is built upon oaths.[*] It is built upon oaths, and in order to stengthen the foundations, men are to be placed in such a situation, that, in a contingency not unlikely to occur, they must perforce disregard either their oaths or their country’s good; and that, in proportion to their attachment to duty and ardour for the public weal, will be their efforts to vanquish their own reluctance to perjury! The real enemies of public morals, and weakeners of the ties which hold mankind together, are such teachers. It is impossible even to conceive the existence of a healthy and vigorous morality, until the reign of such men and of such doctrines is over.*
* * * * *
The Times, this morning, has an article in which it seems to urge the Ministers to what they have by very alarming symptoms evinced themselves to be too much inclined to; the introduction of a measure for the suppression of the Trades’ Unions.[†]
Now it would be wise, if, before they commit themselves to a course of policy of which they cannot doubt that the consequences would be most serious, they would consider well the character of the step which they are exhorted to take. It will be received as neither more or less than a declaration to the working people, that is, to about four-fifths of the whole population, that the Government is their enemy; that it is determined to keep them down; to keep them for ever poor, dependent, and servile, trampled into the earth under the feet of their employers.
We speak not, of course, in these terms, of anything which may or may not be done or attempted, for the more effectual prevention of violence, threats, or personal annoyance, when employed, as by many of the Unions they are said to be, to deter labourers from working for employers who do not comply with their rules. Against all such infringements by a part of the working population upon the just liberty of the remainder, the most effectual security ought to be taken (if it does not already exist) which is compatible with another liberty not less sacred; the right of the working classes, not only to concert with one another, either for raising wages, or for accomplishing any other end which they are permitted by law to pursue individually, but also to sanction their compact by giving free utterance to the disapprobation which it is natural they should feel towards those whom they consider as traitors to their caste; and the expression of which should be no further restrained by law, than the expression of the most just horror at any undoubted crime is restrained by the laws of most civilized countries; namely, by not being permitted to amount to personal insult or serious molestation.
But any attempt to confine the liberty of combination among workmen within narrower limits than these, is systematic tyranny; and the feelings of unconquerable resentment and abhorrence which it would most surely inspire in the whole of the labouring population towards the governing classes and the existing institutions of their country, would be natural and excusable. How could they view it, but as a measure of hostility taken against them as enemies by a superior caste, whom they regard, often most unjustly but often too truly, as actuated by the most hardened selfishness, and by all manner of evil feelings towards them; and whose grand object they believe to be, while living sumptuously on their labour, to withhold from them any but the scantiest share of its produce for which they will consent to work?
In vain would the employers, and their organs in the press or in Parliament, put in requisition doctrines of political economy, true indeed, but which they themselves only half understand, to this effect, that combinations never in reality keep up the rate of wages. What then? The working people are entitled to try: unless they try, how are they ever to learn? You, their employers, have not been wont to show either so infallible a wisdom, or so pure and disinterested a zeal for their interests, that you should expect them to take the proposition on your word, on the word of the adverse party. And we have yet to learn what you have done to assist the cultivation of their understandings, and the formation of vigorous intellectual faculties which should enable them to discern without trial what modes of bettering their condition are practicable and what are chimerical. And in truth how could you impart what has never yet been imparted to you? Show us an occasion on which the higher classes have ever received, except through the lessons of bitter experience, any political truth opposed to the suggestions of their direct and immediate interest, and we will allow them to complain of the absence of similar perspicacity in the labouring classes.
We cannot conceive any conduct much more discreditable, though unhappily in perfect keeping with the mode in which the world is habitally governed, than this: altogether to neglect the promotion, by such means as are practicable, either of the worldly prosperity or the mental and moral culture of the labouring classes; to use no means for conciliating, but a thousand for alienating, their good will; to allow them, as far as depends upon ourselves, to grow up barbarians in the midst of our civilization; and when they, despairing of help from us, have turned to helping themselves, and are taking the only means we have given them of learning how to better their lot, by mutual consultation and practical experiment, then to bear down upon them with the strong hand of power, and close that door also against them. But it cannot be done: there are passions aroused strong enough to effect it if it were practicable, but it is not.
The hope that experience, when allowed freely to take its course, will be the mother of wisdom to the operative classes as it has been to all mankind, is already justified by an actual result. The mechanics have discovered and recognised that strikes on the old principle, strikes by cessation of working, are always failures. The doctrine of the Trades’ Unions now is, that when they resolve upon a strike, their course must not be to cease working, but to work on their own account; and that the common funds, which formerly went to support them in idleness, must now be administered as a capital for their productive employment. Can any thing be at once more unexceptionable and more desirable, than such an experiment as this? Possessing the necessary funds, the labourers mean to become capitalists, and to make actual trial of the difficulties of a joint management. If they succeed, who will not hail as one of the most important fruits of modern civilization, the demonstrated possibility of arrangements of society under which the whole produce of labour would belong exclusively to the labourers? But if, as is infinitely more probable, they fail; is not this the very lesson which their superiors are most anxious, and ought to be most anxious that they should learn? When they perceive that the laws of property, which so revolt their moral sense, by rendering the condition of the idle so often preferable to that of the industrious, are the necessary condition of a large production; when they find that the attempt to realize (otherwise than with the slow progress of human improvement) the cooperative principle as applied to the production of wealth, causes so much waste of labour in the intricate business of management and check, and such a relaxation of the intensity of individual exertion, that under the fairest possible distribution there is a smaller share for each, than falls or might fall to the lot even of the most scantily remunerated, under the present arrangements; then, and not till then will they patiently submit to the necessity of not moving faster than their limbs will carry them; and instead of aiming at impracticable changes in the general order of society, will combine with all other honest and intelligent men, in introducing all the improvements which the existing social system admits of.
* * * * *
Few of the results of the Reform Bill have fallen more short of our hopes, than the conduct of the little band of enlightened and philosophic Radicals, whom that great change introduced into the Legislature. Our expectations of improvement in the general composition of Parliament, were never so sanguine as those of the more enthusiastic reformers. The majority of the House of Commons have not much disappointed us. We believe them to be as honest as men usually are, and in point of intellect and acquirements a fair sample of the higher classes of this country. The circumstances of society, and the prevalent modes of thinking among the people, unite in preventing the electors from seeking their representatives in the classes below the higher: and if they did, although a greater number of conspicuous individuals might be selected from the whole of the community than from a part, it is by no means certain that the general mass would be improved in quality. We doubted before the Reform Bill, we doubt still, whether the general mind of the community is sufficiently advanced in its ideas, or sufficiently vigorous in its tone, to furnish, even under the best system of representation, any but a very indifferent Legislature. But we did expect that, through the avenues opened by the Reform Bill, individuals would find their way into Parliament, who would put forward, on every fitting occasion, with boldness and perseverance, the best political ideas which the country affords: and we thought we saw, in some of the names composing the Radical minority at the opening of the Reformed Parliament, a guarantee that our hope would be fulfilled. But the promise has not been kept. With one or two exceptions, at the head of which we must place Mr. Roebuck, (who, against innumerable obstacles, some of them of his own creating, is, with signal merit, working himself up into the station in public life to which his talents, energy, and sincerity entitle him,) none of the new Radical members on whom we had founded any hopes, have done enough to keep those hopes alive; and the cause of the Movement still rests exclusively upon its ancient supporters.
We cannot understand how men so conscientious as some of these are, can reconcile this self-annihilation to their notions of worthiness. With the exception of their votes, which have been steadily given on the right side, we can name few things which any of them have done, more than might have been done by adherents of the present Ministry; and it was not for this, nor on the faith of these expectations, that they were sent to that House, in preference to men who, on any footing but that of strenuous advocates of the people’s cause, had perhaps equal claims to theirs.
The usual excuse for inaction, that “there is no good to be done,” never was so manifestly inapplicable. At all times there is much good to be done, if men will but resolve to do it. But the effects of individual exertion, though sure, are usually slow. Not so in the present state of politics. Every well-directed attempt, even by a solitary individual, to accomplish any worthy object, is sure of a certain measure of immediate success. It may be true that it is impossible to carry anything against the Ministry. But there is hardly any limit to what may now be carried through the Ministry. Though Ministers seldom lead, they are willing to be led. To most of the reforms which a vigorous and enlightened Ministry would, in the present state of the public mind, venture to propose, the present Ministers are by no means hostile. Their faults, like those of the Radical Members, are chiefly those of omission. They do not like to involve themselves in new questions. They have already more to think of, more difficulties to surmount and exigencies to provide for, than they feel the strength to cope with. When you have forced a discussion on any subject, and compelled them to turn their minds to it, and make up an opinion one way or another, your business is half done. From having been anxious to stave off the question, they become anxious to settle it, so that the discussion may not be revived. The independent Members should take their measures accordingly. They should insist upon having all the great questions discussed. They should not yield to the representations which are sure to be made, which were made by the Chancellor on the Jewish question,[*] that to be unremitting in exertion is not the way to succeed. It is the sure, and the only way. They should let no question sleep, and should agitate all the more important questions incessantly.
Mr. O’Connell, among whose faults inactivity is not to be numbered, did not think that to force a discussion on the liberty of the press would do no good; and already his motion has compelled the Government to take up the subject, and a part of the necessary reform has a fair chance of being accomplished in the present Session.
Since the publication of our last month’s Notes, Mr. O’Connell’s Bill for the Reform of the Law of Libel has been printed;[†] and the objections to which it seemed liable, from his own statement, as reported in the newspapers, are applicable to it in a very inferior degree to what we had supposed. It does make provision for freedom of criticism on institutions and doctrines, with the single exception of religion; and, in case of private libel, instead of making truth in all cases a justification, it only allows the truth to be given in evidence, leaving the jury to decide what weight shall be allowed to it as a defence. Even this we continue to think objectionable, but, undoubtedly, in a far less degree.
* * * * *
In the House of Commons yesterday an incidental discussion of the Corn Laws took place on the presentation of a petition.[*] After a speech from Mr. Roebuck, of the great merits of which we should have remained ignorant if we had not accidentally seen the report of it in the Morning Post,[†] Sir Robert Peel rose. Having first accused, by implication, Mr. Roebuck of presumption, in saying that the subject might be disposed of in five minutes, while he, though he had spoken much longer than five minutes, had not disposed of half of it; Sir Robert endeavoured to supply the remaining half by a speech in which all which was not truism was irrelevancy.[‡] Though Mr. Roebuck said, and said truly, that what is relevant to the question might be stated in five minutes,[§] he could not have meant that so short a time would suffice for answering all the fallacies which may be accumulated round this or any other subject by ingenuity or folly. Sir Robert Peel’s first argument was that of the peculiar burthens pressing upon the land; a consideration which no one who ever spoke or wrote against the corn laws has overlooked: but which is a reason for equalizing taxation, not for compensating a class supposed to be peculiarly overtaxed, by another and the worst of taxes—a tax on the people’s food. The remainder of the speech may be thus summed up:—That the corn laws could not be termed a monopoly, because, if the landlords have a protecting duty, so have all classes of manufacturers. It would take nearly five minutes to enumerate all the mistaken assumptions included in this argument. Whoever agrees with Sir Robert Peel must think the following things:—1. That if there are many monopolies instead of one, they cease to be monopolies. 2. That it is a legislative business not to do justice, but to establish an equal balance of injustice. 3. That if A gains sixpence by making B lose a shilling, the way to set all right is for B to treat A in the same manner: while in the meantime C, D, and E are robbed by both. 4. That duties on the importation of manufactures are a benefit to the manufacturer, in the same sense as duties on the importation of corn are a benefit to the landlord; whereas, in truth, the landlord obtains a higher rent, but the manufacturer does not obtain a higher profit, the protected trade being no better off as to profits than those which are not protected. 5. That an equal benefit is conferred on two persons, by protecting the one against a cheaper article than his own, the other against a dearer: that it is the same thing, in fact, to shut the door against the food which would come, and against the cottons and hardware that would not.
When propositions which contain in a nutshell a whole Iliad[*] of error, are put forth with an air of authority, and by a person of authority, as if they were the dernier mot of some great question, it is lamentable that there is no one, even of those who understand the subject, ready to start up at the instant and present the simple truth in the point of view in which it most vividly illuminates the fallacy, and makes its character visible. But the union of energy and ardour with knowledge and dialectical skill, is a combination too rare in our days to be soon hoped for.
* * * * *
The principal interest of the session, thus far, has been the question of the Church and the Dissenters. Even Church Reform, so prominent a topic for the last two years, has almost ceased to be talked of; and the subject now pressed upon the Legislature is the entire abolition of the Establishment. This is a fearful truth to Conservatives of all denominations; and even to considerate Radicals, there is matter for very serious reflection in so striking an instance of the artificial celerity given to the natural progress of change, by the very conduct which is expected to check it.
If Ministers can profit by experience, they must surely by this time see how utterly the course which they have not adopted, but fallen into, is at variance with their own purposes. Those who most agree with them in their ends, have most cause to complain of their means. It is not as friends of the Movement that we lament the deficiencies of Ministers; in that character we ought much rather to rejoice at them; for the tide of change sets in far more violently through this passive resistance to it. But we wish the current to be gentle as well as rapid. We dread lest the violence of the struggle which is so needlessly made the sole means of obtaining reforms, should leave neither the leisure nor the frame of mind for choosing the most considerate mode of accomplishing them. One half the good, moreover, which we expect from the redress of grievances, will be lost, if, being extorted from the unwillingness of the Legislature, they leave behind them the feelings not of reconciliation but of victory and defeat.
What a commentary have the last few weeks afforded on the principles of the King’s Speech![*] If Ministers had announced of themselves, the intention of doing for the Dissenters all which in this short period they have been obliged successively to promise, they would have retained the large measure which they formerly possessed of the confidence of that immense body, and we should not have heard, perhaps for a long time to come, of a single petition for the separation of Church and State. The Movement has gained several years upon them in a few weeks; while in the same time they have let half their power of guiding its course slip out of their hands, by teaching their surest friends to hope for nothing from them but through the means which would be taken with enemies.
Ministers made but humble pretensions at the opening of the session, and humble has been their conduct. They gave fair warning; they let all men know that it was no business of theirs to stir a step in improvement unless somebody drove them, and that whoever came with a petition in one hand, must come with a cudgel in the other. But it was absurd to imagine that those who had carried Catholic Emancipation, and the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, could have any objection to concede the little which is still withheld of religious liberty; and the Dissenters feeling this, did not use the cudgel, but quietly stated what they thought themselves entitled to demand, deeming that as they were speaking to friends, nothing further was requisite. They waited, and nothing came but the ridiculous Marriage Bill:[†] and they received every intimation short of an express declaration, that this was all they had to expect. Not because what they claimed was considered unfit to be granted; but merely because it could be refused. Thus warned, the Dissenters resorted to the cudgel: and now mark with what result. At each application of the weapon, Ministers rose in their offers. First they vaguely told the Dissenters not to conclude that nothing more was to be done for them.[‡] Then they would “call the attention” of the House to the subject of Church Rates, and propose, as was at first given out, a diminution, which afterwards rose into a commutation, and was at last announced, though not officially, as an entire abolition.[*] Next, the Marriage Bill was virtually given up, and several Ministers expressed their private opinion that marriage should be a civil contract.[†] Next came a proposition for a general registry of births, marriages, and deaths; but at first, only from a brother of the Lord Chancellor;[‡] afterwards Lord Althorp hoped that such a registry, by being combined with another measure, might be introduced as a Government question; and possibly some relief might be afforded to the Dissenters on the subject of burials also.[§] Lastly, a petition from Cambridge for the admission of Dissenters to graduate in that University, was presented by the Premier in the Lords, and by the Secretary to the Treasury in the House of Commons,[¶] and warmly supported both by them and by other leading members of the Administration. On this occasion (because it is a small one) they at length spoke as statesmen should speak: the tone was not that of reluctant concession, but of earnest advocacy: as if they were not only willing to do justice, but were glad of the opportunity.
How much more highly would they now have stood in reputation and in real power, had they adopted this tone throughout, and from the commencement! How much might they yet retrieve, were they even now to adopt it!
* * * * *
NO. III, MAY, 1834
This project appears to us no improvement upon the tithe commutation of last year.[*] Both schemes have many of the requisites of a good measure, but the present one is open to objections far more weighty than those which have induced Ministers to abandon their original proposition.
We fully concur in the principle laid down by Lord Althorp, that no portion of the tithe must be given away to the landlords.[†] The amount must remain undiminished, not indeed for the reason he assigns, that it is all required for the maintenance of the Church Establishment; but to preserve what the Examiner very properly calls the reversionary interest of the State.[‡]
Both measures, that of last year and the present, leave the aggregate tithe of the whole country unaltered in amount. But the former left also to every individual tithe owner, the very sum which he had been accustomed to receive; while, by the present bill, there will hardly be a receiver of tithe in all England who will not either gain or lose by the commutation. It is obvious that the poorer the land is, the less rent it will yield in proportion to the produce. On poor lands the gross produce may be ten times, or any number of times the rent: on some rich lands it cannot be more than double. The tithe being proportioned to the gross produce, must bear an infinitely varying proportion to the rent. Yet the commutation is to be a per-centage uniform for a whole county. If the average tithe of the county is one-fourth, or one-third of the rent, though it may not be exactly so in any particular instance, it is to be fixed at that proportion everywhere.
In one half the parishes of England, therefore, the tithe owner will obtain an increase of his income, and a spoliation of property will take place to the prejudice of the landlord. In the other half, the life interests of the clergy will be impaired, the lay impropriators robbed of a portion of their property, and the landowners gratuitously presented with an addition to their rent. So extensive an invasion of vested rights is scarcely consistent with the unbounded respect for them professed by all English ministers.
In attempting to avoid one evil, Ministers have fallen into a worse. Against the scheme of last year, which fixed the tithe everywhere at its present amount, it was urged that an incumbent who had rigidly exacted his utmost dues, would be confirmed in the possession of them, while one who had been lenient would forfeit the right which he had forborne to enforce. We do not think there was much in this argument, since no injury would have been done to the more liberal incumbent by giving him no more than he had himself adjudged to be sufficient; while the condition of those who were under the more rigid taskmaster, would be left no worse than it was before. However, these last would certainly lose the chance of being more indulgently treated by a future incumbent. There was therefore some, though but little, force in the objection. To meet it, what have the Ministry done? That they may not, by leaving matters just as they are, give the rapacious man an advantage over the more moderate, they strike a medium between the two, giving to the one more than he asks for, to the other less: forgetting, in this clumsy attempt to make legislation the agent of distributive justice, that if there are inequalities in the rigour with which the tithe is exacted, there are also inequalities, and greater ones, in the tithe itself; all which are to be stretched and clipped to the Procrustes-bed of a uniform proportion.
In most other respects the bill is deserving of praise. It removes all complication and annoyance in the collection of tithes, by making the demand no longer from the tenant, but from the proprietor; and allowing him the option of redeeming it, on terms sufficiently easy to induce all who have the means, to avail themselves of the permission. It also takes the tithe off the consumer, and lays it upon the landlord. Tithe will no longer operate as any discouragement to cultivation. It will no longer be one of the expenses of production, which the price must be sufficient to repay; but a fixed proportion of the rent, that is, of the surplus after the expenses are paid. It will be liable indeed to increase, but only as the rent increases, and can never, under any circumstances, be any thing but a deduction from the rent.
This, however, opens a view of the subject in some other of its bearings, which have not yet attracted the attention of those most interested. We see the landowners apparently taking a burthen off the shoulders of their customers the bread-eaters, and placing it on their own. What is the meaning of so unlandlordly a proceeding? It is, that they reckon upon being able to maintain the Corn Laws. While those laws subsist, the landlords will escape the consequences of the measure to which they are about to give their consent. This will appear from a very brief explanation.
If all the food consumed in England were grown on our own soil, the effect of abolishing tithe would be a fall of price. The consumer and not the landlord would reap the benefit; and if a charge in commutation of tithe were laid upon the rent, the landlord would be out of pocket by the entire amount. But this fall of price cannot take place while the Corn Laws last. As long as we are an importing country, the price must depend upon the cost of production abroad, not upon the cost of production here; and nothing which can be done here will lower it, while we continue to derive any portion of our food from abroad. Unless, therefore, the stimulus given to cultivation at home by taking off the tithe, be sufficient to render us entirely independent of foreign supply, the sole effect of relieving the agriculturist from the burthen is, that we shall grow more corn, and import less. The landlord, therefore, will pocket the whole amount of the tithe; and by laying an equivalent burthen upon him in the form of a rent-charge, he will be left, while the Corn Laws continue, in the exact position in which he is now.
This suggests one most serious objection to the present measure, and to any commutation of tithes not accompanied by a corresponding reduction of the duties on foreign corn. It adds to the injustice of the Corn Laws. It increases the artificial premium upon raising food from the soil instead of importing it. We are perpetually told, and it is true, that if we tax our own corn, we must lay an equal duty on that which comes from abroad. Equally true is it, and for precisely the same reason, that if we tax foreign corn we must levy an equal duty on that which is grown at home. If tithes are a reason for retaining corn laws, corn laws are a reason for retaining tithes. If we relieve English corn from tithes without relieving foreign corn from corn laws, we create a new factitious inequality; we hold out a fresh motive to a disadvantageous employment of labour and capital; and besides, we encourage the breaking up of lands which will be thrown out of culture, and the expenditure of capital which will become useless, as soon as the Corn Laws shall be repealed.
Happily that period is near at hand; and happily, too, this is so obvious, that although the landlords, as a body, will, by fair means or foul, do all they can to avert it, neither landlord nor farmer will like to risk much of their own money upon the chance. We do not believe, therefore, that much extension of cultivation will take place. The uncertainty of the Corn Law has long paralysed all such speculations, and will continue to paralyse them as long as any bread-tax exists.
* * * * *
The declarations of Mr. Spring Rice on Monday, and of the Lord Chancellor yesterday,[*] amount to a promise of the very greatest benefit which could be bestowed upon any country at so small an expense—the establishment of Normal Schools. Ministers will atone for a thousand faults by this admirable measure, if the care and pains devoted to superintending its execution, correspond to the good intentions which dictate its adoption.
Doubtless it is important, that additional schools should be established, a greater number of children taught. The diffusion even of merely nominal education has been greatly exaggerated; few persons are aware how large a portion of our people are still destitute of any means of instruction whatever. But the mere quantity of teaching is a secondary consideration to the quality; and that we believe to be, for the most part, more thoroughly bad, than any one without facts before him would dare to conjecture. We believe this to be true of all ranks, and all branches of education alike. The youths who attend the London University, must be at least a fair selection from the grammar schools, public and private, in the country; and we have heard from teachers in that institution, things which have perfectly amazed us of the ignorance in which the great majority come to them, of all things which are professed to be taught in the schools at which they have been brought up. The elementary schools for the children of the working classes, are still worse. They scarcely even profess to aim at anything more than teaching words; and words out of a book. No attempt is made to communicate ideas, or call forth the mental faculties. The mind of the teacher is never once brought into contact with the mind of the child. An automaton could do all that is done by such teachers, and all that they are qualified to do. Among the enthusiastic promoters of education who direct the two great School Societies, there are doubtless many who are more or less sensible of the deficiencies of their system, and would gladly amend them; but the material is wanting: teachers, who even know what it is to teach, are not to be had. School-houses may be had, or money to build them; all the “properties,” the mere instruments of teaching, may be complete; even books, though of them there is a sad deficiency, may be provided: if one good book is written, copies may be multiplied without limit. But it is not brick walls, nor instruments, nor books, nor dead matter that is wanting; mind must be taught by mind. Most true is the maxim of the Prussian system, “what the teacher is, that will the school be.” Even if we were to think with the vulgar, that any one who knows a thing can teach it—even so the bulk of the existing schoolmasters could teach nothing, for they know nothing; no thing, no words even, except the very words set down in their books. They cannot make their scholars, what they themselves are not. Ask them any question, in geography or history for instance, out of the narrow round of questions they are accustomed to put, and you will find them as ignorant as the most untaught of their scholars. Is this doubted? Put it to the proof.
Is it not extraordinary that Lord Brougham, in his speech of yesterday, and in that other speech which he delivered last session against a National Education,[*] should have built up what seemed to him a conclusive argument, out of a mere numerical statement of the increase of schools, and proved to us the sufficiency of individual and undirected exertions, by mere arithmetic? Are all schools alike, then? Is it enough that there are places called schools, that there is something called teaching? Is it of no consequence what is taught, and how? We know not why education should be so highly lauded if this be education. What, in itself, is it, to be merely able to read? But the children do not at present even learn to read. What proportion of those who have been taught reading can read fluently? or have had the meaning of half the words they laboriously spell out, explained to them? Put a book into their hands, and see how many of them will answer that they can only read in the book they are accustomed to. And is this the teaching, the multiplication of which has rendered a national education unnecessary?
Mr. Roebuck, whose advocacy of education, as of every thing else, is that of a person really in earnest about it, has announced for next week, a motion similar to that by which he did so much good last year.[†] But a more important motion still, and one which we trust we shall see him introduce—for of any other of the professing friends of education we have small hope—would be one for an address to the crown, to appoint a commission for ascertaining and reporting upon the quality of the instruction at the various existing schools. Anything less than a public investigation, embracing the whole country, would not suffice. Cases resting on private authority will not do; they will be denied, or represented as exceptions selected to make out a case. The abuses of the Poor Laws would have been so represented, if there had been no Poor Law Commission. But when an inquiry was set on foot, with a real desire to make it an effectual one, the evils which we had heard of as occasional, perhaps even frequent, were found to pervade the whole country; and what proved to be the rare and scattered exceptions, were the cases of good, not those of bad administration. An inquiry is wanted into the state of education, as searching and as comprehensive as that into the administration of the Poor Laws. Until there has been such an inquiry nothing will be done, nor will the public feel the necessity of doing anything, to bring the education of the people generally, under a more active and intelligent superintendence.
Meanwhile the Ministers will deserve high praise, if they are serious in their purpose of establishing Normal Schools. This is at once the most important step towards a national system, and a good in itself of inestimable value. If a scheme for the education of the whole people had already received the sanction of the Legislature, its execution must have waited until an improved race of schoolmasters could be raised up; but if even without founding any schools of our own, we educate teachers for the existing schools to a standard greatly exceeding the present average, we shall, by this single measure, change the whole character of the education of the country. The great school societies would, it is to be hoped, supply themselves with schoolmasters from the Normal Schools; and private teachers not trained at these institutions, could only stand their ground by showing qualifications equal to that high standard which the public would learn to exact.
Normal Schools, sufficient for all the wants of the country, might be founded and carried on at a very moderate expense; and the Chancellor’s objection to a national provision for education, that it would put a stop to private subscriptions,[*] would not apply. If the contribution of 20,000l. towards building school-houses, has called forth individual subscriptions to more than double the amount, a still greater stimulus would be given to private beneficence if the State were to supply, what is so much greater a desideratum than a place to teach in, masters fit to teach.
Lord Malmesbury, good man, objects to Normal Schools, because “the founders of charity schools always take care to supply them with proper masters.”[†] We admire the noble Lord’s unsuspecting innocence, and are curious to know where he has lived. A suspicion never crossed his ingenuous mind that an inadequate teacher is to be found in the whole country. Any one probably is fit for a schoolmaster according to his ideas, who is able to read. We imagine most of them could stand that test. Meanwhile Lord Malmesbury’s dictum should stand upon record, that posterity may know what the House of Lords was like. We hope historians will not forget to inform them that he was by no means its most ignorant member. There cannot be fewer than two hundred of their Lordships who are decidedly more ignorant still.
* * * * *
The Times,—which of all newspapers is the most swayed by personal enmity, and which looks upon every one as an enemy to whom it has ever behaved ill, especially every public man who has the impertinence to be successful after it has attempted to ruin him,—has a snarling article this morning upon Mr. Roebuck’s motion, which, like all the rest of its conduct towards him, will be remembered as an example of its malice, but not of its power.[*] No one who compares the present position of Mr. Roebuck in the House of Commons, with that which he occupied a year ago—or who can appreciate the complete victory which, by a good use of the advantages of a better cause and a superior knowledge of his subject, he has just obtained over the most redoubted debater in the House[†] —will imagine for a moment that his upward career can now be retarded by a hostility, obviously arising from personal ill-will. A young, and till then obscure individual, coming into Parliament with neither money, rank, connexion, nor previous reputation, allying himself with no party, neither compromising a single opinion, nor courting the favour of one human being, but often injuring himself by giving needless offence—he already occupies a station of honour and importance, both in the House and in the country; he had defied alike Whigs, Tories, and demagogues, yet has extorted respect from them all, and he alone of the young members is rapidly rising in estimation. Having conquered so many obstacles, and achieved the first and most difficult part of a successful career, without aid from any newspaper (most of his speeches are scarcely reported,) and against the undisguised enmity of so powerful a journal as the Times, he can well afford to disregard that enmity, until it ceases of its own accord; that is, until the Times thinks him of sufficient consequence to be worth courting. It is of excellent example, that he should continue to afford a demonstration of the sufficiency of energy and courage to command success in that House, against the opposition of the press, as well as against every other possible disadvantage.
The Proposed Reform of the Poor Laws
It is creditable to Ministers that the measure which Lord Althorp yesterday introduced into the House of Commons,[*] departs so little from the recommendations of the Poor Law Commissioners. Wherever it does deviate from them the change is for the worse; nor do we believe that any change would be for the better. The proceedings of that Commission are an example, unique in our history, of sagacity and skill in investigating the innumerable details of a most extensive and complicated subject, and wisdom in devising, for evils which seemed insuperable, remedies which promise the most unhoped-for success.
Lord Althorp’s statement, as we are informed by persons who were present, was unusually clear and cogent. Little or no opposition was made in any quarter; and from the reception which the House gave to the proposition, there is little doubt that it will pass without material alteration. A considerable part of the press has, however, declared hostility to its leading provisions, and in particular the Times; which has more than once touched upon the subject, in a tone calculated to do much mischief, and which has probably had a large share in deterring the Ministry from adopting the recommendations of the Commissioners in their full extent.[†]
The foundation of the Poor Law Report, is the principle upon which all good government, and all justly-constituted society rest; that no person who is able to work, is entitled to be maintained in idleness; or to be put into a better condition, at the expense of the public, than those who contrive to support themselves by their unaided exertions. Any infringement of this principle, whether by rich or poor, is not only immoral, but nine-tenths of the immorality in the world are founded on it. The desire to live upon the labour of others, is at the root of almost all misgovernment, and of most private dishonesty. The inquiries of the Poor Law Commission have afforded melancholy evidence of the extent to which this desire, and the facilities afforded for gratifying it by the administration of the Poor Laws, are demoralizing our rural, and a large portion of our town population; accustoming them to rely for support, not on their own efforts, but on assistance to be afforded them by the administrators of a common stock, from which they endeavour by all sorts of fraudulent contrivances to draw as much, and to contribute to it by their labour as little, as their ingenuity and good luck enable them.
To arrest this demoralization, before the labouring population shall be entirely corrupted, and the whole produce of the country swallowed up by the poor rates, is the object of the Commissioners; and they have been able to imagine no means but one; nor (as must be evident) are any others possible. The condition of a pauper must cease to be, as it has been made, an object of desire and envy to the independent labourer. Relief must be given; no one must be allowed to starve; the necessaries of life and health must be tendered to all who apply for them; but to all who are capable of work they must be tendered on such terms, as shall make the necessity of accepting them be regarded as a misfortune; and shall induce the labourer to apply for them only when he cannot help it, and to take the first opportunity of again shifting for himself. To this end, relief must be given only in exchange for labour, and labour at least as irksome and severe as that of the least fortunate among the independent labourers: relief, moreover, must be confined to necessaries. Indulgences, even those which happily the very poorest class of labourers, when in full employment, are able occasionally to allow themselves, must be rigidly withheld.
These objects the Commissioners seek to accomplish, by granting relief to the able-bodied (as a general rule) only within the workhouse; relief at their own houses being an exception, never to be made but upon special grounds. The reason assigned for this, and borne out by the evidence, is, that anywhere but in a workhouse it is quite impossible to make pauper labour efficient. Parish work, as at present conducted, is notoriously, universally, and by the necessity of the case, very much the same thing as total idleness. Even when set to work on the roads, a kind of labour susceptible of more easy and efficient superintendence than most others, it is found impracticable to exact from the paupers much more than nominal work. In the workhouse alone can the life of a pauper, consistently with an ample supply of necessaries, be rendered other than enviable, as compared with the hard labour and poor fare of those who find their own subsistence. Yet against this fundamental principle of all Poor Law Reform have the Times and other papers raised the cry of inhumanity. They call it treating poverty as a crime. It is but making pauperism no longer a piece of good fortune.
The spirit manifested by the newspapers is exactly similar to that which the Commissioners say they have met with in almost all the parties to whom they addressed their printed queries. They found every where the bitterest complaints of the present system, the most alarming predictions of universal ruin if it be persevered in, and the most vehement objections to the adoption of any remedy. People seemed to expect that evils, which were threatening the subversion of society, should be extirpated without causing the most trifling, the most momentary inconvenience to anybody. The newspapers expect the same thing. They look for ends, and will consent to no means. Thus, the Times assents to the principle that the independent labourer must be better off than the pauper; and yet accuses the Commissioners of making proverty a crime, for proposing simply this very thing. How, we beg to know, is the independent labourer to be better off than the pauper, and yet the pauper no worse off than the independent labourer? If pauperism is to be made undesirable, that may always be called treating it as a crime. Not one hint does the writer in the Times give, of any other means of making pauperism undesirable, but those which the Commissioners suggest. He must have known that they did not make the suggestion lightly. When men of rare acquirements and talents, with unlimited access to information, have employed more than two years in the most diligent examination and study of the subject in all its bearings—one who does not pretend to know more of the subject than we all know, is at least bound, if he disputes their conclusion, to be prepared to answer their case.
The Ministry, however, have been so far influenced by these unreasonable objections, as to depart in some degree from the propositions of the Poor Law Report. The Commissioners proposed, that, after a certain time, say two years, relief to the able-bodied, anywhere but in the workhouse, should, as a general rule, be unlawful;[*] and, in the mean time, the Central Board were invested with the power of erecting workhouses, to receive such persons as from choice or necessity should remain paupers after that period. Lord Althorp’s Bill fixes no time after which out-door relief is to be prohibited: it gives indeed to the Central Board, the power of prohibiting, or regulating the conditions of, such relief, but not the power to erect workhouses, except with the consent of the parish. On the other hand, the Bill provides (which the plan of the Commissioners did not) that the allowance system, i.e. relief in aid of wages, shall cease on the 1st of June, 1835. On that day, therefore, a very large proportion of the labouring population will have to make choice, either to go off the parish entirely, or to become, not inmates of a workhouse, for there will perhaps be neither workhouses to receive them nor power to send them thither, but paupers receiving out-door relief. Very few would have made their voluntary election for the former kind of pauperism; very many, it is to be feared, will have no objection to the latter. The reform which it is hoped to accomplish in the habits of the rural population, will thus be indefinitely retarded; the difficulty of subsequently abolishing out-door relief, probably much augmented; and the measure exposed to much local unpopularity, by producing, as it will at first, an increase, perhaps, instead of a diminution of the poor-rates.
Against these evils, our sole reliance is on the extent of discretionary power still confided to the Central Board; even pared down as that power has been, in deference to a short-sighted clamour against what is really the hinge upon which the whole measure turns. Would not one imagine that it had been proposed to invest some body of functionaries with new and unheard-of powers? instead of merely placing under the controul of a few conspicuous, responsible, and carefully selected officers, free from local interests, and inaccessible to local intimidation, the very powers which are now exercised without controul by several thousands of petty jobbing local bodies, under every temptation to abuse which the case admits of, without any acquaintance with the principles of the subject, and virtually irresponsible even to an effective public opinion? Without a Central Board, the framing and administering of a new system would be left, to whom? To the very authorities whose mismanagement has rendered a new system necessary. The very people who did the mischief would be the chosen instruments for administering, and in part devising, the remedy! But this is the spirit of that liberty, which, being different from that of any other people, is called “English liberty.” An English patriot of the old school reserves all his jealousy of power, for power in hands of the general government: he is terrified at the thought of confiding to them, or to persons appointed by them, functions, of which he sees every day, without indignation, the most wanton and flagrant abuse by some paltry knot of incapable or interested persons in his own neighbourhood. A jobbing corporation, or a jobbing vestry, may systematically plunder the public to give lucrative contracts to their own members; and when it is proposed to place any check upon these malversations, we are gravely told, that English liberty requires the people to manage their own affairs; management by the people meaning management by a little section of the people; and management of their own affairs being management of the affairs of some thousands of other persons. Happily, these prejudices, which but lately were nearly universal, are rapidly wearing away: and we may soon hope to see acknowledged, what it is wonderful should ever be denied; that if France errs by too much centralization, we err as grossly by having too little; and that no country can be well governed, unless every branch of its local administration, by whomsoever carried on, is closely and vigilantly looked after by the central government, itself duly responsible to the nation at large. Because in England it is no part of the business of the central government to keep any functionaries to their duty, except those appointed by itself; and because it does not appoint those by whom the far greatest part of the real government of the country is performed; therefore are we, in proportion to our degree of civilisation, the very worst administered country in Europe. Where there is a free press, and a well-constituted representative body, the danger is not in giving too much, but too little controul, to the functionaries who are under the eye of the general public, over those who are not. If there is a principle in politics which all experience confirms, it is this—that popular controul never acts purely, intelligently, or vigorously, except on a large scale.
* * * * *
This country is threatened at present with almost the only danger by which its safety and tranquillity can, in the existing aspect of the times, be seriously compromised—an absurd interference with Trades’ Unions. The newspapers, with their usual recklessness, have laboured to create an excitement on the subject; and though the Government have not announced any definite intentions, a hundred little symptoms have shown the animus by which they are possessed, and which needs only last a little longer to prepare them for any folly. There are a kind of persons who, when once they begin inflaming one another, will go any length, and talk themselves up to any pitch of irrationality.
The uncalled-for interference of the Admiralty, on the occasion of the coopers’ strike, was of little importance in itself, but of much from the spirit which dictated it. If, in a country where the poor and the rich never know each other but either in the relation of charity or in that of hostility, any government could possess the confidence of the working people, that confidence would have been justly forfeited by this single act. When different sections of the community have clashing interests, and are ranged under hostile banners, the proper place of a government is not in the ranks of either body, but between them. A government which abdicates its legitimate office of a mediator and peace-maker, and assumes that of an auxiliary on either side, no matter in how innocent a manner or in how limited a degree, not only steps out of its province, but unfits itself for its proper duty; precludes itself from being listened to as an impartial and unprejudiced friend; and can no longer interfere with effect at all, unless by throwing its sword into the scale of one or other party.
Immediately after this unthinking proceeding, and Sir James Graham’s defence of it,[*] came the sentence of seven years’ transportation upon six Dorsetshire labourers, under a sleeping statute,[†] which nobody dreamed of, and which was not known to be applicable to the case. The attempt to prevent any demonstration of public opinion in behalf of these poor men, by hurrying them out of the country, has signally failed. Petition succeeds petition, and meeting succeeds meeting, in their behalf. Their case has become the popular question, the inflammatory topic of the day.
And now, in defence of the conduct of Ministers in not remitting the sentence, comes a speech from Lord Howick, in a more reprehensible and a more dangerous spirit than all that went before.[‡]
Report characterizes Lord Howick as an intelligent and a well-meaning man: we should not have inferred him to be either from this specimen of his statesmanship. His speech amounts to a declaration of open hostilities. A member having alluded to the melancholy conflict at Lyons, as an example of the consequences of attempting to coerce Trades’ Unions,[*] Lord Howick said that he derived from those occurrences a directly opposite lesson; that he saw in them the fatal consequences, not of interference, but of being too tardy and backward in interference.[†]
Lord Howick may have any private theory he pleases about the events of Lyons. No person’s individual absurdities are any concern to the public. But if a government, which, like that of France, absolutely prohibits all combinations among workmen; which but the other day made a law to put down all societies whatever, not licensed by its own police;[‡] which had just before condemned some Paris operatives to three years’ imprisonment for belonging to a Trades’ Union; and which has now brought upon the second city in the empire the horrors of a five days struggle of life and death, by attempting to punish the leaders of a strike, after the strike was terminated;—if the government which did this, did not, in the opinion of our Ministers, interfere enough; if they erred by not taking their measures earlier, or more vigorously; if our Ministers have taken warning from them, and are resolved not to be guilty of a like error;—why then it is time for every Englishman, who has the means, to provide himself with a musket: for there is no knowing how soon the consequences of such a policy may leave him destitute of any other protection.
Whoever is to blame for the Lyons’ catastrophe, it most deeply concerns the Ministry that no similar one should take place here. Government by the sword will not succeed in this country. England, like France, may, by the imperiousness of power, or the desperation of cowardice, be plunged into civil war, but not, as in France, with impunity.
Our Ministers never, surely, had their equals in the art of converting a small difficulty into a great one. They had only to let the Trades’ Unions alone. It was well worth the partial stoppage of two or three branches of trade, to let the experiment be tried fairly, what Unions can do. They have at present no ulterior designs; and if they had, would be utterly powerless for carrying those designs into effect. But, give them a grievance; let them have cause to believe themselves injured; let them be bound together by a sense of wrongs, and taught to regard the overthrow of existing institutions as the means of obtaining a fair field for pursuing a just end by just means—and they will be formidable indeed.
We do not pretend that they ought to be tolerated in using compulsion, either against employers or fellow-workmen. If, as we believe often happens when outrages are committed, the reluctance of the operatives to inform against each other renders it impossible to bring the perpetrators to justice, this is a valid ground for enforcing such restraints, of the nature of police regulations, as may render the commission of such offences more difficult, or detection more easy.
Anything more would be wholly unjustifiable. There has been much cant about tyrannizing over masters, because the workmen chose to annex conditions to the contract by which they agreed to labour for the profit of others. The conditions might be foolish, or they might be wise; but, whatever they were, the men had a perfect right to insist upon them, as long as they neither had nor sought any means of enforcing the requisition but by exercising their undoubted right of refusing to work. If they had said they would not work for less than five hundred a year each, it would have been silly enough, but surely no tyranny. The language in which the demands of the Unions were made, is said to have been, at times, overbearing. This is neither more nor less foolish or reprehensible, than an equally offensive style when used by employers. From vulgar minds in either rank, we must expect vulgar pretensions. But until, in the progress of cultivation, insolence shall become an unfrequent accompaniment of power, we ought to rejoice that one side has no longer the monopoly of it. Any relation is preferable to that in which one party may inflict, and the other must bear. When both can presume, both are near to feeling the good of forbearance.
To suggest the proper precautions against the offences liable to arise from Trades’ Unions, local experience is requisite. One regulation which could not fail to be useful, would be the enforcement of publicity. We see no reason why all associations should not be declared illegal, whose statutes are not registered in some public office. The enactment under which the Dorsetshire labourers were convicted, was, we think, a salutary one. The hardship was in not remitting their sentence, when the trial had given the requisite publicity to the law. Promissory oaths are bad enough when imposed for state purposes, and by the authority of the Legislature. It is out of the question that individuals should be permitted to impose upon others, even with their consent, a religious obligation to persevere in conduct of which their consciences may cease to approve. But the Unions are not wedded to these mischievous ceremonies. It was enough to promulgate the fact that they were illegal. The trial at Dorchester has acted as a promulgation, and the word has gone forth throughout the country to discontinue the oaths. The only rational object of the sentence has been attained; yet the cry of the people for a remission of the sentence is unheeded.
Lord Howick argues that though the labourers may not have known of the particular statute, or of the penalty, they knew that they were doing wrong; else why did they take an oath of secrecy?[*] If it is upon such logic as this that unoffending peasants have been torn from their homes, and doomed to the punishment and to the fellowship of the refuse of gaols, those who sent them richly deserve to take their place. Is Lord Howick so ignorant of the rudiments of the subject on which he presumes to talk, as not to know that, although the Trades’ Unions were never before brought under one general organization, the Unions themselves existed, and their regulations were adopted, at a time when the very fact of belonging to a Union, or being concerned in a strike, was an offence by statute?[*] Need we ask a member of the British Legislature if laws are always abrogated the moment the reason for them has ceased? Yet, a man who could not make this obvious reflection, sets up a shallow conceit of his own against the general belief of the whole country that the members of Trades’ Unions did not know, did not believe the oaths to be illegal. Illegal or not, that they believed them to be wrong, a person’s mind must be in a curious state who can surmise: and even if they did, are you to pounce upon men unawares with legal penalties, on the assumption that they know they are doing wrong? Then all ex post facto penal laws are justified; for no one dared ever propose such a law, unless he thought, or affected to think, that the nature of the offence itself was a sufficient warning of its criminality.
We cannot quit the subject without adverting to a flagrant misrepresentation in the Times, respecting the strike now taking place at Derby; on which there has been some controversy between that paper and Mr. Robert Owen.[†] It is generally known to those who have attended to the subject, though not perhaps to the public, that, in the present instance, the suspension of work was not the act of the workmen, but of the manufacturers; a numerous body of whom, on learning that a Trades’ Union had been established, agreed to refuse employment to all who were members of it. The Times, however, in direct contradiction to the fact, represents the strike as having originated with the men. “A considerable body,” says that journal, (14th April,) “of the workmen of Derby struck for wages which their masters could not grant. They were accordingly discharged, as belonging to the hostile Union, and other persons were found willing to occupy their places at the wages which they refused to take.” This being denied by Mr. Owen, the Times reiterated the assertion, and affirmed that, on inquiry, he would find that before the masters resolved upon discharging all men belonging to the Union, an attempt had been made by that body to impose conditions on the masters. We found it difficult to believe that such an assertion would have been made without some foundation in fact, and we therefore applied for information to a Derby manufacturer,[‡] who is not a party to the combination of the masters, and whose workmen, though they belong to the Union, have not ceased to work. He states positively that no advance of wages has been demanded; that the turn-out was solely by the masters; and that the “printed tariff of wages, and list of other conditions,” which the Times speaks of, never existed as an act of the Union, nor, to his knowledge, at all. He also (though this is of less importance) contradicts another assertion of the Times, that the masters “gave their workmen a considerable time to consider the steps which they were taking, before they invited other hands from the country to supply their place.”[*] The new hands were invited immediately, though, of course, some time elapsed before they could arrive.
We do not attempt to account for this perversion of the truth. It is difficult to imagine any sufficient motive in the case, for being guilty of it wilfully. The assertion was probably made at first rashly and in ignorance, and the writer afterwards had not candour to own that he had been in the wrong.
* * * * *
During the first week after the reassembling of parliament, Ministers were beginning to regain some of their lost reputation; but they have not known how to keep it long: yesterday has swept it away. In spite of many good deeds, their character is always bankrupt. The moment they see a balance accumulating in their favour, they make such large draughts upon it, that they have soon overdrawn their account. Lord Althorp’s astonishment at the ill reception of this emanation of his legislative wisdom by the organs of the Dissenters in the House, was curious enough.[†] Could a person live in England, and look round him, and expect any thing else? But when Lord Althorp looks round him, he sees only a few Whig families, and his officials in Downing-street. In every other street in London it would be considered self-evident, that when a government waits and does nothing until the whole country is preparing to refuse a tax, taking off only half the tax will no longer do.
This is no fiscal question: it is not pecuniary relief that is demanded. The Dissenters object to being taxed at all, for the support of a favoured sect: they do not complain of paying too much, but of paying any thing. Was it likely, then, that because a part of the tax, which was expended, it seems, on mere superfluities, is to be remitted, they would submit, not only to paying the remainder, but to having it fixed upon them for ever, and losing the power of controuling it by their votes in the vestry, or even by a vote of the House of Commons? Mr. Stanley says, if there is to be a Church Establishment, the churches must be kept in repair by the State; for (he actually said it) keeping the churches in repair, is the meaning of having a Church Establishment.[*] If that be true, it will be no injury to the Church Establishment not to pay the clergy; who we hope will give up their revenues, and in return we will engage to vote as much for repairing the churches as will give Mr. Stanley full satisfaction. But while the Church retains those national endowments, the possession of which is every day more and more strongly contested against her, the least which the people will be content with, even as a temporary compromise, is that she shall not ask from them any thing out of their own pockets besides. She must pay her expenses out of her own funds, which are amply sufficient to afford it; or, if that be contested, it is a poor compliment to the Church, if, while the Dissenting sects willingly maintain without any compulsion each of them its own Church Establishment, the sect to which almost all the richest families in the country belong cannot raise by voluntary offerings even a small supplementary contribution towards the support of theirs. If such be the fact, the established sect must be the feeblest and least numerous of the sects; and is convicted of only making up its account of numbers, by crediting itself with the great multitude of those who care for no religion at all.
The minority against the Ministerial project was 141; and the debate was one of the most spirited of the session. Mr. Whittle Harvey’s denunciation of the trimming policy of Ministers was highly effective.[†] Mr. Gisborne, one of the most consistent and earnest reformers in the House, and one who is not, like many of the liberal members, afraid to utter a word which may be unpalatable to the enemies of his opinions, made a simple, straightforward, and unpretending declaration of hostility to the principle of a Church Establishment.[‡] We wonder when any of the little knot of philosophic radicals, those of them we mean who really are of Mr. Gisborne’s opinion, will have the courage to say as much. We believe they will be nearly the last men in parliament to avow publicly the opinion which they were perhaps the first to adopt.
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We have not been sparing of animadversions upon a speech of Lord Howick, in a former page of these notes:[§] it is the more imperative on us to acknowledge that he yesterday spoke the first few words of common sense which have been uttered this year, upon a subject on which, during the whole session, Whigs, Tories, and professed Reformers, have vied with one another in loathsome cant, and truckling to interested clamour. Most truly did Lord Howick say that if there is a real wish to raise the morality of the labouring classes, the way to do it is to retrace that course of bad legislation and bad administration, by which, for the last thirty years, we have systematically demoralized them; and of which the prime authors and agents have been the unpaid magistracy, who now, because the beer-houses are not under their arbitrary power, have raised a hue and cry against their pretended immorality.[*] When we have surrounded a whole people with circumstances which, unless they were angels, must render them immoral; when, by the administration of the Poor Laws, we have placed them in a position in which none of the ordinary motives to good conduct can act upon them; when we have deprived them of almost every innocent amusement; when, by stopping up foot-paths and inclosing commons, we are every year excluding them more and more even from the beauties of nature; when, by our savage punishments for killing the game we tempt them with for our amusement, we have made our gaols little better than what the bitter patrician sarcasm of Appius Claudius termed the Roman prisons, the domicilium plebis;[†] when, by whatever we have attempted, for them or against them, well meant or ill meant, we have been constantly labouring to alienate them from us, it is with a good grace, is it not, that, after letting loose the torrent, we attempt to dam it up with a straw? Make the people dishonest, make them disaffected, and then fancy that dishonesty and disaffection will be at fault for want of a place to meet in! With one hand turn virtue out of doors, and with the other try to refuse an entrance to vice!
We admit to title in a government like ours, or in higher classes such as ours, to legislate for the morals of the people. They do not know enough of the people. They do not feel enough with the people. Nobody is qualified to be a censor over the morals of persons whose ways of thinking, whose feelings, whose position, whose very means of living and daily occupations, he does not understand. All the judgments of our higher classes respecting the working people, are made in ignorance of the essential circumstances. Nine out of ten of those judgments, though clothed, even to the parties themselves, with the disguise of morality and conscience, originate in some interest or some fear relating not to those whom they persuade themselves that they are concerned for, but to the higher classes themselves. Their attempts to exercise a guardianship over public morals by acts of parliament, always end in some curtailment of the people’s liberty, never in any improvement of their morality. Does not even the Chancellor propose, and think himself extremely moderate for proposing no more, that the poor shall be excluded from the pleasures of social enjoyment, by being prevented from drinking their beer in the only place where they can ever meet for social purposes, the place where they buy it?[*] We can conceive few regulations more exasperating, to any population not accustomed to be trampled on and treated like dirt, than that which Lord Brougham recommends, and claims credit for having always advocated.
We object altogether to these attempts to be religious and moral at the expense of the working people. Let us first mend our own ways. Let us enable ourselves to stand erect without shame in the presence of the immorality which we complain of, by washing our hands of all participation in producing it. Let us cease to make vice by wholesale, and we may leave off this silly skirmishing with it in detail. Make it the labourer’s interest to be frugal and temperate, and you will not need to make his cottage his prison, in order to keep him from wasting his wages and getting drunk. Accustom him to look to himself and not to you for his means of subsistence, and he will not go out at night, either from his cottage or from the beer-house, to fire your stacks because you do not give him enough. But continue to sow tares and you need not expect to reap wheat. Go on teaching the labourer that his wages are to be regulated by his wants, not by the market value of his labour, and he will consider you a robber and an oppressor if your wants are better cared for than his. Let him know that if he spends all you will give him more, if he saves anything you will give him nothing, and he must be a fool, on any worldly calculation, if he denies himself any indulgence within his reach. We do not say, reform all your dealings with the poor; we are not such visionaries as to expect it: we say, reform the Poor Laws alone; try the effect of that for two or three years, and, in heaven’s name, a truce with the beer-house purism for that period.
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The first person who drove a coach with six horses, was thought a wonderful man; and so was the first person who spoke for six hours. But after him of the coach-and-six, came he of the coach-and-eight; and coaches and six became very ordinary phenomena. So true is it, that man has never yet done that which man may not hope to surpass! No one has yet tried the daring experiment of an eight hours’ speech, and it is still a problem whether mortal ears can stay and listen for so long. But Lord Brougham’s achievement has been now proved to be nothing extraordinary.[†] He has met with his equals in Mr. O’Connell and Mr. Spring Rice, and no unworthy rival even in Mr. Emerson Tennent.[*] The two former gentlemen spoke each an entire night, the latter two-thirds of one. We know not if all the rest of the debate is to be upon this scale, or if the remaining 103 Irish members intend to bestow an equally large share of their wisdom and eloquence upon the House. If so, we shall not have to trouble our readers with any more Notes for several months to come. In the mean time, we will venture on a few words, which we are certain will not be said by any one who will vote either for Mr. O’Connell’s motion, or for Mr. Spring Rice’s amendment; and which, although they can be said in less than six hours, are, we think, more to the point than any part of what it took each of the above gentlemen all night to say.
The object of those who call for a repeal of the Legislative Union is, to have all the advantages of being united with England and Scotland without paying any part of the price. They wish to be defended by British money and British troops; to have their produce admitted duty free into the British market, while that of all other nations is excluded; to have all the rights of citizenship throughout the British dominions; to have all offices and honours open to them in the more powerful country; to have their indigent population subsisted, and found in money to pay their rents, with the bread which they take out of the mouths of British labourers; all this they want to have, and along with it the power to vote no more taxes than they please, and govern themselves as they please, without our having any right to be consulted. Now, these are not terms which will suit us: we must decline bearing all the burthens of the connexion, and leaving to Mr. O’Connell and his associates all the benefits. We are ready for either extreme, only this unhappy medium will not do for us. Great Britain and Ireland shall either be one country or they shall be two countries; only they shall not be the one or the other according as it suits Mr. O’Connell. They must be one people, united under one legislature and one executive, or all connexion must cease, and England and Ireland become as foreign to one another as England and France. If we were wise, we should prefer the latter side of the alternative for our own sake; if we were honest, we should choose the former side of it for the sake of Ireland.
We have never been able to understand the vast benefits which Great Britain is supposed to derive from her connexion with Ireland. Her commerce we should have, if the two countries were separated; the interests of the Irish landlords would not allow them to deprive themselves of the principal vent for their produce. Financially we not only gain nothing by the connexion, but it is the heaviest of the burthens we have to bear; half our army is kept up solely on account of Ireland; a full third of it is constantly stationed in the country. If it be as a military post that the possession of Ireland is deemed important, it would cost us less to conquer the island at the beginning of every war, than it costs us in a very few years to govern it in time of peace.
But we have no right to keep a nation in leading-strings till she has a giant’s strength, teach her by our perverse treatment all quarrelsome and rebellious and ungovernable propensities, and then let her loose to do herself a mischief. We have been far too guilty in our treatment of Ireland, to be entitled to shake her off, and let her alone abide the consequences of our misconduct. We are bound not to renounce the government of Ireland, but to govern her well; if indeed we are too weak or too base for that, rather than continue to govern her as we have done, we ought to leave her to herself. And perhaps we have let the time slip away. By governing Ireland ill for so many centuries, we have made it so difficult to govern her well, that we may be compelled to renounce the attempt.
When one country, and, as the case implies, a less civilized one, falls under the power of another, there are but two courses which can rationally be taken with her. She is either fit to be incorporated with the more powerful country, to be placed in a state of perfect equality with her, and treated as part of herself, or it is best for her to be governed despotically, as a mere province. Either Ireland was sufficiently advanced in civilisation to be fit for the same kind of government for which we were fit, and if so she ought to have been treated exactly like Scotland or Yorkshire; or she was in that stage of advancement at which absolute subjection to a more civilized and a more energetic people, is a state more favourable to improvement than any government which can be framed out of domestic materials; and if so, she ought to have been governed like India, by English functionaries, under responsibility to the English Parliament. She would then have been habituated to government on fixed principles, not by arbitrary will; would at an early period have obtained security to person and property; would have rapidly advanced in all the arts of life; would have known the protection of law, and learned to value it. She would have become civilized, would have acquired all those qualifications for self-government she now has not, and would long ere this have either achieved her independence by a successful contest like the United States, or been admitted to real, not nominal, equality, as an integral part of the kingdom of Great Britain.
But we, as usual, took that middle course which so often unites the evils of both extremes with the advantages of neither. We did not govern Ireland as a province of England, but we did put the military force of England at the disposal of an indigenous oligarchy, and delivered to their tender mercies, bound hand and foot, the rest of the people. We did not give the people, in lieu of their savage independence, the despotism of a more cultivated people; we left them their own barbarous rulers, but lent to those barbarians the strength of our civilisation to keep the many in subjection. In this one pervading error, not to call it crime, lies the philosophy of Irish history. A country may be improved by freedom; or it may be improved by being brought under the power of a superior people: the greater part of the Roman empire was raised from a comparatively savage state by being brought under Roman dominion. But there is not an instance in history of a native government supported by foreign force, which did not become a curse to its subjects. The best government which the mind of the nation can produce, may be a very bad one; but if it be relieved from the only check upon a bad government, the dread of its subjects; if it be propped up by the military strength of a more powerful people, who allow it to govern as it pleases, and only step in to shield it from the consequences, there is generated a prodigy of odious tyranny, such as in no other combination of circumstances could possibly exist. It is so found in the native states of India, a country in many respects bearing no slight resemblance to Ireland; and that it has been so found in Ireland, the whole of Irish history, and the habits of the whole Irish people, high and low together, bear witness.
By persisting in this wretched system from century to century, we have lost the opportunity of preparing the Irish nation for self-government. They have not acquired that experience of lawful rule, and that reverence for law, without which no people can be any thing but, according to their physical temperament, savages or slaves. In England, notwithstanding the defects of our laws and of their administration, the law, if thought of at all, is always thought of as the shield of the oppressed. In Ireland it has never been known but as an additional engine in the hands of the oppressor. This is not declamation or exaggeration, but a matter-of-fact statement of the feeling which is in the people’s minds. What they want is, what they have never yet had, protection for the weak against the strong. When they have had this for a sufficient time, they will be ripe for every other political benefit; but that is the condition which must precede all others. That benefit they would even now most readily obtain, if they were treated as an English province; if all the powers of government in the island were in the hands of functionaries responsible to England alone, and not one of whom should be an Irishman.
But this cannot be. Though the habits of civilisation, and its powers, are far from always propagating themselves by proximity, its aspirations do. We have managed to prevent Ireland from being ripe for self-government; we have not been able to prevent her from demanding it. Communication with England has stimulated the democratic spirit to a premature growth, before the country had reached the point of advancement at which that spirit grows up spontaneously. And we, instead of employing our opportunities to hasten forward the civilisation of Ireland, have, by our deplorable misgovernment, left her far more destitute of the feelings, ideas, and modes of conduct of a civilized people, than she probably would have been if we had managed her avowedly as an estate for our own benefit. We now find her in that unhappy state, quâ nec mala nec remedia ferre potest;[*] unfit for freedom, yet resolved to be no longer enslaved. And in that state we seem likely to leave her; for as there appears no prospect, for a long time to come, of our finding statesmen who can apply intellects above those of babies to the government of a country which, like ours, could go on almost without any government at all—it is vain to hope for such as shall redeem a people for whom every thing is still to be done, for whom every thing has first to be undone; among whom opinion and conscience and habit, instead of doing, as with us, much more for the ends of government than government itself, are more obstacles than helps; a people whose national character has run wild, and in many of its most important elements has yet to be created; and, to crown all, who have (and no wonder if they have) the strongest prejudices against the only rulers from whom any kind of good government, of which in their present state they are susceptible, can easily come.
It will be far rather the good fortune of Ireland than our merit, if a connexion, hitherto so unprofitable to both countries, shall be able to subsist until a new wisdom shall arise in the councils of England, and the means of rendering our influence in Ireland a blessing to the Irish people shall be sought with sincerity, and with a determined purpose that when found they shall be employed.
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NO. IV, JUNE, 1834
Whatever may be the case in other matters, in politics we believe that mankind are oftener led into danger by being afraid of it, than by being careless about it: to escape the tiger, they fly into the tiger’s mouth. Most empires have been lost through over-anxiety to keep them: most revolutions have been provoked, by conduct dictated by the fear of revolution. But bodies of men seldom learn wisdom from the errors of their predecessors: the same blunders are repeated, whenever the same circumstances recur. The middle classes of this country, whose opinions and sentiments are represented by the daily press, are repeating the very same series of errors by which almost all governing bodies have been ruined.
By the present institutions of England, the powers of government reside in the people of property, to the exclusion of those who are said to have no property; being dependent for the whole or the chief part of their subsistence on bodily labour. Of this power, which is shared among the people of property, the people of large property had formerly engrossed nearly the whole, and have still much more than their just portion; whereby they are enabled to keep up for their own benefit, many bad institutions and bad practices, injurious both to the people of small property and to the excluded class, the people of no property, viz. those whose principal property consists in their bodily faculties. The liberals among the people of small property, are those who think, not that property, but that large property, should not confer so much power as it does at present. Now, as the most numerous and poorest class has also an interest in reducing the exorbitant power which is conferred by large property, since by doing so they would get rid of the abuses, such as Corn Laws and the like, with which they are oppressed, not for the benefit of the owners of property generally, but of a small minority of that number; this constitutes a common object, for which all classes, not directly interested in these abuses, might advantageously co-operate, adjourning the settlement of their own separate differences until after the victory.
It is very natural, however, that the working classes, even at this early stage in the developement of their collective intellect, should feel that their real position in society depends upon something far deeper than the redress of any of the grievances which the majority of their superiors have in common with them. It depends upon the relation which may be established between them and the people of property generally. It depends, not upon the manner in which their superiors share the powers of government, they being excluded; but upon whether they themselves have power enough, by political institutions or otherwise, to secure due consideration for their interests on the part of those, be they great proprietors or small proprietors, who make the laws and appoint officers for their administration.
A person must be a poor judge of human affairs, who can fancy that this point has been attained now; that the labouring multitude have now more than sufficient weight in the commonwealth to secure a just attention to their grievances; and sufficient to warrant a fear that their supposed interests or their opinions, will be allowed unjustly to prevail over those of any other part of the nation. On the contrary, they have notoriously but just emerged from a state in which they had no power of claiming attention from any one; in which laws were made, avowedly to prevent them from taking the commonest means of improving their condition; in which their education was reputed dangerous to church and state; in which they were actually kept at home, like cattle belonging to a master, for their very emigration was illegal;[*] in which no legislative measure ever passed merely for the good of the working classes, when no powerful section of their superiors had an interest in it; in which their opinions were never appealed to but when some party of the aristocracy wanted a popular cry. We are not so far from this state yet. The shadow of it is still upon us. When we see indications that the working classes are beginning to be counted for too much in the calculations of politicians, we shall think it time to take precautions against that danger. At present we should as soon think of looking out for a substitute against the time when the coal fields shall be exhausted. The people of property are the stronger now, and will be for many years. All the danger of injustice lies from them, and not towards them. Nothing but the progressive increase of the power of the working classes, and a progressive conviction of that increase on the part of their superiors, can be a sufficient inducement to the proprietary class to cultivate a good understanding with the working people; to take them more and more into their councils; to treat them more and more as people who deserve to be listened to, whose condition and feelings must be considered, and are best learned from their own mouths; finally, to fit them for a share in their own government, by accustoming them to be governed, not like brute animals, but beings capable of rationality, and accessible to social feelings.
But this is a mode of treatment which ruling classes never yet could reconcile themselves to adopting voluntarily, with those who are subject to them. When they see a power growing up, which is not wholly under their control, their first impulse always is, fear; their second, anger. The middle classes of London, through their organs the London newspapers, are now manifesting both these feelings, on the subject of the Trades’ Unions.
The Trades’ Unions attempt to raise wages; and must fail in the attempt. What then? Surely it is highly desirable to raise wages. If it cannot be done by the means they adopt, teach them better means. But when were persons who had committed no crime, ever remonstrated with by any one who meant them well, in the manner which the Times has adopted, for instance, on the Tailors’ Strike?[*] Is that a tone in which to point out to people who are pursuing a desirable end, that the means by which they are pursuing it, cannot succeed? It is obvious that the writer of the article in this morning’s paper, is not roused to such excess of indignation because the means which the people are trying cannot succeed; he would be ten times more angry if they could succeed. He actually compares the Unions to the landlords’ monopoly, and complains that the rise of wages, if they could obtain it, would be a tax on the consumer! Why, so much the better. Let there be no force or fraud, but, within the limits of an honest bargain, we are altogether for the bees against the drones. If a person who has a commodity to sell, can, without shutting out competitors, by mere voluntary agreement with those competitors, fix his own price, why should he not? certainly it is no reason, that the sellers in this case are nine-tenths of the community in number, are (to say no more) the least favoured part of it in the present distribution of the produce, and are those who, by their labour, produce all commodities whatever. But the misfortune is, that they cannot, by any such contrivances, raise the price of their commodity. No combination can keep up the value of an article, when the supply exceeds the demand. But instead of teaching them on what their condition depends, those who ought to be their instructors rail at them for attempting to better it. They say, indeed, that it is only for using wrong means; but so, from slave-traders upwards, those who wish to keep their fellow-creatures in a degraded condition, always say.
The tone which we condemn, may be in a great measure the result of thoughtlessness, but it is not the less the index to a habitual feeling. This feeling must be got rid of, or the next generation, perhaps the present, will severely suffer for it.
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The proposition of Sir Robert Heron, for giving to the King the nomination of a certain number of members of the Legislature, by annexing seats to various offices, outrages the first principle of a Representative Government; it is pro tanto a return to the system of nomination boroughs, though without its fraudulent pretences; and is both really and ostensibly a mere contrivance to save Ministers from one of the immediate inconveniences of unpopularity. The disfavour naturally attaching to such a proposition, has undeservedly extended itself to Mr. Bulwer’s Amendment, which is no infringement of the representative principle, but an important auxiliary to it, and only errs by not going far enough. That any but the representatives of the people should have votes in the legislature, should help to make up a majority for enacting a law, or voting away the public money, is totally inadmissible: but the presence of all the great officers of state in both Houses, to answer for their measures, to be called to account for their conduct, and to give promptly the information which Parliament may require, and which can be given on the spot by no persons but those practically conversant with the public business, would be not an encroachment upon the privileges of Parliament, but an extension of them; and would add to the securities for good government, by ensuring a more thorough probing of the measures and acts of the government, and by making the struggle which may decide the fate of a ministry a conflict of principals, not subordinates.
In France, where the framers of the constitution, having an altogether new system to construct, were not restricted to the choice of means already sanctioned by usage, all cabinet ministers, whether peers or commoners, are entitled to be present and to speak in both Houses, though not to vote in either unless they are regularly members. It is not found that this regulation diminishes the desire of members of the ministry to obtain the suffrages of electors; every minister who is not a peer, always presents himself to some constituency, and succeeds sooner or later in becoming a member of the representative Chamber. But the manner in which the rule works is this: The real head of each department is enabled to be present in whichever House his conduct is under discussion; to answer questions, and defend his own measures. Lord Grey himself would be obliged to undergo the “badgering” of a popular assembly in person, and not merely by deputy. In every branch of the public service the principal would have to make his own defence, instead of having it made for him (worse, or perhaps better, than he could make it) by a comparatively irresponsible subordinate.
There is another peculiarity in the practice of the French Parliament, which has a beneficial effect. Whenever any measure is brought forward by the Government collectively, the Government may, for the purposes of that one measure, be represented by whomsoever it pleases. Any number of persons may be named King’s Commissioners for the debate on that particular bill, and if so named, may be present during its discussion, along with the Ministers, and with the same privilege of speaking but not voting. What is gained by this is, that the real framers of the measure, those officers of Government who are most conversant with the details of the subject, and to whose suggestion every part of the bill except its leading principles was probably due, are present to give their own reasons for their own propositions; not as with us where those reasons come before Parliament and the public at second hand, through a minister, probably altogether ignorant of the minutiae of the question, until crammed by that very subordinate, who is not present to state the considerations which influenced him with the freshness and the clear convincing decisiveness belonging to one who knows the subject by his own knowledge. It is pitiable to see how, for want of some such regulation, the discussion of great public questions is often mismanaged in our Parliament, from the imperfect manner in which heads of departments understand or are able to state the grounds of their own measures. This is perhaps inevitable, overburdened as they are with variety of business. If so, there is the greater reason to allow them every attainable help for stating their case fully and with effect.
The subject however is of no pressing exigency. It is sufficient that the suggestion has been put forth. The degree of attention it has met with, will help to familiarize the popular mind with the novelty; on a second discussion it will be no longer strange to the public; and when the reasonableness of a proposition, without any pressing demand from without, shall be a sufficient motive to a legislative assembly for adopting it, this principle will be introduced into our parliamentary law. A subject of so little importance compared with a hundred others, can afford to wait.
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The defeat of these important improvements in the law, now for the second time repeated, is one of the most lamentable proofs yet afforded of the spirit of our legislature, when left to itself, and not taken out of itself by the force of a strong popular feeling. If there ever was a proposition recommended by the most obvious expediency, and to which it was difficult for imagination to conjure up even the shadow of objection, it is a measure which goes simply and exclusively to giving publicity to all future contracts affecting land; so that when, in the course of a generation or two, the change shall have come into full effect, every one may know before buying land, whether the land really belongs to the person who sells it, and every one may ascertain before lending money on the security of land, that the land is not already mortgaged beyond its value. The publicity which would be given by registration, is of the same kind and degree, which is already given to wills by the registry in Doctors’ Commons; and any one but those who are personally interested, and therefore entitled to correct information, would be as little likely to gratify idle curiosity by prying into the records of the one registry office, as of the other. From the greater certainty which would be given to all conveyances, the saving to the landowners, in annual law expenses, would be greater than any one can conceive, who is unaware how great a percentage every landlord now pays out of his annual rental for the vices of the law. And hence, as well as from the increased security to purchasers, the market price of all land would be most materially increased. Yet the landlords, the very class who are principally, who alone are directly interested in supplying this strange hiatus in our legislation, are the persons who (with the aid of that large class of members who depend for the management of their elections upon provincial attornies) have twice rejected by a large majority, not the details of any particular bill, but the very principle of Registration.
On the part of the landowners there are but two motives possible for this dereliction of one of the first duties and strongest interests of honest men. The worst of these motives is, a desire for the power of making fraudulent sales, and fraudulent mortgages: the best is, the pitiable weakness of not liking that other people should know the extent of their incumbrances. Most fortunate would it have been for hundreds of families now inextricably involved, if they had not been able to conceal the early stages of their embarrassments. It was the puerile desire to go on deceiving their neighbours, and keeping up the appearance of an income they no longer possessed, which prevented them from retrenching when retrenchment would have come in time to save them; and which has brought the whole class into a state, in which their champion, Sir James Graham, avers that the subtraction of twenty per cent. from their incomes, would be their absolute ruin.[*]
On the part of the provincial attornies, who thrive by the litigation caused by defective titles to land, and who derive all their consequence from the management, which they now hold in their hands, of the pecuniary affairs of the whole landed aristocracy, the motives to oppose the publicity as well as the simplification of titles, are more obvious, and we have no doubt, far more consciously dishonest. The attorney, who under good laws and a good system of judicature would be nobody, is now the most influential personage in every small place: and the landowner, whose secrets he knows, and whose affairs (of which the landowner himself is tremblingly ignorant) he alone is competent to manage, is held by him in a state of the most slavish dependence. As the soul of the licentiate Pedro Garcias was interred with his money bags,[*] that of an English landowner, intellect, conscience, and all, is folded up in his title deeds, and kept in a box at his attorney’s office. He dares not call his soul his own, for he dares not call his estate his own, without the leave of his attorney.
It is by the influence of this pernicious class, the only one, perhaps, whose interest as a class is radically irreconcilable with the public good, (being indissolubly linked, not with the perfection but with the imperfection of all the institutions for the protection of property)—it is by this class that all the well-intended measures of the present ministry, for straightening the crookednesses of the law, and bringing justice home to the people’s doors, are, and will continue to be, thwarted. In the particular instance before us, their baneful spell has enslaved the mind of the minister to whom we owe the Reform Bill. It is well understood that Sir John Campbell, when he became connected with the ministry, yielded to a higher authority in giving up the Registration Bill, while he retained and carried through all the other law reforms which he had originated as the organ of the Real Property Commission.[†] Earl Grey is understood to be a fanatical opponent of Registration; as well as a fanatical adherent of the Corn Laws and of the Usury Laws.[‡]
We cannot leave the subject of Registration, without giving due honour to the Times for the service which it has rendered to that important principle by its powerful advocacy.[§] That advocacy, it would be injustice not to admit, is, on almost all questions of immediate interest, usually given to the cause of rational improvement; and when given, never without rendering a service to that cause, such as no other of the periodical commentators on public affairs have it in their power to render. The hostility of the Times to the Poor Law Bill, is an exception to its usual soundness of practical judgment, and will be found, we doubt not, as injurious to its own as to the public interest. Whatever may be the merits and demerits of the Times, there can be no question of its being by far the most potent organ of the Movement; which, at the same time, it does not blindly hurry on, but is incessantly pointing out to Ministers, and to the influential classes, the means by which, while yielding to the tide of change, they may rationally hope to temper its violence. The Times is without doubt one of the great powers in the State. It would not be so, if either Ministers or Opposition had the energy, the strength of will, or the knowledge of the world, by which that journal has acquired the ascendancy naturally given by those qualities in an age which, without much of the exaggeration of a satirist, may be termed the age of cowards and fribbles.
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The Lord Chancellor is curiously destitute of consistency. We do not mean by consistency, the Tory virtue of being always wrong because you have been once wrong; we mean that quality of the intellect and of the moral perceptions, which prevents a person from holding two conflicting opinions at once. It was but the other day that Lord Brougham declared himself against a National Education, because it would put an end to voluntary contributions.[*] And now, without owning any change of opinion, he maintains that voluntary contributions are good for nothing, and that the State must do all.
There were some wants which the animal instincts of nature left safely to encumber us, since they were sure of being provided for; because hunger and thirst and other purely animal necessities, would of themselves compel us to take means to relieve ourselves of their pressure, and the more we felt them the more sure we were to endeavour to provide for them; but it was not so with wants of a more refined, and he might say nobler kind,—it was not so with respect to education; he did not mean religious, but common secular education. On the contrary, the more ignorant we were, the less we knew of the use of learning, and the less we should bestir ourselves and take means to ensure the advantages to be derived from its acquirement.[†]
This was to prove that the State ought to provide an endowed ecclesiastical establishment: and of course, we presume, ought to furnish common secular education also.
We subscribe to Lord Brougham’s premises, and strongly recommend them to his own consideration. He shall hear of them again if he ever repeat his declaration against a national provision for elementary instruction. But adopting his principles, we differ altogether from the conclusion he draws from them, in favour of a Church Establishment, taking that term in its received meaning. What he said last year in favour of the voluntary principle,[*] and what he says this year against the voluntary principle, are at complete variance, and we hold him to be most felicitously wrong in both.
We hold, with Lord Brougham and all other rational persons, that the only objects fit to be undertaken by the State, which derives the principal part of its pecuniary resources from compulsory taxation, are those which either cannot be accomplished at all, or not so well, by the voluntary principle. Instruction, meaning by that term the systematic culture of the intellectual faculties, we hold to be one of these; and to be a most proper subject for a State provision. We do not except religious instruction; though we consider it as, of all branches of a general course of instruction, that which least requires such a provision, and in which the influence of Government is least likely to be of a salutary kind. The extension of secular education thousands are anxious to impede, and few comparatively are willing to give themselves any trouble to promote it; but all are abundantly eager to inculcate religion, and we may count by millions those who either by purse or person are actively engaged in propagating their religious opinions through all channels. On other subjects almost any teaching which could emanate from the State, would be an improvement on what exists: on that one subject the voluntary principle already provides, in ample measure, instruction quite equal to any which our present statesmen seem to have the capacity to conceive.
As to Church Establishments, such as exist in Europe, and even such as are conceived in the abstract, by all mankind except a few closet philosophers; we deny their claim to the title of institutions for religious instruction. Their objects we conceive to be of a quite distinct character, and such as not only may safely be left to the voluntary principle, but cannot justly be provided for in any other manner.
The Clergy, indeed, are, in a certain measure, teachers of religion, and it is easy to conceive a clergy of whom that might be the sole office. But the leading feature in the conception of a clergyman, in the minds of the majority of believers in Christianity, is that of a person appointed, not to teach them, but to go through certain ceremonies with them; in the Catholic church to perform for them, in Protestant churches to assist them in the performance of, the religious observances which they consider as means of obtaining the favour of the Supreme Being. Now this is, if anything ever was, an individual and personal concern. If any one deems a particular kind of observances to be conducive to salvation, and the assistance of any other person to be necessary for the performance of them, it is for him, or those who share his persuasion, to defray the expense. If aid be afforded by the State, it ought to be afforded impartially; each should be assisted to support the worship he voluntarily prefers. But in principle, this is not one of those wants of individuals which the State is called upon either to awaken or to relieve. It is not a matter in which society is concerned, either by its interests or by any call of duty; though doubtless, in the choice of a mode of worship, individuals are determined by the general state of their intellectual and moral nature, and in that, society has the deepest interest. Let society then go to the fountain-head, and address itself to the cause, not to the symptom. Let it provide adequate means, and adequate encouragement, for the mental culture of all classes of the people, leaving it to them to provide themselves with all helps necessary for their individual devotions. Let it instruct the people: we do not say educate; that task must necessarily devolve upon the family; a State never educates, except by the general spirit of its institutions. But it can instruct; and by instruction it can not only form the intellect, but develope the moral perceptions.
We know of no branch of the general culture of the mental faculties, which is not a fit subject for a State provision. People may be trusted to themselves to learn whatever is necessary for gaining their daily bread. The instruction which is intended to form, not human beings, but tradesmen and housewives, need not, except to the very poor, be afforded by a State establishment. Professional instruction may be left to the competition of the market; if we except a few professions, such as physicians, and schoolmasters, in which the purchaser is not a competent judge of the quality of the article. But all instruction which is given, not that we may live, but that we may live well; all which aims at making us wise and good, calls for the care of Government: for the very reason given by the Lord Chancellor; that the majority have neither the desire, nor any sufficient notion of the means, of becoming much wiser or better than they are.
* When we say that instruction of all kinds, connected with the great interests of man and society, ought to be provided by the State, we by no means (as we have already observed) except religious instruction. We see, indeed, in the present state of the public mind, formidable obstacles to including in any course of public teaching, such religious instruction as shall not be worse than none. But difficulties arising not from the nature of the case, but from the literal and dogmatic character and sectarian spirit of English religion, must not hinder us from asserting in speculation, if we cannot realize in practice, a great principle. An important, if not the most important part of every course of public instruction, is that which is intended to awaken and to enlighten the conscience, or principle of duty. This essential part of national instruction must either be omitted entirely, or it must be such as does not clash with the moral convictions of the majority of the educated classes. A country must be in a wretched state, in which the best moral instruction which can be afforded consistently with this condition, is not better than none at all. But in all Christian countries, the prevalent moral convictions, the best conceptions popularly entertained of the rule of life, are thoroughly interwoven with, and in great part founded upon, religion. To exclude religious instruction, is therefore to exclude moral instruction, or to garble it, and deprive it of all systematic consistency, or to make it of a kind decidedly objectionable to the majority of the educated classes.
It is true mankind differ widely on religion; so widely that is impossible for them to agree in recommending any set of opinions. But they also differ on moral philosophy, metaphysics, politics, political economy, and even medicine; all of which are admitted to be as proper subjects as any others for a national course of instruction. The falsest ideas have been, and still are, prevalent on these subjects, as well as on religion. But it is the portion of us all, to imbibe the received opinions first, and start from these to acquire better ones. All that is necessary to render religion as unexceptionable a subject of national teaching as any of the other subjects which we have enumerated, is, that it should be taught in the manner in which all rational persons are agreed that every other subject should be taught—in an inquiring, not a dogmatic spirit—so as to call forth, not so as to supersede, the freedom of the individual mind. We should most strongly object to giving instruction on any disputed subject, in schools or universities, if it were done by inculcating any particular set of opinions. But we do not conceive it to be the object of instruction to inculcate opinions. It is the grossest abuse of the powers of an instructor, to employ them in principling a pupil, (as Locke calls it in his Essay on the Conduct of the Understanding,)[*] a process which tends to nothing but enslaving and (by necessary consequence) paralyzing the human mind. An enlightened instructor limits his operations in this respect to apprizing the learners what are the opinions actually entertained; and by strengthening their intellects, storing their minds with ideas, and directing their attention to the sources of evidence not only on every doubtful, but on every undisputed point, at once qualifies and stimulates them to find the truth for themselves. Let the teaching be in this spirit, and it scarcely matters what are the opinions of the teacher: and it is for their capacity to teach thus, and not for the opinions they hold, that teachers ought to be chosen. The most enlightened pupils have often been formed by the most mistaken teachers. We repeat, it is a total misunderstanding of all the objects of teaching to suppose that it has anything to do with impressing the teacher’s opinions. These may be all true, and yet not only may be, but if the inculcation of them be what the teacher considers his duty, probably will be, so taught as to have no effect upon the understanding but to contract and fetter it; while, on the contrary, we are so far from apprehending any bad effect from teaching even the falsest religion, in an open, free spirit, that we should hardly object, under a good method of teaching, to a professorship of astrology.
All this, we grieve to say, is (not we trust) useless, but, with respect to any hope of immediate application, wholly unpractical. We hold it utterly unavailing, in the present state of the national mind, to hope for any national religious instruction, not calculated, in a most eminent degree, to narrow and pervert the intellect and feelings. In Prussia, such things may be; for not only does the spirit of free inquiry pervade both the institutions of that people, and the popular mind, but there is no exclusiveness, because there is no literalness in their religion; no German values dogmas for their own sake, nor cares for any thing in a religious system but its spirit. In Prussia,—will an Englishman believe it?—the two great divisions of the Reformed Church, the Lutheran and the Calvinistic, in the year 1817, by a voluntary agreement, actually united themselves into one church.* This most astonishing fact speaks of a state of religion, to which that which is almost universal in our own country, presents, unhappily, a diametrical contrast.
To speak no longer of Prussia, or Utopia, or any other purely ideal model, but of England; looking at the English Ecclesiastical Establishment as an existing fact, as part of the present machinery of society, which must either be made available for the purposes of society, or swept away; and considering, not whether we would establish such an institution if we had to begin de novo, but in what manner we would deal with it now when it exists; we should not press for its abolition, if either in its own councils or in those of the State we saw the faintest glimpse of a capacity to perceive and understand the real religious wants of the country. That moral influence of the State over the clergy, which has been used solely to purchase the sanction of religion for existing political institutions, and even for existing Ministries might, by an enlightened Government, be made largely available to improve the spirit of the popular religion. By bringing forward into stations of dignity and influence those among the clergy in whom religion assumed the most generous and the most intellectual form, a Government in whom the people had confidence, might do much to unsectarianize the British nation. But this is supposing a Government far wiser than the people, and it is much if we can hope that ours will not be inferior to them. The Establishment, in its present state, is no corrective, but the great promoter of sectarianism; being itself, both in the exclusiveness of its tenets, and in the spirit of the immense majority of its clergy, a thoroughly sectarian institution. Its very essence is subscription to articles, and the bond of union by which it holds its members together is a dead creed, not a living spirit. We would rather not have any changes which left this unchanged; and any change in this we shall not see. Generations would be required to reform the principles of the Church; to destroy it will only be the work of years.
We have wandered far from our original topic, the Lord Chancellor’s speech. That speech is itself the strongest of confirmations of the hopelessness of any improvement in the Church through the influence of the State. Here is a man, confessedly of mental endowments far superior to any other of the ministry, perhaps to any one who is likely to be in the ministry; and he, in a discussion involving the very existence of the Church Establishment, a discussion so naturally suggesting every topic connected with the religious condition of the country, the tendencies of the age in respect to religion, and what is to be desired, or may be done, in respect to any of those tendencies—what does he find to say? Nothing but the veriest common places, familiar to every schoolboy, on the advantages of some Establishment or other. Not a word either of general and comprehensive theory, applicable to all times, or of statesman-like estimation of the exigencies of the present time. Neither the philosophy of the question, nor its immediate practical policy.
The Primate followed, with a speech of which naïveté was the most prominent characteristic. He wondered how it was that “while Churchmen entertained the most friendly feeling towards Dissenters, and addressed them in a friendly spirit, the Dissenters should manifest such personal hostility to Churchmen.” It was true that Churchmen thwarted the Dissenters in all their wishes, but then it was entirely for their good. He, for instance, and most of the other bishops, had resisted the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts: “not,” however, “from any feeling of hostility towards Dissenters, but because they conceived the measure would be productive of injury as regarded the general policy of the country.”[*] The Dissenters, however, dislike being trampled upon, even when it is from such laudable and disinterested motives. As to the question, which side feels most resentment, we see no proof that the most hostile feeling is on the side of the Dissenters, but we should feel neither surprised nor indignant if it were so. The Archbishop is probably the first who ever thought it wonderful that the party in possession should be in the better temper. When one brother has given to the other the outside of their father’s house, and taken to himself the inside, it is amusing to see him look out of his warm place upon the other who is shivering with cold, and profess to be astonished at so much unbrotherly feeling.
* * * * *
There are people who would have all aggrieved persons and classes measure their demands, not by what they are entitled to, but by what it suits the convenience of Ministers to give. The course of events is now affording a series of most signal discomfitures to such counsellors. The Dissenters had scarcely a chance for the removal of their minor grievances, until they commenced agitating against the greatest grievance of all. Now, most of the little boons to which they were advised to limit their pretensions, are flung to them en masse in a sort of panic, and they are most rapidly hastening on their final object, the equalization of all sects by the abolition of a Sectarian Establishment. Yet there are people, and Dissenters too, who still call upon them, for their own sake, to be “moderate,” and to ask for no more than is “attainable;” forgetting that what is attainable, altogether depends upon what is demanded; that the Tories and high Churchmen will not be “moderate” if the Dissenters are so; that Ministers are between two contrary impulses, and are sure to yield to the stronger pressure. The Dissenters are wise enough to know, that to a compromise there must be two parties, and that he must be a poor dupe who asks for an inch while his adversary takes an ell.
The Registry which will be provided by Mr. Brougham’s Bill, will supply a grievous defect in our institutions, and one which concerns the whole community as well as the Dissenters, though, as in most cases, if no powerful class had been especially aggrieved by the evil, we might have waited long enough for a remedy.
The Registers, it seems, are to be kept by the collectors of taxes. We do not foresee any inconvenience from this arrangement, except a slight tendency to render the Registry unpopular. But the fact is strikingly illustrative of the total absence of machinery for the conduct of administrative business. In France the registres de l’état civil, as they are called, are kept by the mayor of every commune, an unpaid officer, usually one of the principal inhabitants, who is selected by the Crown from a Municipal Council chosen by the people. These officers, and the préfets, who are the more direct delegates of Government, are an agency ready prepared for collecting any information, for executing any law, or for transacting any local business which the Legislature may impose upon them. They are also a fit agency to look after the performance of all duties, which the Legislature may delegate to any other class of functionaries. But in England, when local inquiries are to be conducted, or local business done, which the Legislature are in earnest about, they are forced to create special officers and grant separate salaries. Even a Factory Bill cannot be executed without appointing Inspectors:[*] and the registration of voters under the Reform Bill, was turned over to illiterate overseers; revising barristers being afterwards appointed at considerable expense, to rectify their blunders. For want again of local authorities to whom the immediate control of all these temporary or special officers could be confided, they make their reports directly to the Home Office; which is thus overburdened with business of the most multifarious and distracting kind, is unable both from the quantity and variety to give reasonable attention to any part of it, and a “centralization” is created of a different, but scarcely a better kind, than that which Napoleon established in France.
Mr. Brougham’s Marriage Bill will, we presume, supersede the unfortunate abortion produced by Lord John Russell. It is an improvement upon its predecessor, but it goes a very little way towards placing that important contract on its true foundation. The validity of the civil engagement is still to depend upon the performance of a religious ceremony, by a recognised Minister of some, though it may now be a Dissenting, sect. The Bill merely provides for registering the performance of the religious ceremony.
This imperfect measure may satisfy the consciences and stay the clamour of a large portion of the Dissenters; but it is impossible that such a settlement can be final. The following intelligence, which we extract from a Nottingham paper, and which is not the first of its kind, is an example of the opinions and feelings which are growing up in the country on this subject:
At Laurence-street chapel, Birmingham, on Sunday last, after the service was over, the congregation was desired to stay, when four Dissenters took the marriage affair into their own hands, in a very short manner. Charles Bradley rose up and read the following document:
“Before this congregation, I, Charles Bradley, jun. give you, Emma Harris, this ring to wear as a memorial of our marriage, and this written pledge stamped with the impressions of the United Rights of Man and Woman, declaring I will be your faithful husband from this time forward.
(Signed) Charles Bradley, jun.”
Emma Harris then in turn read as follows:
“Before this congregation I, Emma Harris, receive this ring to wear as a memorial of our marriage, and give you, Charles Bradley, jun., this written pledge, stamped with the impressions of the United Rights of Man and Woman, declaring I will be your faithful wife from this time henceforward.
(Signed) Emma Harris.”
The same ceremony was gone through by Roger Hollinsworth and Mary Louisa Bradley, after which the papers were signed by several witnesses, and thus the marriage contract was made without the intervention of either priest or clerk. It should never be forgotten that two sisters, who married without a priest at Calverton, were incarcerated in the county jail of Nottingham, by the unrelenting severity of the ecclesiastical court, for more than twelve years. They were in released in 1798. We opine, that the ecclesiastical court will not serve Mrs. Bradley and Mrs. Hollinsworth in the same way.[*]
* * * * *
It is scarcely credible that in the second year after Parliamentary Reform, the reformed Parliament should, by an immense majority,[‡] be actually setting itself to undo what a Tory Parliament had done towards the enfranchisement of the working classes;[§] reimposing that censorship over the social enjoyments of the rural population, which public indignation at the purposes to which it was perverted, had wrung out of the hands of the county magistracy, to whom it is now again proposed to be confided under another name and with a different machinery.
Sir Edward Knatchbull’s proposal is to make the opening of a beer-house depend upon the production of certificates from six ten-pound householders, in favour of the petitioner; which certificates must be renewed annually. These certificates are not attestations to character, which may be demanded in the manner of subpœnaing a witness; but may be given or withheld at pleasure; and though in populous towns any person of creditable character would probably have little difficulty in obtaining them, in a rural district the small number of ten-pound householders, together with the known sentiments of the landed gentry, render the exaction of such a condition tantamount to the entire suppression of beer-houses. We regret to see Lord Howick chiming in with the prevailing false sentiment; though the amendment he proposes would be far less mischievous than the original proposition.[¶] His plan is, not to interfere with the opening of beer-houses, but to empower the vestry to close them, by a majority of two-thirds, on a representation from a certain number of householders that any particular beer-house is a nuisance. This is perhaps the least exceptionable form in which the discretionary power of interference, proposed to be created, could exist; and if by a clause in the Bill, the keeper of the criminated place of entertainment were secured a public hearing in his defence, and the right of cross-examining his accusers, with the benefit of an appeal to the judge of assize, or to the local court when such shall be established, Lord Howick’s proposition might not be seriously objectionable.
But there is in the Bill, even if it were thus amended, one fatal provision, with which Lord Howick does not propose to interfere, and which brands the whole measure with the double stamp of tyranny and hypocrisy. We allude to the clauses which prohibit the houses from selling beer to be drank on the premises.[*] The debate on this subject was replete with cant; for the expression even of just feelings deserves the name of cant, when the party expressing them would be confounded by being merely taken at his word. Mr. Buckingham said that if beer is a necessary of life, the labourer might surely fetch it home and drink it there, for he ought not to wish to have his enjoyments separately from his wife and from his children.[†] Very fine certainly; but we detest fine sentiments which are never meant to be acted upon. Do we find Mr. Buckingham, or any other supporter of the Bill, proposing to prevent all houses from taking in labourers to drink with one another, apart from their families? No; the object is to permit one set of houses and to forbid others; to let the houses licensed by the magistrates retain this obnoxious privilege, and to take it away from the remainder; to create a monopoly of the evil they complain of, in favour of the landlords’ houses. The obvious effect, doubtless by many of the promoters of the bill clearly foreseen and calculated upon, is to confine the sale of beer to the landlords’ houses. The labourer, as every person of common sense must foresee, will generally prefer the place where he can obtain rest as well as refreshment, and where alone he can have the excitements and the pleasures of society. Scarcely a member opened his lips in favour of the measures who did not think it decent to disavow any wish of restoring the former monopoly: is it possible that any one of all who made the disavowal, should not see, that whether this be the purpose or not, it will certainly be the effect?
We, too, detest, probably as much as these careful guardians of other people’s morality, the selfishness with which the demoralized and brutal part of the working population squander their earnings on their own separate debaucheries, leaving their families in want. But if to provide against this evil were the real object, it could be effected, not by restraining the just liberty of the one party, but by giving a remedy to the other. Upon proof that too much of a labourer’s earnings was spent from home, his wife ought to have the power of demanding that a suitable proportion of his wages should be paid, not to him, but to her, for the support of herself and of her children. Supposing this done, we know not why the legislature should enact, either directly or indirectly, that a husband should have no society except that of his wife: the misfortune is, that the privilege is not reciprocal; and it is another misfortune that mere defects of physical arrangements prevent the married poor from having their social as well as their domestic life in common. A time will come, when the more general application of the co-operative principle in household economy, will enable the poor to command, without the equivocal instrumentality of public houses, many of those facilities for social enjoyment, even in a refined form, which have hitherto been the exclusive portion of the opulent classes. The attention of all real wellwishers of the poorer classes should be turned to this most important topic. But in the mean time, we protest utterly against making the labourer’s cottage a place of confinement, by refusing him shelter or harbour elsewhere.
* * * * *
We seldom see the Morning Herald; but the number for this day accidentally fell into our hands; and of six articles printed in large type, the following was the purport of five. One was a twaddling defence of the pretensions of the Church to superiority of numbers over the Dissenters; this was the least ridiculous of the five; another was a defence of Lord Wynford’s Sabbath-day Bill;[*] another of Sir Edward Knatchbull’s Beer Bill. A fourth was a philippic against the Poor Law Bill, and its “bashaws;” the fifth, a philippic against omnibuses, with a demand that they be prohibited east of Temple Bar.[†] All this in a single number. Any one of these opinions, except, perhaps, the last, might singly be held by a person not absolutely destitute of reason; each is among the extravagancies of some particular creed, when pushed to its utmost; but no one except “My Grandmother,” could have united them. That personage has made up her budget of opinions out of the separate anilities of the sillier part of every existing party or persuasion.
* * * * *
There would, in any circumstances, have been something solemn and affecting in the separation of the last link which connected us with the dawn of American Independence and the youthful enthusiasm of French liberty; in the extinction of the sole survivor among the great names of the last age. But this feeling must assume a deeper character when he who has departed from us, was the one man who stood before our eyes, and might, it so seemed, have stood for many years longer, the living representative of whatever was best and purest in the spirit, and truest in the traditions of his age. Lafayette not only had lived for mankind, but every year of his existence was precious to them, and grievously will he be missed. His was not the influence of genius, nor even of talents; it was the influence of a heroic character: it was the influence of one who, in every situation, and throughout a long life, had done and suffered every thing which opportunity had presented itself of doing and suffering for the right, and who was ready to repeat the same course of doing and suffering, or a severer one, whenever called upon by duty. Such an example, in so conspicuous a station, is ever most valuable, seldom more needful than now.
If a life made up of the most extraordinary vicissitudes, and a soul on which prosperity and adversity vainly exerted all their most corrupting influences, be the materials of an inspiring biography, the life of Lafayette would be one of the noblest subjects for a writer of genius. Even in the simplest narrative, it is in itself a heroic poem. The different epochs of his existence would afford the finest scope to a biographer. There would be, first, the opening period, when, at twenty years of age, he left the attractive and brilliant life of the French Court, to serve as a volunteer in the apparently desperate cause of the revolted colonies of America; and when, having seen the efforts of the noble constellation of patriots, with whom he had associated himself, successful, almost against all hope, and not without having materially contributed to that success, he returned, and we see him first the idol of the people, heading the enfranchisement of his own countrymen, but strenuously, and at all personal hazard, opposing himself to every excess; and three years later deliberately staking life, liberty, fortune, and the love of his countrymen, and losing all except the first, to arrest the precipitate course of the revolution. We next follow him to the dungeon of Olmutz, where for five years the vengeance of an infuriated despot[*] retained him in secret captivity, without communication by word or writing with any who loved him, or tidings from that external world where so tremendous a drama was then enacting. Here he remained, and remained with spirit unbroken, until, by the treaty of Leoben, his release was made by his country part of the price of her mercy to his unrelenting oppressor. But his country then fell upon evil days: he could in nothing serve her, and he retired into the obscurest private life. He reappeared at the restoration, stood once more at the head of the friends of liberty, and was revered as their patriarch. He saw America once more, on the fiftieth Anniversary of her liberation, and his presence was, from one end of the Union to the other, a national jubilee. He saw the infant people which he had nursed in the cradle, grown into one of the mightiest empires of the earth: he lived to taste all the enjoyment which the heartfelt gratitude and love of ten millions of human beings could bestow. He returned to preside at another revolution; gave a king[†] to his own country; withdrew from that king when he abandoned the principles which had raised him to the throne; bore up, even against the bitterness of disappointment; and died with his hopes deferred, but not extinguished.
Honour be to his name, while the records of human worth shall be preserved among us! It will be long ere we see his equal, long ere there shall arise such a union of character and circumstances as shall enable any other human being to live such a life.
* * * * *
Lord Althorp’s defence for voting against his recorded opinion on the subject of the Newspaper stamps, is truly characteristic, both of the man and of the ministry.[*] Mr. Bulwer and Mr. Roebuck, the proposer and seconder of the motion,[†] introduced it to the House as a question of the highest public policy, or rather above all policy, since it concerns the ends to which government itself is but a means. They referred the question to the interests of civilization. Lord Althorp refers it to the interests of the revenue. The tax yielded £500,000 (or some such sum) a year. That was his first averment. His second was, that the House did not force him to abolish the tax, and therefore he would not. This is a favourite argument with the leader of the House of Commons. That the House does not force him to do his duty, is always with him a sufficient plea against the propriety of doing it. The other day, on the subject of the Danish claims, a question of simple pecuniary honesty, a judicial question whether the claimants were or were not entitled to certain monies, did not Lord Althorp tell the House, that since, contrary to his expectation, he saw they were desirous to be honest, he was willing to be so too?[‡] He will most uprightly do justice between man and man, provided he is compelled.
This predicament of finding their honesty lagging behind that of the House, is one in which Ministers are now well accustomed to find themselves. An example of it was their ignominious defeat on Mr. Lyall’s motion respecting the sixpences taken from the wages of merchant seamen to support Greenwich Hospital.[§] It is scarcely credible that so despicable a motive as dislike of the trouble of finding so small a sum as £22,000 elsewhere, should induce men of creditable character to volunteer, in defence of so gross an iniquity, excuses of even a grosser iniquity than the abuse itself. The merchant seaman may enjoy the benefit of Greenwich Hospital! Yes, if you rob him; yes, if you kidnap him; make him a slave, and keep him in your service by force, for wages below the honest price of his labour, until he is lamed and made useless, and an object of charity: and, in anticipation of this injury which you intend to inflict upon him, you make him pay beforehand (whether or no he be the unfortunate person on whom the misfortune will fall) a tax out of his earnings, to pay for his maintenance when you shall have disabled him, and rendered him unfit to gain a livelihood. The House was not base enough to let itself be influenced by such arguments: they left Ministers in a miserable minority; and Ministers, no longer finding themselves in the position in which Lord Althorp was on the Danish claims, before he was forced to be honest, have found it necessary to give way.
* * * * *
The Ministry have held out, with a firmness little usual with them, against the prejudiced hostility to Poor Law Reform. They have compromised none of the essential principles of their measure, and their concessions as to the details have till now been either entirely unimportant, or positive improvements. Among the latter we must rank the discretion given to the Commissioners of suspending the operation of the clause by which the payment of wages out of rates is prohibited after the 1st of June 1835.[*] The success of the whole measure might in many places be greatly endangered, if the alternative were offered to the pauperized population of coming entirely upon the parish, before the introduction or improvement of the workhouse system shall have given them adequate motives to prefer to the life of a pauper the condition of an independent labourer.
We however observe, in the debate of last night, a tendency to a concession of a decidedly mischievous character: we allude to the willingness expressed by Lord Althorp, to limit the duration of the Central Board to five years.[†] The effect of this limitation would be to encourage all who are either prejudiced or interested in favour of the old system, to thwart the operation of the measure; since it affords them a hope, that if they can contrive, during the five years, to make out a plausible case of failure against the Bill, they will be permitted to revert to the old system, and mismanage the poor as before. There is nothing whatever gained by the limitation; it will not buy off a single opponent; and in principle it is absurd for Parliament to enact that something shall terminate in five years, which Parliament may put an end to in one month if it see cause. The proviso will only operate in one way; as a declaration to the country, that Ministers and Parliament are not sure they are doing right; that they are preparing for a possible change of opinion, which is tantamount to a warning to the friends of Ministers, not to confide in them, not to suppose that they have duly considered the subject; and an invitation to the enemies of the measure, by no means to relax their opposition.
The idea of limiting the duration of the Central Board is, we conceive, erroneous in principle. The expression, “a temporary dictatorship,” unguardedly used by some of the advocates of the Bill, was singularly infelicitous in its application. In the first place, (as the Chronicle, we think, observed,) who ever heard of a dictatorship under the control of Parliament? But the Central Board may be and ought to be defended, not as an expedient for a temporary purpose, but as in itself the best and only proper principle of administration for a system of Poor Laws. Assume that the Board will continue until the existing evils are remedied, and the management of the poor thoroughly reformed: what, except the prolongation of the same superintendence, is to prevent affairs from relapsing by degrees into as bad a state as before? Acts of Parliament? Declarations of the Legislature that the abuses shall hereafter be illegal? But they have always been illegal. They have crept in gradually in spite of the law, because the local functionaries had strong immediate motives to introduce them, none of which motives an Act of Parliament will or can take away; and because there was no authority to which they were forced to submit their proceedings, and whose duty it was to keep them within the law. And this very state of things will be restored from the first moment that the Central Board shall be discontinued; and will be attended of course with the same consequences. The diffusion of sound principles, which will be the natural effect of the present temporary reform, will retard, no doubt, this inevitable progression, but the inroads of abuse, if more slow, will not be less sure.
The opposition to the Bill has been feeble beyond example. We never remember a public measure in the discussion of which every rational argument was so completely confined to one side. We may add, that we remember none in which the party in the wrong has been more strangely reckless of its own reputation, both in its arguments or in its facts. Who, for instance, would have expected to be told (as in the Times of the 14th of May) that this Bill renders fruitless the “protracted struggle from which the British people never ceased, until they had succeeded in making it part and parcel of their constitution, that the meanest subject in the realm should neither be subjected to any taxes, nor amenable to any rules of conduct, except such as should be imposed by the joint consent of King, Lords, and Commons in Parliament assembled.”[*] Does the Times mean that the Poor Rates are now voted by King, Lords, and Commons in Parliament assembled? or that the rules which regulate relief are made by Parliament, and not by the Magistrates and Vestries? Is it credible that any person, not drunk with anger or intoxicating liquors, could have penned such an assertion? It is valuable however, in one respect, as bringing into a strong light the truth and value of constitutional clap-traps. It is not, it never was, nor ought it to be, part and parcel of the Constitution of any people out of Bedlam, nor was it ever dreamt of in England, that no one should be empowered to raise money from the people, or make rules to bind them, except Parliament. What is part of the Constitution, is that no one can do these things except in the manner and to the extent which Parliament may authorize; which is only saying what we all know, that Parliament is the Sovereign.
The Times finds it very absurd to argue that the Commissioners will be responsible, and asks, where is their responsibility if a civil action lie not against them for injury to individuals?[*] We ask, where is the responsibility of Ministers, or any other constituted authorities? In the certainty of their losing their offices at the discretion of Parliament; and the probability, if public opinion, through the customary channels, calls for their removal. What must be the good faith, or the discernment of a writer, who deems this no responsibility, and who at the same time considers the magistrates responsible, because about once a year or less, for some very gross abuse of authority, some magistrate is called to account in the King’s Bench, and let off (for the most part) entirely unharmed?
The Times has discovered that republicans are the principal supporters of the Poor Law Bill, and that they support it as a means of disorganizing society, and getting rid of King, Lords, and Commons.[†] The present Poor Law Bill is undoubtedly approved by most of those who judge of public measures from a consideration of means and ends, and not from blind traditions: and if such are generally republicans, that is no compliment to King, Lords, and Commons. But as far as we know anything of English republicans, and there are few who have had more extensive opportunities of knowing their sentiments, it is far truer of them that they are republicans for the sake of such measures as this, than that they wish for such measures because they are republicans. We have hardly ever conversed with any English republican, who was not almost indifferent to forms of Government, provided the interests of the mass of the people were substantially cared for, in the degree which he considered adequate; and if among the educated and philosophical reformers, to whom the Times seems more particularly to allude, there be any who desire extensive alterations in the Constitution, we believe we may say with some confidence, that there is not one in whom that wish does not originate in despair of seeing an effectual reform in the inward structure of society, except by a previous bursting asunder of its external framework. Any Ministry which should deal with all our social evils, as the present Ministers are dealing with one of the principal of them, by probing the evil to the very bottom, and cutting away, cautiously but unsparingly, all that is pernicious, would convert all the philosophical republicans: by practically demonstrating the possibility of carrying the same practical measures in the same efficiency, under a monarchy as in a republic, the basis of their republicanism would be taken from under them; for the Times, and most of those who have written against these people, utterly mistake their character and spirit. Instead of wishing that the present system should work ill, in order that they may obtain one, founded, as they think, on better speculative principles, their habit is to disregard even to excess, the nominal principle and spirit of a nation’s institutions, provided the immediate and definite practical interests of society are provided for by such laws, and such organs of administration, as are conformable to their views.
* * * * *
The Examiner, in its number of this day, (the best which has appeared for several weeks,) denounces with a proper feeling the slavish spirit of a correspondent of the Times, who, after a long preamble on the importance of showing honour to science, sets forth as a distinguished instance of it, that the King spoke to Dr. Dalton at the levee.[*] There is something, to our minds, unspeakably degrading to the literary and scientific men of this country, in the eager avidity with which they are laying themselves out for the paltriest marks of court notice: those, even, which have become ridiculous to all men of the world, and for which they are competitors, not with the aristocracy, but with those whom the aristocracy laugh at and despise. Think of the pitiable vanity with which so many of these people have allowed themselves to be dubbed Guelphic Knights. With this abject spirit in our intellectual men, who can wonder if honour is not shown to intellect? They have put their own value upon themselves, and have rated it at the smallest coin current in the market.
It is a vain and frivolous notion, that of showing honour: the honour which is worth showing is that which is felt; and that shows itself, not by some one premeditated demonstration, but as a pervading spirit, through the whole conduct of those who feel it. Who says it is not important that those who are at the head of the State should have reverence for intellect? But will they ever have that reverence until intellect shall be the source of their own elevation? The consideration, which is gained by nobleness of character, men of science and letters have the same opportunities of acquiring as other people,—the only other source of consideration is power. Do what we will, where in any state of society the power is, there also will the honour be. Society, with regard to the source of power, may exist in two different states: in the one, what confers power is intellect; in the other, wealth and station; the former state has never yet been realized, though some societies have approached nearer to it than others, and all are tending towards it, in proportion as they improve; the latter, exists in England, and in most countries in Europe. Now, is it a rational expectation that while power shall still accompany wealth and station exclusively, the honour which always goes with power, can be diverted from it, and become an appendage of intellect? And is it not a mean ambition in persons of intellect to desire a merely reflected honour, derived from the passing notice of people of wealth and station? Precisely the same kind of honour which poets enjoyed when they were domestics in the household of great men.
There are but two stations in the affairs of the world, which can, without dishonour, be taken up by those who follow the pursuits of intellect. Either intellect is the first of all human possessions, that which in its own nature is fitted to rule, and which for the good, not of its possessors, but of the world, ought to be exalted over the heads of all, and to have the sole guidance of human affairs, all persons being ranked and estimated according to the share they possess of it; either this, or it is a mere instrument of the convenience and pleasure of those to whom, by some totally different title, the direction of the world’s affairs happens to belong, and is to be rated at the value which they put upon it, in proportion to the use it is of to them, and to its relative importance among the other things which conduce to their gratification. Whoever deems more highly of wisdom than he deems of rope-dancing, or at most of cotton-spinning, cannot think less of it than that it ought to rule the world; and, knowing that to be its proper station, he will, on the one hand, by the conscientious use of such power as it gives him, do the utmost which an individual can do to place it there; and, on the other, he will never, by any act of his, acknowledge the title of any competitor; far less put up a petition that a nod or a civil word from the usurper may be occasionally vouchsafed to the rightful prince. The State ought to yield obedience to intellect, not to sit in judgment upon it, and affect to determine on its pretensions.
So long as no conventional distinctions are conferred upon intellect, the State abstains from putting any value upon it, and leaves it to assume its proper place, without deciding what that place is: but when it affects to confer a distinction, and confers the very lowest in the conventional scale, it does set a value on intellect, and rates the highest honour which is due to intellectual attainments exactly on a par with the lowest which can be claimed from any adventitious circumstance. Is this the “honour to science” which scientific men should be desirous of?
There is but one thing which Government, as at present constituted, can do for scientific men, and that is the one thing which is not thought of. It is absurd in the State to confer upon them what it calls honours; but it may afford them the means of subsistence, not as a reward, but to enable them to devote themselves to their scientific pursuits, without hinderance from those petty occupations which they are mostly obliged to follow for their daily bread. Every person of scientific eminence, whose genius and acquirements, destined at the best to perish so soon out of the world, are in a great measure lost to it while he is living, for want of some small provision which would keep him independent of mechanical drudgery: every person of distinguished intellectual powers, whom society has not sense enough to place in the situation in which he can be of the greatest use to it, is a reproach to society, and to the age in which he lives. It is here, if any where, that improvement may be hoped for; and we hope it is here that we shall, in time, see it contended for.
* * * * *
We have had little faith hitherto in the impression which generally prevailed, of divisions in the Ministry, amounting to a decided difference of principle between two sections of it. We had been so much accustomed to find members of the Cabinet who were reputed the most liberal, making themselves the organs of whatever was most illiberal in its practical policy, that the present schism in the Cabinet has taken us almost by surprise. We confess ourselves mistaken. When a body breaks to pieces, and the parts fly off in contrary directions, there must have been a previous tendency of each part to move in the direction in which it is impelled the moment it is set at liberty. It is evident that one portion of the Ministry must have been worse, and another portion must have been better, than their collective conduct.
The Ministry will now have a new lease of popularity. If they so please, all past errors will be considered as cancelled, and in two months from this time they may have acquired a new character. If their future conduct show vigour of purpose and a strong spirit of improvement, all that they have done ill, will be imputed to Mr. Stanley and Sir James Graham; all that they have done well, to themselves. From us, and we believe from all the enlightened reformers, they may expect, until they shall have had a fair trial, not only no hostility, but the most friendly encouragement and support. They must now throw themselves upon the people. All their strength is there; and it will not fail them.
The names which are talked of to replace the retiring Members of the Cabinet, are of good augury. In Lord Durham and Sir Henry Parnell, the ministry will have two men more devoted to popular objects, than almost any other public men not decidedly numbered among radicals; and in Mr. Abercromby, one of the most upright, strong-minded, and unprejudiced of the members of the old opposition, and one who is thoroughly alive to the spirit of the times.
The change is a decided progress of the Movement, and will carry all the great public questions several steps in advance. But what is more important perhaps than even the change itself, is the immediate cause of it; the general expectation that Mr. Ward’s resolution for reducing the Temporalities of the Irish Church,[*] would have passed the House of Commons, even in opposition to the Ministry. It is well understood that this was what determined the retirement of the more Conservative section of the Ministry.
* * * * *
NO. V, JULY, 1834
Alone among all Protestant churches, the Church of Scotland for some time was the people’s church; not the church of the aristocracy, kept for them at the people’s expense. This privilege the Scottish people possessed themselves of, not without a battle of several generations, against their own aristocracy first, and next against their own and our aristocracy combined. In the conflict, as much heroism, both of action and endurance, was displayed, as has probably signalized any cause since the beginning of the eternal war between right and wrong. For a century this battle lasted, and for a century more the fruits of it were enjoyed. The prize was kept, for about as long as it took to acquire. But corruption crept in; the Church of Scotland proved no exception from the evil tendencies of human affairs in general, and of the age in particular; the tendency of power to concentrate itself in few hands, and of what originally was sufference, to convert itself into a right, and the tendency of the institutions of this country, since the Revolution, to become more and more aristocratic. The appointment of the ministers of religion gradually became private property; the Church of Scotland followed, though at a considerable distance, the steps of the Church of England, and progressively (for degeneracy as well as improvement is gradual) became the laird’s church, no longer the church of the people.
Dissent from the Church of Scotland took its rise with this departure from the voluntary principle. The Seceders seceded from the abuses of the Church, not from its tenets: when the ministry of religion became a place for a great man to give away, it ceased to be a ministry for them. But dissatisfaction spread much further than avowed dissent; and now at length, aided by the spirit of the times, it has prevailed over the evil influences opposed to it, and enforced a reform.
It is the good fortune of the Scottish Church, that its government is not a monarchy or an aristocracy, but a democracy; it depends not upon a bench of bishops, but upon a representative assembly; and one, moreover, in which the laity as well as the clergy have a voice. In the Scottish Church, the power to root out evils resides in the sufferers from them, not in those who are the creatures of the evils, and who profit by them. Accordingly, no sooner was the evil generally recognized as an evil, than it has been forthwith remedied. By the regulation just adopted by the General Assembly, no patron will hereafter have the power of presenting any clergyman to a living, whose appointment is disapproved of by a majority of the heads of families in the parish.[*]
It is thus that a Church is to be saved, if any of the Churches can be saved from the storm which is now, and not prematurely, rising against them. A national endowment for the support of teachers of religion might still be preserved, if the people, for whom the Church exists, the people, who are the Church, were allowed even a negative voice in determining by what body of persons, and by what member of that body, religious instruction should be imparted to them. But the people will no longer receive their religion from a corporation of priests, imposed upon them as teachers by their political superiors. And, as the ruling powers in the Church of England are incapable of opening their eyes to this truth, that Church, as a national institution, is tottering to its fall.
* * * * *
In the Chronicle of to-day we read the following paragraph:
Yesterday, at Marylebone office, a poor man, far advanced in life, suffering under the dreadful affliction of a paralytic affection, which has deprived him of the use of one side, applied to the sitting magistrates, Messrs. Rawlinson and Hoskins, for an order to be admitted into Marylebone poor-house. The old man stated that he had lived in Marylebone parish upwards of thirty-one years; and that, during the greater portion of that period, he had been master of a flourishing business, and spent thousands of pounds in bringing up his family. His trade, however, went gradually to decay; and, to crown his misfortunes, he had, in his old days, been seized with paralysis, which deprived him wholly of the means of obtaining a livelihood, and he was now in a state of great destitution. In this extremity he had applied to the parochial authorities to be admitted into the workhouse, which had been refused. Mr. Rawlinson asked Mr. King, (one of the parish officers in attendance,) why the man had been refused admittance. Mr. King replied, that it was in consequence of his having refused to say where his wife was; as the Board had decided that they could not receive one without the other. The old man said that she had run away from him, and that he did not know where to find her. Mr. Rawlinson directed that he should be sworn to that fact. The old man accordingly took the book in his hand. Mr. King. “Are you a Catholic?” Old Man. “I was bred in that persuasion, but have abjured it.” Mr. Rawlinson. “What are you?” Old Man. “That is best known to my Maker: I am of no religion at all.” Mr. Rawlinson. “Then I shall not compel the officers to relieve a man of no religion. Go about your business.” He accordingly quitted the office, sighing as he limped away.[*]
From long experience, we expect nothing from the London magistrates but subservience to the worst feelings and lowest prejudices of the vulgarest part of the community: and never was there a more signal instance in point than this of Mr. Rawlinson.
If the man had been a convicted felon—an outcast from society; if his life had been spent between the hulks and the house of correction,—if he had been convicted at the Old Bailey, of every crime short of such as could bring him to the gallows; and, after suffering his sentence, had come before Mr. Rawlinson in a destitute state, claiming to be supported by his parish, Mr. Rawlinson would not have dared refuse an order for relief: he would have known that a magistrate is appointed to sit in judgment, not on men’s moral characters, but on their legal rights; that there is no statute empowering him to dispense with the laws, when they award something to a person of bad character; and he would have resented the very attempt to raise the question, as an irrelevancy, a cruelty towards the unfortunate, and an insult to the understanding of the magistrate. Such would have been his conduct if this poor man had been a convicted criminal; but against a “man of no religion,” all is fair. An unbeliever has no rights: the whole vicious part of the community may be let loose with impunity to injure him: the law promises him its protection; but the law can only act through those who administer it; and, in his favour, it shall not be administered.
If Mr. Rawlinson thinks at all, (it is an undeserved compliment to one who can thus act in such times as ours, to suppose him capable of thinking,) he would most likely defend himself by saying that “a man of no religion” must be a man of no virtue; for he will scarcely, we should think, plead guilty to what is probably the fact, that he had no motive but a wretched antipathy to a person who disbelieves something which he flatters himself he believes. Here, then, on the most favourable statement which can be made, a poor man has been treated, on a mere presumption of immorality, in a manner which would not have been tolerated if his guilt, instead of being presumed, were proved, and were of the blackest kind which a person could commit, and be suffered to live.
Let us go one step further, and notice the profound ignorance of the world, (the most fatal kind of ignorance to a person in Mr. Rawlinson’s situation,) which is manifested by those vehement presumptions so readily made by vulgar minds, of all sorts of immorality, from the absence of religious belief. We will not be so uncharitable as to surmise that such people as this police magistrate, judge of others from themselves; and finding that their own natural inclinations are towards all kinds of evil, or what they regard as such, cannot believe that any person could be prevented from being a scoundrel, except by the slavish and selfish terror of hell-fire. We will not press this. But we will appeal to facts. Does Mr. Rawlinson know anything whatever of the state of opinion among the lettered, or as they are called, educated classes? If so, he knows, that not less than one-fourth or one-third (at a moderate computation) of all the persons whom he meets at dinner, are either actual unbelievers, or have only the faintest and most doubtful belief; though they do not chuse, by avowing their sentiments, to expose themselves to martyrdom. Now, is there any perceptible difference between the conduct, in every relation of life, of this portion of Mr. Rawlinson’s acquaintance, and the remaining three-fourths or two-thirds? Would he himself, on any occasion requiring confidence, place one particle less of it in them, than in the average of the remainder? Certainly not; nor is it possible for religion to exercise less influence over the lives and characters of actual unbelievers, than it does over the vast majority of professing Christians. If there be any difference, it is not in favour of those who call themselves Christians; for the speculative homage paid to a rule of life which they never for one half-hour sincerely endeavour to act up to, has rather a perverting than an elevating effect upon the character. Unbelievers, if they have not the direct influences of Christianity, have reason and natural feeling, and by those aids may, and generally have, worked out for themselves some moral convictions, by which they may really govern their conduct; but Christians who live in the world, and do as the world does, that is to say, who lead a life the main objects of which are such as Christianity either makes light of, or actually condemns, and in which nothing, except a certain small number of acts and abstinences, either flows from religion, or reminds them of it; such persons have perpetually to reconcile conduct of one kind, with a creed of a quite opposite kind; they cannot with any satisfaction to themselves, reflect on morality, or question themselves on their own moral state; all their moral perceptions become dim and confused; they acquire the habit of sophisticating with themselves, and paltering with their notions of duty: Christianity is practically disregarded, except on new or peculiar exigencies; and they live, if of a cautious character, according to respectability, and the breath of men; if incautious, by mere impulse.
Compared with such Christians, he who has the manliness to speak out, with simplicity and without ostentation, the fact of his unbelief, is a religious man. And he is turned out to starve—while they, possibly, are on the very bench which condemns him.
* * * * *
It is just now beginning to be found out that the House of Commons has too much to do, and does it in a clumsy manner. The schoolmaster is certainly abroad;[*] intellect is on the march; it will soon be discovered, after due investigation by a commission or a committee, that two and two make four, and that the sun is the cause of day. The Business Committee of the House of Commons has passed the following resolutions:
1. Resolved, that it is the opinion of this Committee, that with a view to promote the convenience of members, and to facilitate the dispatch of private business, it is expedient that certain measures which, under the existing laws, must be brought separately under the consideration of Parliament, should be provided for by general enactments, enabling parties interested therein to proceed to their accomplishment without having constant reference to the special sanction of the Legislature.
2. Resolved, that it is the opinion of this Committee, that if possible, a General Inclosure Act should be passed, which may enable parties having an interest therein, to enclose lands, subject to such provisions as may secure the rights of all concerned, without subjecting themselves to the heavy expenses which are now incurred.
3. Resolved, that it is the opinion of this Committee, that powers of providing for paving, macadamizing, watering, draining, and otherwise improving cities, towns, and places, should be vested (under certain conditions and regulations) in the inhabitants, to be carried into effect without the necessity of appealing to Parliament.[†]
Why stop here? Does the self-evident general principle involved in the first resolution, include no cases but those of inclosure bills, and bills for local improvements? Are these even the fittest cases to begin with? Is it not absurd, that from the clumsiness of the law of partnership, every numerous association for commercial purposes requires a special act to entitle it to one of the simplest of the privileges which ought to belong to all joint-stock associations, that of being treated in all legal proceedings as a single person?* Why should a turnpike bill, more than a bill for paving and watering, occupy the time of the Legislature? Would not all, or almost all local matters, be best provided for by “parties having an interest therein;” the Legislature interfering only where national as well as local interests are concerned, and are in danger of being compromised by the supineness of the local authorities? To ascend to higher matters: what can be more monstrous than that there should be such things as divorce bills? Is it not self-evident, that what is good for a small number of the higher classes, must be good for the whole community; that the grant of a divorce ought to depend upon something else than length of purse; that there ought either to be (as is, to us, obvious) a general law of divorce, or else no divorces at all?
In regard to the particular points for which the Business Committee recommends that provision may be made, there is another recommendation which should have preceded. They should have recommended that the House do immediately commence the organization of an efficient representative system of local government. Till then, we should be afraid to trust the local authorities with any new powers; especially and powers of encroaching on the rights of the poor. Who would tolerate, that the men who have stopped up, literally, every path in some of the most populous counties of England, should have the power, without passing the ordeal of Parliament and the public, to confiscate remorselessly the vested interest of the poor labourer in the free air and the pasturage, and the vested interest of the whole people in the enjoyment of the beauties of nature?
It is something that the House of Commons will now no longer pass Bucklebury and Kingsclere Inclosure Bills.[*] These were considered as cases of pecuniary injustice to the poor. But there are other kinds of injustice, besides pecuniary; injustice to the whole nation, as well as to the poor. Is it too much to expect from those who vote away 11,000l. of the people’s money for two Correggios,[†] that they should show some value for the people’s tastes and enjoyments, as well as for what are called their interests? Hampstead Heath, it is said, is now on the point of being enclosed; the Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson, whose cupidity is the motive to this sacrilege, has already enclosed Charlton Wood, and stopped up every, or almost every, foot-path between Blackheath and the Thames. The writer of this, who has been a pedestrian in the neighbourhood of London for about ten years, has, during that time, had to lament the loss of the two finest pieces of natural scenery within twelve miles of the capital,—Penge-wood, between Dulwich and Beckenham; and the Addington hills, near Croydon. The first, an inclosure bill[‡] having been obtained by a man named Cator, who has a house in the neighbourhood, is now in preparation for being cut up into citizens’ boxes and bits of garden ground. The Addington hills, one of the most remarkable pieces of heath and forest scenery in the south of England, have been usurped by the Most Reverend Father in God, Doctor Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury, the author of the famous “prostration of the understanding and will,”[§] and of the doctrine, that the King, not in legal fiction merely, but in fact, can “do no wrong.”[¶] When Dr. Howley was appointed to the archbishopric, to which a house and park adjoining these beautiful hills are unfortunately appended, one of his first acts was to obtain an order of two magistrates, for stopping a public road which ran along the summit of the hills; and, this being effected, he immediately enclosed nearly the whole tract with a paling seven or eight feet in height. By this the people of Croydon have lost their most frequented walk, and the people of London and the neighbourhood, the most beautiful scenery to which they had ready access. It is some comfort to think, that the ground which has thus been added to the primate’s domain, will in a few years, with the rest of the church property, be at the disposal of the State. When the time comes, and it will come, when we shall see the people of Croydon sally out with axe in hand, and level the fences which have been set up to exclude them from what was morally as much their birthright as any man’s estate is his—then, and not till then, we shall feel that the Reform Bill has done its work, and that the many are no longer sacrificed to the few.
* * * * *
We know not if the sow ever mistakes the squeaking of her own pigs for the voice of the whirlwind; but the Tory aristocracy certainly mistake the voices of their sons and their sons’ toadeaters for the “spirit of the age.”[*] The present exhibition wonderfully exemplifies that great fact in human nature, the importance of a man to himself. From Doctor the Duke of Wellington down to poor Lord Encombe, every character in the farce felt so solemnly persuaded that he was, or at least looked like, a hero or a martyr! while in reality he only looked like a fool. It is really too simple of the Tories to fancy that any one except themselves cares for, or so much as thinks about, what Oxford says or does. We all knew already that it is the hot-bed of Toryism, and that the clergy of the Church of England and the youths whom they educate are sure to be Tories. We know no more now. Tories they are, and Tories let them be. As they were the last Jacobites in the country, so will they be the last Tories. The only remark (beyond an occasional interjection of contempt) which we have heard from the lips of any Radical on the affair, was an expression of regret that a place pretending to be the fountain-head of morality and religion, should teach its youth to cheer a Lyndhurst and a Wynford; as if the youth of the London University should toss up their hats for Mr. Wakley or Mr. Whittle Harvey.
Oxford was powerful once; but even the prestige of its power has passed away; it is as effete as the Pope, also an important enough personage in his day. But what has once been powerful, usually lives on until it becomes ridiculous; and that evil day has arrived for Oxford. Peace be with it! for it can now do no harm.
* * * * *
Lord Bacon recommends that in studying the nature and laws of any principle or element of the universe, we should observe it where it exists in the greatest abundance and strength, and is least counteracted by the presence of any adverse element.[*] We think this a good rule; and in obedience to it, we shall exhibit from time to time such specimens as offer themselves, of the characteristic vices of some institution or some state of mind, carried to the monstrous. Two such have presented themselves within the last few days.
1. What a Bishop is:—In the House of Lords, on a petition for removing the civil disabilities of the Jews,[†] some one remarked, that as they tolerated Socinians, they might as well tolerate Jews, who were not one whit greater blasphemers, (such at least seemed to be the spirit of the noble lord’s remark.)[‡] Dr. Grey, bishop of Hereford, and brother of the Prime Minister, hereupon observed, “The Socinians were a set of persons whom he held in utter abhorrence—as a Christian he could not do otherwise;” but yet he must say that the Socinians, though they rejected the divinity of our Saviour, believed him to be the Messiah, while the Jews affirmed the Lord Jesus Christ to be an impostor.[§]
Pious soul! As a Christian he could not do otherwise than hold a large body of his fellow-creatures “in utter abhorrence,” because, though they acknowledge the same revelation with himself, they differ as to some few points of its interpretation; yet, even these people whom he utterly abhors, he thinks it but just to protect from being confounded with those who acknowledge only a part of the same revelation: for these last, “utter abhorrence” is not enough; we know not what words he has reserved to express the bitterness of his feelings towards them.
Protect us from such Christianity! If this be the figure under which Christianity is to continue to be exhibited by its recognized teachers, there needs no prophet to predict, that, as the religion of the people of this country, it will not last two more generations. The religion which men shall ever again reverence, and shape their lives by, will be, Dr. Grey may depend on it, another kind of religion than this.
2. What a Landlord is.—In a debate, a highly important one, raised on the Emigration clause of the Poor Law Bill by Mr. Whitmore,[*] who took that opportunity of pressing upon the House those enlightened views of colonization, which are about to be, for the first time, realized in the formation of a new colony, Major Handley called upon all supporters of the corn laws to oppose emigration, saying that the principle was exactly the same, for the people “ought to stop at home and eat the corn grown in this country.”[†]
The principle is exactly the same, being no other than that the whole people of England are the live-stock of the English corn-growers. And we, in imitation of Major Handley’s naïveté, but reversing the terms of his proposition, call upon all who do not think it the duty of all English people to “stop at home and eat the corn” grown for them by Major Handley, to vote for the repeal of the corn laws: for it is mere twaddling to affect to see any difference between the two pieces of tyranny.
In common with the remainder of the liberal press,[‡] we augured no good from Lord Grey’s filling up his cabinet with mere stop-gaps, promoted from the lower ranks; the resistance of the modified cabinet to Mr. Ward’s motion;[§] and that unfortunate letter to Lord Ebrington, deprecating what constitutes the sole strength of a reforming ministry, a “constant and active pressure from without.”[¶] But our anticipations have been materially changed by Mr. Abercromby’s accession to the cabinet, and by Lord Grey’s noble speech on the Irish Church.[∥] How the Times and the Examiner could possibly see in that speech a truckling to the Lords,[**] passes our comprehension: we see nothing in it but a defiance to the Lords; and the Lords, we are fully persuaded, see it in no other light.
To say that the Tories had the majority in that House, was merely to say what Lord Grey could not possibly be supposed to be ignorant of. To say that he knew it, and that knowing it, he should steadily pursue his own course, and that they, not he, had anything to dread from a collision, was not only no cowardice, but the most triumphant refutation of the charge of cowardice; the distinctest proclamation that, let them do their worst, he feared them not. Lord Grey’s speech was the bravest act of his ministerial life, next to the framing of the Reform Bill. He said everything which could have been wished or asked for—everything which it had been the reproach of the ministry that it had not dared to say. We were not to expect that he would declare himself an enemy to Church Establishments; there is no reason to doubt that he is a sincere friend to them. Short of this, what did he not say that could have been said on the occasion by the most determined reformer? He avowed principles which went to the root of the whole subject. He declared, that if the endowments of the Protestant Establishment exceed the wants of the Protestant population, it is the right and duty of the State to apply the surplus to the general purposes of moral and religious instruction. He declared that if, when those purposes were fully provided for, a further surplus remained, it was the right of the State to take that further surplus, and apply it to any purpose which it deemed most advisable. He declared it as his deliberate conviction, that, in the case of the Protestant Church of Ireland, after the religious wants of the Protestant population were fully supplied, there would remain, not only a surplus, but a large surplus. And he distinctly affirmed, that upon these principles, he, as a minister, was prepared to act. Nor did he, as is the practice of some of his colleagues, say bold things so timidly, that the impression left is of spiritlessness, and not of boldness. The tone of his speech was wholly in accordance with its substance: the style was that of a dignified determinedness of purpose, and by no means, as it has strangely appeared to some of our contemporaries, querulous and dejected.
What matters it, if Lord Lansdowne or Lord Brougham used language[*] which did not come up to the mark of Lord Grey’s speech? The principles of a ministry are the principles of the minister who is at its head. Lord Grey is a man who weighs his words: every word with him means all it seems to mean. Lord Brougham’s words are thrown out at random; he never speaks twice of the same thing in the same tone.
Few things could have been more solemn and impressive than the warning addressed by Lord Grey to the assembly—addressed to them on an authority so imposing to them as that of Napoleon—that he, the conqueror of Europe, had fallen, not by the strength of his enemies, not by his wars or his imprudences, but because he had opposed the spirit of the age—that the Bourbons who succeeded him, and all the old governments of Europe, would perish from the same cause—and that every government, and the order to which Lord Grey belonged, and which he was as desirous as any one to maintain, unless they profited by the example, would share the same fate.[†] That such truths should be spoken to that assembly, by an English prime minister, was what, very few years ago, would have been deemed impossible. The Lords have never received such a lesson; they will never forget it, though they will never profit by it; it will ring in their ears till the day of their fall.
After Lord Grey’s speech, we were not surprised at Mr. Abercromby’s acceptance of a cabinet office; and we do not doubt that he had grounds for what he is represented to have said to the electors of Edinburgh, that “he has become a member of the administration, because he believes it now to entertain views more consonant to his own, and because he has a strong hope that its measures will henceforth more decidedly attack, and more completely remove abuses; and that thus our institutions, being thoroughly renovated, will more surely tend to accomplish the good of the whole community.”[*]
Almost all that we have hitherto observed of the conduct and declarations of Ministers, since the debate on Mr. Ward’s motion, has been of a kind to justify our hopes. We must particularly commend the feeling which they manifested, and which, it must in justice be said, was manifested by the whole House, on the subject of national education, when brought before them by Mr. Roebuck.[†] An excellent committee has been appointed, and there is now reason to hope that on that grand subject something not inconsiderable will be done.
The only bad symptom which we have yet discerned is, their declared purpose of renewing the Irish Coercion Bill.[‡] On this subject we suspend our final judgment until the bill is brought in. The military tribunals, which Mr. Abercromby, before he was in office, steadily and uncompromisingly opposed, were the principal blemish in that bill; and we would fain hope that his influence may now induce his colleagues to provide a substitute for that odious jurisdiction. It is not in the least necessary to the efficiency of the bill; and is the great cause of its well-merited unpopularity. To deliver men to be tried for their lives to-day, into the hands of the very men who were fighting against them yesterday, and who come fresh from the excited passions of a life-and-death struggle, to judge people who have been attempting to kill them—is so dreadful a principle, that no person of common justice or common feeling should on any human consideration vote for a bill containing such a provision.
* * * * *
This odious measure has passed through the committee: and the meritorious efforts of Mr. Warburton[*] to obtain the omission of one of its worst clauses, that which prohibits beer from being sold to be drunk on the premises, have been unsuccessful. It is some satisfaction to think that the tyrannical purpose will be easily frustrated, as the beer will be sold in one house, and drank in another. The Act, however, will remain a memorable example of the spirit of our legislature; which, with all its pretended regard for vested interests, when they are the interests of persons who have an interest in those two houses, will have deliberately sanctioned a more extensive confiscation of vested interests than has almost ever, within our recollection, been deliberately and undisguisedly propounded in a bill introduced into Parliament.*
* * * * *
NO. VI, AUG., 1834†
It is recorded that King Charles the Second, in one of his merry moods, requested the Royal Society to explain the fact that a fish has no weight when weighed in its own element. The philosophers laid their heads together, and thought of a variety of explanations, but forgot to verify the fact itself, which was a mere invention of the jocular monarch.[*] A similar blunder appears to us to have been fallen into by the House of Lords last night, and by many others among those who occupy themselves with public affairs. They are all quarrelling over conflicting theories as to the causes of the increase of crime, and actually debating whether the increase is caused by education! forgetting, meanwhile, to ascertain whether crime has increased. We have never seen or heard of any evidence of increase which appeared to us deserving of the slightest regard. It is astonishing, not only how little pains mankind will take to get at the truth, on matters which are every body’s concern, and not theirs peculiarly, but also how little evidence contents them, in such a case, as ground for believing assertions the most deeply implicating the highest interests of their country and of their kind. A somewhat greater numerical account of commitments or convictions during two or three years, will prove to them, beyond a doubt, that the labouring classes are becoming fearfully demoralized; and if you presume to suspend your judgment, and desiderate further proof, you are reputed a disregarder of “facts.” Facts! no: it is not facts we disregard, it is unfounded inferences from them. Grant that convictions have increased,—grant, even, that the increase is permanent and not temporary, arising from general and not local causes; does it follow that more crimes are committed? May it not be merely that a greater number are detected, or that a greater number are prosecuted? Though, perhaps, most criminals at some period of their career undergo punishment, the immense majority of crimes go unpunished. It has been calculated by solicitors, the best authorities on such a subject, that in London a youth who begins business as a thief may reckon upon not less than six years of impunity before he is removed by legal process. Here is “ample room and verge enough”[*] for a large increase of convictions without any increase of crime.
Some years ago a worthy city-magistrate distinguished himself by extraordinary activity in the performance of the duties of his mayoralty. He gave, at the same time, a corresponding energy to the police of the city, and the consequence was that a greater number of cases by several hundreds were brought before him than was ever known to have been investigated by any other chief magistrate. Such is the habit of looking to these returns alone [the returns of commitments and convictions] as showing the state of crime in any given district, that we have seen it charged in print, and heard it mentioned by public men, as a reproach to this magistrate, that more crime had been committed in the city during his mayoralty than during any other.*
Again, have there been no circumstances to diminish the reluctance of injured persons to prosecute? Has not the severity of punishments within the last few years been greatly mitigated? Is it not by an innovation introduced within the last few years, that prosecutors are allowed their expenses? Many increased facilities of other kinds have also of late years been afforded to prosecutors and witnesses. Has not a notion grown up within a few years, (we believe a very false one,) that the increased mildness of prison-discipline has made our gaols not only no longer the dens of horror they were, but places where the prisoner is actually too comfortable, and too well off? and has this opinion no tendency to weaken the scruples which good men felt about sending a fellow creature thither! One principal chapter of the criminal calender,—juvenile delinquency,—has grown up almost entirely of late years; not because boys did not formerly steal apples, but because formerly when they stole them they were whipped and sent home, while now they are prosecuted and sent to gaol. This change is probably owing to increased mildness of manners; men can no longer bear to convert themselves into executioners; yet, if there have been any increase of crime, here is as likely a cause of it as any other: for the child, whom a brief though severe punishment immediately following the offence might have deterred from a repetition of it, usually comes out of gaol irreclaimably corrupted.
But though there is no sufficient reason to believe that crime has increased, nobody in his senses can doubt that it will increase, if we do not carefully watch and promptly remove everything in our institutions which operates as an incentive to it. Persevere in the present administration of the Poor Laws, and the whole of the agricultural population will, in a few years, be converted into criminals. What else can you look for, when you shall have completely succeeded in obliterating from the minds of the agricultural labourers, all traces of any line of demarcation between what is theirs, and what is other people’s; and persuaded them that they have a right to whatever their wants require—they being the best judges of their own wants? Whether crime have increased or not, the administration of the Poor Laws is a grand source of future increase which must be removed. Another, is the inadequacy of our police-arrangements; which have not kept pace with the growth of wealth and population, but afford less protection to property than any police-system in Europe, and that too in the country where there is most to protect. What wonder, again, if crime should be found to increase, when, after gradually ceasing to inflict, we have at last ceased even to threaten, capital punishment, except for a few of the most odious offences; while, by the admission of every competent witness, from Lord Liverpool formerly to Earl Grey now,[*] we have no secondary punishments but what are almost worse than none at all. Lord Liverpool admitted the evil and let it alone; perhaps feeling as Louis XV did, when he talked of the fine things he would do if he were Minister. An English Minister seldom considers himself as Minister for the purpose of doing any useful thing which he is not obliged to do. Something better might have been hoped from the present Ministers; but they are (we say it without presumption) too ignorant; they have neither read enough, nor reflected enough. The most accomplished man among them, without question, is Lord Brougham; and is it not truly deplorable, after all that has been given in evidence, and argued, and written on the subject, to find Lord Brougham still advocating the maintenance of transportation as a punishment, and Lord Denman supporting him?[†] Both these law-lords pledge their professional experience that transportation is dreaded. Yes; but by whom? Transportation is like death: a terrible punishment to the innocent, a most severe one even to the almost innocent; but to the criminal by profession, an object of almost entire disregard.
If the Lord Chancellor will not read Mr. Bentham, or Archbishop Whately, or any of the philosophical writers on the theory of punishment, he can surely find time to read a work of less pretensions, Mr. Wakefield’s Letter from Jack Ketch to Mr. Justice Alderson, a pamphlet which may be purchased for threepence of Mr. Effingham Wilson, and which all who have threepence to spare ought to read.[‡]
Debate on the Universities Admission Bill[*]
It is not a favourable symptom of the state of the public mind, when a great noise is made about little things. What is it that the Dissenters want? Is it education? or is it that their sons should herd with lords’ sons? If the former, they ought to know, and by taking the proper means they may know, that Cambridge and Oxford are among the last places where any person wishing for education, and knowing what it is, would go to seek it. No one goes to Cambridge or Oxford for the education he expects to find there. The sons of the aristocracy go because their fathers went, and because it is gentlemanly to have been there. Those who are to be clergymen go, because it is very difficult otherwise to get into orders. Those who are to be barristers go, because they save two years of their apprenticeship by it, and because a fellowship is a considerable help at the outset of their career. No one else goes at all.
One of the most important objects, certainly, with which Parliament or a Ministry could occupy itself, would be to make the Universities really places of education; to clean out those sinks of the narrowest and most grovelling Church-of-Englandism, and convert them into reservoirs of sound learning and genuine spiritual culture. But is this what the Dissenters are striving for? Nothing of the sort. The place remaining as it is, all they solicit is, permission to subject their children to its pernicious influences.
Unless we would become a nation of mere tradesmen, endowed institutions of education must exist. There must be places where the teachers can afford to teach other things than those which parents (who in nine cases out of ten, think only of qualifying their children to get on in life) spontaneously call for. There must be places where those kinds of knowledge and culture, which have no obvious tendency to better the fortunes of the possessor, but solely to enlarge and exalt his moral and intellectual nature, shall be, as Dr. Chalmers expresses it, obtruded upon the public.[†] And these places must be so constituted, that they shall be looked up to by the public; that parents who are too narrow-minded to see of themselves what is good, shall believe it to be good because it is there taught. In order that benefits which we estimate so highly may not be lost; in order that the means may still be preserved of maintaining places of education, which shall not be the subservient slaves of the opinions and desires of the vulgar—we would have those means rescued from the hands of men who render the very idea of resisting the spirit of the age at once odious and contemptible—men who differ from their age chiefly by wanting its good points; who combine the worldly spirit of the present times with the indolence of monks, and the bigotry and sectarianism of two centuries ago. The first scholar in Great Britain, and the only clergyman of the Church of England who has acquired a European reputation, has just been ejected from his lectureship in the most liberal college of the most liberal of the two Universities, for asserting in a printed pamphlet, that the University does not give religious education;[*] an assertion which every member of the University knows to be true. And Dissenters would send their sons to be educated by these men! Rather, if their sons had been already there, they ought to have indignantly withdrawn them.
But the degrees of the Universities are of importance for professional purposes. Be it so: there, then, lies the evil; there apply your remedy. Abolish the monopoly of the Universities. Until public opinion shall have ripened for a reform in the places themselves, the law which should be enacted by Parliament is not one for admitting Dissenters to degrees, but one for rendering degrees no longer necessary for the enjoyment of any civil privileges. The title for exercising a profession should be a good education, wheresoever acquired: not the fact of having been educated at a certain place, least of all at a bad place. The certificates of Oxford and Cambridge should pass current only at their intrinsic value; and those of every other place of education should do the same.
In the debate last night, Mr. Ewart, of Liverpool, an active and valuable Member of Parliament, had the courage to say that the education of our higher ranks is below that of some other countries.[†] This notorious truth having excited a murmur, Mr. Ewart defended himself by the instance of Germany, and by rather an unfortunate one, that of the United States. We have always understood that in America there is still less of sound literary and philosophical instruction than even here, and that the superiority of that country consists in the superior education of the poorer classes, not of the richer. Mr. Ewart might have said “Germany and France.”
If Mr. Ewart exhibited one kind of courage, two members for Universities exhibited another kind. Mr. Estcourt held up Oxford and Cambridge as the two great causes of the prevalence of Christianity in this kingdom. “He would say, Do not disturb us; allow us to go on as we have done, launching into the world young men perfectly capable of carrying that religion into every relation of life.”[‡] Mr. Goulburn adjured every parent, who had sent his son to a University, to “reflect what he [the son] might have been, had not his passions been subdued by daily and regular devotion.”[*] This is rather a bold offer to let the tree be judged by its fruits. Will Mr. Estcourt’s and Mr. Goulburn’s constituents bear out their representatives in this challenge? Will they allow judgment to pass upon the Universities according to the practical regard paid by the majority of the pupils to Christianity, considered as enjoining them to subdue what Mr. Goulburn is complimentary enough to call their “passions?” Solvuntur risu tabulæ.[†] We admit that those venerable places succeed in inspiring the young men with highly friendly feelings towards religion, in common with the other institutions of the State, and a very proper respect for the Deity, as one of the constituted authorities.
* * * * *
A good aim (how often it has been remarked) is seldom lost; if the good object aimed at be not furthered, some other of perhaps equal value is so. Mr. O’Connell’s motion for the reform of the law of libel[‡] will be the destruction of the taxes on knowledge.[§] That question, after being discussed and apparently lost for the session, was referred to the Committee on the Law of Libel. Lord Brougham attended that Committee as a witness, and said and unsaid all manner of liberal and ultra-liberal things on the libel question; but when interrogated as to the taxes on newspapers and political tracts, he delivered a firm, steady, and well-reasoned opinion in condemnation of them.[¶] Last night he repeated this opinion in the House of Lords, and intimated his intention of bringing the subject before Parliament.[∥] There is little doubt that these taxes will be taken off at the beginning of the next session; for this is one of the subjects on which there is reason to believe the Chancellor to be really in earnest; and we see that he now considers the time to be come for carrying his opinion into effect.
There will now, therefore, be vastly greater facilities than were ever before known for the diffusion of important truth among the people, and also of mischievous error. But up to this time error has had the field to itself. Truth will now, for the first time, have its natural chances of superiority. In the immensely increased number of readers which will be the effect of the cheapness of newspapers and political tracts, any writers of talent may hope, whatever be their sentiments, to find the quantity of support necessary for a moderate degree of success, without prostituting themselves to the hired advocacy of the opinions in vogue.
* * * * *
This will not do. Sir Robert Peel last night uttered a sentiment which is the bitterest censure upon many of the acts of the present Ministry: “Of all the vulgar arts of government to which a Ministry can resort, the solving of political difficulties by putting their hands into the public purse is the most vulgar.”[†] That is the art by which the Ministry are attempting to solve the difficulty of Irish tithe.
For centuries the English oligarchy have billetted their own priesthood upon a hostile nation, until that nation positively will not bear the insult and injury one hour longer. No appeal to reason, justice, or even the fear of ultimate consequences, has been hearkened to. The Irish have, therefore, taken the only means which were left them; they refuse to pay. The English oligarchy, Whig and Tory, through their organ Lord Grey,[‡] and through all their other organs, proclaim that this is all the fault of agitators; that the Irish would have gone on paying the hostile priesthood for ever, if it had not been for O’Connell; and that O’Connell is a demon, for having, on their own showing, accomplished what no person recorded in history ever did without being reputed by posterity a hero. After having thus exhaled unavailing resentment against O’Connell, the Ministry proceed to give up to him the object he contends for. The tithe is no longer to be appropriated exclusively to the use of the un-Irish Church. But it is not convenient to make up their minds this year, to what purpose it shall be appropriated. For the sake of six months’ ease to Ministers, two-fifths of the tithe are to be flung away. If the landlords will only be so good as to collect it for us, they may keep forty per cent., and we will only ask them for the remaining sixty. This is rather a large discount to give for present payment.
Why so eager to save all we can this year, as if next year the whole would have evaporated, or fallen into the sea? The entire produce of the land will be there next year as well as this year, and may be laid hold of by taxation then as well as now, for any purpose to which the sentiments of the people are not violently opposed. If the new appropriation meditated for next year be of a kind not obnoxious to the people, the whole tithe will be as readily paid by them as three-fifths of it. If the contrary be the case, it will be as impossible to levy three-fifths, or even one-fifth, as the whole. It is not to the tithe, as tithe, that the Irish people object, but to the payment of it to a hostile priesthood. Let that cease, and you may secure the whole fund with ease. Let that continue, even one year longer, and you will never, during the currency of existing leases, realize another farthing. In any sense it is absurd, permanently, and under the pledge of the national faith, to abandon to the landlords two-fifths of what they will gain in their rents, on the expiration of the present leases, by the abolition of tithe. What harm if no tithe at all is paid this year? Wait till the next. To support the incumbents for one year, there will be no difficulty in raising a sum by loan on the security of the future fund.
* * * * *
The ministry has lost its chief, and is about to go on with little other alteration. The change, however, is not a trifling one. The occasion seems insignificant, compared with the magnitude of the result; but so seemed the division on the Civil List, which turned out the Wellington Ministry.[*] In both cases, what seemed the cause was but the pebble in the road, which shook to pieces the already crazy vehicle.
Lord Grey could not long remain Minister after the Reform Bill. He was the man to carry through a Reform Bill, not the man to execute it. We say this not in disparagement, but, on the contrary, with the most unfeigned respect. Lord Grey is a far braver man, a loftier man, a man of greater dignity of character, with more of the heroic in his composition, than any member of what is now the Ministry, or than all of them put together. But he is of the old school; they are willing to be of the new. Lord Grey has principles, they are men of shifts and circumstances; but his principles are unfit for these times, and he cannot change them. He is the very man he was in 1789. Age has neither corrupted him nor brought him wisdom.
When Lord Grey, in early youth, adopted Reform principles, the people of England were mostly satisfied with the main features of their institutions, and complained only of extravagant expenditure and a few superficial abuses. If Reform had been carried at that time, these would have been remedied, and the social machine generally would have remained untouched. The people would not have had their eyes opened to the great and rapidly-increasing vices of their social polity in general. Government would have been cheap and bad, and so it would have remained until the mere progress of philosophy, unaided by any previous alienation of the people from the ruling classes, had convinced them of its defects. This might have required centuries. Times are altered now; but Lord Grey is still of the same mind. He still sees no evils in our social condition, but those which the people then saw; and if he had his way, Reform would now lead to no consequences but those to which it would then have led. But fifty years of public discontent, though they have made no changes in Lord Grey’s opinions, have made a wonderful revolution in those of mankind. The people are now possessed with an opinion that their institutions, en masse, are in many respects bad, and a cause of evil to them. Lord Grey partly perceives and recognises as a fact, the prevalence of this new opinion, but without any perception of its justice; and his object—his conscientious object—is to prevent the new opinion from having its way; to stem the current which has set in towards change. A man who thus resists the just and necessary tendencies of his times is not fit to be Minister. It may be very fit that those tendencies should be moderated, but by their friends, not by their enemies.
Lord Grey has recently, in a most forcible manner, expressed his sense of the folly of those who resist “the spirit of the age;”[*] nor would he have opposed any obstinate or rash resistance to that spirit; but being at heart its foe, he would have done his utmost to discountenance it, and would have embroiled himself with it in his own despite; as this very affair of the Irish Coercion Bill, which has broken up the Ministry, exemplifies.
It was believed, even before the late disclosures, that the renewal of the Coercion Bill had been forced upon the other Members of the Cabinet by Lord Grey. It is well known that to Lord Grey are to be attributed all the foolish ebullitions of the Ministry, in King’s Speeches[†] and otherwise, against Mr. O’Connell. This could not but be. Irish agitation and Mr. O’Connell, must appear in a quite other light to Lord Grey than to Reformers of a less antiquated school. To others they may seem the exceptionable, and even dangerous, but most efficacious, instruments of the accomplishment of a great public good: to him they cannot but appear as noxious influences, which, by bringing a country to the verge of anarchy, force upon Parliament the adoption of measures, which, although justifiably conceded to necessity, are in themselves wholly to be deprecated. Let Mr. O’Connell be what he will, to us he is the enemy of evil, to Lord Grey he is the enemy of good. Lord Grey therefore regards him with aversion, and would pass Coercion Bills to restrain his operations. The other Ministers perhaps think no better of the man, but they probably think quite as much good as evil of the effects of his influence.
In losing Lord Grey the Cabinet has lost the greater part of such weight of personal reputation as it possessed; it will now have little strength, save that which it may derive from its measures. We fear it has lost most of its real strength of character also; it will now be a mere straw on the surface of the waters; it will drift forward with the current, or backward with the eddy; it will be more afraid of the people, but also more afraid of the Peers. In Lord Grey, what seemed fear of the Peers was, we believe sincerely, fear for the Peers; he could not bear that their obstinacy should ruin them; he threw himself between them and the people, and spared them the shock of a conflict with public opinion, by bearing the brunt of it himself. The present Ministers will do nothing of this sort. Truckle to the Lords they may, if the people will let them; but (except Lord Lansdowne and perhaps one other at most) we doubt if there is a man among them who, if he thought circumstances required it, would not turn the whole order out of doors without a pang.
The people, therefore, have their cause in their own hands. Let them make it less trouble to quarrel with the Lords than with them, and their object, whatever it be, will quite surely be gained.
* * * * *
We have never studied to direct the reader’s attention to the infirmities of individuals; and we are least of all inclined to dwell upon those of the Lord Chancellor; because, with many weaknesses, and even some littlenesses, we believe him to have higher and better aspirations, and a more genuine sympathy with mankind, than any other man in power, or who has held power in England for many years. We shall therefore, of all his recent exhibitions in the House of Lords (by which he little knows how grievously he has lost ground in public estimation,) confine ourselves to the most recent, that on the Poor Law Bill; and to this we shall advert solely for the purpose of disconnecting that Bill from the speculative opinions in disapprobation of Poor Laws in general, with which Lord Brougham, on his own showing most unnecessarily, and as we conceive most mischievously, thought proper to encumber it. As might have been expected, the advantage thus given has been eagerly seized by the enemies of the Bill. The Times exclaims, that the truth has come out at last, and that the real object of the Poor Law reformers is now visible.[*] Whether The Times asserts this factiously or ignorantly, it is probable that many, who have no opportunity of being better informed, will share the impression.
Now, if there be any thing which may be predicated with certainty of the Poor Law Bill it is this, that if carried into effect in the spirit in which it is conceived, it will leave no excuse whatever for attempting to abolish Poor Laws. It affords the means by which society may guarantee a subsistence to every one of its members, without producing any of the fatal consequences to their industry and prudence, which though arising only from the manner in which the law has been administered, have been erroneously supposed to be inseparable from its principle.
We hold a public provision for the poor to be an indispensable part of the institutions of every civilized country. To put the least dignified consideration first, it is necessary even as part of a system of police; for where such a provision does not exist, there must be unbounded toleration of mendicity, the very worst species of pauperism next to that which now exists in the southern counties of England. Besides, it is impossible to refuse to an innocent person in want, that subsistence which you will be obliged to afford to him as soon as he becomes a criminal. Let mere poverty be attended with consequences equal to the most terrible of your punishments, and the chances of crime will be preferred to the certainty of starvation.—Secondly, Poor Laws are necessary on still higher grounds of public policy; as the only means by which an alliance can be established between the pecuniary interest of the rich and the comfort and independence of the poor.—Lastly, Poor Laws are required by the plainest dictates of justice; since it is monstrous that human creatures, who exercised no choice in being born, should be starved for the fault of their progenitors. There is food enough on the earth for all who are alive, and society has motives, short of capital punishment, by which it can enforce, when enforce it must, any necessary restraint upon the increase of the numbers of mankind.
The anti-poor-law doctrine is now almost universally exploded among political economists, though political economy still continues to be most unjustly burthened with the discredit of it, and though Lord Brougham doubtless thought he proved himself a master in the science by professing one of its discarded errors. Of the prudence of perking in the faces of mankind opinions abhorrent to them, on an occasion when those opinions were perfectly irrelevant, we say nothing, as we think with The Chronicle, that statesmen are not to be very severely reproached for sincerity;[†] and we are well pleased to find that Lord Brougham, after so many years of public life, has at last, for once, lain under that reproach.
The Rich and the Poor
A certain Major Pitman, a magistrate of the county of Devon, having been convicted before a bench of magistrates in Petty Sessions, of a series of most brutal assaults, committed, with scarcely any provocation, upon his maid-servant,[*] accompanied with the grossest and most disgusting abuse, and continued through two days; the following was the decision of the Bench:
From the very difficult situation in which we are placed with a brother magistrate, we could have wished that we had not had the case to decide. The Court, however, is unanimously of opinion that this case is not of sufficient importance to be sent to the Sessions; they do consider the assault proved, and do adjudicate the full penalty of five pounds to be paid by the defendant.[†]
Assuredly all persons in England, of whatever sex or age, who happen to be weak of body, have abundant reason to be grateful for the mildness and humanity of modern manners; for it is now proclaimed to the world that any person of property and station, who is sufficiently a brute in his own nature, and is not ashamed of being considered so by others, may beat and kick his female servants to any pitch, short of danger to life or limb, and may insult them with any degree of contumely, without incurring from the justice of his country the slightest inconvenience. Suppose that this girl had a brother, or a lover, who had resented the injury to her, let us say only by knocking down the wretch who committed it; was there a man on that Bench who would not have thought him most leniently dealt with by being sent for only a month to the tread-mill? And these dastardly creatures would be the foremost, probably, to inveigh against the insubordination and against the immorality of the poor. Why, if the English people, being a brave people, were not also a most obedient, peaceable, and moral people, these men would not have dared show themselves in the streets without an escort of soldiers after delivering such a judgment.
The Chronicle says it cannot doubt that the matter will be investigated, and that if the facts stated are correct, Major Pitman will be dismissed from the magistracy.[‡] Alas! no. Who ever heard of a magistrate dismissed for oppressing the poor, or tyrannizing over the weak? It is not for such trifles, that Chancellors and Home Secretaries will be uncivil to a gentlemanly man. If Major Pitman had even done any thing really ungentlemanly; if he had refused to pay a gaming debt, or shown the white feather in an affair of honour; even then, though a minister might cut him, no minister would think of turning him out of the Commission of the Peace. He would retain the power of imprisoning and transporting his fellow creatures until he happened to be hanged or transported himself.
But these things will not last much longer. Every such occurrence is but another kick to the ball which is rushing down hill with perpetually increasing velocity. The magistracy of England, with the rest of our aristocratic institutions, will, in a few years, have ceased to be.
* * * * *
The late disgusting exhibition at Charing Cross Barracks has excited a feeling in the public, which has compelled the Secretary of War to promise that a commission shall be issued to revise the whole of our military system. In the speech in which he made this announcement, Mr. Ellice declared that since public opinion has so greatly restricted the punishment of flogging, military discipline has greatly relaxed; that acts of insubordination have become much more frequent than before, and that in the last year one-fifth of the whole army have been subjected to charges of different kinds.[*]The Examiner hints that there has been another cause of the relaxation of discipline; that a spirit of hatred between the soldiers and the people has been sedulously cultivated by their officers:
We suspect that the truculent spirit boastfully manifested by the officers towards the people has had some effect on the actions of the men. Military outrages against the people have been looked upon by the officers with an indulgent eye, and hence, doubtless, an increase of such offences; and misconduct in one direction begets misconduct in another, and the solider who has spurned the civil law, under a superior provoking the transgression which he seems to chide, soon ventures to trespass also against the military law. We could mention cases in which there has been mixed a violation of military and civil law, and in which the wrong against the people seems to have redeemed, in the eyes of the military judges, the infraction of military rule, for the punishment allotted in consideration of both offences has been far short of what it would in all probability have been had the military offence been unmingled with the other. We have put a question thus to military men: What would be the punishment of a party drunk on their march, who used their troop-horses for the sport of women picked up on the road side?—And the sentence supposed in the answer has far exceeded the punishment which was actually awarded in such a case—with this (excusing) addition, that the sword was drawn upon people who manifested their disgust at the most indecent and brutal conduct. The remark which will not want examples in various quarters in this—that offences against the discipline of the army, which would be severely punished if solely offences against discipline, are more leniently dealt with if mixed up with offences against the laws of the land. The people of the lower part of Westminster will bear testimony to the truth of this observation. But there is not only an indulgence for military riot at the expense of the public peace, but a direct defiance of the civil law is occasionally taught to the soldiery; thus a commanding officer lately ordered the barrack-gates to be closed against a constable with a warrant for the apprehension of one of the privates. Whatever insubordination there now is in the army, is the natural effect of the spirit and countenance of its officers since the agitation of the Reform Bill. The license of the soldiery has extended, as license always will do, beyond the intention of those who were pleased to relax discipline for a particular object.[*]
We fear there is much truth in these remarks. But we conceive that the root of the matter lies still deeper. It is a vice inherent in an army or a navy exclusively officered by gentlemen, that the soldiers and sailors must be treated like brutes. If indeed the commanding officer be a man to whom those under him can look up with reverence, that reverence renders his mere displeasure so severe a punishment, that he is able to dispense with corporal torture. Nelson needed it not, nor Collingwood, nor Sir Alexander Ball; and never were ships’ crews so admirably disciplined as theirs. Whether in a regiment, a ship, or a school, those only govern by torture who have not the virtue necessary for governing by personal influence. When the scourge is needed, it is always the fault and often the crime of the superior. But from almost all superiors, faults, and from many, crimes, are to be expected. No army or navy is officered with Nelsons and Collingwoods. These were rare men. The discipline of an army or navy cannot be left dependent upon the qualities of individual men; it must be provided for by the general system of military and naval rewards and punishments.
Now rewards, in the English army, there are none; for no soldier can rise beyond the rank of a sergeant. As for punishments, for the greater military offences only three are possible: 1st, The offender must be shot; or, 2dly, Flogged; or, 3dly, Dismissed from the service. Now this last, which in almost all other armies is a punishment of extreme severity, with us is a reward. The soldier is but too happy to get his discharge, and would commit offences purposely for a very slight chance of obtaining it. Until this is remedied, discipline in the army never can by possibility be kept up but by shooting or flogging. The men will be either shot, flogged, or undisciplined, until dismissal from the army shall be a punishment and not a privilege: and a privilege it will be until the pay of the common soldier be raised beyond what any taxes which the British people will pay afford the means of, or until, as in France or Prussia, every common soldier shall have the possibility before him of rising to be colonel of his regiment.
Now, as the people of England have neither the passion of equality which distinguishes the French, nor the passion of justice which has hitherto distinguished no nation, this most desirable result will only be brought about through the passion of humanity; which, by not allowing soldiers to be either shot or flogged, will compel recourse to the only means of government fit for rational beings; and will secure, at length, for that important portion of the people the privileges of men, by not tolerating that they should any longer be treated like brutes. We therefore rejoice from our souls that the public loathing at the practice of flogging is becoming too intense to be resisted, and we most earnestly hope that every word which fell from Mr. Ellice on the insubordination of the army is literally true. We trust that the army is, and will progressively become more and more undisciplined, until the time comes when from sheer necessity, on the failure of all other means of keeping the soldiers in subjection, the oligarchy must perforce loose their hold of what will be the last and most cherished of their monopolies. They will part with it as with their life’s blood, but ere many years shall have passed over their heads, they may rely upon it, it will be theirs no longer.
* * * * *
NO. VII, SEPT., 1834
In the debate of last night on the admission of Dissenters to the Universities, Lord Melbourne took the trouble of stating to the assembly of which he is an hereditary member, that he is an adherent of the Church of England.[*] We could have guessed as much of any Prime Minister, without his assurances: who expects him to profess any thing else while it is yet only the eleventh hour, and one entire revolution of the minute-hand is yet wanting to the final doom? However, it has for some years past been customary for Prime Ministers to take occasional opportunities of protesting that their devotion, their reverence, their respect, their fidelity, &c., (we are not masters of the whole vocabulary,) continue unimpaired towards that venerable establishment, &c., to which, under God, &c., pure form of Christianity, &c., bulwark of the Constitution, &c., barrier against sectarianism, &c., and infidelity, &c.; in all which they are probably as sincere as in any other of their speculative opinions; and as much so as they are capable of being, in any creed, or world-theory, or abstract principle. In spite of which, what, philosophically considered, do all these assurances, so perpetually repeated, mean, except that by the reckoning of him who keeps the ship’s log, it still wants some minutes to the dreaded hour?
Lord Melbourne, however, did not merely say that he was an adherent of the Church of England: he even said why. In the first place, he did not pretend to understand all the doctrines of the Church of England, but so far as he did understand them he thought them true. This, however, was not all:
He would say further, though he was well aware that he should expose himself to the censure of some persons by making the declaration—he would say further, that he was attached to the Church of England, and would support it to the best of his power, because it was the religion of his forefathers, and because it was the religion of his country.—(Loud cheers from the Opposition benches.)
We consider this declaration as quite invaluable. It is a naïve statement of what an average English gentleman really feels. They believe in their religion, not as any thing involving truth or falsehood, or in which their own eternal welfare, or that of mankind, are concerned; but as part of the duty they owe to their country, as English gentlemen, to uphold what they find in existence. That the sentiment found a ready echo in aristocratic breasts, was testified, not only by the “loud cheers” already alluded to, but by the speech of the succeeding orator, Lord Caernarvon, (better known as Lord Porchester the poet,) who expressed his warm approbation of the reason which the noble lord had given for being of the Church of England, and his regret that a sentiment in every respect so worthy of that (the Tory) side of the house, should not have been delivered from it.[*]
What a reason for being of a religion! It was the religion of his forefathers, meaning his father and grandmother, (omitting the forty generations of Catholics, and the forty times forty of pagans;) and it was the religion of his country, meaning about half, or less than half of the people of his country. Are these such reasons as any one would assign for believing any thing which he cared about the truth of? Would he believe in geometry because it was the geometry of his forefathers, or in history because it was the history of his country? If a religion were to be believed because of its truth, who would ground his belief of it upon a consideration which militates so much more strongly in favour of Brahma or of Fo? But when belief is made a matter of family affection, or social obligation, the case is altered. Then, as the Englishman or the Chinese are required by patriotism to serve different countries, so they may be bound by religion to worship different gods. Lord Melbourne’s religion is an affair between him and his family, or between him and his country, nowise between him and his God; the Deity alone not being a party concerned in the religious belief or observances of his creatures. But this is a genuine representation of the feeling really entertained. In an ordinary conservative gentleman’s scheme of religion, the part assigned to the Deity is by no means a dignified one. He is to be believed in, for his existence is implied in several of the thirty-nine articles;[†] and such honours are to be paid him as the Church has been accustomed to render: but as for believing their religion because it comes from Him, that is out of the question in their case: as the “religion by law established,”[‡] it comes to them, with the rest of their social obligations, from Parliament; though doubtless they would admit that it comes from God too. But the truth is, that to them God comes from it.
Lord Althorp and the Beer Bill
To their indelible disgrace, the Ministry have adopted Sir Edward Knatchbull’s Beer Bill as a Government measure; and this act of real insult and injury to the industrious poor will pass into the statute-book under their auspices,* as a companion to the Poor Law Bill, and an index, as too many will be apt to think, to the real animus of this last.
We have so often, in these Notes, exposed the pretences of the beer-house suppressors, that we return to the subject only to notice, in a speech of Lord Althorp, an observation of almost miraculous shallowness. The bill, it seems, gives an appeal to the Quarter-Sessions against the decisions of individual magistrates: and this not being deemed by some persons a sufficient remedy, Lord Althorp declared that he “looked upon an appeal in open Court to be as sure a protection to justice as trial by jury; at all events, in cases such as occurred under the present bill. The magistrates who tried appeal cases came from distant and various parts of the country, unfettered by previous pledges, and devoid of any local prejudices.”[*] Very true; but sheepstealers also “come from different parts of the country,” yet if we merely set one gang of them to watch another, it will fare but ill with the flock. As a chairman of Quarter-Sessions, Lord Althorp ought to have known better what his brother justices are made of. What if they be “devoid of local prejudices?” Are they not all magistrates, and country gentlemen? and among what class, not excepting even the clergy, exists there so intense an esprit de corps as among these? “Ask my brother if I am a thief,” says the proverb; but Lord Althorp would think the brother an unexceptionable referee if he were only a half-brother. Of what avail has been the power of appeal to the Quarter-Sessions against the stopping up of paths? Even between man and man there is notoriously not a tribunal in the country, exposed to the public eye, where grosser injustice is constantly committed than at the Quarter-Sessions. There are exceptions, where a man of weight in the country, who happens to be laborious, and a lover of impartial justice, fills the chair. But these are exceptions. The contrary is the general rule.
* * * * *
In our comments on this discreditable case in last month’s Notes, we expressed our persuasion that the Ministry would not remove Major Pitman from the Commission of the Peace.[†] It is, therefore, doubly incumbent upon us to make our acknowledgments on behalf of the public, to the Lord Chancellor, for an act of justice which, obvious as it is, no former Chancellor would have thought it incumbent upon him to perform.
We cannot, however, bestow the merited commendation on this proceeding of Lord Brougham’s, without at the same time remarking, that if justice has been done, it is no thanks (to use a familiar expression) to the Morning Chronicle. Our worthy cotemporary, who, though his paper has become a regular Ministerial organ, will always have our best wishes and our most perfect respect, inserted an article on the 5th of this month, which fully prepared us for a whitewashing of Major Pitman.[*] Though he might be a brute in his family, that did not, the Chronicle argued, prove him unfit for the bench; since he might be able to command his temper there, though not elsewhere. Yes, doubtless; and to read moral lectures from the bench on command of temper and pass sentence, most imperturbably upon poor and ragged people, for offences not grosser than his own, and infinitely more excusable. We are sure that the excellent editor of the Chronicle had no hand in this miserable sophistry. It was not in this spirit that he conceived those memorable articles, which made the country ring with the offences and follies of the country magistracy, and did more than has perhaps been done by any single individual to bring down the oligarchy of England.
* * * * *
There are facts occurring, we might say constantly occurring, which necessitate one to believe, not only that the Whig Ministry is altogether a government of departments,—that the collective will, or the collective understanding of the Cabinet, is hardly ever brought to bear upon anything,—that any single Minister commits the Ministry to the most important acts, without consulting with his colleagues,—but even more than this: we must believe that their ignorance of each other’s proceedings is systematic and designed, and has for its object, that when one of them does an exceptionable thing, and the question is put to another, he may wash his hands of it. What a disclosure has just taken place in the affair of the Brighton Guardian!
The participation of Government, in that most censurable prosecution, by a previous engagement to pay its expenses, (a fact studiously withheld from the public when the affair was undergoing discussion in Parliament,)[†] was blurted out by Mr. Sergeant Doyley, at a meeting of the Sussex magistrates, on some day in the week ending July 19th; for, on Sunday, the 20th, the Examiner founded upon the sergeant’s statement, the following just and forcible remarks:
In the course of the discussion, a fact transpired, most disgraceful to the Government. . . . Who can be safe, if the public purse may be secretly applied to attempts to crush him? The prosecutors in this case (their expenses being guaranteed) have nothing to lose; while the prosecuted party, supposing him to escape a verdict under the unjust libel law, may be ruined by the costs. We look upon this transaction as a conspiracy between certain gentlemen and the Home Office, for the ruin of Mr. Cohen. “If you will stand forward and prosecute, we will pay,” was the disgraceful bargain of the Government. But the Minister for the Home Department did not choose, in his gentle mercies, to overwhelm the defendant by employing the Attorney-general. The employment of the Attorney-general is apt to recoil, and not always to overwhelm the party whose destruction is aimed at. Governments have suffered as much by Attornies-general as defendants; and, doubtless, Lord Melbourne remembered that the Grey Ministry, at its onset, had not overwhelmed Mr. Cobbett. There are more reasons than reasons of mercy for the forbearance of Government from prosecutions for libel; but it is for the interest of the public, that whatever Government does in prosecutions, it should do openly, and by responsible functionaries. There should be no underhand maintenance of prosecutions,—no secret subsidy for a war against the Press,—no encouragement of the vindictive feelings of individuals, by the promise to pay privately the price of their gratification. Such practices are most malignant and most dangerous; and it is the duty of the public to take care that the powers of its purse shall not have so vicious an application. Willing as we have been to think well of Lord Melbourne, it is with no common regret that we find so foul a blot in his administration of the Home Office.[*]
The public money was thus prostituted to support a proceeding, by which, as some newspaper has forcibly remarked, Mr. Cohen was tried for a libel on the magistrates, before a bench of magistrates, and a jury of magistrates. And it has since transpired, from a letter published by Sir Charles Blount, (who has retired from the magistracy, disgusted with this transaction,) that “the magistrates were all of opinion that no opportunity should be lost to suppress the Guardian newspaper.”*
Now, here is an act of Government, of so much importance at least, not to say of so questionable a character, published to the world in the middle of July, by one of the parties concerned,[†] and made the subject of severe strictures by the Press immediately afterwards; and of this act, Lord Althorp, (by whose department it must have been sanctioned,) on August the 4th, the question being put to him by Mr. Hume, denied that he had any knowledge.[*] Mr. Francis Baring, the Secretary to the Treasury, added that, neither had he any knowledge of it; and Mr. Spring Rice volunteered his testimony, that he had been Secretary to the Treasury at the time of the prosecution, and that, to the best of his knowledge, no such act had taken place.[†] The very day after, Lord Althorp returned to the subject, admitted the fact, and justified it![‡]
Now, mark the singularity of these facts. An act of so much importance as a prosecution for libel, is authorized, and the public money drawn upon for the purpose, by the Home Minister, and of course through the Treasury. All the Sussex magistrates knew this; but two Cabinet Ministers, whose peculiar department is the expenditure of the public money, and one of them the organ of Government in the House of Commons, have never heard of it. A motion, in condemnation of the prosecution, is made and discussed in the House of Commons,[§] and still these Ministers have never heard that the Government are concerned in it. But at length, when they must have heard of it,—when the other parties concerned have published the fact,—when it has been carried through all England by the newspapers, and made the subject of severe censures upon the Ministry by their political opponents for three whole weeks—not even curiosity prompts these singular specimens of rulers of the nation to step across Downing-street and ask their colleague whether the assertion is true. Is it possible not to believe that they voluntarily refrained from asking the question, in order that, when it was put to them, they might be unable to answer it? They did, however, answer it,—answered it with a virtual denial; which they were forced to change the next day into an admission and vindication.
As to the vindication, we shall leave the Examiner to deal with it:
In admitting the fact, Lord Althorp coolly observed, that the circumstance was not new, and that several instances were on record. No doubt; it would be difficult to strike out anything new in misgovernment or abuse of powers, after the long course of Tory sway; but we were promised, under the Reform Ministry, a renouncement of these old ways. If the present Ministers are to justify acts of oppression, simply by saying that the Tories did the same before them, we should like to know in what respect they are better than the Tories, in whose steps they follow; and why their government should be preferred? Mr. Warburton expressed his conviction that the noble lord would not, on principle, defend such a case. What matters it, if he pleads practice as a sufficient justification? The plain fact is, that the Home Office conspired with the Sussex magistrates to ruin Mr. Cohen.[*]
* * * * *
The Lords have been most felicitous this year, in the occasions which they have chosen for opposing themselves to the opinion and will of the popular House. They have played into the hands of their enemies most dexterously, though not exactly in the manner which the Ministerial prints ascribe to them.
It would be very absurd to aim at the abolition of the House of Lords, merely because (as the phrase goes) it is bad in the abstract—because it is not such an institution as a wise man would establish if he were framing a constitution for a new country. We have it, and such are the inconveniences of constitutional changes, that if we could get on passably well with it we ought to keep it. But it is impossible, in an age of Movement, to get on with a legislative body which will never move except upon compulsion; and as we knew that this would be the case with the House of Lords, we, from the first, felt that they would render it necessary to thrust them aside. With this conviction, then, we know not what other or better political boon we could have prayed for, than that they should so steer their course as to make the most offensive display before the nation of the animus which actuates them, with the least possible retardation of important measures. We know not by what other means they could have contrived to accumulate so great a heap of obloquy on their own heads with so little harm to the country, as by throwing out the Jew Bill, the Universities’ Admission Bill, and the Irish Tithe Bill.[†] The first two measures would not, if passed, have effected one atom of practical good, while, being rejected, they involve the House which rejected them in the whole odium of setting itself against civil equality and religious liberty; and the loss of the Universities’ Bill, by so immense a majority, throws the whole of the vast and powerful Dissenting body into the arms of the popular party. The rejection of the Irish Tithe Bill is a positive good; but it has been rejected on grounds which place the Lords in direct hostility to the great principle to which the Ministers have newly been forced to commit themselves; the alienability of ecclesiastical property.
We feel for the Irish clergy, whom this act of their pretended friends consigns to something like starvation. Most of them, however, are relations or hangers-on of the Aristocracy, and these must be supported by their families or their patrons. For the remainder, we trust that those who have doomed them to indigence are prepared to subscribe liberally. In every other point of view we rejoice that the Bill, which gave away for ever to a class of the most useless, selfish, and unfeeling drones in human shape who live and kill game on the surface of the earth, two-fifths of the collective estate of the Irish nation called Tithe, has met the fate it deserved.
This act of prodigality and folly will not, we trust, be repeated. The question will have altered its shape before the next session. Nobody, we should think, indulges the fond hope that a single shilling of tithe will ever again be collected in Ireland. Thus, on the one hand, the great problem of rooting out the Irish Church will be brought to a speedier solution, while, on the other, the tithe, being no longer paid to the Church, will fall into the hands of the landlords by the mere force of circumstances, without any interference of the legislature. The whole tithe being thus added to the rent, and the hands of Parliament not being tied, as they would have been if the Bill had passed, by a bargain with the landlord, Parliament may step in when it pleases, and impose upon the landlords at its pleasure, without their having any right to complain, a land-tax equal to the whole tithe.
* * * * *
It is a practice of Lord Brougham to bring in some Bill on an important subject at the very end of a session, whereby he goes off the stage with éclat, and retains the power of silently dropping the measure if it should not suit his convenience to proceed with it in the year following. There are some advantages, even of a public kind, in this mode of proceeding, and we by no means hold it up as in all cases to be condemned. The Bill which he laid on the table of the House, on the last day but one of the session, is laudable in its object, which is to supersede that mockery of the administration of justice, the appellate judicature of the House of Lords.[*] The Chancellor took great pains to impress upon their Lordships that the Bill does not interfere with their privileges; nor does it, any more than a King’s privileges are interfered with, by the appointment, with his consent, of a Regent: but the measure is simply to appoint another court of appeal, to whom the House shall hand over the causes as they arise, to be by them decided; and this is a pretty effectual supersession, though not an infringement of their judicial authority.
Lord Brougham’s notions of appeal, however, which have always appeared to us to be very imperfect, have manifested themselves with all their imperfections in this Bill, and in the speech by which it was prefaced. He laid down two principles: one, that an appeal should never lie to one judge, but always to several; the other, that a judge of appeal should always be, at the very same time, acting as a judge in an inferior court. What should he be worth, he asked, as an appeal judge, were it not for the forensic strepitus in which he is constantly involved?
Now, both these principles we hold to be fundamentally and absolutely erroneous. We consider it to be of the first importance in all judicature, whether supreme or subordinate, that the judge should be one. It is a rule which holds true in all affairs, public or private, that what is one person’s business is better done than what is the joint business of several. One judge relies only upon himself, several rely upon each other. One judge feels that the whole merit and the whole responsibility will lie with him; one of several knows that he had only his aliquot part, and “responsibility which is divided is destroyed.”[*] When four judges are set to try one cause, (as in the Common Law Courts, and in Lord Brougham’s proposed Court of Appeal,) the best that happens is, that one judge really decides, using the others as screens, and occasionally as drudges: while it too often happens that not even one of the four gives his whole mind to the subject; and, perhaps, from the carelessness in making appointments, which is likely to prevail in nominating not a judge but a fourth part of a judge, not one of the four has a mind which he can apply, with any prospect of advantage, to a difficult cause.
A good judicial establishment would consist only of local courts, and one great Court of Appeal, in the metropolis, composed of a sufficient number of the most experienced and skilful judges. Each judge should sit separately to hear causes, but when a point of law has to be settled, then, to secure uniformity of decision, all the judges of the Court of Appeal should sit together.
And then, touching the forensic strepitus which Lord Brougham thinks of so much importance;[†] is there any meaning in this loosest of all terms, and what is it? Surely not, that noise and bustle conduce to excellence, in the operation which, of all others performed by human beings, most demands that the mind be in a cool and collected state. If it be meant that, in the present state of English law, the judge cannot pick out the law applicable to the case without learned lawyers on both sides of the cause to suggest it to him, we grant it; but of such strepitus there will be as much, indeed more, in the highest court, the court of last resort, than in the inferior ones. What is wanted in a judge, besides knowledge of the law, is skill in judging of evidence. As this skill can only be the result of experience, it is most important that a judge in the supreme tribunal should have been a judge in one of the courts below, but nowise that he should be so. If he be fit for the higher duty, it is a mere waste of capacity to set him to work in a narrower field, and under correction from a superior. The judges who can be trusted without a superior over them, are not so numerous that the nation can spare any part of their time for acting under other people.
We abstain from comment on the very unexpected eulogium, (as we think it must have been to those who were the objects of it) which Lord Brougham pronounced upon the House of Lords, as the amenders of the absurd legislation of the House of Commons.[*] We have not been observers of Henry Brougham for fifteen years, to learn now, that when once his lips are unsealed he never knows where to stop. When his cue was to assail the Lords, he could not restrain within the bounds of dignity his fatal facility of sarcastic language; this time, that they might not be alarmed at his meditated encroachment on their judicial functions, his cue was to cajole them, and neither in this, when he once began, could he stop short of the bounds of truth or of discretion. He is a slave to his own flux of words. His tongue governs him, not he his tongue.
* * * * *
At length the session has closed, and closed with a most characteristic speech from the throne. Not a word was said in it of Ireland, or Church Reform, or the claims of the Dissenters, subjects on which even any allusion to the past, much more any suggestion concerning the future, might have been inconvenient. In lieu of such, the whole glories of the session were passed in review: and these did not require a long enumeration. Silence was observed on the subject of the Beer Bill. They had passed the Poor Law Bill; and—they had enlarged the jurisdiction of the Old Bailey![†]Macte virtute, generose puer; sic itur ad astra.[‡]
With a lurking consciousness, possibly, that the expiring session, with the exception of the Poor Law Bill, makes but a sorry figure in the way of legislative amendments, Ministers have drawn upon the session to come for anticipated renown, and have exhorted Parliament to apply itself to the consideration of “our jurisprudence,” and “our municipal corporations.”[§] If we may augur from this that Ministers will themselves do what they bid others do, and will meet Parliament next February with their minds made up, and their measures already matured, though it be only on those two subjects, we shall hail such a change in their practice as one of the most laudable symptoms they can evince of minds at length alive to the exigencies of the times, and to the serious nature of their duties. We trust that the proposed amendments in “our jurisprudence,” will be not merely some trumpery consolidation of statutes, or mitigation of penalties, but that at least a bill for local courts, and local registration in all departments, will accompany the bill for a well organised local administration, which would be the fulfilment of the pledge for a reform of the municipal corporations.
[[*] ]William IV, Speech at the Opening of Parliament (4 Feb., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 1-5.
[[†] ]Enacted as 2 & 3 William IV, c. 45 (1832).
[[*] ]Cf. Matthew, 10:16.
[[†] ]Shakespeare, Henry VIII, II, ii, 43.
[[‡] ]Speech from the Throne, 4 Feb., 1834, col. 2.
[[*] ]Edward George Stanley, Speech on Arrears of Tithes (Ireland) (16 Apr., 1832), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 12, cols. 593-5.
[[†] ]Speech from the Throne, 4 Feb., 1834, col. 4.
[* ]Since this was written, Ministers have announced that they have made up their minds to propose a Local Courts’ Bill, and not to propose any modification of the Timber Duties. Once beaten on this important measure by a Tory Parliament, they have not the heart to try again. [See John Charles Spencer, Statement on Local Courts—Judges’ Rules (11 Feb., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, col. 210, and Speech on Timber Duties (4 Mar., 1834), ibid., col. 1114; and “A Bill Intituled an Act for Establishing Courts of Local Jurisdiction,” 3 William IV (28 Mar., 1833), House of Lords Sessional Papers, 1833, CCCXIV, 205-38. For the Timber Duties, see 1 & 2 George IV, cc. 37, 84 (1821).]
[[‡] ]See 9 George IV, c. 60 (1828).
[[*] ]See Spencer, Statements on the Character of Irish Members (5 Feb., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 121, 126.
[[†] ]See Matthew Davenport Hill, Speech at Hull (22 Oct., 1833), Examiner, 10 Nov., 1833, p. 706.
[[‡] ]In Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones a Foundling (1749), in Works, 12 vols. (London: Richards, 1824), Vols. VII-X.
[[*] ]“Report from the Committee of Privileges,” PP, 1834, XI, 313-16.
[[†] ]In ibid., pp. 315-16; read from the “Report” by the Clerk of the House of Commons (14 Feb., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, col. 398.
[[‡] ]Spencer, Speech on Mr. Sheil (14 Feb., 1834), ibid., cols. 399-400.
[[§] ]3 William IV, c. 4 (1833).
[[*] ]Francis Burdett, Speech in the House of Commons (10 Feb., 1834), The Times, 11 Feb., 1834, p. 2 (not in PD).
[[†] ]Anon., “The Inquisition,” and “The Acquittal,” Examiner, 16 Feb., 1834, pp. 97-8, and 98-9.
[[‡] ]Leading Article on the Post Office, The Times, 5 Feb., 1834, p. 4.
[[§] ]Antoine Conte.
[[¶] ]John Bowring and George William Frederick Villiers.
[[*] ]In Thomas Morton, Speed the Plough: A Comedy in Five Acts (London: Longman and Rees, 1800), V, ii, 35 (not paged).
[[†] ]Leading Article on the Post Office, The Times, 7 Feb., 1834, p. 2.
[[‡] ]Henry George Ward, Speech in Introducing a Motion on the Record of Divisions in the House of Commons (11 Feb., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 239-43; see also “Report from the Select Committee on Divisions of the House,” PP, 1834, XI, 325-8.
[[§] ]Leading Article on Attendance in the House of Commons, Morning Chronicle, 12 Feb., 1834, p. 3.
[[*] ]Tobias George Smollett, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, 4 vols. (London: printed for the Author, 1751), Vol. IV, p. 129 (Chap. ciii).
[[†] ]The statement is reported in Joseph François Michaud and Louis Gabriel Michaud, eds., Biography of Jean Maximilien Lamarque, in Biographie universelle ancienne et moderne, 2nd ed., 45 vols. (Paris: Desplaces and Michaud; Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1854-65), Vol. XXIII, p. 18.
[[‡] ]See Spencer, Speech in Introducing a Motion on the Budget (14 Feb., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 360-8.
[[*] ]Leading Article on British Foreign Policy, The Times, 17 Jan., 1834, p. 4.
[[†] ]See Leading Article on the Reform Bill, Poor Man’s Guardian, I (26 May, 1832), 401.
[[‡] ]Shakespeare, Macbeth, I, v, 52-4.
[[*] ]Spencer, speech of 14 Feb., 1834, cols. 366-7.
[[†] ]E.g., Spencer, Speech in Introducing a Motion on Supply (19 Apr., 1833), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 17, cols. 334-5; Speech in Introducing a Motion on House and Window Taxes (30 Apr., 1833), ibid., cols. 769-76; and Speech on the Inhabited House Duty (7 Aug., 1833), ibid., Vol. 20, cols. 421-5.
[[‡] ]Joseph Hume, Speech on the Budget (14 Feb., 1834), ibid., Vol. 21, col. 384, in Morning Chronicle, 15 Feb., 1834, p. 3.
[[*] ]See, e.g., Leading Article on the Leeds Election, Morning Chronicle, 17 Feb., 1834, p. 2.
[[*] ]Probably Thomas Carlyle; cf., e.g., “Signs of the Times,” Edinburgh Review, XLIX (June, 1829), 455.
[[*] ]See Daniel O’Connell, Speech in Introducing a Bill on Libel Law (18 Feb., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 468-78; and “A Bill to Secure the Liberty of the Press,” 4 William IV (25 Feb., 1834), PP, 1834, III, 449-53 (not enacted).
[[†] ]Mill may have adopted this common image from John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, in Works, new ed., 10 vols. (London: Tegg, Sharpe, Offor, Robinson, and Evans, 1823), Vol. V, p. 212.
[[‡] ]Proverbs, 26:13.
[* ]This was written before Mr. O’Connell’s profligate declaration in favour of the pillage of the widow and the orphan. [Speech on Agricultural Distress (21 Feb., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 684-6.]
[[*] ]Matthew, 7:1.
[* ]The following notes were written as the events occurred, and are given to the public in the order in which they were committed to paper. The dates annexed are those of the newspapers which contained the first announcement of the facts taken for the subject of remark. The history of the session is taken up in the present number where it broke off in the last; which accounts for the appearance in our number for April of so early a date as the 21st of February. [Given by Mill as a headnote to the entries for April.]
[[*] ]See Edward John Littleton, Speech in Moving a Resolution on Tithes (Ireland) (20 Feb., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 572-91; and “A Bill to Abolish Compositions for Tithes in Ireland, and to Substitute in Lieu Thereof a Land Tax, and to Provide for the Redemption of the Same,” 4 William IV (27 Feb., 1834), PP, 1834, IV, 241-303 (not enacted).
[[†] ]Speech from the Throne, 4 Feb., 1834, cols. 1-5.
[[*] ]O’Connell, Speech on Tithes (Ireland) (20 Feb., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, col. 596.
[[†] ]2 & 3 William IV, c. 119 (1832).
[[*] ]PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 649-94 (21 Feb., 1834).
[[*] ]Richard Plantagenet Grenville, Speech in Introducing a Motion on Agricultural Distress (21 Feb., 1834), ibid., cols. 649-59.
[[†] ]Spencer, Speech on Agricultural Distress (21 Feb., 1834), ibid., cols. 661, 663. The Bill was eventually enacted as 4 & 5 William IV, c. 76 (1834).
[[*] ]See PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 694-5 (21 Feb., 1834).
[[†] ]See “Report from His Majesty’s Commissioners for Inquiring into the Administration and Practical Operation of the Poor Laws,” PP, 1834, XXVII-XXXIX.
[[‡] ]Speech of 21 Feb., 1834, cols. 684-6.
[[§] ]See Joseph Mérilhou, “Essai historique sur la vie et les ouvrages de Mirabeau,” in Oeuvres de Mirabeau, 9 vols. (Paris: Dupont and Brissot-Thivars, 1825-27), Vol. I, p. ccxi.
[[*] ]Livy (Latin and English), 14 vols., trans. B. O. Foster, et al. (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons; and Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1919-59), Vol. IV, p. 230 (IX, xvii, 16). The allusion is to Alexander the Great.
[* ]Wordsworth’s Excursion [in Poetical Works, 5 vols. (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1827), Vol. V, pp. 143-4 (IV, 295-318)]. We subjoin the entire passage. It will be long ere its moral shall become obsolete; though so much of it as ascribes to the Bad any exemption from the enervating influences of the age, is less true at present than in the times to which the poet refers. The Bad, fortunately for the destinies of the race, have mostly become as spiritless and nerveless as the well-intentioned:
[[*] ]See William Jacob, “Funding System,” Quarterly Review, XXXI (Mar., 1825), 326.
[[†] ]Charles Grey, Speech on the Corn Laws (1 May, 1826), PD, n.s., Vol. 15, col. 757.
[[‡] ]James Robert George Graham, Corn and Currency; in an Address to the Land Owners (London: Ridgway, 1826).
[[*] ]See 37 George III, cc. 45, 91 (1797).
[[*] ]See 59 George III, c. 49 (1819).
[[†] ]Respectively, Henry Thornton, An Enquiry into the Nature and Effects of the Credit of Great Britain (London: Hatchard, 1802), and Substance of Two Speeches . . . on the Report of the Bullion Committee (London: Hatchard, 1811); Peter King, Thoughts on the Restriction of Payments in Specie (London: Cadell and Davies, 1803), and Speech . . . upon the Second Reading of Earl Stanhope’s Bill (London: Ridgway, 1811); David Ricardo, The High Price of Bullion (London: Murray, 1810), Observations . . . on the Depreciation of Paper Currency (London: Murray, 1811), Reply to Mr. Bosanquet’s Practical Observations on the Report of the Bullion Committee (London: Murray, 1811), and Proposals for an Economical and Secure Currency (London: Murray, 1816); William Huskisson, The Question Concerning the Depreciation of Our Currency Stated and Examined (London: Murray, 1810); William Blake, Observations on the Principles Which Regulate the Course of Exchange (London: Lloyd, 1810); and “Report from the Select Committee on the High Price of Gold Bullion,” PP, 1810, III, 1-232.
[* ]From an article [by John Stuart Mill] in Tait’s [Edinburgh] Magazine [Vol. II] for January 1833 [pp. 463-4], headed “The Currency Juggle.” [In CW, Vol. IV, pp. 187-9.]
[[*] ]When Thompson first wrote (1827), the reference would be to 3 George IV, c. 60 (1822).
[[†] ]Thomas Perronet Thompson, A Catechism on the Corn Laws: With a List of Fallacies and the Answers (1827), 17th ed. (London: WestminsterReview, 1833), pp. 40-1.
[[‡] ]James Silk Buckingham, Speech in Introducing a Motion on Impressment of Seamen (4 Mar., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 1063-79.
[[§] ]James Robert George Graham, Speech on Impressment (15 Aug., 1833), ibid., Vol. 20, cols. 676-84; in that speech (at col. 684) Graham quotes William Pitt,Speech in the House of Lords (22 Nov., 1770), which is in John Almon, Anecdotes of the Life of Pitt . . . With His Speeches in Parliament, 3 vols. (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1810), Vol. II, pp. 197-8.
[[¶] ]Paradise Lost, in Poetical Works, p. 97 (IV, 394).
[[*] ]3 & 4 William IV, c. 73 (1833).
[[†] ]John Stuart Mill, Review of Harriet Martineau’s A Tale of the Tyne, Examiner, 27 Oct., 1833, p. 678.
[[‡] ]See PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 1063-1112 (4 Mar., 1834).
[[§] ]See Graham, Speech in Moving an Amendment on Impressment (4 Mar., 1834), ibid., cols. 1088-90.
[[¶] ]Plato, Gorgias, in Lysis, Symposium, Gorgias (Greek and English), trans. W. R. M. Lamb (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953), pp. 384-6 (483d-484c); for Mill’s own translation of the passage, see CW, Vol. XI, pp. 121-2.
[[*] ]John Wilks moved on 28 Mar., 1833, that there be a Select Committee on a Parochial Registry for Births, Deaths, and Marriages (PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 16, col. 1209); there was, apparently, then no objection on the grounds of expense. On 8 May, 1833 (see ibid., Vol. 17, col. 1043), William Brougham brought in a bill, printed as “A Bill for Establishing a General Register for All Deeds and Instruments Affecting Real Property in England and Wales,” 3 William IV (13 May, 1833), PP, 1833, III, 489-540; this was criticized as costly (see PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 17, cols. 1044-63, and Vol. 18, cols. 1001-10). Mill may be conflating the occasions, as both involved discussion of “Registry bills.” See p. 196 below.
[[*] ]Leading Article on the Dudley Election, The Times, 1 Mar., 1834, p. 3; and Morning Chronicle, 1 Mar., 1834, p. 4.
[[†] ]For the phrase, see the “General Confession” in The Book of Common Prayer.
[[‡] ]Anon., “The Spoiled Cabinet,” Examiner, 9 Mar., 1834, p. 146.
[[*] ]PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 1195-1262 (6 Mar., 1834), cols. 1266-1345 (7 Mar., 1834).
[[†] ]Ibid., cols. 1346-9 (7 Mar., 1834).
[[*] ]Corn and Currency (1826).
[[†] ]Speech on the Corn Laws (6 Mar., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 1223-46.
[[‡] ]For the oath, see 9 Anne, c. 5 (1710).
[[*] ]See William Howe Windham, Speech on a New Military Plan (22 July, 1807), PD, 1st ser., Vol. 9, col. 897.
[[*] ]The Division on the Corn Law Bill (7 Mar., 1834), ibid., 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 1346-9.
[[†] ]Joseph Hume, Speech in Introducing a Motion on the Corn Laws (6 Mar., 1834), ibid., cols. 1197-1216; Charles Edward Poulett Thompson, Speech on the Corn Laws (7 Mar., 1834), ibid., cols. 1276-1307; Edward John Littleton (vote only); Edward Ellice (vote only); and Henry George Grey, Speech on the Corn Laws (7 Mar., 1834), ibid., col. 1340.
[[‡] ]See Milton, Paradise Lost, in Poetical Works, pp. 146-7 (V, 872-907).
[[§] ]Spencer, Speech on the Corn Laws (7 Mar., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 1328-9.
[[¶] ]See 9 George IV, c. 17, clause 2 (1828), and 10 George IV, c. 7 (1829).
[[*] ]O’Connell, Stephen Lushington, and Edward George Stanley, Speeches on Oaths of Catholic Members (11 Mar., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 22, cols. 15-24, 33-5, and 40-6, respectively.
[[*] ]Robert Harry Inglis, Speech on Oaths of Catholic Members (11 Mar., 1834), ibid., col. 39.
[* ]Since this was written the Duke of Richmond has obtained a Committee of the House of Lords to inquire what oaths it may be expedient to abolish, with reference especially to promissory oaths. This is rational and commendable. A better commencement could not be made than by expunging all the promissory oaths, which the ministerial Bill relating to Irish Tithes is full of. [Charles Gordon Lennox, Motion on Oaths (20 Mar., 1834), Journals of the House of Lords, LXVI, 81, leading to “First Report from the Select Committee of the House of Lords, Appointed to Inquire into the Expediency of Substituting Declarations in Lieu of Oaths,” PP, 1835, XIV, 399-520.]
[[†] ]Leading Article on Trades Unions, The Times, 15 Mar., 1834, p. 5.
[[*] ]John Campbell, Speech in Introducing a Motion on the Law of Libel (18 Mar., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 22, cols. 410-18.
[[*] ]Henry Brougham, Speech on Jewish Disabilities (3 Mar., 1834), ibid., Vol. 21, col. 991; see also “A Bill for the Relief of His Majesty’s Subjects Professing the Jewish Religion,” 4 William IV (25 Apr., 1834), PP, 1834, II, 587-8 (not enacted).
[[†] ]See pp. 165-8 above.
[[*] ]PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 22, cols. 433-49 (19 Mar., 1834), initiated by William Ewart, Speech in Presenting a Petition on Free Trade, ibid., cols. 433-6; see Petition from the Inhabitants of Liverpool for Repeal of the Corn Laws (5 Feb., 1834), in “First Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Public Petitions,” 1834, p. 4.
[[†] ]John Arthur Roebuck, Speech on Free Trade (19 Mar., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 22, cols. 439-42, in Morning Post, 20 Mar., 1834, p. 1.
[[‡] ]Robert Peel, Speech on Free Trade (19 Mar., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 22, cols. 442-9.
[[§] ]Roebuck, speech of 19 Mar., 1834, col. 439.
[[*] ]See Cicero’s comment, recorded by Pliny, Natural History (Latin and English), trans. H. Rackham, 10 vols. (London: Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1938-62), Vol. II, pp. 560-1 (VII, 21, 85).
[[*] ]See p. 151 above.
[[†] ]“A Bill for Granting Relief in Relation to the Celebration of Marriages to Certain Persons Dissenting from the United Church of England and Ireland,” 4 William IV (10 Mar., 1834), PP, 1834, II, 147-59 (not enacted).
[[‡] ]Charles Grey, Speech on the Dissenters (3 Mar., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, col. 993.
[[*] ]Spencer, speech of 14 Feb., 1834, col. 360, and Speech on Church Rates (18 Mar., 1834), ibid., Vol. 22, col. 389.
[[†] ]John Russell, Speech on Dissenters’ Marriages (10 Mar., 1834), ibid., Vol. 21, col. 1400.
[[‡] ]William Brougham gave notice of motion on 7 Mar., 1834, of a registry bill (see The Times, 8 Mar., 1834, p. 3; not recorded in PD). Finally, in his Speech in Introducing a Bill for Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages (13 May, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 23, cols. 940-9, Brougham introduced “A Bill to Establish a General Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages in England,” 4 William IV (14 May, 1834), PP, 1834, III, 459-77 (not enacted). See p. 180 above, and p. 231 below.
[[§] ]Spencer, Speech on Church Rates (18 Mar., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 22, cols. 388-92.
[[¶] ]Charles Grey, Speech in Presenting the Cambridge University Petition (21 Mar., 1834), ibid., cols. 497-508, and Thomas Spring-Rice (24 Mar., 1834), ibid., cols. 569-87, presenting “Petition from Resident Members of the Senate of the University of Cambridge to Open the University to Dissenters” (21 Mar., 1834), Journals of the House of Lords, LXVI, 88.
[[∥] ]“A Bill for the Commutation and Redemption of Tithes in England and Wales,” 4 William IV (17 Apr., 1834), PP, 1834, IV, 193-234 (not enacted).
[[*] ]“A Bill to Effect a Commutation of Tithes in England and Wales,” 3 William IV (17 May, 1833), ibid., 1833, IV, 431-73 (not enacted).
[[†] ]Spencer, Speech in Introducing a Motion on Commutation of Tithes (England) (15 Apr., 1834), PD, 3rdser., Vol. 22, cols. 818-19.
[[‡] ]Anon., “Tithe Commutation,” Examiner, 20 Apr., 1834, p. 242.
[[*] ]Spring-Rice, Speech on Supply (14 Apr., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 22, col. 761; Henry Brougham, Speech on the Progress of Education (16 Apr., 1834), ibid., cols. 848-9.
[[*] ]Henry Brougham, speech of 16 Apr., 1834, cols. 845-6, and Speech in Introducing a Motion on Education (14 Mar., 1833), ibid., Vol. 16, cols. 632-8.
[[†] ]Roebuck, Speeches in Introducing Motions on National Education (30 July, 1833, and 3 June, 1834), ibid., Vol. 20, cols. 139-66, and Vol. 24, cols. 127-30.
[[*] ]Henry Brougham, speech of 16 Apr., 1834, cols. 843-4.
[[†] ]James Edward Harris, Speech on the Progress on Education (16 Apr., 1834), The Times, 17 Apr., 1834, p. 3 (cf. PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 22, col. 852).
[[*] ]Leading Article on the Canadas, The Times, 19 Apr., 1834, p. 5, concerning Roebuck, Speech in Introducing a Motion on the Canadas (15 Apr., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 22, cols. 767-90.
[[†] ]Stanley; see his Speech on the Canadas (15 Apr., 1834), ibid., cols. 790-811.
[[*] ]Spencer, Speech in Introducing a Motion on the Poor Laws (17 Apr., 1834), ibid., cols. 874-89.
[[†] ]E.g., Leading Article on the Poor Law Report, The Times, 25 Feb., 1834, p. 2, and Leading Article on the Poor Laws, ibid., 19 Apr., 1834, p. 5.
[[*] ]See “Report,” PP, 1834, XXVII, 146.
[[*] ]Graham, Speech on the Trade of Coopers (13 Mar., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 22, cols. 161-6.
[[†] ]57 George III, c. 19 (1817). The labourers were James Brine, James Hammet, George and James Lovelace, and John and Thomas Stanfield.
[[‡] ]Henry George Grey, Speech on the Dorsetshire Labourers (18 Apr., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 22, cols. 940-4.
[[*] ]Aubrey William Beauclerk, Speech in Presentation of a Petition on the Dorsetshire Labourers (18 Apr., 1834), ibid., col. 938.
[[†] ]Henry Grey, speech of 18 Apr., 1834, col. 943.
[[‡] ]Loi No. 261 (10 avril, 1834), in Bulletin des lois du royaume de France, 9me sér., lre partie, Tome IV, Bulletin 115, pp. 25-6.
[[*] ]Henry Grey, speech of 18 Apr., 1834, cols. 941-2.
[[*] ]See 39 & 40 George III, c. 106 (1800).
[[†] ]Leading Article on the Strike at Derby, The Times, 14 Apr., 1834, p. 4; Robert Owen, Letter to the Editor (14 Apr., 1834), ibid., 15 Apr., 1834, p. 3; Owen, Letter to the Editor (15 Apr., 1834), ibid., 18 Apr., 1834, p. 7; Leading Article on the Strike at Derby, ibid., p. 5.
[[‡] ]Mill may be referring to Edward Strutt (Lord Belper), with whom he was closely acquainted.
[[*] ]The Times, 18 Apr., 1834, p. 5.
[[†] ]Spencer, Speech on Church Rates (21 Apr., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 22, col. 1057. The measure was “A Bill for the Abolition of Church Rates,” 4 William IV (19 June, 1834), PP, 1834, I, 615-26 (not enacted).
[[*] ]Stanley, Speech on Church Rates (21 Apr., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 22, cols. 1034-9; the remark is in col. 1035.
[[†] ]Daniel Whittle Harvey, Speech on Church Rates (21 Apr., 1834), ibid., cols. 1039-48.
[[‡] ]Thomas Gisborne, Speech on Church Rates (21 Apr., 1834), ibid., cols. 1022-4.
[[§] ]Pp. 207-9 above.
[[*] ]Henry Grey, Speech on Sale of Beer (23 Apr., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 22, cols. 1159-61; the remark is in col. 1160.
[[†] ]Livy, Vol. II, p. 192 (III, lvii, 4).
[[*] ]Henry Brougham, Speech on the Sale of Beer Bill (1834) (15 Apr., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 22, col. 762.
[[†] ]The reference is to Henry Brougham’s six-hour Speech on the State of the Courts of Common Law (7 Feb., 1828), ibid., n.s., Vol. 18, cols. 127-247.
[[*] ]O’Connell, Speech in Introducing a Motion on Repeal of the Union (22 Apr., 1834), ibid., 3rd ser., Vol. 22, cols. 1092-1158; Spring-Rice, Speech in Moving an Amendment on Repeal of the Union (23 Apr., 1834), ibid., cols. 1164-1283; and James Emerson Tennent, Speech on Repeal of the Union (24 Apr., 1834), ibid., cols. 1288-1333.
[[*] ]Livy, Vol. I, p. 6 (I, Praef., 9).
[[*] ]See 5 George I, c. 27 (1718).
[[*] ]Leading Article on the Tailors’ Strike, The Times, 1 May, 1834, p. 3.
[[*] ]Robert Heron, Speech in Introducing a Motion on Vacation of Seats on Acceptance of Office, PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 23, cols. 382-6; Edward Lytton Bulwer, Speech in Moving an Amendment on Vacation of Seats on Acceptance of Office, ibid., cols. 386-91 (both 1 May, 1834).
[[*] ]“A Bill for the Public Registering of All Deeds, Conveyances, Wills and Other Incumbrances,” 4 William IV (13 Mar., 1834), PP, 1834, III, 563-88; and “A Bill for Establishing a General Register for All Deeds and Instruments Affecting Real Property,” 4 William IV (14 Mar., 1834), ibid., pp. 591-639; both were defeated on the same day on second reading (PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 23, cols. 740, 741 [7 May, 1834]).
[[*] ]Graham, speech of 6 Mar., 1834, col. 1245.
[[*] ]Alain René Lesage, “Gil Blas au lecteur,” Histoire de Gil Blas de Santillane, 4 vols. (Paris: Ribou, 1715-35), Vol. I, pp. [ix-x].
[[†] ]“Copy of the First Report Made to His Majesty by the Commissioners Appointed to Inquire into the Law of England Respecting Real Property,” PP, 1829, X, 1-671; “Copy of Second Report,”ibid., 1830, XI, 1-627; “Copy of Third Report,” ibid., 1831-32, XXIII, 321-450; “Copy of Fourth Report,” ibid., 1833, XXII, 1-194. The resulting acts include 3 & 4 William IV, cc. 27, 42, 74, 104, 105, and 106 (1833).
[[‡] ]For the Usury Laws, see 12 Anne, second session, c. 16 (1713).
[[§] ]Leading Article on Registration of Instruments Affecting Land, The Times, 2 Apr., 1834, p. 4.
[[*] ]Henry Brougham, speech of 16 Apr., 1834, cols. 843-4.
[[†] ]Henry Brougham, Speech on Dissenters (12 May, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 23, cols. 845-6; in Morning Chronicle (from which Mill is probably quoting), 13 May, 1834, p. 1.
[[*] ]Henry Brougham, speech of 14 Mar., 1834, cols. 632-8.
[* ]Very rarely does the editor differ from the correspondent to whom our readers are indebted for these notes, and for other contributions to our pages. It is, however, necessary to say, that he must not be held responsible for any speculation, or expression, in the present note, which may be construed into an allowance of the right of political authorities to legislate in matters of religion. [Note by W. J. Fox.]
[[*] ]John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Vols. I-III of Works, Vol. I, p. 53 (I, iii).
[* ]See one of the notes (p. xxxii) to Mrs. Austin’s admirable translation of one of the most important public documents ever printed—M. Cousin’s Report on the State of Primary Instruction in Prussia [London: Wilson, 1834].
[[*] ]William Howley, Speech on Dissenters (12 May, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 23, cols. 853, 854; in Morning Chronicle, 13 May, 1834, p. 2.
[[*] ]On 13 May, 1834 (see p. 196 above), William Brougham introduced “A Bill to Establish a General Register of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in England,” 4 William IV (14 May, 1834), PP, 1834, III, 459-77. In doing so, he announced that, if this measure passed, he would introduce a marriage bill. As the Registry Bill failed, he did not bring the other forward in the session.
[[*] ]See 3 & 4 William IV, c. 103, §§17 and 18 (1833).
[[*] ]Anon., “The Marriage Ceremony,” Nottingham Review, 16 May, 1834, p. 4.
[[†] ]Enacted as 4 & 5 William IV, c. 85 (1834).
[[‡] ]See PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 23, col. 1135 (16 May, 1834).
[[§] ]See 1 William IV, c. 64 (1830), amended by 4 & 5 William IV, c. 85 (1834).
[[¶] ]Henry Grey, Speech in Moving an Amendment to the Sale of Beer Act (16 May, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 23, cols. 1115-20.
[[*] ]Clause 1.
[[†] ]James Silk Buckingham, Speech on the Sale of Beer Act (16 May, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 23, col. 1124.
[[*] ]“A Bill Intituled an Act for the Better Observance of the Lord’s Day, and for the More Effectual Prevention of Drunkenness,” 4 William IV (6 May, 1834), House of Lords Sessional Papers, 1834, [n.s.] I, Pt. 1, 227-32.
[[†] ]For these anonymous leading articles, see Morning Herald, 19 May, 1834, p. 2.
[[*] ]Frederick William II of Prussia.
[[†] ]Louis Philippe.
[[*] ]Spencer, Speech on Stamps on Newspapers (22 May, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 23, cols. 1210-13.
[[†] ]Edward Bulwer, Speech in Introducing a Motion on Stamps on Newspapers, ibid., cols. 1193-1206; Roebuck, Speech on Stamps on Newspapers, ibid., cols. 1206-10 (both 22 May, 1834).
[[‡] ]Spencer, Speech on Danish Claims (16 May, 1834), ibid., cols. 1138-9.
[[§] ]George Lyall, Speech in Introducing a Motion on the Merchant Seamen’s Widows’ Bill (1834) (21 May, 1834), ibid., cols. 1146-8; for the defeat, see ibid., cols. 1157-8.
[[*] ]Spencer, Speech on Poor Laws Amendment (14 May, 1834), ibid., cols. 972-3; clause 46 of the Bill, here referred to, became section 52 of the Act.
[[†] ]Spencer, Statement in the House of Commons (23 May, 1834), in The Times, 24 May, 1834, p. 4.
[[*] ]Leading Article on the Poor Law Bill, The Times, 14 May, 1834, p. 5.
[[*] ]Ibid., 23 May, 1834, p. 5.
[[†] ]Ibid., 20 May, 1834, p. 2.
[[*] ]See anon., “Men of Science and Letters,” The Times, 22 May, 1834, p. 3; and anon., “Much Ado about Nothing,” Examiner, 25 May, 1834, pp. 323-4.
[[*] ]Henry George Ward, Speech in Introducing a Motion on the Church of Ireland (27 May, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 23, cols. 1368-96.
[[*] ]The regulation resulted in 4 & 5 William IV, c. 41 (1834).
[[*] ]Leading Article on Mr. Rawlinson, Morning Chronicle, 4 June, 1834, p. 3.
[[*] ]See Henry Brougham, Speech on the Address on the King’s Speech (29 Jan., 1828), PD, n.s., Vol. 18, col. 58.
[[†] ]“Second Report from the Select Committee on the Business of the House,” PP, 1834, XI, 321.
[* ]The Attorney General, we are glad to observe, has since obtained leave to bring in a bill for remedying this grievous and mischievous defect in our institutions. [Enacted as 4 & 5 William IV, c. 94 (1834).
[[*] ]See, for Bucklebury, PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 23, cols. 748-53 (8 May, 1834); and, for Kingsclere, ibid., Vol. 24, cols. 174-80 (5 June, 1834).
[[†] ]By 4 & 5 William IV, c. 84, §17 (1834).
[[‡] ]7 & 8 George IV, Private Acts, c. 35 (1827).
[[§] ]William Howley, A Charge Delivered to the Clergy of the Diocese of London (London: Payne and Foss, and Hatchard, 1814), p. 16.
[[¶] ]Howley, Speech on the Bill of Pains and Penalties against Her Majesty (7 Nov., 1820), PD, n.s., Vol. 3, col. 1711.
[[*] ]See p. 62 above.
[[*] ]See Francis Bacon, Novum organum, in Works, ed. James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath, 14 vols. (London: Longman, et al., 1857-74), Vol. I, pp. 271-2 (II, xxiv).
[[†] ]“Petition of Persons of Christian Faith Resident in Edinburgh for Removal of Jewish Disabilities” (12 June, 1834), Journals of the House of Lords, LXVI, 580.
[[‡] ]Richard Grosvenor (Marquis of Westminster), Speech on Jewish Civil Disabilities (9 June, 1834), in The Times, 10 June, 1834, p. 3.
[[§] ]Edward Grey, Speech on Jewish Civil Disabilities (9 June, 1834), ibid.
[[*] ]William Wolryche Whitmore, Speech in Introducing a Motion on Poor Laws’ Amendment (16 June, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 24, cols. 451-6. For the Emigration Clause, see “Report from His Majesty’s Commissioners for Inquiring into . . . the Poor Laws,” PP, 1834, XXVII, 199-202.
[[†] ]Benjamin Handley, Speech on Poor Laws’ Amendment (16 June, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 24, col. 475; in Morning Chronicle, 17 June, 1834, p. 2, from which Mill is presumably quoting.
[[‡] ]See Examiner, 1 June, 1834, p. 338; cf. The Times, 5 June, 1834, p. 5.
[[§] ]Ward, Speech in Introducing a Motion on the Church of Ireland (27 May, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 23, cols. 1368-96; for the Cabinet’s resistance, see ibid., Vol. 24, cols. 11-84 (2 June, 1834).
[[¶] ]Charles Grey, Letter to Lord Ebrington (31 May, 1834), Examiner, 8 June, 1834, p. 355.
[[∥] ]Charles Grey, Speech on the Church of Ireland (6 June, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 24, cols. 250-60; in Morning Chronicle, 7 June, 1834, p. 2.
[[**] ]Leading Article on the Ministry, The Times, 9 June, 1834, p. 2; anon., “The Government and the Peers,” Examiner, 15 June, 1834, p. 369.
[[*] ]Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice and Henry Brougham, Speeches on the Church of Ireland (6 June, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 24, cols. 290-3 and 298-306.
[[†] ]Charles Grey, speech of 6 June, 1834, ibid., col. 259.
[[*] ]James Abercromby, Speech on the Edinburgh City Election (16 June, 1834), Morning Chronicle, 17 June, 1834, p. 2.
[[†] ]Roebuck, Speech in Introducing a Motion on National Education (3 June, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 24, cols. 127-30; for the reception of the Motion, see ibid., cols. 130-9. See also “Report from the Select Committee on the State of Education,” PP, 1834, IX, 1-261.
[[‡] ]3 William IV, c. 4 (1833), continued by 4 & 5 William IV, c. 38 (1834).
[[*] ]Henry Warburton, Speech on the Repeal of the Malt Duty (27 Feb., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 889-90.
[* ]Two other notes on subjects not of temporary interest are postponed to next month. [See the Notes for 21 June below.]
[† ]In the Notes for last month, during the course of some observations on the display of Tory feeling at the Oxford Commemoration, occurred the following passage: “The only remark (beyond an occasional interjection of contempt) which we have heard from the lips of any Radical on the affair, was an expression of regret that a place pretending to be the fountain-head of morality and religion, should teach its youth to cheer a Lyndhurst and a Wynford; as if the youth of the London University should toss up their hats for Mr. Wakley or Mr. Whittle Harvey.” [See p. 250 above.] The writer of the Notes is anxious to state, that, from an unlucky concurrence of circumstances, the above passage went through the press without having been seen by the editor; and the writer himself, on subsequent consideration, feels that he had no right, even when repeating what was actually said by another person, to introduce into a printed discourse the names of individuals in connexion with implied reflections upon their moral characters. On the subject of the imputations, great or small, merited or unmerited, current against any of the four persons mentioned, the writer does not pretend to know any thing but what the public knows: that the imputations existed was all that his argument required, and their existence is so universally notorious, that he did not conceive himself to be adding to their notoriety by his allusion. But no one has a right to presume that his words are of no consequence, when they contribute, in however slight a degree, to swell a hostile cry against any of his fellow-creatures; and the present writer, who, on principle, denies that private life is a fit subject to be made amenable through the press to the jurisdiction of the general public, ought not to have lent himself to the execution of the verdict pronounced by so incompetent a tribunal, even had that verdict been (what in some of these cases it certainly is not, and in none of them does he know it to be) decided and unanimous. In fact, it is when the charges against any person become the subject of incidental and cursory allusion—it is then, and not before, that the bulk of mankind, who have given little or no attention to the evidence for the charges, conclude them to be proved. A writer who permits himself such allusions, incurs, therefore, a most serious moral responsibility; and no one ought to do so who has not formed his judgment on the case with the care, deliberateness, and solemnity of a judicial act. [Given by Mill as a headnote to the entries for August.]
[‡ ]This and the following note are those alluded to in The Repository of last month as postponed for want of room. [See the footnote to the Note for 20 June above.]
[[*] ]See Isaac Disraeli, “The Royal Society,” in Quarrels of Authors, 3 vols. (London: Murray, 1814), Vol. II, pp. 19n-21n.
[[*] ]Thomas Gray, “The Bard,” in Works, ed. Thomas James Mathias, 2 vols. (London: Porter, 1814), Vol. I, p. 27 (II, 1).
[* ]From an admirable article on Police, by Mr. Chadwick, printed in 1829, in a periodical (The London Review) which only reached a second number. [Edwin Chadwick, “Preventive Police,” London Review, I (1829), 252-308; the passage is quoted from p. 260. The words in square brackets are Mill’s.] We much wish to see this paper reprinted in a separate form.
[[*] ]See Robert Banks Jenkinson, Speech on Criminal Law (18 July, 1820), PD, n.s., Vol. 2, col. 526; and Charles Grey, “Secondary Punishments—Transportation,” Edinburgh Review, LVIII (Jan., 1834), 336-62.
[[†] ]Henry Brougham and Thomas Denman, Speeches on Prison Discipline (20 June, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 24, cols. 623-4 and 630-1.
[[‡] ]Jeremy Bentham, The Rationale of Punishment (London: Heward, 1830); Richard Whately, Thoughts on Secondary Punishments in a Letter to Earl Grey (London: Fellowes, 1832); and Edward Gibbon Wakefield, The Hangman and the Judge; or, A Letter from Jack Ketch to Mr. Justice Alderson (London: Wilson, 1833).
[[*] ]“A Bill to Remove Certain Disabilities Which Prevent Some Classes of His Majesty’s Subjects from Resorting to the Universities of England, and Proceeding to Degrees Therein,” 4 William IV (21 Apr., 1834), PP, 1834, IV, 515-17 (not enacted).
[[†] ]Thomas Chalmers, Considerations on the System of Parochial Schools in Scotland (Glasgow: Hedderwick, 1819), p. 6.
[[*] ]Connop Thirlwall; see his A Letter to Thomas Turton on the Admission of Dissenters to Academical Degrees (Cambridge: Deighton, 1834).
[[†] ]William Ewart, Speech on Admission of the Dissenters to the Universities (20 June, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 24, cols. 651-3.
[[‡] ]Thomas Grimston Bucknall Estcourt, Speech on Admission of the Dissenters to the Universities (20 June, 1834), ibid., cols. 632-40; in Morning Chronicle, 21 June, 1834, p. 2.
[[*] ]Henry Goulburn, Speech on Admission of the Dissenters to the Universities (20 June, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 24, cols. 670-82; in Morning Chronicle, 21 June, 1834, p. 3.
[[†] ]Horace, Satires, in Satires, Epistles, and Ars poetica (Latin and English), trans. H. Rushton Fairclough (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1926), p. 132 (II, i, 86).
[[‡] ]See O’Connell, Speech in Introducing a Bill on Libel Law (18 Feb., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 21, cols. 468-78.
[[§] ]See 10 Anne, c. 19 (1711).
[[¶] ]For Henry Brougham’s testimony, see “Report from the Select Committee of the House of Lords Appointed to Consider the Law of Defamation and Libel,” PP, 1843, V, App. A, 277-96, esp. 282-6; the Committee of 1834 met and took evidence, but did not issue a report. Mill is presumably basing his remarks on the summary that appeared in the Spectator, 5 July, 1834, p. 633 (reprinted in The Times, 7 July, 1834, p. 6).
[[∥] ]Henry Brougham, Speech in Introducing a Petition on Stamp Duties (3 July, 1834), in Morning Chronicle, 4 July, 1834, p. 2.
[[*] ]See p. 168 above.
[[†] ]Robert Peel, Speech on Church Temporalities and Tithes (4 July, 1834), in Morning Chronicle, 5 July, 1834, p. 3.
[[‡] ]See Charles Grey, Speech on Suppression of Disturbances (Ireland) (4 July, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 24, cols. 1127-30.
[[*] ]See ibid., Vol. 1, cols. 429-71 (12 Nov., 1830), and cols. 525-56 (15 Nov., 1830).
[[*] ]Charles Grey, speech of 6 June, 1834, ibid., Vol. 24, col. 259; in Morning Chronicle, 7 June, 1834, p. 2 (see pp. 62 and 250 above).
[[†] ]See pp. 153 and 168-70 above.
[[*] ]Henry Brougham, Speech on Poor Laws’ Amendment (21 July, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 25, cols. 211-51.
[[*] ]Leading Article on the Poor Law Bill, The Times, 23 July, 1834, p. 4.
[[†] ]Leading Article on Lord Brougham and Poor Laws, Morning Chronicle, 25 July, 1834, pp. 2-3.
[[*] ]Mary Stamp.
[[†] ]“An Old Tory Magistrate an Oppressor of the Poor,” Morning Chronicle, 23 July, 1834, p. 4.
[[‡] ]Leading Article on the Case of Major Pitman, ibid., 24 July, 1834, p. 4.
[[*] ]Edward Ellice, Speech on Military Flogging (21 July, 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 25, cols. 279-83, esp. 281-2.
[[*] ]“Military Misrule,” Examiner, 27 July, 1834, p. 467.
[[*] ]William Lamb, Speech on Admission of Dissenters to the Universities (1 Aug., 1834), in Morning Chronicle, 2 Aug., 1834, p. 2.
[[*] ]Henry John George Herbert, Speech on Admission to the Universities (1 Aug., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 25, cols. 845-6.
[[†] ]See The Book of Common Prayer.
[[‡] ]See, e.g., 5 & 6 Anne, c. 5, “An Act for Securing the Church of England as by Law Established” (1706).
[* ]It has since passed, [4 & 5 William IV, c. 85 (1834),] and stands with the Poor Law Bill, as the only notable legislative enactment of the session.
[[*] ]Spencer, Speech on the Beer-House Bill (1 Aug., 1834), in Morning Chronicle, 2 Aug., 1834, p. 3.
[[†] ]See p. 267 above.
[[*] ]Leading Article on the Case of Major Pitman, Morning Chronicle, 5 Aug., 1834, p. 3.
[[†] ]See PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 25, cols. 929-30 (4 Aug., 1834), cols. 993-4 (5 Aug.), and col. 1003 (6 Aug.).
[[*] ]“Public Money Applied to Private Prosecution,” Examiner, 20 July, 1834, p. 452. Levy Emanuel Cohen was editor of the Brighton Guardian.
[* ]Sir Charles Blount adds, with honest indignation, “I will not trust myself to make any comment upon this hitherto hidden object. It at once dispels the cloud that has rendered the course pursued by the committee so indistinct and so unusual; it accounts for the rejection of Mr. Cohen’s offered atonement, and well accords with that part of the sentence which imprisoned the defendant in a jail of a distant county, and far removed from the office of his paper.” [Letter to the Editor of the Sussex Advertiser (30 July, 1834, in The Times, 7 Aug., 1834, p. 1).]
[[†] ]In the letter cited in the footnote immediately preceding.
[[*] ]Hume, Question on Criminal Prosecutions (4 Aug., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 25, col. 929; Spencer, Statement on Criminal Prosecutions (4 Aug., 1834), ibid.
[[†] ]Francis Thornhill Baring, and Spring-Rice, Statements on Criminal Prosecutions (4 Aug., 1834), ibid.
[[‡] ]Spencer, Statement on Supply, &c. (5 Aug., 1834), ibid., col. 993.
[[§] ]See Isaac Newton Wigney, Speech in Introducing a Motion on the Case of the Brighton Guardian (4 Mar., 1834), ibid., Vol. 21, cols. 1115-17; for the debate, see ibid., cols. 1117-43.
[[*] ]Leading Article on the Prosecution of the Brighton Guardian, Examiner, 10 Aug., 1834, p. 505. The references are to Spencer’s Statement on Supply on 5 Aug., cited above, and to Warburton, Speech on Supply, &c. (5 Aug., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 25, cols. 993-4.
[[†] ]“A Bill for the Relief of His Majesty’s Subjects Professing the Jewish Religion” (PP, 1834, II, 587-8), defeated on 23 June, 1834; “A Bill to Remove Certain Disabilities Which Prevent Some Classes of His Majesty’s Subjects from Resorting to the Universities” (PP, 1834, IV, 515-17), defeated on 1 Aug.; and “A Bill to Abolish Compositions for Tithes in Ireland” (PP, 1834, IV, 241-303), defeated on 11 Aug. See PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 24, cols. 720-31; Vol. 25, cols. 886-8; and ibid., cols. 1204-7, respectively.
[[*] ]Henry Brougham, Speech on Appellate Jurisdiction (14 Aug., 1834), ibid., cols. 1255-60; introducing “A Bill Intituled an Act to Alter and Amend the Appellate Jurisdiction of the House of Lords, and for Certain Other Purposes,” 4 William IV (14 Aug., 1834), House of Lords Sessional Papers, 1834, [n.s.] I, Pt. 2, 1265-70 (not enacted).
[[*] ]Cf. Jeremy Bentham, Rationale of Judicial Evidence, in Works, ed. Bowring, Vol. VI, pp. 556n, 557-8.
[[†] ]See Henry Brougham, speech of 14 Aug., 1834, col. 1258.
[[*] ]Ibid., cols. 1259-60.
[[†] ]By 4 & 5 William IV, c. 36 (1834).
[[‡] ]Virgil, Aeneid, in Works, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough, 2 vols. (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1916), Vol. II, p. 156 (IX, 641).
[[§] ]William IV, Prorogation of Parliament (15 Aug., 1834), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 25, col. 1268.