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John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume VI - Essays on England, Ireland, and the Empire [1824]

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John Stuart Mill, 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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About this Title:

Vol. 6 of the 33 vol. Collected Works contains a number of Mill’s essays on contemporary political issues, including his essay Reorganization of the Reform Party.

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The online edition of the Collected Works is published under licence from the copyright holder, The University of Toronto Press. ©2006 The University of Toronto Press. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of The University of Toronto Press.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [i]
volume vi
Edition: current; Page: [ii]

The Collected Edition of the works of John Stuart Mill has been planned and is being directed by an editorial committee appointed from the Faculty of Arts and Science of the University of Toronto, and from the University of Toronto Press. The primary aim of the edition is to present fully collated texts of those works which exist in a number of versions, both printed and manuscript, and to provide accurate texts of works previously unpublished or which have become relatively inaccessible.

Editorial Committee

j. m. robson, General Editor

v. w. bladen, harald bohne, alexander brady, j. c. cairns, j. b. conacher, d. p. dryer, francess halpenny, samuel hollander, jean houston, marsh jeanneret, r. f. mcrae, f. e. l. priestley

Edition: current; Page: [iii]
Essays on England, Ireland, and the Empire
Editor of the Text JOHN M. ROBSON Professor of English, Victoria College, University of Toronto
Introduction by JOSEPH HAMBURGER Professor of Political Science, Yale University
Edition: current; Page: [iv]

© University of Toronto Press 1982

Toronto and Buffalo

Printed in Canada

ISBN 0-8020-5572-9

London: Routledge & Kegan Paul

ISBN 0-7100-9277-6

Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data

Mill, John Stuart, 1806-1873.

Collected works

Includes bibliographies.

Contents: v. 6. Essays on England, Ireland, and the empire / editor of the text John M. Robson; introduction by Joseph Hamburger.

ISBN 0-8020-5572-9

1. Philosophy - Collected works. 2. Political science - Collected works. 3. Economics - Collected works. I. Robson, John M., 1927-

B1602.A2 1963 192 C64-188-2 rev.

This volume has been published with the assistance of a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Edition: current; Page: [v]


  • introduction, by Joseph Hamburger vii
  • textual introduction, by J. M. Robson liv
  • Brodie’s History of the British Empire (1824) 1
  • Ireland (1825) 59
  • The Game Laws (1826) 99
  • Intercourse between the United States and the British Colonies in the West Indies (1828) 121
  • Notes on the Newspapers (1834) 149
  • The Close of the Session (1834) 281
  • Postscript to the London Review, No. 1 (1835) 289
  • Parliamentary Proceedings of the Session (1835) 295
  • Postscript: The Close of the Session (1835) 309
  • State of Politics in 1836 (1836) 319
  • Walsh’s Contemporary History (1836) 329
  • Fonblanque’s England under Seven Administrations (1837) 349
  • Parties and the Ministry (1837) 381
  • Radical Party and Canada: Lord Durham and the Canadians (1838) 405
  • Lord Durham and His Assailants (1838) 437
  • Lord Durham’s Return (1838) 445
  • Reorganization of the Reform Party (1839) 465
  • What Is to Be Done with Ireland? (1848?) 497
  • England and Ireland (1868) 505 Edition: current; Page: [vi]
  • appendices
    • Appendix A. England and Ireland: First Draft (1867-68) 535
    • Appendix B. List of Titles of “Notes on the Newspapers” (1834) 544
    • Appendix C. Textual Emendations 546
    • Appendix D. Bibliographic Index of Persons and Works Cited, with Variants and Notes 550
  • index 669
  • facsimiles
    • Folio 1r of “What Is to Be Done with Ireland?” 500
    • MS The King’s School, Canterbury
    • Folio 3r of draft of England and Ireland 510
    • MS Houghton Library, Harvard University
Edition: current; Page: [vii]



mill the philosopher, the economist, the general essayist and critic appears here in yet another capacity—as a radical journalist and party politician. Most of the articles in this volume were written to define the purpose of, and give direction to, the Radical party in Parliament during the 1830s; and even the articles on Ireland and the early articles on other subjects provide evidence of Mill’s radical inclinations at other times, though, of course, Mill’s discussion of Ireland is also important in the history of English controversy about that island. Most of these essays were written for journals that Mill helped to establish: the Westminster Review, the Parliamentary History and Review, the London Review, and the London and Westminster Review. The only exceptions were the independently published pamphlet England and Ireland, and his contributions to the Monthly Repository, which was edited by his friend, the Radical and Unitarian, William Johnson Fox. His successive contributions to each of these journals is closely related to the history of Benthamite radicalism; and, especially when combined with his correspondence, they show that Mill’s radicalism during the 1820s and 1830s defined a distinct and important episode in his life, and that he participated in events significant in parliamentary history. This introduction, except for the last part on Ireland, describes Mill’s radicalism during this early period, including his rationale for a Radical party, and his activities on behalf of that party during the 1830s. It also, in describing the relation of the mental crisis to his radicalism, shows that his resolution of the crisis allowed him to continue working and writing for the radical cause despite the changes in outlook and political philosophy that accompanied it.

Since most of the articles in this volume deal with party programmes and tactics, they emphatically belong in the realm of practice, and they are markedly different from the theoretical writings on politics that we usually associate with Mill.1 Practically oriented as these articles were, however, they also had a theoretical Edition: current; Page: [viii] dimension, for he promoted a political enterprise with arguments that originated in Benthamite political philosophy. Mill’s radicalism, as an extension of the Benthamite position, is readily distinguished from other radical doctrines. Its principled basis allowed him to claim that it was uniquely philosophic, and thus it justified his invention and use of the phrase “Philosophic Radicalism.”


mill’s career as a radical reformer began with his early education. When he was only six his father thought of him as the one to carry on the work begun by Bentham and himself. James Mill, during a period of illness, told Bentham of his hope that, in the event of his own death, his son would be brought up to be “a successor worthy of both of us.”2 James Mill, however, lived to carry out his educational mission himself, and he accomplished it with great effectiveness. John Stuart Mill later recalls having had “juvenile aspirations to the character of a democratic champion”; and, he continues, “the most transcendant glory I was capable of conceiving, was that of figuring, successful or unsuccessful, as a Girondist in an English Convention.”3

Mill’s wish to be a reformer was given additional impetus in 1821 (at age fifteen) when he read Traités de législation, Dumont’s redaction of Bentham. His education up to this time “had been, in a certain sense, already a course of Benthamism”: but the impact of this book was dramatic—it was “an epoch in my life; one of the turning points in my mental history.” All he had previously learned seemed to fall into place; Mill now felt he had direction and purpose as a reformer. Bentham’s book opened “a clearer and broader conception of what human opinions and institutions ought to be, how they might be made what they ought to be, and how far removed from it they now are.” Consequently Mill “now had opinions; a creed, a doctrine, a philosophy; in one among the best senses of the word, a religion; the inculcation and diffusion of which could be made the principal outward purpose of a life.” This new understanding was the initiation of Mill into radical politics, for he now had a “vista of improvement” which lit up his life and gave “a definite shape” to his aspirations.4

Mill’s early assimilation of radicalism was evident in “Brodie’s History of the British Empire” (3-58 below),5 an article written at age eighteen. He used Bentham’s ideas to analyze seventeenth-century constitutional conflicts and to Edition: current; Page: [ix] criticize Hume’s defence of Charles I. Hume wrote a “romance,” Mill said, which generally “allies itself with the sinister interests of the few” while being indifferent to the “sufferings of the many,” and he failed to consider “the only true end of morality, the greatest happiness of the greatest number” (3-4). Mill savagely criticized Hume as a defender of Stuart despotism, a dissembler, a perjuror (49), who involved himself in a “labyrinth of falsehood” (43). Indulgent to Stuart persecution (17), Hume became “the open and avowed advocate of despotism” (16). When Mill turned his attention to the parliamentary opposition, he tried to cast the Independents as seventeenth-century versions of nineteenth-century Radicals. They were republicans who upheld “the religion of the enlightened, and the enlightened are necessarily enemies to aristocracy” (47).6

Bentham’s views on sinister and universal interests and the need for democratic reforms, and his belief that the most important conflict was between the aristocracy (represented by Whigs and Tories) and the people (represented by Radicals), were passed from Bentham to James Mill and subsequently to John Stuart Mill and the Philosophic Radicals. Bentham was critical of all institutions sanctioned by traditional authority, especially the common law and the British constitution. He regarded all law-making and administration of public affairs as disfigured by the aristocratic (and monarchical) monopoly of power. This monopoly created sinister interests which had many undesirable consequences, including unnecessary wars and unjustifiable empire building, but Bentham especially emphasized domestic corruption. The monarch and the aristocracy obtained benefits, such as sinecures and pensions, denied to others. The government, supposedly acting as trustees for the people, instead adopted the principle that “the substance of the people was a fund, out of which . . . fortunes . . . ought to be—made.” Such predatory activity and the improper distribution of “power, money, [and] factitious dignity” were made possible by “separate, and consequently with reference to the public service, . . . sinister interests.”7 This concept of sinister interests was central to Bentham’s radical political analysis.

Bentham’s remedy was “democratic ascendancy.” Under it, office-holders would be restrained from seeking corrupt benefits. Universal suffrage, secret ballot, and annual parliaments would subject office-holders to scrutiny by those who stood to lose from the existence of sinister interests; thus these democratic practices would promote “the universal interest . . . of the whole people.” Democratic ascendancy was recommended as the best means to the desired goal, the greatest happiness of the greatest number.8

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Any persons or groups, whatever their social class or economic condition, could, according to Bentham, have sinister interests, but in the circumstances of the early nineteenth century the aristocracy was the most obvious and compelling example of a class that enjoyed such corrupt interests. His analysis pointed to fundamental conflict, under existing constitutional arrangements, between the aristocracy and the remainder of the populace. In this dispute the aristocracy was represented by the Whigs and the Tories, and the populace by Radicals, whom he also called “People’s-men.”9 This conflict superseded the contest of parties familiar to most observers, and although it was invisible to many, to Bentham it was the more significant contest. Whigs and Tories, far from being enemies, were not significantly different. “Both parties . . . acting under the dominion of the same seductive and corruptive influence—will be seen to possess the same separate and sinister interest:—an interest completely and unchangeably opposite to that of the whole uncorrupt portion of the people.”10 Despite their superficial quarrels, the two aristocratic parties shared a class interest: “That which the Tories have in possession . . . the Whigs have before them in prospect and expectancy.11

Bentham laid the foundation of the Mills’ radicalism, but James Mill generated most of the argument and rhetoric that John Stuart Mill adopted in his early years. Young Mill read his father’s works, usually if not always in manuscript, conversed about them at length with him, and proof-read some as well. Among these works was the History of British India, which, James Mill said, “will make no bad introduction to the study of civil society in general. The subject afforded an opportunity of laying open the principles and laws of the social order. . . .”12 There were also James Mill’s Encyclopaedia Britannica articles, which diagnosed problems and outlined remedies on such matters as government, colonies, education, law, the press, prisons, and poor relief.13 And a few years later there were his articles in the Westminster Review on the main Whig and Tory quarterlies and the parties they represented.14

Parliamentary reform was regarded by Bentham and James Mill as supremely important, for they assumed that all other reforms, those of tariffs, education, and law, for example, would be achieved without difficulty once the popular or universal interest was represented in Parliament. An early statement of James Mill’s arguments for radical reform of Parliament may be found in his essay “Government,” although John Stuart Mill probably was familiar with them from Edition: current; Page: [xi] his father’s unpublished dialogue on government composed on the Platonic model.15 Written in an austere style for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Government” in fact was a polemical statement, as both Ricardo and John Stuart Mill recognized.16

The essay, far more extreme than was apparent, was influential in shaping the political thought of Philosophic Radicalism. Frequently it has been suggested that because it was a defence of the middle class, it was not an argument for complete democracy. This interpretation, however, ignores the fact that it was in its main features consistent with Bentham’s Plan of Parliamentary Reform, a fully democratic work. Certainly John Stuart Mill regarded his father as a democrat. James Mill, he said, “thought that when the legislature no longer represented a class interest, it would aim at the general interest,” and therefore “a democratic suffrage [was] the principal article of his political creed.”17 James Mill’s severest and most discerning critic, Thomas Babington Macaulay, also recognized that Mill was “in favour of pure democracy.”18

James Mill’s rationale for a democratic suffrage was an important link between Bentham’s advocacy of universal suffrage and John Stuart Mill’s radicalism during the 1830s. “Government,” which was more widely read than any of his other political writings, had a powerful impact on the young Radicals, becoming Edition: current; Page: [xii] “almost a text-book to many of those who may be termed the Philosophic Radicals.”19 James Mill’s influence was greatly reinforced by his conversation with the notable, even if not large, group of disciples that gathered around him during the 1820s and early 1830s, including some that John Stuart Mill brought into the fold: Charles Austin, Edward Strutt, John Romilly, William Ellis, and John Arthur Roebuck. James Mill’s impact was enhanced by the distance between these disciples and the aging Bentham (now in his seventies), who at this time was more interested in law reform and codification than in parliamentary politics. Bentham’s distance from the Radicals close to the Mills was accentuated by his intimacy with John Bowring, who was disliked and distrusted by James Mill. In 1825 some of these tensions surfaced when the Mills and their followers reduced their contributions to the Westminster Review and began publication of the Parliamentary History and Review, a journal in which they proclaimed Bentham’s principles without Bowring’s editorial interference.

Many, in addition to his son, have testified to James Mill’s strengths as a political teacher. George Grote, who began his parliamentary career as a Radical in 1833, recalled James Mill’s “powerful intellectual ascendency over younger minds.”20 Roebuck, despite an early quarrel with James Mill, called him his political and philosophical teacher and said, “To him I owe greater obligations than to any other man. If I know any thing, from him I learned it.”21 Another of John Stuart Mill’s young friends, William Ellis, said of his early encounter with James Mill, “‘he worked a complete change in me. He taught me how to think and what to live for.’” Indeed, Mill supplied him “with all those emotions and impulses which deserve the name of religious.”22 Harriet Grote, the historian’s wife, also observed that under James Mill’s influence “the young disciples, becoming fired with patriotic ardour on the one hand and with bitter antipathies on the other, respectively braced themselves up, prepared to wage battle when the day should come, in behalf of ‘the true faith,’ according to Mill’s ‘programme’ and preaching.”23 Such strong influence allowed John Stuart Mill to say that his father “was quite as much the head and leader of the intellectual radicals in England, as Voltaire was of the philosophes of France.”24

Edition: current; Page: [xiii]

This comparison with the philosophes, made by John Stuart Mill more than once, identifies the spirit in which he and the other Philosophic Radicals approached politics. His father’s opinions, he said,

were seized on with youthful fanaticism by the little knot of young men of whom I was one: and we put into them a sectarian spirit, from which, in intention at least, my father was wholly free. What we (or rather a phantom substituted in the place of us) were sometimes, by a ridiculous exaggeration, called by others, namely a “school,” some of us for a time really hoped and aspired to be. The French philosophes of the eighteenth century were the example we sought to imitate, and we hoped to accomplish no less results.25

The Philosophic Radicals’ sectarian spirit was evident in their use of a distinctive jargon irritating to others. John Stuart Mill’s adopting the utilitarian label as a “sectarian appellation,”26 for example, led Macaulay to ridicule “the project of mending a bad world by teaching people to give new names to old things.” The utilitarians, Macaulay added, invented “a new sleight of tongue.”27 Mill also confessed that “to outrer whatever was by anybody considered offensive in the doctrines and maxims of Benthamism, became at one time the badge of a small coterie of youths.”28

Mill and others in his coterie displayed this sectarian spirit in the London Debating Society where they preferred to engage in political debate with ideological opposites whose principles were as clear and explicit as their own. Mill’s group, not the liberal moderates or trimming Whigs (such as Macaulay), provided the opposition to the Tories in the Society, and almost every debate, Mill recalled, “was a bataille rangée between the ‘philosophic radicals’ and the Tory lawyers.” The debates, he said, were unusual for being philosophically extreme, so that the opponents were “thrown often into close and serré confutations of one another.”29 In noting that the Society was the only arena in which such conflict was to be found, Mill was making an allusion to the defects of Parliament itself as well as giving a hint of the worldly ambitions which were linked to his and the other Philosophic Radicals’ political speculations.

Their conduct and opinions did not go uncriticized. Henry Taylor, an official in the Colonial Office and later author of The Statesman, regarded John Stuart Mill’s views in the 1820s as being “at heart something in the nature of political fanaticism,” and in the London Debating Society Taylor spoke against the same Edition: current; Page: [xiv] facet of radicalism that provoked Macaulay’s famous critique of James Mill.30 William Empson also complained about “the most peremptory and proselytizing seminary of ipse dixitists, (to use one of their own beautiful words,) which has ever existed.” The Benthamite Radicals reminded Empson of “those abstract and dogmatical times when men were principally distinguished by the theory of morals that they might happen to profess.”31 Macaulay, at this time a prolific publicist but not yet in the House of Commons, suggested that the disciples of James Mill (whom he called a “zealot of a sect”)32 were potentially dangerous.

Even now [1827], it is impossible to disguise, that there is arising in the bosom of [the middle class] a Republican sect, as audacious, as paradoxical, as little inclined to respect antiquity, as enthusiastically attached to its ends, as unscrupulous in the choice of its means, as the French Jacobins themselves,—but far superior to the French Jacobins in acuteness and information—in caution, in patience, and in resolution. They are men whose minds have been put into training for violent exertion. . . . They profess to derive their opinions from demonstrations alone. . . . Metaphysical and political science engage their whole attention. Philosophical pride has done for them what spiritual pride did for the Puritans in a former age; it has generated in them an aversion for the fine arts, for elegant literature, and for the sentiments of chivalry. It has made them arrogant, intolerant, and impatient of all superiority. These qualities will, in spite of their real claims to respect, render them unpopular, as long as the people are satisfied with their rulers. But under an ignorant and tyrannical ministry, obstinately opposed to the most moderate and judicious innovations, their principles would spread as rapidly as those of the Puritans formerly spread, in spite of their offensive peculiarities. The public, disgusted with the blind adherence of its rulers to ancient abuses, would be reconciled to the most startling novelties. A strong democratic party would be formed in the educated class.33

Such criticism was not likely to undermine the confidence of John Stuart Mill and his fellow enthusiasts. The Philosophic Radicals were distinguished, Mill said, for writing with an “air of strong conviction . . . when scarcely any one else seemed to have an equally strong faith in as definite a creed. . . .” Thus the public eye was attracted by “the regular appearance in controversy of what seemed a new school of writers, claiming to be the legislators and theorists of this new [reformist] tendency.”34

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during the middle and late 1820s John Stuart Mill might have felt confidence in his future as a leading member of an influential coterie, but his commitment to radicalism was shaken by his mental crisis and related events, particularly, at the end of the decade, by Macaulay’s critique of James Mill’s “Government,” John Austin’s arguments in his course of lectures on jurisprudence at the University of London in 1829-30, and the early writings of Auguste Comte and the St. Simonians.

The mental crisis, which beset him in the autumn of 1826, made Mill indifferent to reform. Having been converted, as he reported, to a political creed with religious dimensions, and having seen himself as “a reformer of the world,” he now asked himself if the complete reform of the world would bring him happiness and, realizing it would not, he felt that the foundations of his life had collapsed. “I was thus, as I said to myself, left stranded at the commencement of my voyage, with a well equipped ship and a rudder, but no sail; . . . ambition seemed to have dried up within me. . . .”35 Mill for a time lost his political calling.

This crisis was responsible, as Mill acknowledged, for an “important transformation” in his “opinions and character.”36 So far as opinions were concerned, the change came, not directly from the crisis, but from certain subsequent events. These events occurred after the period of his greatest dejection had ended but before his recovery of purpose and confidence. In fact, by undermining his old beliefs, the crisis opened the way for a commitment to new ideas. Part of the process was the undercurrent of negative feelings about James Mill that are evident in his record of the crisis.

The first of these events, the publication in 1829 of Macaulay’s critiques of James Mill’s “Government,” did much to shake John Mill’s beliefs. Macaulay charged James Mill with using a priori reasoning inappropriate to political analysis, and argued that Mill compounded this error by making deductions from inadequate premises. James Mill’s democratic prescription, Macaulay argued, would not necessarily promote policies reflecting the universal interest.37 This attack, John Stuart Mill confessed, “gave me much to think about.” Though, he says,

the tone was unbecoming . . . there was truth in several of his strictures on my father’s treatment of the subject; that my father’s premises were really too narrow, and included but a small number of the general truths, on which, in politics, the important consequences depend. Identity of interest between the governing body and the community at large, is not, Edition: current; Page: [xvi] in any practical sense which can be attached to it, the only thing on which good government depends; neither can this identity of interest be secured by the mere conditions of election. I was not at all satisfied with the mode in which my father met the criticisms of Macaulay.38

Mill now thought there was something “fundamentally erroneous” in his father’s “conception of philosophical Method.”39

Also contributing to the change in Mill’s beliefs were John Austin’s lectures (which Mill attended during the session that began in November, 1829) and his exposure to St. Simonianism. Whereas Macaulay’s attack undermined his confidence in the soundness of “Government,” and by extension much else, without providing anything to put in its place, John Austin and the St. Simonians suggested to Mill political principles that were alternatives to his old radicalism and that, at least to their authors, seemed incompatible with Benthamite radicalism. Mill’s adoption of several ideas from Austin and the St. Simonians for a while prevented him from resuming his former role as a champion of the older radicalism. Only after an intellectual struggle was he able to accommodate the new ideas to the old.

The most important of these new ideas concerned political authority. In 1829 he began to develop the view that it ought to be exercised by those with special knowledge of public matters, and began speaking about the “authority of the instructed.”40 Since this notion circumscribed the political role of ordinary citizens, he also advocated the multitude’s deference to knowledgeable authority. These opinions, markedly alien to Benthamite radicalism and his father’s political principles, had their origin in writings of the St. Simonians and in John Austin’s lectures on jurisprudence (which is not to say that Austin’s political thought and St. Simonianism were the same).41

Austin’s advocacy of vesting authority in those with knowledge was closely tied to his complete confidence that the method of science could be applied to most fields of knowledge. He was so impressed by the achievements of natural science and the progress of political economy that he looked forward to a parallel emergence of political and moral science. By using the principle of utility, these sciences would discover the sources of improvement, and the result would be a science of ethics, including the sciences of law, morality, and political science. Edition: current; Page: [xvii] Since such scientific knowledge was accessible only to comparatively few, however, authority could be properly exercised only by them, and most persons were expected to accept their conclusions “on authority, testimony, or trust.42

These ideas made Austin anything but a radical. He had been an orthodox Benthamite until, in 1827, he began a year-and-a-half stay in Germany, but his new attitudes to authority and trust were incompatible with the democratic arrangements proposed by Bentham. Austin unmistakably rejected radicalism in his denying that “the power of the sovereign flows from the people, or [that] the people is the fountain of sovereign power.”43 He also complained about “the stupid and infuriate majority,” and condemned Radical leaders, saying that “the guides of the multitude [were] moved by sinister interests, or by prejudices which are the offspring of such interests.”44 John Mill noted Austin’s move away from radicalism, reporting that in Germany Austin “acquired an indifference, bordering on contempt, for the progress of popular institutions. . . .”45 Austin’s relations with Bentham became somewhat strained at this time, and Sarah Austin (whose views were very close to her husband’s) said she “excite[d] horror among [her] Radical friends for not believing that all salvation comes of certain organic forms of government.”46

Another alternative to Benthamism was St. Simonianism. Mill became acquainted with the sect in 1829 and 1830, and he claimed to have read everything they wrote, though, of course, he did not share all their beliefs.47 Among other things, he found in St. Simonian writings a theory of history that asserted that society progressed through alternating stages, called organic and critical. Organic epochs are characterized by widely shared beliefs and clearly defined, shared goals. In such periods society is arranged hierarchically, with the truly superior having the power to direct moral, scientific, and industrial activity. Although there is gross inequality, there is no discontent and no conflict. For the St. Simonians, organic eras existed when Greek and Roman polytheism were in full vigour (ending, respectively, with Pericles and Augustus), and when Catholicism and feudalism were at their height.48 Critical epochs, in contrast, are characterized by deep scepticism about the values and beliefs of the preceding organic era and finally by rejection of them. All forces join to destroy the values and institutions of the preceding era, and when this destruction is accomplished, one finds irreligion, lack of morality, and egoism, as particular interests prevail over the general Edition: current; Page: [xviii] interest. In the resultant anarchy, there is conflict between ruler and ruled, and men of ability are ignored. The St. Simonians found examples in the periods between polytheism and Christianity and from Luther to the present.49

St. Simonian ideas, like Austin’s, were far removed from Benthamite radicalism, implying, as they did, that organic were superior to critical periods, and approving cultural and religious unity and hierarchy. All that Benthamite radicalism aimed to achieve assumed the continued existence of a critical epoch, and radicalism’s highest achievement would have involved the most extreme development of the distinguishing characteristics of critical eras. The Radicals’ blindness to the necessary supercession of critical periods by organic ones was, for the St. Simonians, a disqualifying limitation.

These ideas—both Austin’s and the St. Simonians’—had a powerful impact on Mill. He came to believe that those most instructed in moral and political subjects might “carry the multitude with them by their united authority.”50 His assumption that most persons “must and do believe on authority” was an implicit rejection of Benthamite views on the role of a sceptical electorate always alert to the operation of sinister interests.51 The full extent of his commitment to these new ideas was evident in his “The Spirit of the Age,” which appeared in 1831, but even earlier his changed ideas were reflected in changed activities. Unlike his father, Mill for a few years thought there was little point in stimulating public opinion; he dropped out of the London Debating Society in 1829 and wrote little for publication.52 Although he claimed to have “entered warmly”53 into the political discussions of the time when he returned from Paris in September, 1830, his manuscript bibliography records few publications on domestic politics during the reform period, and during the height of the Reform Bill agitation he was “often surprised, how little” he really cared about extra-parliamentary politics. “The time is not yet come,” he wrote, “when a calm and impartial person can intermeddle with advantage in the questions and contests of the day.”54

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Mill recovered his sense of calling as a reformer and his radical beliefs, but only after he accommodated his new ideas about the authority of the instructed to Benthamite radicalism. He felt compelled to make the accommodation:

I found the fabric of my old and taught opinions giving way in many fresh places, and I never allowed it to fall to pieces, but was incessantly occupied in weaving it anew. I never, in the course of my transition, was content to remain, for ever so short a time, confused and unsettled. When I had taken in any new idea, I could not rest till I had adjusted its relation to my old opinions, and ascertained exactly how far its effect ought to extend in modifying or superseding them.55

The process of weaving anew, which involved influences coming from Coleridge, Carlyle, and Harriet Taylor, as well as from John Austin and the St. Simonians, continued for much of his life, but it was a major occupation for him during the 1830s.

If Mill’s metaphor of weaving suggests a harmonious intertwining, it is somewhat misleading, for initially his old and new ideas were not so much woven together as simply combined. Rather than choose between them, Mill now regarded both the old ideas, which emphasized popular control, and the new, which emphasized instructed leadership, as equally necessary: “the grand difficulty in politics will for a long time be, how best to conciliate the two great elements on which good government depends; to combine the greatest amount of the advantage derived from the independent judgment of a specially instructed Few, with the greatest degree of the security for rectitude of pupose derived from rendering those Few responsible to the Many.”56 This combination was necessary because each of its main ingredients was by itself insufficient. Benthamite radicalism provided a popular check on authority but made no provision for instructed authority. By attempting to combine these two approaches, Mill was hoping to provide for “the two great elements on which good government depends.”57

This wish to combine two diverse outlooks led Mill to use the language of eclecticism. He described the truth as “many sided,”58 and advocated “a catholic Edition: current; Page: [xx] spirit in philosophy.”59 Trying to combine fragments of the truth and to reconcile persons who represented different “half truths,”60 he sought “practical eclecticism,”61 and he tried to keep “as firm hold of one side of the truth as [he] took of the other.”62

At this time Mill thought of his political speculations as taking place on a higher plane than they had occupied earlier. Whereas previously he (like Bentham and his father) had regarded certain model institutions as the end result of speculation, now, without rejecting his old conclusions about model (i.e., democratic) institutions, he went further. In his words, “If I am asked what system of political philosophy I substituted for that which, as a philosophy, I had abandoned, I answer, no system: only a conviction, that the true system was something much more complex and many sided than I had previously had any idea of, and that its office was to supply, not a set of model institutions, but principles from which the institutions suitable to any given circumstances might be deduced.”63 Of course, viewed from this higher plane, James Mill’s contribution to political philosophy was greatly diminished. Thus John Mill became “aware of many things which [his father’s] doctrine, professing to be a theory of government in general, ought to have made room for, and did not.”64 He no longer accepted “Government” as embodying scientific theory, and thought his father should have answered Macaulay by acknowledging that the essay was not a scientific treatise but only a tract in support of parliamentary reform.65 Although he did not use the phrase in reference to his father, clearly he thought James Mill had grasped only a “half-truth.”

Mill’s search for ways of combining the diverse understandings of Bentham and his father, on the one hand, and of Austin and the St. Simonians, on the other, was revealed most clearly in his articles on Bailey, Tocqueville, Bentham, and Coleridge (and much later, of course, in Considerations on Representative Government). Whereas he castigated as false democracy the simple majoritarianism which he associated with the recommendations of Bentham and James Mill, he saw true or rational democracy as the kind that, in allowing for representation of minorities, including the minority of the educated, facilitated leadership by the instructed few in combination with a democratic suffrage that provided popular control. This line of thinking was also evident in his belief that the main thrust of eighteenth-century political philosophy, represented by the philosophes on the Continent and in England by Bentham (and, by implication, his father), had to be combined with the main theme of nineteenth-century thought as represented by the Edition: current; Page: [xxi] German romantics and in England by Coleridge. Whereas Bentham taught the need for popular control, Coleridge, with his notion of a clerisy, promoted the idea of enlightened authority that commanded deference from the populace. “Whoever could master the premises and combine the methods of both [Bentham and Coleridge], would possess the entire English philosophy of their age,”66 Mill said, and described his wish to synthesize Bentham and Coleridge as a “scheme of conciliation between the old and the new ‘philosophic radicalism.’”67

In combining the new ideas with the old radicalism, Mill was greatly helped by a theory of history that allowed him to visualize the progressive development of society. He was exposed to such a theory in St. Simonianism, which provided him with a “connected view . . . of the natural order of human progress.”68 This permitted him to assume that the combination of enlightened leadership and democratic control would be viable; that is, true democracy as he understood it could come to exist.

After Mill had persuaded himself that the old radicalism was reconcilable with his new ideas, he could co-operate with the other Radicals in practical politics. While he had some goals that were not theirs, he shared their wish for an extended suffrage, shorter parliaments, and the secret ballot. The “change in the premises of my political philosophy,” he says, “did not alter my practical political creed as to the requirements of my own time and country. I was as much as ever a radical and democrat, for Europe, and especially for England.”69 Democracy, however, would have put into practice only some of Mill’s political principles, whereas for the other Radicals it would have been closer to complete fulfilment of their hopes.

In the absence of complete agreement, relations between Mill and the other Philosophic Radicals were somewhat strained. Since they were willing to apply only some of his political principles, he regarded them as narrow. They saw “clearly what they did see, though it was but little.” As they were narrow, he regarded them as incomplete, “half-men.”70 All the same, he was “able to cooperate with them in their own field of usefulness, though perhaps they would not always join [him] in [his].”71 Mill also subjected his father to two standards of judgment, approving his ideas at one level but not the other. There was oblique criticism of him in an appendix to Edward Lytton Bulwer’s England and the English (London, 1833) and in references to spokesmen for the philosophy of the eighteenth century in the essay on Bentham; also in the Autobiography Mill confessed to feeling quite distant from James Mill’s “tone of thought and feeling,” and said his father probably considered him “a deserter from his standard,” Edition: current; Page: [xxii] although at the same time “we were almost always in strong agreement on the political questions of the day.”72

Although Mill was willing to co-operate with the other Philosophic Radicals, their feelings about him were affected by suspicions that his new ideas undermined his status as a Radical. Roebuck complained about Mill’s belief “in the advantages to be derived from an Aristocracy of intellect.”73 Mrs. Grote referred to that “wayward intellectual deity John Mill,”74 and after the publication of the article on Bentham, Francis Place expressed the view “that [since] John Mill has made great progress in becoming a German Metaphysical Mystic, excentricity [sic] and absurdity must occasionally be the result.”75

During the 1830s Mill advocated both parts of his political philosophy. On some occasions he explained the need for allowing the “instructed few” a large measure of authority; at other times he emphasized the more restricted vision of Benthamite radicalism, and sought to be the guide and tactician for the parliamentary Radicals. In the latter mood, he looked for fairly quick results, whereas in the former he was trying to prepare the ground for the acceptance of new principles to be realized in the more distant future. Although his explanations of the new ideas mainly appeared in essays published in other volumes of the Collected Works, occasionally these ideas are found in articles in this volume. A notable example is his anticipation of his proposal in Considerations on Representative Government (1861) for a Legislative Commission in an article of 1834 in the Monthly Repository (160).76


mill became a political journalist to implement his radical creed. He often wished to be in Parliament with other Philosophic Radicals, and only his official Edition: current; Page: [xxiii] position at India House prevented his going to the hustings.77 Consequently he turned to journalism with the belief—or the hope—that “words are deeds, and the cause of deeds.”78 He looked enviously at France where “editors of daily journals may be considered as individually the head, or at lowest the right hand, of a political party.”79 There was the example of Armand Carrel, who “made himself, without a seat in the legislature or any public station beyond the editorship of his journal, the most powerful political leader of his age and country” (380). With ambition to play such a role, Mill, in co-operation with his father and Sir William Molesworth, set up a new quarterly journal in 1835 (initially the London Review and, after a merger in 1836, the London and Westminster). It was to be “a periodical organ of philosophic radicalism, to take the place which the Westminster Review had been intended to fill.” One of its principal purposes “was to stir up the educated Radicals, in and out of Parliament, to exertion, and induce them to make themselves, what I thought by using the proper means they might become—a powerful party capable of taking the government of the country, or at least of dictating the terms on which they should share it with the Whigs.”80 Mill was the real though not the nominal editor, and after Molesworth withdrew in 1837 he became the proprietor as well.

Mill in his journalism frequently discussed Radical party goals, explaining that constitutional change, that is, organic reform, was essential, but that it was only a means to the real end, improvement. Thus he said that Radicals wanted codification of the laws, cheap legal procedures, access to the courts for the poor, abolition of the corn laws and of restrictions on industry, elimination of useless expenditures, improvement of conditions in Ireland, and a rational administration (348, 397). Thinking the Reform Act of 1832 “wholly insufficient” (186), he did not expect much improvement from the post-Reform Bill parliaments, and therefore advocated organic reform, that is, a more democratic constitution. Of course, if improvements could have been achieved without such fundamental changes, Mill would have been satisfied, but he assumed that the aristocratic classes were unwilling to make more than trivial concessions to liberal opinion. Thus, although constitutional changes were only the means to general improvement, Edition: current; Page: [xxiv] Mill said, “necessary means we believe them to be” (348).81 Consequently, the demand for organic reforms became the hallmark of Philosophic Radicalism.

Although Radicals might differ about how far to go in shifting power away from the aristocracy, they agreed about the kind of change required: “it must be by diminishing the power of those who are unjustly favoured, and giving more to those who are unjustly depressed: it must be by adding weight in the scale to the two elements of Numbers and Intelligence, and taking it from that of Privilege” (479). The traditional Radical programme for achieving this change emphasized universal suffrage, secret ballot, and frequent elections. Mill said little about annual parliaments but appears to have wanted shorter, perhaps triennial, ones. He was outspoken in calling for the ballot, not only because it would reduce bribery and intimidation of electors, but because it would help shift the balance of power: once it became a cabinet measure, “reform will have finally triumphed: the aristocratical principle will be completely annihilated, and we shall enter into a new era of government.”82 As to the franchise, he wanted to see it greatly extended at this time, but he did not press for universal suffrage, although he regarded it as ultimately necessary and desirable. By arguing that it could be put off for a time, he was not doubting its importance and value but was recognizing that it was unlikely that a broadly based radical movement could be formed if extremists within it insisted on universal suffrage. He therefore called for its gradual introduction and was evidently pleased when its not being a pressing issue allowed him to avoid an unequivocal statement of his opinion (482, 488-9).83 When he could not avoid stating his view, however, Mill, although hesitantly, showed his hand, as when he said of the parliamentary Radicals:

They are the only party who do not in their hearts condemn the whole of their operative fellow-citizens to perpetual helotage, to a state of exclusion from all direct influence on national affairs. . . . They look forward to a time, most of them think it is not yet come, when the whole adult population shall be qualified to give an equal voice in the election of members of Parliament. Others believe this and tremble; they believe it, and rejoice; and instead of wishing to retard, they anxiously desire . . . to hasten this progress. (397.)

Of course, this description of the parliamentary Radicals was a description of Mill himself.

Mill’s wish to promote a Radical party with a programme of organic reform rested on the assumption that a fundamental conflict was taking place between the aristocratic and non-aristocratic classes over control of government. This notion was adopted from Bentham and his father, but the language Mill used to describe Edition: current; Page: [xxv] the conflict was more varied than theirs: the Disqualified vs. the Privileged; Natural Radicals vs. Natural Opponents of Radicalism; Numbers and Intelligence vs. Privilege; the Aggrieved vs. the Satisfied; the Many vs. the Few. Whatever the labels, Mill, like Bentham and his father, had in mind a conflict between Radicals, as spokesmen for the universal or general interest and representing the “People,” and Conservatives, as spokesmen for particular or sinister interests and representing the Aristocracy. Mill’s analysis was evident in much of what he wrote during the 1830s, but it was presented most elaborately in the remarkable essay, “Reorganization of the Reform Party,” where he described the conflict as arising out of social structure. Political views, he explained, were a matter of social position, interest, and class (465-95 passim, esp. 469).84

Mill’s view of the aristocratic classes was not very different from his father’s. They were, generally, the landed and monied classes, especially the former, and they controlled the legislature, the House of Commons as well as the House of Lords (101-2 and 184). They made laws in their own interest, most notably the monopolistic Corn Laws which made bread unnecessarily expensive for the poor (170, 470), and also in defence of their amusements, as Mill explained in his early article on the Game Laws, which had important consequences for a great part of the agricultural population (101-3, 107). They also biassed justice by administering the laws in their own class interest (471, 483). Furthermore, they administered the Poor Laws; and the army, navy, and civil patronage belonged to them exclusively (170). Altogether the government was “a selfish oligarchy, carried on for the personal benefit of the ruling classes” (479). The Church, too, was but a branch of the aristocracy (471).85 In short, the aristocracy had vast unjust power; it was exploitive, selfish, and indifferent to the interests of others. Clearly its members, the bulwark of what Mill called the Privileged, Conservative, Satisfied Classes, exploited their sinister interest at the expense of the people (469-70).

In opposition to the aristocratic classes, Mill portrayed the combination of groups that made up the Numbers and Intelligence and who, in their struggle against Privilege, became “natural Radicals” (468, 470). All who suffered deprivation as a result of aristocratic exclusions—whether through legislation or custom—were the Disqualified, and therefore by definition opposed to the Privileged.

All who feel oppressed, or unjustly dealt with, by any of the institutions of the country; who are taxed more heavily than other people, or for other people’s benefit; who have, or consider themselves to have, the field of employment for their pecuniary means or their bodily or mental faculties unjustly narrowed; who are denied the importance in society, or the influence in public affairs, which they consider due to them as a class, or who feel debarred as individuals from a fair chance of rising in the world; especially if others, in whom they do not recognize any superiority of merit, are artificially exalted above their Edition: current; Page: [xxvi] heads: these compose the natural Radicals; to whom must be added a large proportion of those who, from whatever cause, are habitually ill at ease in their pecuniary circumstances; the sufferers from low wages, low profits, or want of employment. . . . (470.)

Such was Mill’s attempt to define the comprehensive coalition of the discontented.

Turning to the sources of such discontents, Mill looked to amount of property and to occupational and financial circumstances—in other words, to class. First, there were the middle classes, the majority of whom, including the bulk of the manufacturing and mercantile classes (except those in protected trades), were on the side of change. In addition, there were the ten-pound electors in the towns, who belonged to the “uneasy classes,” for they lived a life of struggle and had no sense of fellow feeling with the aristocracy (476). In part these were Dissenters, who had their own grievances against the Church to supplement those they experienced as members of the middle class. “Between them and the aristocracy, there is a deeper gulph fixed than can be said of any other portion of the middle class; and when men’s consciences, and their interests, draw in the same direction, no wonder that they are irresistible” (476).86

There was another aspect of middle-class discontent about which Mill was perceptive, perhaps because he personally experienced it. It arose less from inequities leading to material deprivation than from resentments about social status, and it was experienced by “the men of active and aspiring talent” who had skilled employments “which require talent and education but confer no rank,—what may be called the non-aristocratic professions. . . . ” Such persons were natural Radicals, for, Mill asked, “what is Radicalism, but the claim of pre-eminence for personal qualities above conventional or accidental advantages” (477)? As examples Mill mentioned stewards and attorneys, but one recalls his claims for “the most virtuous and best-instructed” in “The Spirit of the Age,”87 and his observation that journalists and editors, who were influential but regarded as ungentlemanly, did not enjoy public recognition of their real power (163-4). All such persons together might be called the intelligentsia. Of course, the word was not used in England in Mill’s time, but there can be little doubt that he had in mind the phenomenon to which it refers when he discussed the political outlook of such persons.88

There is a class, now greatly multiplying in this country, and generally overlooked by politicians in their calculations; those men of talent and instruction, who are just below the rank in society which would of itself entitle them to associate with gentlemen. Persons of Edition: current; Page: [xxvii] this class have the activity and energy which the higher classes in our state of civilization and education almost universally want. . . . They are, as it is natural they should be, Radicals to a man, and Radicals generally of a deep shade. They are the natural enemies of an order of things in which they are not in their proper place. (402-3.)

In this statement, which suggests his resentment at exclusion from a deserved political station in society, Mill (despite his position in the East India Company) identified with the class of which he said, “We are felt to be the growing power . . . ” (403). His identification with such persons may explain the bitterness that is evident in some of his observations about the aristocracy (162).

Mill gave equal prominence to the working class as the other main constituent part of the opposition to the aristocracy. This was not only a matter of taking note of Chartism during the late 1830s, for before then Mill complained about the injuries done to “the people of no property, viz. those whose principal property consists in their bodily faculties.” Like the middle class and those with small property, “the most numerous and poorest class has also an interest in reducing the exorbitant power which is conferred by large property” (218, 219). So Mill included in the large, naturally radical body “the whole effective political strength of the working classes: classes deeply and increasingly discontented, and whose discontent now [1839] speaks out in a voice which will not be unheard” (478).

In discussing both middle and working classes as the opposition to the aristocracy, Mill was not unaware of conflicts of interest that divided the working from the middle classes. He took note of disagreements about universal suffrage; of quarrels between supporters of the Church and Dissenters; and above all, of “an opposition of interest, which gives birth, it would seem, to the most deep-rooted distrusts and aversions which exist in society—the opposition between capitalists and labourers” (479). When the Chartists were providing evidence of class conflict between proletariat and bourgeoisie, Mill proposed that such antagonism be subordinated to the other kind of class conflict—between the aristocracy and the non-aristocratic classes—that was required by his political position. He appealed to the middle and working classes to co-operate in taking the next step, which was opposition to the aristocracy by a parliamentary Radical party (480-1). Since many middle-class radicals would not agree to universal suffrage, such co-operation required postponement of that demand, which was what the Chartists most wanted. The wish to postpone universal suffrage was also supported by Mill’s belief that education ought to precede full democracy. Meanwhile it was necessary to redress the practical grievances of the working classes without yet allowing them full participation. “The motto of a Radical politician should be, Government by means of the middle for the working classes” (483).89 Despite this concession to middle-class fear of the working class, Mill went far in asking that there should be “some members returned chiefly by the working classes. We think it of importance Edition: current; Page: [xxviii] that Mr. Lovett and Mr. Vincent [both Chartists] should make themselves heard in St. Stephen’s as well as in Palace yard [i.e., in the House of Commons as well as in public meetings], and that the legislature should not have to learn the sentiments of the working classes at second-hand.” (489.)

Mill’s supportive words for the middle class, like his father’s, were not intended to promote the interest of that class to the exclusion of the working class, nor was he particularly sympathetic to the middle class. He criticized the shopocracy (162) and, in urging that the working classes have some representation, said, “We would give [them] power, but not all power. We wish them to be strong enough to keep the middle classes in that salutary awe, without which, no doubt, those classes would be just like any other oligarchy. . . . ” (489.) It is evident that Mill was far from being comfortable with middle-class rule:

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. (219-20.)

Mill’s view of party politics during the 1830s was shaped by his belief that party conflict ought to reflect the class conflict between the aristocracy and its opponents. A Radical party should represent the anti-aristocratic interest of the diverse groups which Bentham and James Mill called the numerous classes or the People. Their party was to rest “on the whole body of radical opinion, from the whig-radicals at one extreme, to the more reasonable and practical of the working classes, and the Benthamites, on the other.”90 Far from excluding the working classes, Mill said, “A Radical party which does not rest upon the masses, is no better than a nonentity” (396). The labels he used for this party varied—it was the Radical party, popular party, Reform party, liberal party, Movement party—but whatever the label, “the small knot of philosophic radicals,” as he called them, to whom Mill offered guidance throughout the decade, was to be the most advanced part of it, and he hoped it would provide the party with leadership.

On the other side of the great conflict Mill looked for an aristocratic party made up of both Whigs and Tories. The Whigs were included despite their use of a liberal and reformist rhetoric that superficially distinguished them from the Tories. They were attached to the existing distribution of power as much as the Tories and Edition: current; Page: [xxix] were equally “terrified at the remedies” (297). In response to popular pressure the Whigs occasionally made concessions, and at these times Mill allowed a place for the most liberal of them in a comprehensively defined Radical or Reform party, but his wish and expectation was that they would combine with the Tories in an aristocratic party. This would be the party of “the English oligarchy, Whig and Tory,” and its organ (Mill said in 1834) was Lord Grey (262).

Since Radicals and Conservatives had clearly defined views on the large issue of democracy and aristocracy, they deserved to survive, but the Whigs, because of their half-hearted equivocations, did not. Thus he regarded the Whigs as “a coterie, not a party” (342), and rather optimistically noted that Conservatives and Radicals were gaining strength “at the expense not of each other, but of the Indifferents and the juste milieu,” and, he added, “there will soon be no middle party, as indeed what seemed such had long been rather an appearance than a reality” (341).91 The realignment of parties Mill wanted would remove the equivocating Whigs and make political conflict an accurate representation of the underlying class conflict. He did not use the word “realignment,” but the phenomenon to which it refers was in his mind, as it was in Bentham’s and James Mill’s. Forcing the Whigs (other than the most liberal of them) to acknowledge their shared aristocratic interest with the Tories would create a place for a Radical party that was not a subordinate partner in an uneasy alliance with the Whigs. The proper alignment would come, he said, “when the present equivocal position of parties is ended, and the question is distinctly put between Radicalism and Conservatism” (477).92

Mill’s view on party realignment illuminates his use of the phrase “Philosophic Radical.” His fairly precise notion of the meaning of the term—which he himself coined—sharply contrasts with the loose usage among historians, for whom it has referred to such things as Benthamism, utilitarianism, liberalism, laissez-faire doctrine, and radicalism so loosely defined as to include the mixture of economic and political ideas of Adam Smith, Bentham, the Mills, Nassau Senior, and Cobden.93 Mill invented the phrase to identify a small group among the many radicals who existed during the 1820s and 1830s. This group was deeply influenced by James Mill and most had associated with John Stuart Mill in the London Debating Society and in the production of the Parliamentary History and Review. Among them were George Grote, who later distinguished himself as an historian of Greece and of Greek philosophy; John Roebuck, who had a long and prominent career as a member of Parliament; and Charles Austin, who had a Edition: current; Page: [xxx] dazzling success at the bar. Older than most of the others, Joseph Parkes, a successful attorney and political agent, played a part in their deliberations; although less an enthusiast than the others, he shared some of their convictions. Francis Place, the legendary Radical tailor, must be included, although his age and his participation in the Radical movement from the 1790s gave him a special position. It also would be difficult to exclude Harriet Grote, whose lively political interests and aggressive temperament made her an active participant. Others became associated with the Philosophic Radicals during the 1830s—Henry Warburton, Charles Buller, and Sir William Molesworth being most noteworthy. What characterized the group was their association with the Mills and a belief—held by some with greater enthusiasm than by others—that by means of party realignment the Radicals could replace the Whigs. This belief was promoted by several of these Philosophic Radicals in their journalism and their parliamentary careers.

Mill used the adjective “philosophic” in describing the Radicals with whom he felt a close affinity because they took a principled—a philosophic—position on politics. Mill’s political philosophy—or perhaps one should say half of it, the part derived from Bentham and James Mill—was mainly occupied with justifying democracy against aristocratic government. He contrasted the Philosophic Radicals with historical Radicals who demanded popular institutions as an inheritance from the distant past; with metaphysical Radicals whose belief in democracy was based on a notion of abstract natural rights; with Radicals marked by irritation with a particular policy of government; and with “radicals of position, who are radicals . . . because they are not lords” (353).94 Mill’s favoured Radicals deserved to be called philosophic because they traced practical evils back to their cause, which was the aristocratic principle. Thus their motto was “enmity to the Aristocratical principle” (353).95

This justification for the adjective “philosophic” makes the label appropriate not only for Radicals, for there was an opposing position which was also philosophic. There was a type of Tory “who gives to Toryism (what can be given to it, though not to Whiggism) something like a philosophic basis; who finds for [his] opinions the soundest, the most ingenious, or the most moral arguments by which they can be supported” (335). This was “speculative Toryism,” such as Coleridge’s:

As whatever is noble or disinterested in Toryism is founded upon a recognition of the moral duty of submission to rightful authority, so the moral basis of Radicalism is the refusal to pay that submission to an authority which is usurped, or to which the accidents of birth or Edition: current; Page: [xxxi] fortune are the only title. The Tory acknowledges, along with the right to obedience, a correlative obligation to govern for the good of the ruled. . . . (478-9.)96

In the House of Commons, however, Toryism was quite different; it acted on behalf of the aristocratic “selfish oligarchy” (479); it was the Toryism for which Sir John Walsh “gets up and vents . . . shattered and worn-out absurdities,” including a defence of Tory policy in Ireland (335). Even Peel was disdained by Mill (403-4). Yet because Toryism could address the large question of aristocracy and democracy it was capable of having philosophic status. The Whigs, in contrast, although “a portion of the privileged class,” and “hostile to any thorough reform,” pretended to favour reform on behalf of the people, and consequently could be seen to be unprincipled. “Since the questions arising out of the Hanoverian succession had been set at rest, the term Whig had never been the symbol of any principles” (342).

A consequence of Mill’s “philosophic” approach to politics was a preference for conflict between extreme parties, a preference which placed the highest priority on the issue of aristocracy versus democracy. Mill, in describing how the Philosophic Radicals and the Tories gained domination of the London Debating Society, said, “our doctrines were fairly pitted against their opposites,” and with evident pride he reported that these debates “habitually consisted of the strongest arguments and most philosophic principles which either side was able to produce.”97 Later he encouraged such conflict in the House of Commons because it would be a contest “between the representatives of the two great principles,—not between two men whose policies differ from one another only by the shadow of a shade” (495). In such a contest the Whigs would be set aside and “the question [would be] distinctly put between Radicalism and Conservatism” (477).

Mill’s confidence that the Whigs could be set aside, to be replaced by a Radical party led by the Philosophic Radicals, may seem surprising in retrospect. Yet he clearly believed that if the Philosophic Radicals played their cards correctly, that is, aggressively, the Radicals would become an independent party and might ultimately gain office. As unrealistic as this view appeared to many contemporaries,98 Edition: current; Page: [xxxii] it did not seem impossible to Mill (or to his father or to the other Philosophic Radicals).99 That he seriously entertained this possibility is an indication of his doctrinairism and his high political ambition during the 1830s. Sophisticated and careful as Mill was, his words show that he thought the Philosophic Radicals eligible for the highest offices. There were Radicals in and out of Parliament, he said, with the talent and energy which in time would qualify them to play a distinguished part in either a government or an opposition (386).100 He also spoke about the prospective party of moderate radicals as “our party,”101 and discussed what would happen “the moment a Ministry of Moderate Radicals comes into power.” “All things,” he said, “are ripe for it,” and its leader “is sure of everything, to the Premiership inclusive” (494, 495).102 A similar speculation in the Spectator did not exclude Mill; in describing a possible Radical cabinet, in addition to Durham (as Prime Minister), Grote (Exchequer), Hume (Home Secretary), Buller (Colonies), Warburton (Board of Trade), Molesworth (Board of Control), John Romilly (Solicitor General), it mentioned, without suggesting offices, Roebuck, Charles Austin, and Mr. John Mill.103

Since Mill denied the Whigs their usual position as a major party, they regarded his views on parliamentary politics as doctrinaire. His arguments indeed had many doctrinaire features (which were present despite his reaction against his own early Benthamite sectarianism): he looked for large-scale change, and he depreciated reforms that did not contribute to the redistribution of power;104 he was uncomfortable with compromise, and he criticized compromisers and trimmers as Edition: current; Page: [xxxiii] unprincipled;105 he assumed that considerable changes could be achieved easily;106 and, as mentioned, he regarded conflict with an ideological opposite as the worthiest kind, and so was critical of moderates who stood for gradual change. This last feature of the Philosophic Radicals’ approach was identified by the Whig publicist Francis Jeffrey as early as 1826, when he responded to James Mill’s castigation of Whigs as insincere reformers and moderates: “The real reason of the animosity with which we [Whigs] are honoured by the more eager of the two extreme parties, is, that we . . . impede the assault they are impatient mutually to make on each other, and take away from them the means of that direct onset, by which the sanguine in both hosts imagine they might at once achieve a decisive victory.”107 Although other moderate critics of the Philosophic Radicals did not match Jeffrey’s incisive rhetoric, they recognized the doctrinairism. Fonblanque, once a Radical himself, late in the 1830s called them (and especially John Mill) Ultras, fanatical Radicals, pseudo-Liberals, Detrimentals, Wrongheads, and, since their tactics would have led to a Tory government, Tory Radicals.108

Mill was aware of the “philosophic” origin of the ambition he entertained for radicalism. And he was also aware of British uneasiness with anything theoretical. “There is no passion in England for forms of government, considered in themselves. Nothing could be more inconsistent with the exclusively practical spirit of the English people.” (339.) Indeed, England was “a nation practical even to ridiculousness; . . . a nation given to distrust and dislike all that there is in principles . . ., and whose first movement would be to fight against, rather than for, any one who has nothing but a principle to hold out” (392-3). In this uncongenial environment, Mill tried—though hardly with success—to conceal the theoretical aspect of his political enterprise. He used the phrase “Philosophic(al) Radical” rather infrequently (165, 191, 212, 353),109 and he tried to divert attention from the “philosophic” side of his radicalism by using equivalent Edition: current; Page: [xxxiv] phrases, these too used sparingly. They included “thorough Reformers” (292, 322, 378, 380), “complete reformers” (301, 307), “enlightened” Radicals (378), “decided Radicals” (389), “real reformers” (326), and “more vigorous Reformers” (322). Mill explained that “because this designation [Philosophic Radicals] too often repeated gave a coterie air which it was felt to be objectionable, the phrase was varied.”110 Despite such attempts to evade criticism, the Philosophic Radicals, including Mill as their self-appointed spokesman, attracted increasing attention as the size of the Whig majority in Parliament diminished and Radical votes became more important.


since mill wished to promote Radical leadership of the reform party in Parliament, the tactics he recommended to the other Philosophic Radicals focused on their relations with the Whigs. Much of what he suggested depended on his estimate of Whig policy on reform. Those in the Whig government, like their supporters, varied greatly in their reformist zeal, but they were sufficiently favourable to reform for Lord Grey’s government to cultivate a liberal image by calling itself the Reform Ministry.

This image, when combined with pressures for additional reform from the press and the liberal wing of their own party, created a dilemma for the Whig leadership, according to Mill. In the face of demand for reform, the Whigs had to choose either to make concessions and become more reformist than Whig, or they could refuse concessions and become hardly distinguishable from the Tories. They “must either join with the Tories in resisting, or with the Radicals in carrying, improvements of a more fundamental kind than any but the latter have yet ventured to identify themselves with” (326). Whichever choice they made, the reform cause would be promoted. If they chose concession, considerable improvements would be made: “there is hardly any limit to what may now be carried through the Ministry” (192). On the other hand, if the Whigs resisted and were forced to coalesce with the Tories, much good would result even if the government was then openly opposed to additional reform. For then the Radical party would be invigorated and the country would be “delivered from the anomalous state, in which we have neither the benefits of a liberal government, nor those of a liberal opposition; in which we can carry nothing through the two Houses, but what would be given by a Tory ministry, and yet are not able to make that vigorous appeal to the people out of doors, which under the Tories could be made and would be eagerly responded to” (385). If this situation occurred, of course, the realignment strategy would have Edition: current; Page: [xxxv] been implemented; that is, the Radicals would have ceased to be a mere appendage to the Whigs and the Radical party would have achieved independent existence.111

The Whigs may have faced a dilemma, but Mill was not without one of his own, for he wanted both additional reform and the establishment of an independent Radical party, and Whig policy that promoted one of these goals made the other harder to attain. If the Whigs made concessions to the pressures for additional reform, Radicals, even extreme Radicals, became more generous in the support of the government, and thus the achievement of independence for the Radical party became more difficult. On the other hand, the gaining of such independence would be facilitated by Whig resistance to further reform. For Mill’s former goal to be achieved, the Whig leadership would have had to move to the left; for the latter, they would have had to move to the right. Since Mill wanted both results, he was inevitably dissatisfied, no matter what the Whigs did. His response to the dilemma changed as the decade unfolded. During the first four years or so following the Reform Bill, Mill thought the Whigs could be persuaded to make concessions, and therefore he recommended conditional support of their governments. Increasingly during these years, however, he became disappointed with them, despite the abolition of slavery and the passing of the New Poor Law. A turning-point came later in the decade when the Whigs’ unequivocal refusal to consider reform of the constitution put an end to Mill’s expectations that Radicals and Whigs might co-operate. Thereafter he urged the Philosophic Radicals to adopt a more independent line of conduct, and he experienced exhilaration at the prospect of a separate Radical party. Yet, even in this mood, he complained about the lack of movement towards the implementation of the Radical programme.

Either of Mill’s goals, however, could be promoted by pressure on the Whig government, and therefore throughout the decade he called on the Philosophic Radicals to “attempt much” (395). They were supposed to “put forward, on every fitting occasion, with boldness and perseverance, the best political ideas which the country affords” (191). Despite their small numbers, the strong public support for radicalism would allow a few to accomplish great things: “there is a vitality in the principles, there is that in them both of absolute truth and of adaptation to the particular wants of the time, which will not suffer that in Parliament two or three shall be gathered together in their name, proclaiming the purpose to stand or fall by them, and to go to what lengths soever they may lead, and that those two or three shall not soon wield a force before which ministries and aristocracies shall quail” (397-8).112 Despite what Mill saw as their great opportunity, however, some of the Philosophic Radicals were unaggressive. Grote, from whom so much was Edition: current; Page: [xxxvi] expected, deeply disappointed Mill. “Why does not Mr. Grote exert himself” (314n)?113 The Radicals, Mill said, were without policy, a leader, or organization, and therefore they failed to call forth their strength in the country (467). Mill sometimes called them torpid (327) and ciphers (165) and accused them of lacking courage (212), though there were exceptions, notably Roebuck, whom Mill generally praised.114

Putting pressure on the Whig government should have been easy, Mill thought, for he assumed that the great burst of reform agitation that forced aristocratic acceptance of the Reform Act manifested a fundamental change, making public opinion permanently favourable to further reform. Therefore he thought opinion would support either a Whig-led reform party or a genuine Radical party in opposition to both Whigs and Tories. The events of 1831-32 revealed a public angry and outspoken enough to be capable of intimidating the governing classes (430).115 These events changed the understanding of the constitution, “which [since the Reform Bill] enables the people to carry all before them when driven by any violent excitement” (299). Mill thought the governing classes knew it could happen again: “where the public voice is strong and unanimous, the Ministry must now go along with it” (317). Although public opinion became much less agitated after the Reform Bill passed into law, Mill assumed that “there [was] a great deal of passive radicalism in the electoral body,”116 and he confidently announced that “England is moderate Radical” (389).117 He also thought this latent opinion could be reawakened at any time, and therefore that the “progress of reform appears . . . certain” (292).118

The period immediately following the Reform Bill understandably began with high Radical hopes. The aristocracy apparently had suffered a severe defeat, and the Whigs, despite their sponsorship of the Reform Bill and their hopes for party advantage from it, were worried about its long-term consequences. In May 1832 Edition: current; Page: [xxxvii] Mill thought there was “nothing definite and determinate in politics except radicalism; and we shall have nothing but radicals and whigs for a long time to come.”119 It is not known what Mill thought when his Radical friends in Parliament sat on the opposition benches,120 but it should have gratified him, for it set them off from the Whigs as the nucleus of a new party. He also must have been pleased by Grote’s motion on the ballot, which was supported by 106 votes and threw Whigs and Tories together to defeat it by a majority of 105.121 After his initial enthusiasm, however, the first session of the Reform Parliament was, on the whole, disappointing to Mill. Although the Whigs adopted the reform label and introduced some measures of reform, he depreciated most of the proposed legislation because it was so far removed from the organic reform sought by genuine Radicals. Slavery was abolished; the Bank Charter was renewed; and free competition in the China tea trade was established as part of the renewed East India Company charter. Mill was not opposed to these things, but they fell far short of what he wanted. When the government defended its record in the first session with its pamphlet The Reform Ministry and the Reformed Parliament, Mill, in his review of it, complained that it “passes over three-fourths of the essentials of the case.” The Whigs must be judged, he wrote, not only by what they had done, but by considering “what they have opposed, and so prevented from being done.”122

In these circumstances—the Whigs were the only agency through which reform could be achieved, yet they proposed only changes that Mill regarded as insufficient—it was difficult to withhold support, and yet it was also difficult to be enthusiastic. So Mill acceded to the Philosophic Radicals’ voting in support of the government, but he called on them to be demanding, and he held out the threat of renewed agitation of public opinion and a return to the nervous days prior to the Reform Bill.

Three events in 1834 reduced Mill’s uneasiness about Philosophic Radical support of the Whig government. First, the resignation of Stanley and Graham in May signalled a reduction of conservatism in the cabinet (252, 285). Next, the government sponsored the Poor Law Amendment Act. Although not an organic reform, it was far-reaching and dear to all whose views on administration and poor relief had been shaped by Bentham and the political economists. This was the one achievement of the session, Mill said; he had not expected such a development, especially as there was no public clamour for it; consequently “we give them [the Whigs] due honour” (285). Finally, Lord Grey retired and was replaced by Melbourne. The retirement of Grey, a man of the 1790s, would allow the Whigs to be more responsive to the needs of a new age (263-5). As this period of Edition: current; Page: [xxxviii] Whig-Radical relations ended, Mill thought that the Whigs might regain the popularity they enjoyed in 1832, and that their errors of omission would be forgiven. “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.” (243.)

Such a trial had to be postponed, for in November, 1834, the Whigs were turned out and replaced by a Tory government under Peel. Mill and the Philosophic Radicals were jubilant, for they correctly assumed that this would be a brief interlude, and they were delighted to witness the Whigs in defeat. The Whigs now joined the Philosophic Radicals on the opposition benches, and the Radicals—about seventy of them—co-operated with the Whigs to expel Peel from office.123 When the Whigs under Melbourne returned to the government benches in April, 1835, the Philosophic Radicals’ old problem—of defining their relation to the Whigs—returned in an acute form, for they had to adopt a position that took into account both their recent co-operation with the Whigs in opposition and their long-standing enmity to them.

Mill now offered guidance to the Philosophic Radicals from the pages of the London Review, which began publication just as the change in government took place (297). In a brief comment which was a postscript to his father’s political article, Mill said he did “not call upon the thorough Reformers to declare enmity against [the Whig Ministry], or to seek their downfall, because their measures will be half-measures . . . nor even because they will join with the Tories in crying down all complete reforms . . .” (292). At the same time, Mill suggested that the Philosophic Radicals refuse any offers of office. This he called “qualified and distrustful” support, and in the next issue he warned that such co-operation might not last very long (297).124 In keeping with this advice, the Philosophic Radicals sat on the government side, to indicate their support of the Whig Ministry, but below the gangway, to demonstrate their distance and independence from it.125

A crisis in this arrangement occurred as the Municipal Corporations Bill passed through Parliament, for this legislation and the way it was amended raised fundamental questions for the Radicals. The Bill provided for the elimination of the “little oligarchies,” as the Webbs later called them, that ruled in towns, and replaced them with town councils elected by household suffrage.126 Although not fully democratic, the Bill went rather far in that direction. It pleased the Radicals, Edition: current; Page: [xxxix] even delighted some of them, including Mill, who said “the destructive part . . . is of signal excellence,” and he acknowledged that, despite deficiencies in its constructive part, there was much merit, particularly the extension of the suffrage to householders, for which the Ministers were “entitled to great praise” (303). Overall, Mill said, it was “one of the greatest steps in improvement ever made by peaceable legislation in the internal government of a country” (308). The features of the Bill that elicited such praise were not altered by several amendments made in the House of Lords.

Yet the Philosophic Radicals were so eager to assert their fundamental principles that several of them, including Mill, responded angrily to the Lords’ amendments. It was the Lords’ tampering that caused the difficulty, because the Radicals, recalling the submission by the House of Lords in 1832, interpreted the post-Reform Act constitution as tolerating an upper house only so long as it remained quiescent. The suggestion that the House of Lords had a veto indicated that the Lords, as Roebuck said, “have not yet acquiesced in this arrangement,” as they did not comprehend their “real position.”127 For Mill the Bill was “a challenge of the House of Lords to mortal combat” (302); and to allow the Lords’ amendments to stand would be “to abandon all the ends to which the Reform Bill was intended as a means” (343). Roebuck, Place, Molesworth, and even Grote were extremely angered, even more, it seems, than Mill.128 Their anger was so great that they criticized the House of Lords as a second chamber, and in the end, Mill joined them. “An entire change in its constitution is cried out for from the remotest corner of the three kingdoms; and few would be satisfied with any change short of abolishing the hereditary principle” (313). He proposed an upper house chosen by the lower. The choice was to be made from the existing peerage supplemented with qualified persons not in the Commons who were to be given peerages. This was not the best design he could make, but only the result of his attempt to “remodel” the existing House of Lords. Its purpose was a second chamber “unlikely to set itself in opposition to what is good in the acts and purposes of the First.”129 As well as attacks on the Lords, this episode produced complaints about the “truckling” by the Whig government and its moderate radical supporters (317).

Mill continued, however, to recommend cautious and selective support of the government, despite his disapproval of its yielding to the Lords on the Municipal Corporations Bill. Although he complained about the appearance of a tacit compromise between the government and the thorough reformers, he said, in October, 1835: “We do not wish the Radicals to attack the Ministry; we are Edition: current; Page: [xl] anxious that they should co-operate with them. But we think they might co-operate without yoking themselves to the ministerial car, abdicating all independent action, and leaving nothing to distinguish them from the mere Whig coterie. . . .” (316.) In April, 1836, Mill continued to argue that the Whigs deserved support from the thorough reformers, for they introduced or at least promised a marriage bill that removed certain grievances of dissenters; a bill for the registration of births and deaths; a bill to consolidate turnpike trusts; an Irish Corporation reform bill; and a measure of church reform (322-5). A far cry from organic reform, these proposals were yet enough to justify his call for support of the government. Despite his distrust of Whigs, he was reluctant to call for an attempt to turn out the government (344). At the same time, however, he asserted Radical independence and looked forward to the realignment of parties (326-7).

Mill’s mixed view reflected certain difficulties which he and the other Philosophic Radicals faced. Their principles made co-operation with the Whigs disagreeable and directed them to an independent course of action. The political situation in 1836 also might have encouraged them to adopt aggressive tactics, for Melbourne’s majority, including Irish and moderate radicals, was perhaps fifty or sixty, and Mill thought Melbourne dependent on the small group of Philosophic Radicals for support.130 Other circumstances, however, called for restraint, for it became evident that the large number of moderate radicals, whose support was required for the implementation of the Philosophic Radicals’ realignment strategy, might not go along with an attempt to turn out the Whig government. These so-called “200 ballot men,” the “nominal” Whigs, supported Grote’s ballot motion and were more reformist than the Whig leadership, but probably would keep the Whigs in office rather than risk a Tory government.

Among the small group of Philosophic Radicals there was disagreement. Aggressive, anti-Whig tactics were advocated by Molesworth and Roebuck, strongly supported by Francis Place and Harriet Grote. Molesworth’s “Terms of Alliance between Radicals and Whigs” (January, 1837) was a clear and forthright statement of their position.131 Others were more cautious, though not without sympathy for the extremists; these included Grote, Buller, Warburton, and Hume. Both Joseph Parkes and Fonblanque were vigorously opposed. The issue was hotly debated (as Harriet Grote put it) “as to the true play of the Rads.”132

Mill, like the Philosophic Radical group as a whole, was of two minds. He took note of “the plan which [Molesworth] and several other of the radical members Edition: current; Page: [xli] have formed and are executing. I think them quite right.”133 He also said, “As for me I am with the extreme party; though I would not always go so far as Roebuck, I entirely agree with those who say that the whole conduct of the Whigs tends to amortir l’esprit public, and that it would be a good thing for invigorati[ng] and consolidating the reform party if the Tories were to come in.”134 In this spirit he lamented Fonblanque’s desertion, evident in his effective criticism of the Philosophic Radicals and in his appeal to moderate radicals for support of the Melbourne government. Mill said it was only Fonblanque’s “past reputation for radicalism which prevents him from being mistaken for a ministerialist with radical inclinations” (380). He also complained that since 1835 Fonblanque had “acted as if his first object was to support and glorify the ministers, and the assertion of his own political doctrines only the second” (379).135 Yet in the same letter in which he identified himself with the extreme party, Mill also noted, “the country does not go with us in [the extreme tactics] and therefore it will not do for the radicals to aid in turning out the ministry; by doing so they would create so much hostility in their own party, that there would be no hope of a real united reform party with the country at its back, for many years. So we must linger on. . . .”136 Doctrine called for one line of conduct; circumstances pointed to another: as Mill said, they were in a “false position.”137

In late 1837 Mill suddenly broke loose from the “false position” by declaring open hostility to the Whig government. He was provoked to do so by Lord John Russell’s “Finality” speech, and he was joined in this move by other Philosophic Radicals, who recently had been deeply disappointed by the thinning of their ranks in the elections of August, 1837.138 In response to Radical amendments to the Address urging consideration of an extended suffrage, ballot, and shorter Edition: current; Page: [xlii] parliaments,139 Russell said the amendments would repeal the Reform Act, whereas he regarded that Act as a final measure and not one he was willing to repeal or reconstruct.140 Not only did Russell declare his opposition to further constitutional reform, but he carried with him a majority of the moderate radicals, who refused to vote for the Radical amendments.141 Most of the Philosophic Radicals, both in and out of Parliament, were depressed by this development, but Mill was angry. He attended a meeting at Molesworth’s house in order to rouse the others. He argued that “the time is come when all temporizing—all delicacy towards the Whigs—all fear of disuniting Reformers or of embarrassing Ministers by pressing forward reforms, must be at an end.”142 Now outspoken in advocating complete separation from the Whigs, he urged the Philosophic Radicals to “assume the precise position towards Lord Melbourne which they occupied in the first Reformed Parliament towards Lord Grey. Let them separate from the Ministry and go into declared opposition.” (412.)

Events arising out of the Canadian rebellion of 1837-38 were to be the occasion for Mill’s last call for the organization of a Radical party in opposition to Whigs and Tories. Initially, Canadian events clouded his hopes for renewed Radical activity, for the Philosophic Radicals’ response contributed to their isolation from the moderate radicals. When in January, 1838, the government proposed the suspension of the Canadian constitution for four years and the creation of a high commissioner, the Philosophic Radicals were opposed, but failed to gain support from liberal reformers and moderate radicals.143 Edward Lytton Bulwer taunted them about their disagreements with other reformers:

Those who were called philosophical Radicals, . . . were . . . the same small and isolated knot of Gentlemen, who, on the first day of this session declared so much contempt of the Edition: current; Page: [xliii] Reform Bill, and so much hostility to the Government [in response to Russell’s Finality speech], who now differed also from the whole people of England in their sympathy for a guilty and absurd revolt. Whether those Gentlemen called themselves Radicals or not, the great body of Liberal politicians neither agreed with them in their policy for Canada nor their principles for England.144

The small size of the Philosophic Radical vote (six to thirty-nine at this juncture) demonstrated their isolation.

Mill defended the Philosophic Radicals in the London and Westminster for January, 1838, but Fonblanque in the Examiner, like Bulwer in the House of Commons, criticized the “Grote conclave” for sympathizing with colonial rebellion. “The London Reviewer,” he wrote, “asserts that the alliance between the Ministry and the Radicals is at an end; but how many members out of the Radical minority of little less than 200 have spoken or acted as if the alliance was at an end, or as if they desired it to be at an end. . . ?”145 Fonblanque’s observations must have had a ring of truth, for Mill was acutely aware of the cleavage between the Philosophic Radicals and the other, more moderate radicals in the House of Commons. He had already complained that the Canadian question “suspends all united action among Radicals, . . . sets one portion of the friends of popular institutions at variance with another, and . . . interrupts for the time all movements and all discussions tending to the great objects of domestic policy” (408). He was so dismayed by this development that the next two numbers of the London and Westminster Review appeared without his usual political article (though he did publish the essays on Vigny and Bentham, as well as shorter articles), and the number for October, 1838, did not appear at all.146 Mill could well say that the Canadian question “in an evil hour crossed the path of radicalism.”147

Mill’s outlook changed suddenly in October, 1838, when he learned of Durham’s resignation as Governor General in Canada, consequent on the Whig government’s failure to sanction the ordinances by which he granted amnesty to most of the captured rebels but transported a few of their leaders to Bermuda. In view of Durham’s anger towards the Melbourne Ministry, Mill thought Durham might be prepared to lead the liberal reformers and moderate radicals in a challenge to the Whig government, especially as he had always been much more a reformer than his Whig colleagues—indeed, so much so, that in 1834 he had called for the ballot, triennial parliaments, and household suffrage.148 The opportunity to turn Edition: current; Page: [xliv] this event to Radical party advantage was greatly facilitated by the presence of Buller and Wakefield on Durham’s staff in Canada. They sent Mill information about Durham’s outlook and tried to direct Durham’s attention to the possibility of turning the Canadian affair to domestic political advantage. Wakefield reported to Molesworth that Durham “is mortally but coolly and immovably offended at everything Whig,”149 and Buller, having read Mill’s recent political articles, wrote, “You will see what attitude the Radicals ought to assume with respect to his returning now at open defiance with Whigs and Tories. . . . Circumstances seem to be approaching, in which it will be perfectly possible for us to force him into power. The cue of all Radicals then is to receive him not as having failed, but as having done great things. . . . But you know best what is to be done.”150 Durham was to be cast as the popular leader who could bring together the coalition of moderate radicals, liberal reformers, and Philosophic Radicals that Mill wished to establish as the party of the “natural Radicals.”

Mill’s depressed mood now quickly evaporated. Durham’s resignation, he said, “has awakened me out of a period of torpor about politics.” With obvious enthusiasm he wrote to Molesworth: “The present turn in Canada affairs brings Lord Durham home, incensed to the utmost (as Buller writes to me) with both Whigs and Tories—Whigs especially, and in the best possible mood for setting up for himself; and if so, the formation of an efficient party of moderate Radicals, of which our Review will be the organ, is certain—the Whigs will be kicked out never more to rise, and Lord D. will be head of the Liberal party, and ultimately Prime Minister.”151 Even in his Autobiography, years later, Mill observed that “any one who had the most elementary notions of party tactics, must have attempted to make something of such an opportunity.”152

Durham sailed for England on November 1st and was due to arrive a month later. Mill thought there was “a great game” to play in the next session of Parliament. He realized Durham’s course of action was uncertain, but he believed the result “will wholly depend upon whether Wakefield, we ourselves, and probably Buller and his own resentment,” on the one hand, “or Bulwer, Fonblanque, Edward Ellice, the herd of professing Liberals, and the indecision and cowardice indigenous to English noblemen,” on the other, “have the greatest Edition: current; Page: [xlv] influence in his councils.” Mill added, “Give us access to him early and I will be d....d if we do not make a hard fight for it.”153

Mill’s article “Lord Durham’s Return” (December, 1838)—quickly published in an unscheduled issue of the London and Westminster—carefully followed Buller’s advice to show Durham not as having failed, but as having done great things. Although most of the article was a defence of Durham’s conduct and policy in Canada, Mill carefully combined with the Canadian matter an account of the significance of Durham’s resignation for domestic politics. When he told Molesworth that Durham was returning prepared to set up for himself, Mill explained that “for the purpose of acting at once upon him and upon the country in that sens I have written an elaborate defence of him.”154 Durham’s mission to Canada, he wrote, could become “the turning point of English politics for years to come,” because it involved “the prospects of the popular cause in England . . . [and] the possibility of an effective popular party” (447). He held out the hope that this could become a major party and “break the power of the aristocratic faction” (448). Here he saw an opportunity finally to achieve the party realignment to which his Philosophic Radical doctrine was directed.

A meeting was held to co-ordinate the efforts of those working with Mill. Rintoul, editor of the Spectator, agreed to publish extracts of Mill’s article before it could appear in the London and Westminster Review.155 Wakefield, who returned from Canada ahead of Durham, went with Molesworth to Plymouth to meet Durham, apparently in hope of persuading him to act on his resentment and of stage-managing an enthusiastic popular reception.156 On the Whig side, Edward Ellice, a former Whig whip and owner of vast tracts of land in Canada, tried to blunt Radical efforts. To his son, who had accompanied Durham as a private secretary, Ellice wrote that the public “are not prepared for a Durham, Wakefield, and Buller Cabinet, and mark my words, that if they come home with that expectation, they will be laughed at.”157 He warned Durham against the “recommendations of the writer in the Westmr. Review!”158 He also saw danger in Edition: current; Page: [xlvi] Buller, who, though “an intelligent, handy, and most amiable fellow . . . has neither experience, or prudence, and is in the hands of the younger Mill (I wish it were the elder one) a person very much of his own character—with considerable learning, and critical talent—but also a ‘denisen of Utopia.’”159

Mill’s efforts went for nought. Durham refused to play the part for which he was cast by Mill. Although he felt personal animosity towards his former colleagues and remained moderately radical in opinion, he was unwilling to attempt a party rebellion, especially in view of the disagreements among reformers. He also was reported to have called the Radicals “great fools.”160 Mill at last recognized that his goals for a Radical party were impracticable. Durham’s conduct, he said,

cannot lead to the organization of a radical party, or the placing of the radicals at the head of the movement,—it leaves them as they are already, a mere appendage of the Whigs; and if there is to be no radical party there need be no Westminster Review, for there is no position for it to take, distinguishing it from the Edinburgh. . . . In short, it is one thing to support Lord Durham in forming a party; another to follow him when he is only joining one, and that one which I have so long been crying out against.

He also said, “if the time is come when a radical review should support the Whigs, the time is come when I should withdraw from politics.”161 And this he now proceeded to do.


when his article “Reorganization of the Reform Party,” which had been planned for publication in January, 1838, finally appeared in April, 1839, it could serve only as an epitaph to Radical hopes, and Mill regretted its appearance “in a posture of affairs so unsuitable to it.”162 He published two more numbers and then ended his connection with the review, deciding that it was “no part” of his “vocation to be a party leader.”163

Now in 1839, little more than a decade after the dream of establishing a powerful parliamentary party first took shape, John Stuart Mill began to share a sense of failure with the other Philosophic Radicals. The moderate reformers continued to oppose the aggressive tactics designed to force the Whigs to coalesce with their “natural” aristocratic allies, the Tories. The Melbourne government’s existence became increasingly tenuous, and moderate reformers and Whigs alike became more and more critical of those on their left who threatened it. The Edition: current; Page: [xlvii] Edinburgh Review described the extreme Radicals as “a small, conceited, and headstrong party” that should be called “the sect of the Impracticables.164 The cleavage between the Radicals and the moderate reformers remained, and the expected merger of Whigs and Tories into an aristocratic party did not take place. On the contrary, the Whigs continued to look upon the Tories as their strongest opponents, whereas the Philosophic Radicals were regarded as merely an annoying faction. Both in public opinion and in electoral organization, the Tories throughout the decade increased their strength. In 1839, far from having merged into an aristocratic party, the Whigs and Tories were poised against one another in a fairly even struggle; the aristocratic factions that Mill had been opposing for more than a decade continued to dominate the political scene.

The Philosophic Radicals were too disheartened by 1839 to celebrate their part in provoking the resignation of the Whig government, an event which two years earlier would have brought them to a high pitch of excitement.165 Nor were they much moved by the increase in conversions to the ballot. When the Whig Macaulay defended Grote’s motion in 1839, Mill said the ballot “is passing from a radical doctrine into a Whig one.”166 As Chartism rose to prominence the Philosophic Radicals also lost their sense of leadership in the democratic movement. Although they might have welcomed it—after all, the Philosophic Radicals could agree in principle with the six points of the Charter—they were made uneasy by some of the violent Chartist rhetoric and by the Chartists’ criticism of private property and opposition to repeal of the Corn Laws. They also disapproved of the Chartists’ use of the language of class, which rested on assumptions that challenged Philosophic Radical doctrine about universal and sinister interests.167 The Philosophic Radicals were also depressed by the attrition of reform sentiment after the passing of the Reform Bill; as Mill said, “Their lot was cast in the ten years of inevitable reaction, when the Reform excitement being over . . . the public mind desired rest.”168

Mill and his associates recognized that they had so dwindled as to become insignificant. They could no longer regard themselves as the nucleus from which a great party would soon grow. Macaulay said in 1839 that the Radical party was Edition: current; Page: [xlviii] reduced to Grote and his wife; and Grote himself was depressed by the diminution, saying he “felt indisposed to remain as one of so very small a number as now constituted the Radical cluster.”169 Mill was poignantly aware that hopes for the party, both as it existed and as he had imagined it, had dissolved. “Even I,” he said, “who have been for some years attempting it must be owned with very little success, to induce the Radicals to maintain an independent position, am compelled to acknowledge that there is not room for a fourth political party in this country—reckoning the Conservatives, the Whig-Radicals, and the Chartists as the other three.”170 As Mill put it in his Autobiography, “the instructed Radicals sank into a mere côté gauche of the Whig party.”171

The bitterness turned several of the Philosophic Radicals against active politics. Harriet Grote, for example, confessed feeling “sick and weary of the name of politics”; at times, she said, “I sigh over those ten years of infructuous devotion to the public service; unrequited even by [Grote’s] constituents . . . and only compensated by the esteem and admiration of some dozen high-minded men.”172 Mill’s feelings, as Caroline Fox reported, were similar: “‘No one,’ he said with deep feeling, ‘should attempt anything intended to benefit his age, without at first making a stern resolution to take up his cross and to bear it. If he does not begin by counting the cost, all his schemes must end in disappointment.’”173 He also confessed being “out of heart about public affairs—as much as I ever suffer myself to be,” and soon he had “almost given up thinking on the subject.”174

Of course the Philosophic Radicals did not cease to have political opinions, but now that they acknowledged the disappointment of their ambition for radicalism, Edition: current; Page: [xlix] their attitude to the Whigs softened considerably. Mill, Buller, and even Roebuck began contributing to the Edinburgh Review, and Mill appears to have been the intermediary between Napier, the editor, and some of the former contributors to the London and Westminster.175 Harriet Grote made peace with the Whigs by accepting an invitation to Holland House, and George Grote, who ten years earlier avoided aristocratic company as a matter of principle, now accompanied her “without any twinges of conscience.”176 Mill’s views had altered sufficiently for him to tell Fonblanque in 1841 that “there is nothing of any importance in practical politics on which we now differ for I am quite as warm a supporter of the present [Whig] government as you are.”177

Since parliamentary politics ceased to be a preoccupation, several of the Philosophic Radicals turned to authorship. Molesworth worked on his edition of Hobbes, and Grote on his History of Greece. Even Place and Roebuck took to writing history. And Mill too began his series of essays on French historians, though his main preoccupation was with his System of Logic, on which he had been working at intervals throughout the previous decade. Now that his plan for a parliamentary party devoted to fundamental constitutional changes had failed, his interest in politics, with its emphasis on institutions, diminished, and he turned to the realm of thought. Having been disappointed as a politician, he downgraded political activity and looked to philosophy for improvement. He consoled himself with the belief that he was entering an era when “the progress of liberal opinions will again, as formerly, depend upon what is said and written, and no longer upon what is done. . . .”178


that mill’s disillusionment, which put an end to his hopes for a Radical party, did not conclude his radicalism, is nowhere so evident as in what he said and wrote about Ireland. In his journalism just after the famine, the Principles of Political Economy (1848), and speeches, mainly in the House of Commons from 1866 to 1868, he poured forth a powerful condemnation of the social system and economy in Ireland and of the way that country was governed by England. His essay on Irish affairs in the Parliamentary History and Review perhaps is partially an exception, for it focusses mainly on Ireland as an issue in British domestic politics. The 1848 speech and the pamphlet England and Ireland (1868), however, demonstrate Mill’s radical rejection of old ways and his search for far-reaching remedies.

The extent of Mill’s radicalism was evident in his sympathetic understanding of Edition: current; Page: [l] Irish rebelliousness. He even suggested a moral basis for outrages against the landlord; the Whiteboys and Rockites, he said, “fought for, not against, the sacredness of what was property in their eyes; for it is not the right of the rent-receiver, but the right of the cultivator, with which the idea of property is connected in the Irish popular mind” (513). Mill also claimed that the more a person emphasizes obstacles to reform, “the further he goes towards excusing, at least as to intention, the Irish revolutionary party” (503). Moreover, there was the example of the French Revolution. Before 1789 the peasantry in France was more destitute and miserable than Irish cottiers, but the revolution led to a great shift in peasant ownership: “the result was the greatest change for the better in their condition, both physical and moral, of which, within a single generation, there is any record.” Who was to say, Mill asked, that Irish anticipations of similar benefits from an Irish revolution were wrong? (503.)

Mill’s sympathetic understanding was not directed only to material circumstances in Ireland, for he was also sensitive to the stirrings of Irish nationalism. He knew that conditions had improved since the famine, especially because of emigration, and that many old grievances had been removed. Yet to be complacent—for gentlemen “to soothe themselves with statistics”179—was to bask in a fool’s paradise and to misunderstand Fenianism, which was “a rebellion for an idea—the idea of nationality” (510).180 The rulers of Ireland “have allowed what once was indignation against particular wrongs, to harden into a passionate determination to be no longer ruled on any terms by those to whom they ascribe all their evils. Rebellions are never really unconquerable,” Mill added, “until they have become rebellions for an idea.” (510.)

Disaffection was so great that only a remedy of revolutionary proportions would have a chance of relieving it. Thus in 1868 Mill asserted that “revolutionary measures are the thing now required,” and he added, “In the completeness of the revolution will lie its safety” (518-19). He also said, “Great and obstinate evils require great remedies.”181

Mill’s analysis in this case emphasized economic considerations, both in the identification of abuses and in the prescription of remedies, but since he focussed on the conflict of interest between landlord and tenant, it is reminiscent of his Philosophic Radical assumption that the class conflict between aristocracy and the people took precedence over all other issues. His analysis in 1868, which is similar to what he wrote about Ireland in his Principles of Political Economy, recognized a variety of causes for Irish rebelliousness, but the land question, he said, outweighed all others.182 Irish wretchedness was the result of “a radically wrong Edition: current; Page: [li] state of the most important social relation which exists in the country, that between the cultivators of the soil and the owners of it” (502). Against the background of overpopulation and underemployment (84-5), the specific problem was vulnerability to arbitrary eviction and arbitrary increases of rent of tenants who worked the land (516-17). Consequently, the bulk of the population “cannot look forward with confidence to a single year’s occupation of [the land]: while the sole outlet for the dispossessed cultivators, or for those whose competition raises the rents against the cultivators, is expatriation” (515). As a result, improvements were not made, and poverty was added to insecurity: “these farm-labourers are entirely without a permanent interest in the soil” (514).183

Mill’s remedy was to alter the system of land tenure by changing the relationship between landlord and tenant. He proposed making “every farm not farmed by the proprietor . . . the permanent holding of the existing tenant” (527). The rent would be fixed by an official tribunal; the state would guarantee that the landlord received the rent and that rents were not arbitrarily increased.184 In this way Mill proposed to eliminate exploitation by landlords and, by making tenants secure, give them incentives to make improvements.

The genuinely radical character of this proposal arose from its implications for the doctrine of private property. Mill argued, as he had already done in the Principles of Political Economy, that land has characteristics that distinguish it from property created by labour and skill.185 In contrast, land is “a thing which no man made, which exists in limited quantity, which was the original inheritance of all mankind, and which whoever appropriates, keeps others out of its possession. Such appropriation,” he goes on, “when there is not enough left for all, is at the first aspect, an usurpation on the rights of other people.” (512.) Using ideas and language from Locke’s famous chapter on property, Mill changed Locke’s Edition: current; Page: [lii] argument as it applied to land,186 asserting that the idea of “absolute property in land,” especially when the land is “engrossed by a comparatively small number of families,” is an obstacle to justice and tranquillity (512). Vicious conditions in Ireland were “protected and perpetuated by a wrong and superstitious English notion of property in land” (502). Indeed, there was a contradiction between English law and Irish moral feelings (512-13).187

The pamphlet England and Ireland, in which, as Mill said, he spoke his “whole mind,”188 was written late in 1867 against the background of intense Fenian activity in England as well as in Ireland, marked by the killing of a policeman during the rescue of captured Fenians in Manchester and the trial and execution of the rescuers.189 Mill’s pamphlet, which was “probably the most influential single contribution to the extended debate on Irish land problems which was carried on in England between 1865 and 1870,”190 caused a great furore, largely because it aggravated fears about the security of property in England where landlords were apprehensive that radical Liberals and spokesmen for the working classes would use Mill’s observations about property in Ireland as authority for an attack on the landed classes generally.191 There were many who were surprised that Mill cast doubts on the doctrine of private property, among them former Philosophic Radicals such as Joseph Hume and John Arthur Roebuck.192 Mill explained that he put forth extreme views to startle his readers and prepare them at least to accept other measures. He subsequently said his proposals “had the effect of making other proposals, up to that time considered extreme, be considered comparatively moderate and practicable.”193

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Radical as Mill’s views were on land tenure and landed property in Ireland, he rejected the most radical political solution, that of separation. He understood that the Fenians wanted independence and that, regardless of concessions, it might be impossible to divert them from this nationalist goal.194 Yet he had recently written in Representative Government that the Irish and Anglo-Saxon races were “perhaps the most fitted of any two in the world to be the completing counterpart of one another.”195 When in 1868 he considered the relation between the two countries, he concluded that Irish independence would be bad for Ireland and dishonourable to England (520-1, 523-4, 526).196 Therefore he ended the pamphlet with a statement of hope that reconciliation was still possible (531-2).197

In his discussions of Ireland Mill revealed an intense moral concern as an aspect of his radicalism that was much less evident in what he wrote as a Philosophic Radical, where he generally argued on grounds of consequences and utility. That Ireland engaged his moral feelings is evident in his eloquent statements of sympathy for the Irish—they were the “poorest and the most oppressed people in Europe” (66)—and in his outrage with the causes of this condition: “The social condition of Ireland . . . cannot be tolerated; it is an abomination in the sight of mankind” (503). Mill made it clear that within the rationalist and utilitarian there was indignation, sympathy, and moral passion.

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Textual Introduction


one of john stuart mill’s strongest claims on our attention derives from his political writings. His lifelong concern with the problems of good government produced durable analysis, description, and advice. Best known for their range and perception are his writings on political theory: Considerations on Representative Government, On Liberty, and the other major essays in Volumes XVIII and XIX of this edition, and sections of his Principles of Political Economy and System of Logic; also important are his speeches and newspaper writings, which have a preponderant political bias. A further essential source, however, for an appreciation of Mill’s political thinking is the body of material contained in this volume. These essays make clear, especially when compared with the other works, that the main tenor and focus of his writings altered about 1840. He began and remained a Radical—his speeches in the 1860s match in fervour his articles of the 1830s, and his anger over the condition of Ireland is as evident in 1868 as in 1825—but there are differences in what may simply be called breadth of approach, of subject matter, of polemic, of form, and even of provenance. In general, his approach became more theoretical, his subjects less immediate, his polemic (with marked exceptions) less evident and (almost always) less one-sided, and the form and provenance of his writings more varied. The standard—the Millian—view (which I share) would assess these changes as gains, but the earlier work is not mere apprentice labour; these essays have their place in the study of the development of a powerful and committed thinker, as well as in any history of British radicalism. Most of these matters are dealt with more fully by Joseph Hamburger in his Introduction above; of them, only the form and provenance of the writings properly occupy a textual editor—though in some places my comments, out of necessity (or wilfulness), overlap his.

All but the last two items in this volume (an unpublished manuscript and a monograph) appeared in periodicals: two in the Westminster Review during its first period, two in the short-lived Parliamentary History and Review, two (one of them the extensive series of “Notes on the Newspapers”) in the Monthly Repository, and the other eleven in the periodical Mill himself edited, the London Review (renamed Edition: current; Page: [lv] the London and Westminster Review after its amalgamation with the Westminster). The first four periodical articles date from what Mill calls in the Autobiography his period of “Youthful Propagandism” in the 1820s; the first was written when he was eighteen years of age, the fourth when he was twenty-one. The others are all from the years 1834 to 1839; he was twenty-eight when he wrote the first of these, and thirty-three when he wrote the last. None of these articles—few of them are truly “reviews”—was republished by Mill, and consequently they are less known than many other of his periodical writings. Of those in the Parliamentary History and Review he says:

These writings were no longer mere reproductions and applications of the doctrines I had been taught; they were original thinking, as far as that name can be applied to old ideas in new forms and connexions: and I do not exceed the truth in saying that there was a maturity, and a well-digested character about them, which there had not been in any of my previous performances. In execution, therefore, they were not at all juvenile; but their subjects have either gone by, or have been so much better treated since, that they are entirely superseded, and should remain buried in the same oblivion with my contributions to the first dynasty of the Westminster Review.1

The concluding judgment is expanded and broadened in his Preface to Dissertations and Discussions, where he justifies his criteria in choosing essays for republication. The papers excluded, he says, “were either of too little value at any time, or what value they might have was too exclusively temporary, or the thoughts they contained were inextricably mixed up with comments, now totally uninteresting, on passing events, or on some book not generally known; or lastly, any utility they may have possessed has since been superseded by other and more mature writings of the author.”2 Whatever propriety this policy had at that time and for Mill’s purposes, reasons can easily be found for now disregarding it. Only a few disparate examples need here be cited to support the case implicit in Joseph Hamburger’s analysis. For instance, one gets a very partial view of Mill’s passionate and abiding concern over Irish affairs without looking at the pieces he chose not to republish: England and Ireland gives us his considered opinion late in life, but cannot show his responses to the recurrent manifestations of the “Irish Question.” Similarly, the strength of his objection to brutality against women is seen not to be spasmodic when one reads the passage from “Notes on the Newspapers” at 267 below. Light—ironically shaded—is thrown also on changes in Mill’s views by such passages as that at 159 when he heaps scorn on the notion that a “representative of the people” need “be always at his post” in the House of Commons; thirty years later he prided himself on the regularity of his own attendance.

Textual assessment of the essays is facilitated when they are considered in three Edition: current; Page: [lvi] groups: those of the early propagandistic period in the 1820s, those of his activism in the 1830s, and the two later pieces on Ireland.


little is known of the composition of the first four essays, the subjects of which may well have been offered to Mill, or chosen by him in editorial sessions when topics were assigned to contributors to the Westminster Review and the Parliamentary History and Review. The goals, spirit, and to some extent the planning of these radical reviews are described by Mill in his Autobiography in illuminating passages, unfortunately too long to be quoted here (see CW, I, 93-103, and 119-23). To the Westminster Mill contributed thirteen articles between 1824, when the review was founded, and 1828, when he withdrew from it. The tone and content of at least the earliest of these are well illustrated in “Brodie’s History of the British Empire” (published in the issue for Oct., 1824), the first essay in this volume. It shows the strengths and weaknesses of the exacting training school of the older Philosophic Radicals. The most obvious of its sectarian marks is, in Alexander Bain’s words, “the exposure of Hume’s disingenuous artifices” in his History of England, justified in Mill’s mind because Hume’s “resplendent” reputation as a metaphysician was disguising “his moral obliquity as a historian.”3 Indeed the abuse of the Tory Hume outruns the praise of the Whig Brodie; but both abuse and praise are, as one would expect in a Radical review, attuned to the theme that the follies of the past as well as the biases of historians can be used to enlighten the present. Echoes of James Mill, whose educational experiment with his eldest child was now bearing fruit, are evident: for example, his “Government” lies behind such remarks as “If [these statesmen] had possessed undue power, they would probably, like other men, have abused it . . .” (28-9), and “That the king had no intention of resigning any power which he could safely keep, is sufficiently certain from the principles of human nature . . .” (36). As to rhetorical form, the accomplished ease of his later essays is but scantily adumbrated in his saying, for instance, that his objects in the review “may best be united by such a concise sketch of the events of the period as is compatible with the narrow limits of an article [56 pages in the present edition!]; and to this, after requesting the indulgence of the reader to the very general view which it is in our power to afford, we shall proceed” (9). The awkwardness having been admitted, however, one might well ask what grade is appropriate for such an essay by an eighteen-year-old part-time student (he had joined the East India Company as a clerk in 1823). While a comparison of the essay with Brodie’s book reveals that Edition: current; Page: [lvii] much of the material for which no references are given derives from Brodie, as do some of the references to other sources, there is no plagiarism here, and Mill includes matters and sources that show him going beyond Brodie and Hume: he almost certainly read Catharine Macaulay (see 23), Burnet’s Memoires (26), Laing’s History of Scotland (37), and Perrinchief (7 and 55); also, looking to other sources used in the article, James Mill’s Commonplace Books include passages from Clarendon’s History and Life, and Rushworth’s Historical Collections, as well as from Hume (in the 8-vol. London ed. of 1778)—such texts almost certainly were shared by father and son.

The second essay here included, “Ireland,” presumably written in 1825,4 though it appeared in the Parliamentary History and Review in 1826, shows the same marks, though it is more typical of the essays in this volume in dealing with recent parliamentary events. The Radical attack is strongly pressed, and in a manner proper to a periodical designed to exploit the weapons of Bentham’s Book of Fallacies (see, e.g., 78-9). In further echoes of James Mill’s language, we are told that the “few, in every country, are remarkable for being easily alarmed” (70), and that a “principle of human nature” is “well established” (and therefore needs no demonstration) (80). Again the exordium, with an explicit divisio, is stiff and almost graceless. But apart from the interest in the matter, the powers of organization and analysis, and again even the sheer bulk (38 pages in this edition) are impressive, especially when one realizes that in addition to his work at the India Office he was engaged then in the massive task of editing Bentham’s Rationale of Judicial Evidence, and doing much else.5

The other two early essays, “The Game Laws” and “Intercourse between the United States and the British Colonies in the West Indies,” merit similar comments. “The Game Laws,” like “Ireland,” centres on an immediate issue in the parliamentary session of 1825 (though much of its material derives from that of 1824, as Mill explains at 113), and undoubtedly it was written in that year. The same guiding judgments are present (see the antithesis between “the Many” and “the Few” at 102, as well as the continued attack on landowners), but with more ease than in “Ireland,” presumably because the issues were clearer and the need to comment on all verbal follies less pressing, as Bentham’s Book of Fallacies was not an explicit benchmark. Indeed the quiet wit that has been little discerned in Mill’s writings begins to show itself (perhaps because, as some of the references reveal, he had been reading Sydney Smith). The article on trade between the United States and the West Indies, written in December, 1827 (see 147n) for the Parliamentary Review of 1828, is more mature than “Ireland” in analysis and polemic; he was then more comfortable, one may infer, with general economic Edition: current; Page: [lviii] than with concrete political issues. The target, outlined more sharply by the use of Ricardo’s ideas, is that of his mentors, but there is evident an individuality, as he said, “a maturity, and a well-digested character.” The conclusion, for example, shows the balance and precision for which he became known:

That strength of intellect which comprehends readily the consequences of a false step, and what is a still rarer endowment, that strength of character which dares to retrace it, are not qualities which have often belonged to a British ministry. That the present ministers possess these attributes, it still remains for them to prove. For us, if we can contribute in any degree to give the right direction to the opinions of any portion of the public on this question, we shall have effected all that we aim at, and all that is in our power. (147.)

Only a little tolerance—and that little lessened by reference to his other writings of 1827-29—is needed to accept Mill’s judgment about the effect of his editing of Bentham: “Through these influences my writing lost the jejuneness of my early compositions; the bones and cartilages began to clothe themselves with flesh, and the style became, at times, lively and almost light.”6


mill’s conclusion to the essay on British-American trade, quoted above—“For us, if we can contribute in any degree to give the right direction to the opinions of any portion of the public on this question, we shall have effected all that we aim at, and all that is in our power”—might be taken as the theme of his political writings from 1834 to 1839. During the Reform crisis, he was, curiously, almost silent about British politics, though he wrote extensively in the Examiner about French affairs after the Revolution of 1830. But the post-Reform parliaments called forth his most sustained burst of commentary on current domestic issues.

W.J. Fox having begun in his Monthly Repository a series of short comments on topics of the day, under the title of “Notes on the Newspapers,” Mill contributed an extensive and continuous commentary from March through September, 1834—that is, covering the sitting of parliament in that year, but mentioning some non-parliamentary subjects. Francis E. Mineka says that these notes “constitute a kind of political diary, and are perhaps the best extant record of Mill’s day-to-day application of his political philosophy.”7 The “perhaps” can be removed, and the last clause should conclude “his political philosophy at the time,” but the comment is cogent. Mill states his attitude to the “Notes” in a letter of 2 March, 1834, to Thomas Carlyle: he wishes “to present for once at least a picture of our ‘statesmen’ Edition: current; Page: [lix] and of their doings, taken from the point of view of a radical to whom yet radicalism in itself is but a small thing.”8 And, writing to Fox on 26 June, he says that William Adams (who also contributed to the series as “Junius Redivivus”) “will like my notes this time. . . . There is much of ‘the devil’ in them.”9 The devil, it is said, is a radical, and one with a strong bent for reform.

“The Close of the Session,” which appeared in the Monthly Repository coincident with the last of the “Notes,” was a summary of the progress of reform and a forecast, using the language of the “Movement” to induce acceptance of inevitable change. The trope is most evident at the close:

More slowly, but as certainly, the Church Establishment of England will share the fate which awaits all bodies who pretend to be what they are not, and to accomplish what they do not even attempt. And the fall of the Church will be the downfal of the English aristocracy, as depositaries of political power. When all the privileged orders insist upon embarking in the same vessel, all must naturally expect to perish in the same wreck. (286-7.)

Mill thought at this time of founding a new review to represent what he saw as a new radicalism, more attuned to the times and to the aspirations of the younger group. His goal was achieved when the London Review appeared in April, 1835, with Mill as the real, though not the ostensible, editor; in April of the next year it amalgamated with the Westminster, and continued as the London and Westminster under Mill’s editorship and eventual proprietorship until 1840. Here Mill had an organ responsive to his will—though subject to the variable tides of popularity and the gusty winds of contributors and sub-editors—and used it to the full, supplying all or part of over thirty articles, including eleven of those reprinted in this volume. The themes are fully covered in the Introduction above, the texts present no major problems,10 and so little need here be said about these important articles. It is excusable to mention, however, the continuing pattern of fluctuating hope and frustration in them, leading finally to an abandonment of this road to reform. Mill evidently wished to remain behind the scenes as an éminence grise, but there was no one to play Richelieu to his Père Joseph: he tried to arouse Grote11 and then to lead a rally round Durham,12 but no one rose to the occasion. The Radicals in Parliament quarrelled and scattered, and Mill became a contributor to the Edinburgh Review, the old Whig instrument so excoriated by him in his first Edition: current; Page: [lx] periodical article in the Westminster.13 His last political essay in the London and Westminster, “Reorganization of the Reform Party,” is curiously anticlimactic.14 Its running titles (see 466) provided a programme for the Radicals just as their strength was fading, and its thesis might well have expressed Mill’s aspirations at the founding of the review rather than just before he withdrew: “Radicalism has done enough in speculation; its business now is to make itself practical. Most reformers are tolerably well aware of their ends; let them turn to what they have hitherto far less attended to—how to attain them.” (468.)


the pattern of mill’s life, at least as author, changed markedly after his disposing of his interest in the London and Westminster in 1840 and the completion of his System of Logic (published in 1843, but virtually finished two years earlier). Henceforth he took for the most part to a broader canvas and a more abstract style, and also chose his “sitters” less frequently from the Houses of Parliament. He did not, however, abandon immediate issues, though this volume contains only two examples of his continued political interest. That interest found its outlet in the abundance of specific illustrations in his theoretical works, in newspaper writings, in speeches, and in a few essays on subjects not immediately political: all these will be found in other volumes of the Collected Works.

The final two items in this volume both deal with Ireland, and in similar terms, but formally they are very different. “What Is to Be Done with Ireland?” is an undated manuscript, apparently unpublished, which may have been designed as a speech or a newspaper article, or perhaps as part of a longer work (the title is used in England and Ireland, 507); given Mill’s ready access to different media, there is no evident reason for its remaining unused. The manuscript, now in the Hugh Walpole Collection, the King’s School, Canterbury, was sold as part of lot 669 on 27 July, 1927, by Sothebys to Maggs for £1, at the second sale of the effects of Mary Taylor (Mill’s step-grand-daughter).15 The text, in Mill’s hand, is written recto and verso on the first four and one-quarter sides of three folios, c. 21 cm. × 34 cm., watermarked without date, now bound in green morocco. Throughout there are pencilled revisions in the hand of Harriet Taylor, who became Mill’s wife in 1851, but who assisted him with revisions at least as early as 1848, when his Principles first appeared.16 The manuscript then most certainly was written before Edition: current; Page: [lxi] 1858, when she died, and since discussion of it is not found in the extensive (though incomplete) correspondence between them in the mid-1850s, it is at least likely that it predates those years. No external evidence has been found, but the reference internally to the “military operations of Mr. Smith O’Brien” (499-501), which are discussed as though recent, makes a date of late 1848 very likely, as does the mention of the large and liberal English gifts of “less than two years ago” (501).

Nearly twenty years passed before, in 1867, Mill thought that the time had come “to speak out [his] whole mind” on Ireland;17 he did so in England and Ireland, published in 1868. This is the only item in this volume to have been republished by Mill; though he says it “was not popular, except in Ireland,”18 it went through four editions in 1868, and into a fifth in 1869, and was translated into French for the Journal des Economistes for the issue of March, 1868.19 In fact, the “editions” are just new impressions (one change—“these” for “those”—was made in the 2nd ed.), except for the 3rd, which incorporates a few changes, the most important of which is a footnote (516n-17n) added in reply to criticisms.

Most of what is almost certainly the first draft of England and Ireland exists in manuscript. Many of Mill’s papers and books remained after his death in his Avignon home, where he had spent about one-half of each year following his wife’s death there in 1858. When Helen Taylor, his step-daughter, who had taken over the house, returned finally to England in 1905, the papers were sorted by Mary Taylor, her niece, and a friend of hers; some were sent (or taken back) to England by Mary Taylor, and the rest were either burnt or given for sale to the Avignon bookseller, Roumanille. The manuscript of England and Ireland must have been mistakenly divided at that time, the larger portion remaining in Avignon, where it was bought as part of a parcel by Professor G.H. Palmer, who gave the collection to Harvard (catalogued in the Houghton Library as MS Eng 1105). A smaller fragment appears to have been returned to England, where it was sold at Sothebys in the first sale of Mary Taylor’s effects on 29 March, 1822, as part of lot 730 (“With various unfinished MSS. in the hand of J.S. Mill”) to Maggs for £2. 8s. (On the verso of the second folio, in what appears to be Helen Taylor’s hand, is “Unimp.”) The rest of the manuscript seems not to be extant, perhaps having been burnt at Avignon or (since the missing sheets contained the beginning and conclusion) given away to friends. The manuscript is written in ink on unwatermarked blue French paper, c. 40 cm. × 26 cm. folded to make 20 cm. × 26 cm. folios, which are inscribed recto. Mill numbered only the first folio of each Edition: current; Page: [lxii] pair: the Harvard portion consists of the sheets numbered by Mill as 3, and 6 through 11; the Yale portion (following directly on) is sheet number 12 (the draft almost certainly concluded with a few lines on sheet number 13). The text of the draft is printed as Appendix A below, keyed to that of the 5th ed. (the copy-text for this edition). The revisions, typical of Mill, show an attempt to attain precision and force. The polemic, ars artium, is less evident than in the apprentice essays in this volume, but is still very strong, as Mill justifies radical action by criticizing weak policy.

In sum, these essays from all three periods add detail to our picture of one whose life, in his own as in our estimation, centred on public issues: we see here more of his strong immediate reaction to politics than we do in his more theoretical writings. We also have material for an enriched assessment of nineteenth-century political questions in these reactions of an acute and engaged mind. Since Mill was in his earlier years a member of a distinct group, indeed one of its spokesmen (sometimes self-appointed), and that group reveals many characteristics of young radical sectarians, there is matter here useful for analysis of the development, cohesion, and dissolution of such groups. The main interest, however, lies in the revelation of a powerful theoretic intellect struggling with the rhetoric of practical politics, analyzing, accusing, prodding, proclaiming, persuading, not always with success or balance by the standards of his time or ours, but never with stupidity or dullness.


as throughout the Collected Works, the copy-text for each item is that of the final version supervised by Mill;20 in this volume, however, there is but a single version for all of the essays except England and Ireland, where the fifth edition provides the copy-text. In one case, “What Is to Be Done with Ireland?”, never before published, the copy-text is the MS, described above. Details concerning each text, including the descriptions in Mill’s own list of his published writings,21 Edition: current; Page: [lxiii] are given in the headnotes to each item. Running titles from the periodical articles have, when necessary, been used as titles.22

Textual notes. The method of indicating substantive variants in the Collected Works, though designed for more elaborate revisions, is used in England and Ireland for the few changes Mill made, only one of which is extensive. Five of the lesser ones involve the substitution of a word or words; in these cases the final words in the copy-text are enclosed in superscript italic letters, and a footnote gives the editions in which the earlier version appeared, with its wording. E.g., at 516 the text gives “binterfereb” and the note reads “b-b681,682 prevent”; the interpretation is that in 681 (1st ed., 1868) and 682 (2nd ed., 1868) “prevent” appears where “interfere” appears in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th eds. In one case (516c-c) the footnote reads “c-c+683,684,69”; this means that “of”, the word in the text bracketed byc-c, was added in 683 (3rd ed., 1868), and retained in 684 (4th ed., 1868) and 69 (5th ed., 1869). The most significant change is the addition of a long footnote (516n-17n); this is signalled by the insertion, at the beginning of the note, in square brackets, of “[683]”, indicating that the footnote first appeared in the 3rd ed.

The MS of “What Is to Be Done with Ireland?” shows only current revisions by Mill, with the cancellations and interlineations indicating minor syntactic and semantic second thoughts. The MS makes evident, however, as mentioned above, that Harriet Taylor, as was normal practice for them, read the MS and suggested changes. These are recorded in footnotes, using the system of superscripts described above, with one further kind to indicate an addition: see 499k, where the single superscript in the text, centred between “would” and “be” indicates that an additional word or words (in this case, as the footnote shows, “perhaps”) had been proposed.

The other MS represented in this volume, the early draft of England and Ireland, shows signs only of current revisions by Mill. (It was written after his wife’s death.) Although (as the discussion above indicates) there was little time between the writing of this draft and the publication of the 1st ed., the extensive differences between the two suggest that Mill, as usual, wrote another complete version, which probably served as press-copy. The nature as well as the extent of Edition: current; Page: [lxiv] the changes makes it impracticable to employ our usual method of indicating substantive variants in footnotes; therefore the MS has been printed in full as Appendix A, keyed to show parallel passages, additions, omissions, and reordering, by using superscript Greek letters (to avoid confusing these with the variants among the printed texts), with editorial explanations in square brackets. Non-substantive variants, such as changes in spelling, hyphenation, and punctuation, are not indicated.

Textual liberties. In editing the MSS, end-of-line punctuation has been silently added when the sense requires, and (except in Appendix A) the ampersand has been printed as “and”. In both printed texts and MSS, superscripts in abbreviations have been lowered, and (for consistency) periods supplied after such abbreviations as “Mr.” References to monarchs have been altered to the standard form (e.g., from “Charles the first” to “Charles I”). In the two early essays from the Westminster initial capitals have been added to titles of position and status, and to institutional and party names, for consistency (neither Mill nor the Westminster later used the lower-case forms) and to avoid confusion. Dashes are deleted when combined with other punctuation before quotations and references, and italic punctuation closing italic passages has been made roman. Indications of ellipsis have been normalized to three dots plus, if needed, terminal punctuation. One authorial headnote has been made into a footnote (168), and one editorial footnote in the Monthly Repository deleted.23 The positioning of footnote indicators has been normalized so that they appear after adjacent punctuation marks; in some cases, for consistency, references or footnote indicators have been moved to the end of passages. All long quotations are given in reduced type and (when necessary) the quotation marks have been removed; consequently, square brackets have occasionally been added around Mill’s words in those quotations, but there is little reason for confusion, as there are no editorial insertions except added references. Double quotation marks are used throughout, and titles of works originally published separately are given in italics. For consistency, in one place (10) round brackets have been substituted for square to enclose a reference; in another (261), square for round, to enclose an authorial intervention. The nineteenth-century practice of printing names of signators in small capitals has not been followed.

Typographical errors and some anomalies have been emended; Appendix C lists them. Mill’s references to sources, and additional editorial references, are normalized. When necessary, his references have been emended; a list of the alterations is given in the note below.24

Appendix D is a Bibliographic Index, listing the persons and works cited and Edition: current; Page: [lxv] referred to by Mill. These references are consequently omitted in the analytic Index, which has been prepared by Dr. Maureen Clarke.


for permission to publish manuscript material, we are indebted to the King’s School, Canterbury, to the Houghton Library, the Yale University Library, and the National Provincial Bank (literary executors and residual legatees Edition: current; Page: [lxvi] of Mary Taylor, Mill’s step-grand-daughter). Their librarians have been most gracious to us, as have those of the Archives Nationales du Québec, the British Library, the New York Public Library, Somerville College, the University of London, the University of Toronto, and Victoria University. The unfailing competence, zeal, and co-operation of the staff of the University of Toronto Press, and especially of our copy-editor, Rosemary Shipton, earn as always our unstinted thanks. Individuals who have generously aided include the members of the Editorial Committee, and Robert Adolph, William Baker, John Beattie, Joan Bigwood, J.M.S. Careless, Martin Davies, M.L. Friedland, F.D. Hoeniger, J.R. de J. Jackson, Bennett Kovrig, W.E. McLeod, Peter Munsche, Peter J. Parsons, Alan Ryan, H.G. Schogt, C.A. Silber, James Steintrager, William Thomas, D.F.S. Thomson, and Elizabeth Zyman.

Our greatest benefactor is the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, whose generous Major Editorial Project Grant supports both publication and the work of our talented and dedicated editorial team. For this volume, most of the credit goes to Marion Filipiuk, Bruce Kinzer (now, alas, lost to us by translation to the Department of History at McMaster University), Maureen Clarke, Rea Wilmshurst, Mary O’Connor, Allison Taylor, and Mark Johnson. My wife, the historian, has as ever lessened my still manifold sins of omission and commission by developing my understanding and appreciation of the English and the past.

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Essays on England, Ireland, and the Empire


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Westminster Review, II (Oct., 1824), 346-402. Headed: “Art. V. A History of the British Empire, from the Accession of Charles I, to the Restoration; with an introduction, tracing the Progress of Society, and the Constitution, from the Feudal Times, to the Opening of the History; and including a particular Examination of Mr. Hume’s Statements, relative to the Character of the English Government. By George Brodie, Esq., Advocate. In Four Volumes, 8vo. Edinburgh. Bell & Bradfute. London. Longman & Co. 1822.” Running titles: “Brodie’s History of the British Empire.” Unsigned; not republished. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “A review of Brodie’s history of Charles I and the Commonwealth, in the fourth number of the Westminster Review” (MacMinn, 6). Vol. II of the Westminster in the Somerville College Library has no corrections or alterations. For comment on the review, see viii-ix and lvi-lvii above.

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Brodie’s History of the British Empire

mr. brodie has rendered no mean service to his country by these volumes. We allude, not so much to the merits of his work as a history, though these are considerable, as to the unexampled exposure which he has furnished of the demerits of former writers, and particularly of Hume.[*] In no portion of our history has mis-representation more extensively prevailed, because in no portion of it have the motives, which lead to mis-representation, been more strong.

Hume possessed powers of a very high order; but regard for truth formed no part of his character. He reasoned with surprising acuteness; but the object of his reasonings was, not to attain truth, but to shew that it is unattainable. His mind, too, was completely enslaved by a taste for literature; not those kinds of literature which teach mankind to know the causes of their happiness and misery, that they may seek the one and avoid the other; but that literature which without regard for truth or utility, seeks only to excite emotion. With the earlier part of his work, we at present have no concern. The latter part has no title to be considered as a history. Called a history, it is really a romance; and bears nearly the same degree of resemblance to any thing which really happened, as Old Mortality, or Ivanhoe,[†] while it is far more calculated to mislead. As every romance must have a hero, in his romance of the Stuarts, the hero is Charles I: and in making a pathetic story about Charles I, the thing he gave himself least concern about was, whether it was true.

Romance is always dangerous, but when romance assumes the garb of history, it is doubly pernicious. To say nothing of its other evils, on which this is no place to expatiate, it infallibly allies itself with the sinister interests[‡] of the few. When events come to be looked at, not as they affect the great interests of mankind, but as they bear upon the pleasures and pains of an individual; a habit is engendered of Edition: current; Page: [4] considering the pleasures and pains of an individual as of more importance than the great interests of mankind. That this is one of the most pernicious of all habits, is proved by merely telling what it is; that it is one which the prevailing system of education carefully fosters, is too true; that it is a habit into which the mind has of itself too strong a tendency to fall, is matter of universal experience. The pleasures and pains most interesting to an ill-cultivated mind, are those of the one and of the few; of the men in exalted stations, whose lot is most conspicuous, whose felicity, to the ignorant, appears something almost divine, and whose misfortunes, from their previous elevation, most powerfully affect the imagination. The sufferings of the many, though multiplied almost beyond calculation from their indefinite extent, are thought nothing of: they seem born to suffer; their fall is from a less height; their miseries lie hidden, and do not meet the eye. Who is there that would not admit, that it is better one should suffer than a million? Yet among those who can feel and cannot reason, nothing is so rare as to sympathize with the million. The one, with them, is every thing, the million, nothing; merely because the one is higher in rank, and perhaps suffers rather more, than any one assignable individual among the million. They would rather that a thousand individuals should suffer one degree each, than that one individual should suffer two degrees.

This propensity is so thoroughly incompatible with the pursuit of the only true end of morality, the greatest happiness of the greatest number, that genuine and enlarged morality cannot exist till it be destroyed; and to this object, he who writes to benefit his species will bend his most strenuous efforts: but he who writes for effect, without caring whether good or evil is the consequence, must address himself to the prevalent feeling, and to this, one of the strongest of prevalent feelings. He must select a hero; if possible a monarch, or a warrior; and to excite a strong interest in this hero, every thing must be sacrificed. If he be an historian, he will probably have to relate, among the actions of his hero, some by which the many are made to suffer; these it is necessary for him to justify or excuse. He may have to relate attempts on the part of the many, to guard themselves against those actions of his hero by which they are made to suffer; these attempts he must represent as extremely wicked, and the many as villains for engaging in such attempts. In short, whenever the interests of mankind, and of his hero, are at variance, he must endeavour to make the reader take part with his hero against mankind.

Such was the object of Hume; and the object to which he deliberately sacrificed truth, honesty, and candour. When, in order to attain the most mischievous of ends, a man does not scruple to employ the most mischievous of means, it makes very little difference in the degree of his immorality, whether he be himself the dupe of his own artifices or not. To that extent, Hume may very possibly have been sincere. He may, perhaps, have been weak enough to believe, that the pleasures and pains of one individual are of unspeakable importance, those of the many of no Edition: current; Page: [5] importance at all. But though it be possible to defend Charles I, and be an honest man, it is not possible to be an honest man, and defend him as Hume has done.

A skilful advocate will never tell a lie, when suppressing the truth will answer his purpose; and if a lie must be told, he will rather, if he can, lie by insinuation than by direct assertion. In all the arts of a rhetorician, Hume was a master: and it would be a vain attempt to describe the systematic suppression of the truth which is exemplified in this portion of his history; and which, within the sphere of our reading, we have scarcely, if ever, seen matched. Particular instances of this species of mendacity, Mr. Brodie has brought to light in abundance;[*] of the degree in which it pervades the whole, he has not given, nor would it be possible to give, an adequate conception, unless by printing Mr. Brodie’s narrative and Hume’s in opposite columns. Many of the most material facts, facts upon which the most important of the subsequent transactions hinged, and which even the party writers of the day never attempted to deny, Hume totally omits to mention; others, which are so notorious that they cannot safely be passed over in silence, he either affects to disbelieve, or mentioning no evidence, indirectly gives it to be understood that there was none. The direct lies are not a few; the lies insinuated are innumerable. We do not mean that he originated any lies; for all those which he could possibly need were ready made to his hand. But if it be criminal to be the original inventor of a lie, the crime is scarcely less of him who knowingly repeats it.

The authorities from which the history of those times is to be collected are various. There are royalist writers, and republican writers; and there are original documents, letters, and others, from which the facts may be gathered, free from that colouring which is put upon them in the apologetical writings of either party. There are, in particular, a variety of letters, written, some of them by Charles himself, others by Strafford, and other eminent persons in the royal party, where they unfold to one another designs which were carefully concealed from the public, and which, when imputed to them by their opponents, they repelled as the vilest of calumnies.[†] Almost the whole of these documents Hume passes over, as Edition: current; Page: [6] if they did not exist: because they prove his hero, not only to have been an adept in dissimulation and perfidy, but to have been in the constant habit of making asseverations, and corroborating them by the most solemn appeals to Heaven, which asseverations, when he uttered them, he perfectly well knew to be totally false. And as this fact, if known, would have spoiled him for a hero, Hume makes a point, not only of concealing, but of constantly and unblushingly denying it.[*]

Exclusively of these documents, the authorities which remain are the publications of the two parties at the time, and those of their partisans afterwards. If compelled to draw his whole information from these questionable sources, a fair historian would at least take nothing upon trust from either party; would compare their statements with one another, reject the exaggerations of both sides, and while he would repose tolerable confidence in their admissions against their own cause, would attach little weight to their assertions, when tending to asperse an adversary, or vindicate themselves. As for Hume, had he never looked into any but the royalist publications, the spirit in which he has written his history might have been pardoned, as the effect of blind credulity and partiality. But the names of Whitelocke, Ludlow, Rushworth, May,[†] appear so often at the bottom of the page, as to leave no doubt that, with regard to many of the events which he relates, he knew the truth, and wilfully concealed it. The republican writers are believed—when they bear testimony in favour of the royalists; while the royalists are never disbelieved, except when, by any chance, they make admissions against themselves.

If we consider who these royalists were, we shall be able to form some estimate of the credibility of a history, nearly the whole of which is copied from them.

The first, and, on the whole, the most respectable, is Clarendon;[‡] whom, though he was himself an actor in the scenes which he describes, and was not the more likely to be impartial, that he was a renegade, it has been usual to regard as a man of unimpeachable veracity, for no other reason that we can discover, but because Hume says so;[§] for it surely is no proof that a man will tell truth, because, like every man of sense and prudence, he is sparing of foul language. The question, however, concerning the veracity of Clarendon, may now be considered as settled; see Brodie, Vol. III, pp. 110n-14n, 263n-4n, 265n, 306n-8n, 316n, 334n-5n, 336n, 389n, 551n-4n, et passim, for various instances of his dishonesty and bad faith. It is too much to require that we should believe what Hume says of Edition: current; Page: [7] Clarendon rather than what Clarendon says of himself. A writer who makes a boast of the dexterity with which he fabricated speeches, and published them in the names of some of the parliamentary leaders,[*] was not likely to be over scrupulous, when he sat down to write an express vindication of himself and of his party.

If such be the character of the most candid of the royalist writers, it may be judged what credit is due to the more furious partisans. Even Clarendon, indeed, is too honest for Hume; for he occasionally lets out facts which it suits Hume to conceal.[†] His other authorities were less scrupulous. The chief of these are Carte, Clement Walker, and Perinchief;[‡] particularly the former, whom he seems almost to have taken as his text book, but whom he rarely ventures to quote; and he frequently commits the dishonesty of referring to Whitelocke or Rushworth for a story, of which the important features are to be found only in Carte. It is chiefly towards the latter end of the story that Perinchief and Walker come into play. Of these three, it is difficult to say which is least deserving of credit. Carte was a vulgar fanatic on the side of royalty, who believed every thing in favour of Charles, and nothing against him; and it is some presumption in favour of his sincerity, that, by the documents published in his Appendix, he furnished, in a great measure, the materials of his own refutation. Of Walker we shall say more hereafter. Of Perinchief we need say nothing, because we are quite sure that no man who has ever read a page of his work, will pay the least regard to any thing that he asserts.

The arts by which Hume has succeeded in obtaining belief for a period so much exceeding the ordinary duration of party lies, are various, and well worthy of examination.

In the first place, he avoids the appearance of violence, and yields some points, in order to make a show of moderation; knowing well that a writer, if he acknowledges only a tenth part of what is true, obtains a reputation for candour which frequently causes people to overlook the mis-statement of the other nine-tenths. Such points, therefore, as are wholly untenable, he gives up with a good grace. He allows some merit to the popular leaders, and acknowledges that they had some reason to complain. Yet, though the people may sometimes have been in the right, he will not allow that Charles can ever have been in the wrong; and if he allows that the people can have been right, it is only to a trifling extent.[§] To extenuate the abuses of the government, there is no sort of concealment which Edition: current; Page: [8] he does not practise: for those which cannot be concealed, while, by an ordinary artifice, he represents them as solitary instances, and exceptions to the general rule, he industriously supplies every palliation which the most refined ingenuity can devise. In the first place, however bad the government might be, it was milder under Charles than under his predecessors;[*] as if that were true; or any thing to the purpose if it were. In the next place, we are told, in at least twenty places, that he was driven to these abuses by an appearance of necessity;[†] when Charles himself never pretended to be moved by necessity, but asserted that he had a right to do all that he did. The religious grievances are expressly declared to be of no consequence;[‡] as if it were of no consequence when a king attempts to force his own religion down the throats of the people; as if this were not of itself one of the most tyrannical of all acts of power; and as if a king who would do this, would not do any thing. If it be fanaticism to resist the introduction of a superstitious observance, how much greater is the fanaticism of upholding that observance, by cutting off men’s ears and imprisoning them for life? Or, if Charles was himself conscious of the frivolity of the ceremonies which he imposed, what more charitable supposition remains, than that he supported Laud’s religion, that Laud might support his power?

Another of the artifices of Hume consists in attempting to prepossess the reader for or against a particular person, while he is still in ignorance of those actions of that person, from which, and not from the assertions of his partisans, or of his enemies, his character ought to be inferred. Thus, every opportunity is taken of holding up King Charles as a person distinguished by every moral excellence: many of his actions indicate the reverse; but as the character has the advantage of coming first, it is hoped that the reader will credit the character rather than the actions. The parliamentary leaders, on the other hand, he represents as hypocrites or fanatics, and (when he dares) as uneducated, coarse, and brutal in their manners and in their character.[§] All this, as Mr. Brodie has shown, is untrue;[¶] but it answers the purpose; and the reasoning amounts to this: Vane, Ireton, and Harrison were fanatics, therefore King Charles’s government was good: a specimen of argumentation which, if not strictly logical, is, at any rate, extremely convenient, since it is hard if a partisan, however weak his cause, cannot contrive to pick a hole either in the intellectual or moral character of some one or more of his opponents.

We might fill a whole article with an analysis of the artifices of Hume; but a few specimens are necessary, to convince the reader that we have not brought charges which it is not in our power to prove; imperfect as the conception is which can be Edition: current; Page: [9] given by specimens, of a work of which almost every sentence contains in it more or less of misrepresentation. And as it is also incumbent on us to give some idea of what Mr. Brodie has done to throw light upon this portion of history, it seems to us that these two objects may best be united by such a concise sketch of the events of the period as is compatible with the narrow limits of an article; and to this, after requesting the indulgence of the reader to the very general view which it is in our power to afford, we shall proceed.

It is first, however, necessary to say something on the nature of the government before the time of the Stuarts. Mr. Brodie has written a long, and, he will forgive us for saying, a dull, introductory volume, to prove that it was by no means so arbitrary as is generally imagined. Though this volume contains much valuable information concerning the practical workings of the government, and the condition of the people, we wish he had placed it at the end rather than at the beginning; for it looks formidable, and its bulk may alarm the reader, while it contributes little to the main object of the history. The agitation, indeed, of such a question is of little use for any purpose, and, assuredly, of no use whatever for the purpose of enabling us to form a correct judgment on the events which ensued. It is of little consequence whether misgovernment was of an ancient or of a modern date in Great Britain; in either case, resistance to it was equally a duty; the opposition to that resistance, equally a crime; and it is a strange doctrine, that we are not entitled to good government, unless we can prove, that our ancestors enjoyed it: although, as mankind, educated as they have hitherto been, are governed by custom and precedent much more than by reason, it was perfectly natural that each party at the time should endeavour to throw the reproach of innovation upon its opponents.

The truth, in as far as it can be elicited from the facts which have been handed down to us, seems perfectly to coincide with what the experience of all nations, similarly situated, would have led us to infer. There was no distinct line of demarcation between what was permitted to the king, and what was forbidden. He was not nominally recognized as absolute; at the same time, he was practically so, as often as he was a man of talents, and circumstances favoured his power. When, on the other hand, a weak prince filled the throne, the nobles were every thing, and the king nothing. Precedents, therefore, may be found (if by precedents the question is to be decided), both for and against the claim of absolute power. If it be true, as Mr. Brodie asserts, that Elizabeth and Henry VIII rarely attempted to raise money without consent of parliament,[*] what does this prove, except that the parliament was always willing to grant, if not as much as those monarchs desired, so much that, dependant as they were on public opinion from their peculiar situation, they did not care to provoke the people by exacting more? In like manner, if it be true that the Tudors did not imprison and fine men in the Edition: current; Page: [10] star-chamber to so great an extent as is supposed,[*] so neither, it should be remembered, did Charles, unless when some one resisted his authority; and under the Tudors there was no resistance to authority, or none capable of exciting any uneasiness in the breast of the sovereign. But, at length, resistance came; and with resistance came cruelty, for the purpose of its suppression.

The great deficiency in Mr. Brodie’s work, is, that he has not explained why resistance began so soon; how it happened, that sentiments and ideas, in almost every other country then utterly unknown, were at this early period so widely diffused in Great Britain. It is scarcely fair, indeed, to blame Mr. Brodie for a deficiency which he shares with all former English historians. Our present concern, however, is not with the causes of the resistance, but with the resistance itself.

There is sufficient evidence to prove, that James I had a strong leaning to popery;* moved, it may be supposed, in part, by respect to the memory of his mother,[†] but chiefly by the readiness with which that religion allies itself with arbitrary power. In proportion to his inclination for popery, was his hatred of all the protestant sectaries. Where he had, as in England, archbishoprics and bishoprics to give away, he had a tolerable security that the conduct of a majority in the church would be sufficiently conformable to his wishes, whatever they might be. In Scotland, where he had no such precious gifts at his disposal, he found the clergy by no means equally compliant. To the presbyterian church government, therefore, he professed an inveterate dislike; “declaring that, under it, Jack, and Tom, and Dick, and Will, presumed to instruct him in affairs of state.” (Brodie, Vol. I, p. 333.)[‡] His aversion extended to the Puritans in England, who were Presbyterians, and hostile, if not at first to episcopacy, at least to the intermeddling of bishops in secular affairs. And throughout the reign of James they were severely visited with the penalties of the law. Nor was the civil government of James less despotic than the ecclesiastical. In profession, indeed, his claim of arbitrary power Edition: current; Page: [11] went far beyond that of his most tyrannical predecessors. “The power of kings,” he told the parliament, “was like the divine power; for, as God can create and destroy, make and unmake at his pleasure, so kings can give life and death, judge all and be judged by none. As it was blasphemy,” he added, “to dispute what God might do, so it was sedition in subjects to dispute what a king might do, in the height of his power.”[*] Nor did his practice fall short of his professions.

In ecclesiastical matters he assumed supreme power, and struck at the very vitals of the constitution by issuing illegal proclamations with penalties, which were enforced by the court of star-chamber, while, by levying taxes without an act of parliament, he prepared the way for the disuse of that assembly. He, of his own accord, imposed new duties at the ports, and arrogated the right of doing so at pleasure, a pretension in which he was supported by venal statesmen and corrupt lawyers, who concurred in fabricating precedents to deceive the people; nay, his judges solemnly decided so monstrous a principle in his favour. Innumerable projects and monopolies were devised for raising money, but he was latterly obliged to pass an act against them: forced loans, without the pressing emergencies which were used as an apology for them in the preceding reign, were resorted to; and the hateful measure of benevolence, which had been so much reprobated, and so opposed even in Henry VIII, and so long discontinued, was revived. (Ibid., pp. 351-2.)[†]

All offices were filled by creatures of the unworthy favourite, Buckingham; selected, not for their fitness, but for subservience to his will. We except, of course, such offices as were sold (which was the case with many) for the benefit of the king or of his favourite.

Let us suppose that Charles I, when he ascended the throne, had expressed the strongest determination to redress these abuses; is there any one who will have the folly to say that he ought to have been trusted? That, because he found it convenient to make promises, in contradiction to his obvious interest, he should have been left at full liberty to perform them, or not, as he pleased? But when there was not only no reason to anticipate a reform, but every reason to anticipate the contrary; when, in defiance of public opinion, he had just married an avowed Catholic,[‡] and issued warrants to forbear all proceedings against recusants; when he not only pursued the same measures as his predecessor; but the same men, and especially Buckingham, so deservedly the object of popular odium, still maintained a boundless ascendancy over his counsels; this surely was not the time to show unlimited confidence, but rather the time to push for beneficial concessions, before the king should have advanced so far as to be unable, without humiliation, to recede.

We may be excused for dwelling at so much length upon the state of affairs at the commencement of Charles’s reign, when it is considered what reproaches have been cast upon his first parliament by Hume, because, instead of granting Edition: current; Page: [12] immediately all the money which he required, they gave him, at first, but little, that they might still retain some control over his actions. Hume, however, declares that, at this period, “an unbounded power was exercised by the crown,” and that “it was necessary to fix a choice, either to abandon entirely the privileges of the people, or to secure them by firmer and more precise barriers than the constitution had hitherto provided for them.”[*] What, then, in his opinion, ought they to have done? To have submitted to despotism? If not, what means had they to resist it, other than by withholding supplies? They are further accused of having acted an ungenerous part, by forcing the king upon a war, and then refusing him the means of carrying it on.[†] True, as usual, in sound, and false in substance. It was well known by Hume to have been one main cause of the war, that Charles and Buckingham, on their return from Spain, had told (or, at least, the one had looked on while the other told) some few lies to the parliament, concerning the transactions in which they had been engaged.[‡] And the other motive by which the parliament were swayed, when they urged the king to a war, was the hope of, by that means, preventing him from marrying a Catholic, which, notwithstanding, he immediately did; their quarrel was not with Spain, but with popery and slavery: it was Charles and his favourite who now pressed the war, and from motives of purely personal pique.

The last subsidies had been granted under an express condition that their expenditure should be controlled by commissioners appointed by parliament;[§] this condition had never been fulfilled, and it was now complained, surely not without reason, that an account of the expenditure, though promised, did not make its appearance. Great complaints, too, were heard against an oppressive imposition which the late king had imposed, by his own authority, upon wines.[¶] It was evident, that by summoning the parliament to the metropolis during one of the most dreadful pestilences ever known in England, it had been hoped to obtain an immediate supply, without leaving time to enter upon the consideration of grievances. The Commons, therefore, wisely granted two subsidies, and no more.[∥]

At this time, Montague, one of the king’s chaplains, published a work,[**] called, by Hume, “a moderate book, which, to their great disgust, saved virtuous Catholics, as well as other Christians, from eternal torments:”[††] but he does not Edition: current; Page: [13] state that this moderate book was a tissue of the most furious invective against the Puritans; that it openly vindicated many of the popish tenets, and more covertly, though not less really, defended that religion as a whole. A committee of the Commons was appointed to report upon this work, and Montague was bound, under recognizances, to answer for it at the bar of the House. From this transaction Hume takes occasion to accuse the Commons of illiberality, forgetting, that in the age in which they lived, some degree of intolerance towards popery was necessary for self-defence; that those dangers which are now chimerical, were then real and alarming; that those disabilities, which can now serve no purpose, except that of oppression, were necessary then to hinder Protestants from being blown up, or, once more, burnt in Smithfield. Such a book, too, from a chaplain of the king, and that chaplain retaining his place, proved surely that the king himself could not be very hostile to the sentiments which it contained. The Commons had no claim upon Charles for the punishment of Montague, but they had a claim for his dismissal. Proceedings, however, were stopped by a message from the king, declaring that he meant to take the matter under his own consideration.[*] So well did he keep his word, that, ere long, Montague was made a bishop.

It is for acts like this that we read so often in Hume’s history of Charles’s mild and tolerant disposition.[†] As if any man in his senses could believe that the persecutor of Leighton and Prynne was an enemy to persecution; as if it were any proof of a mild and tolerant disposition, to bestow rewards upon one religion and inflict punishments upon another. We had always thought that this was the very essence of intolerance; what else, we take leave to ask, does intolerance mean?

Before the parliament was re-assembled, an incident had occurred, which, alone, would have sufficed to justify all its subsequent proceedings. The French king[‡] was then at war with his protestant subjects at Rochelle: to aid him in subduing them, Charles lent him a fleet; and, but for the manly resistance of the sailors, a fleet, equipped with the very money granted for the defence of the Protestants in Germany, would have been employed for the suppression of the protestant religion in France, and the support of popery and arbitrary power. As an excuse for Charles, Hume observes, that he was probably deceived by the French government; which is more than was asserted by Buckingham himself, in the long speech which he made in parliament on the occasion.[§] But Hume is not ashamed to defend the transaction itself; and because the English resented it, he thence infers, that of all European nations they were at that time the most bigotted.[¶] If this be bigotry, may they always continue bigots.

Had the parliament been previously inclined to add any thing to their former Edition: current; Page: [14] grant, they would scarcely have done so after this experience of the use to which they might expect it to be applied. The king’s complaint of poverty[*] was met by remonstrances against extravagant expenditure;* and he was petitioned against the sale of offices, against monopolies and illegal impositions: yet Hume does not scruple to say, that the growth of popery was ever the chief of their grievances, and now their only one; though he had said, a few pages before, that an unbounded power was exercised by the crown; but this, in his opinion, was no grievance.[†] Charles dissolved the parliament, and supplied his present wants by a compulsory loan, the produce of which being dissipated in an unsuccessful expedition against Cadiz, he was compelled to summon another parliament. By pricking several of the popular leaders[‡] sheriffs of counties, he incapacitated them from being returned to parliament. This paltry artifice, by which he hoped to secure compliance with his desires, only exposed his weakness, without repressing the spirit of resistance to mis-rule.

The Commons immediately voted three subsidies and three fifteenths, and, soon after, one subsidy more; but deferred passing their vote into a law, until after the public grievances should have been considered.[§] Situated as they were, it is difficult to see how they should have adopted a wiser, or a more moderate course.

A condition, [says Hume,] was thus made, in a very undisguised manner, with their sovereign. Under colour of redressing grievances, which, during this short reign could not be very numerous, they were to proceed in regulating and controlling every part of government which displeased them; and if the king either cut them short in this undertaking, or refused compliance with their demands, he must not expect any supply from the Commons. Great dissatisfaction was expressed by Charles, at a treatment which he deemed so harsh and undutiful.[¶]

This is the way in which the people of England are spoken of, for exercising their legal and acknowledged privilege of withholding supplies. For what purpose was that privilege given to them, but to enable them to “make conditions with their sovereign?” for what purpose, but that they might avail themselves of his necessities to curtail his mischievous power? To hold up the making “conditions” with their sovereign in this manner ad invidiam, as if to make conditions with their sovereign were a crime, is to insinuate a doctrine which Hume himself does not dare to acknowledge as his own, and which, therefore, he artfully puts into the mouth of another.[∥] Their grievances, too, “during this short reign, could not be Edition: current; Page: [15] very numerous.” As if a grievance ever consisted in a single oppressive act; as if the continual liability to such acts—the system, the state of things, which renders them possible, were of no consequence whatever. The individual act, however tyrannical, is past, and cannot be recalled. What is sought is, security against its renewal; and it is for this aiming at security, that the people of England, throughout this portion of Hume’s history, are held up to scorn and detestation.

The sale of offices, and the exorbitant gifts lavished upon Buckingham and his creatures, being warmly complained of, and some members not sparing their censures upon the favorite himself, Charles summoned both houses to Whitehall, where he told them, that to reflect upon the duke was to reflect upon himself, and threatened them, if they persevered, with a dissolution. The Commons, however, were not to be discouraged by menaces; and they soon shewed their resolution, by preferring an impeachment against the duke.[*]

None of their proceedings has been more grossly misrepresented than this. They have been reproached for voting, that common fame was a sufficient ground for accusation.[†] Common fame is not, certainly, a sufficient ground for punishment; but punishment is one thing, and accusation another. It may not only be justifiable, but an imperative duty, to proceed against an individual, even upon a slight suspicion, that so his guilt or innocence may be fully ascertained. If a charge were never brought until it were known with certainty that it could be proved, where, we ask, would be the use of trial?

All the charges, Hume goes on to say, appear, from comparing the accusation and reply, to be either frivolous, or false, or both.[‡] How their truth or falsehood can be established, by hearing the accusers affirm, and the accused deny, Hume, with his usual accuracy, omits to inform us. If embezzlement, extortion, neglect of duty as admiral, the purchase and sale of offices, the loan of ships to suppress the Protestants in France, and the poisoning of the late king, be frivolous accusations, then, indeed, the charges against Buckingham were frivolous—that they were false, remained to be proved by trial: that trial which the Commons sought, and which Charles and Buckingham avoided. The principal managers[§] of the impeachments were sent to the Tower, and soon after the parliament was dissolved.

After a breach with the parliament, [says Hume,] which seemed so difficult to repair, the only rational counsel which Charles could pursue was, immediately to conclude a peace with Spain, and to render himself, as far as possible, independent of his people, who discovered so little inclination to support him, or rather, who seem to have formed a Edition: current; Page: [16] determined resolution to abridge his authority. Nothing could be easier in the execution than this measure, nor more agreeable to his own and to national interest.[*]

The same man, who thus stands forward, the open and avowed advocate of despotism, can nevertheless lavish hypocritical praises upon the popular leaders, for resisting designs, so “agreeable to national interest.”

Despotism in the design, hypocrisy in the outside, he here acknowledges to have characterized the conduct of his hero. “Had he possessed any military force, on which he could rely, it is not improbable that he had at once taken off the mask, and governed without any regard to parliamentary privileges.”[†] To some it may appear, that he could not well have taken off the mask more completely than he did. Ship-money, benevolences, and a general forced loan, were the expedients resorted to for obtaining money: for resisting these illegal exactions, seventy-six gentlemen were imprisoned, five of whom appealed to the law for redress. Sir Randolph Carew, chief justice, not being found a ready-enough tool, was displaced to make room for Sir Nicholas Hyde, who readily pronounced the power of arbitrary imprisonment to be legal.[‡] Billetting of soldiers was another instrument of extortion. Manwaring, the king’s chaplain, published two sermons,[§] maintaining broadly the doctrine of active and passive obedience, and particularly the right of levying taxes without consent of parliament. For refusing to licence these sermons (which were printed by the king’s special command), the primate Abbot was suspended from his office, and confined to his country house. The employment of popish recusants was continued, notwithstanding a solemn promise to the parliament.[¶]

One of the grand objects of Hume’s History is, to prove, that Charles’s conduct, throughout, was open and sincere. “Some historians have rashly questioned the good faith of this prince: but, for this reproach, the most malignant scrutiny of his conduct, which in every circumstance is now thoroughly known, affords not any reasonable foundation. Probity and honor ought justly to be numbered among his most shining qualities.”[∥] It is difficult to understand, what Hume meant by probity and honor. The instances of Charles’s bad faith are far too numerous to be named; some of the more remarkable of them will be noticed as we go on: but, in this instance, Hume admits him to have violated a solemn pledge; and mark the attempt to palliate this breach of faith: “he was apt, in imitation of his father, to Edition: current; Page: [17] imagine that the parliament, when they failed of supplying his necessities, had, on their part, freed him from the obligation of a strict performance.”[*] Apt to do what? Only to lie; an offence which, in Hume’s estimation, seems to be very venial.

Fortunately the king was mad enough to plunge himself into a war with France; which compelled him, once more, to summon a parliament. Resolved to leave him no just ground of complaint, the Commons voted five subsidies, the largest supply, according to Mr. Brodie, ever before granted in parliament.[†] They withheld, however, for a time, the bill of supply, and proceeded to frame a law, called the Petition of Right, which should secure them in time to come from the oppression under which they had suffered.[‡] By this enactment (which inquirers of all parties are, to an extraordinary degree, unanimous in applauding), “forced loans, benevolences, taxes without consent of parliament, arbitrary imprisonments, the billetting of soldiers, martial law”* were declared illegal.

The king, by an ambiguous answer,[§] evaded giving his assent to the petition of right. Meanwhile, the Commons sent up an impeachment against Manwaring,[¶] for the two sermons to which we before referred. It is very easy to cry out against intolerance; but, if they had not met their opponents with their own weapons, they could not have met them at all. It was surely excusable to punish adversaries, whom they were not permitted to refute. No one is so great an enemy to intolerance as Hume, when it is the intolerance of the Puritans; but, he is very indulgent to the bitterest persecution, when Charles is the persecutor. It is better to avoid persecution, as it is better in war to refrain from the massacre of prisoners; but, if your enemy obstinately refuses to give quarter, it would be very false humanity on your part, to abstain from retaliation.—Manwaring was sentenced to imprisonment, deprivation, and fine. No sooner did the session terminate, than he was pardoned, received a living, and some years after was promoted to a bishopric.

The Commons proceeded to inquire into a commission which had been granted to levy troops in Germany, and transport them into England. As the number mentioned was only a thousand horse, Hume insinuates a doubt that they were intended for a mischievous purpose:[∥] omitting to state, that arms were likewise ordered for ten thousand foot.

At length the king, being hard pressed for money, gave his assent to the petition Edition: current; Page: [18] of right, and the subsidy bill passed immediately after.[*] The Commons then framed a Remonstrance, recapitulating their grievances, and ascribing them wholly to the counsels of Buckingham.[†] “As this,” says Hume, “was the first return which he (Charles) met with for his late beneficial concessions, and for his sacrifices of prerogative, the greatest by far ever made by an English sovereign, nothing could be more the object of great and natural indignation.”[‡]

A grosser falsehood than is insinuated here, it is scarcely possible to conceive. The remonstrance was the “first return” for his concessions! when Hume has just before told us, that the “first return” was the grant of money. In the next place, Charles had made no concessions which had not been forced upon him, and which he did not, as we shall presently see, intend to revoke, as soon as it should be in his power.

Soon after, the king, hearing that they were preparing a remonstrance against the levying of tonnage and poundage, in open infringement of the petition of right, without consent of parliament, came suddenly to the house of Lords, and ended the session by a prorogation.[§]

The petition of right was no sooner passed, than it was violated: duties were levied, and merchants imprisoned for refusing to pay them, as before. Charles likewise gave a striking proof of the insincerity of his concessions, by suppressing the copies of the petition of right which the parliament had ordered to be printed, and circulating others with his former evasive answer annexed: “an expedient,” says Hume, “by which Charles endeavoured to persuade the people, that he had nowise receded from his former claims and pretensions.”[¶] Yet this writer has the effrontery to say of Charles, in another place, “In every treaty, those concessions which he thought he could not in conscience maintain, he never could, by any motive or persuasion, be induced to make.”[∥]

No sooner was the parliament re-assembled, than the Commons proceeded to inquire into this pitiful evasion: they took notice of the recent violations of the petition of right; complained of the popish ceremonies which the prelates had already begun to introduce, and resumed the consideration of the question of tonnage and poundage. When, at length, at the motion of Sir John Elliot, and after a discussion of more than usual violence, a remonstrance was passed against levying that impost without parliamentary authority, Charles was so enraged that he at once dissolved the parliament,[**] and committed Elliot, Hollis, and other Edition: current; Page: [19] leading members,[*] to prison; where Elliot soon after died, a victim to his exertions to free his country from the yoke of despotism.

For twelve years after this period, no more parliaments were summoned: and here Mr. Brodie pauses to pass under review the individuals who at this time swayed the counsels of Charles.[†] In this we shall follow his example, confining, however, our attention to the principal figures in the picture—Strafforde and Laud.

The tragical close of Strafforde’s life has enabled his partisans to throw a theatrical glare over his character, which has long concealed its deformity from the public eye. In private life he was haughty, vindictive, and cruel; in public, he had no principle, other than the aggrandizement of himself: from his first entry into public life, he put himself up to auction, and only when the court refused to buy him, threw himself into the popular party: when bought, he turned round, and at once became not only the unblushing advocate, but the active instrument, of that system of tyranny which he had been the loudest to condemn.

With equal tyranny, and equal servility, were joined in Laud the most furious bigotry and the most puerile superstition. Himself a papist, in every thing except the supremacy of the pope, he caused the popish tenets and the popish ceremonies to be adopted by the Church of England: and so general was the expectation, that through his means Great Britain would again be brought within the catholic pale, that he actually had the offer of a cardinal’s hat, which, however, he did not venture to accept. In lending himself, body and soul, to the service of despotism, he only did what almost any man would have done in a similar situation. His other vices were peculiarly his own; cringing and adulation in order to rise, insolence after he had risen; the basest ingratitude towards his benefactors, and the most inveterate hatred towards all whom he believed to be, in any way, obstacles to the increase of his power.*

But how shall we attempt to describe the atrocities perpetrated during the twelve years’ intermission of parliament, under the government of Charles and of these worthy instruments? In the space to which we are confined, it would be the height of absurdity to make the attempt. Mr. Brodie has dedicated a long chapter to the purpose, and to him, therefore, the reader must refer.[‡] Suffice it to say, that ship-money, benevolences, loans, were now the least oppressive modes of extortion. Obsolete forest laws, statutes concerning tillage, and an old law against Edition: current; Page: [20] the increase of the metropolis, were revived;[*] and under pretence of these laws, fines were levied upon hundreds. Every person who possessed £20 a year in land was compelled to receive the honour of knighthood, which involved the payment of exorbitant fees. On the pretext of remedying defective titles to land, those who would not pay largely for a new title were threatened with the loss of their estates. Monopolies were carried to an extent before unknown; and the severest penalties were inflicted on all who infringed them. Chambers, a merchant of London, for refusing to pay tonnage and poundage without parliamentary authority, was summoned before the council, where having remarked that the merchants of England were as much screwed up as in Turkey, he was fined £2,000 in the star-chamber;[†] and lay twelve years in prison, because he would not degrade himself by submission. One Hillyard was fined £5,000 for selling salt-petre, contrary to proclamation: Rea, £2,000 for exporting fuller’s earth;[‡] and so in hundreds of instances which it would be tedious to mention. “Such severities,” says Hume, “were afterwards magnified into the greatest enormities.”[§] They really were not, then, in his opinion, enormities!

In respect to religion, Hume labours to the utmost of his power to excite contempt and scorn for the great mass of the people, because they thought there was reason to apprehend the re-establishment of popery; and he says that “the groundless charge” of popery against Laud, “was belied by his whole life and conduct.”[¶] We would willingly ask Hume, or any who share his sentiments, what there is in popery which renders it so great a curse to mankind? Its intolerance? But if in this respect there was any difference between the Church of England and the Church of Rome, it was only that the one employed one sort of torture, and the other another; that the one persecuted by burning, the other by protracted torments, exceeding in magnitude a hundred burnings. But they differed, perhaps, in tenets. Scarcely so; when image-worship, prayer to the dead, adoration at the altar, worship of saints, the real presence, confession, and absolution, were part of the established religion.* In ceremonials? But the formalities of the catholic church, Edition: current; Page: [21] whether with respect to worship, or to days, meats, and vestments, were scrupulously exacted. Nor was this all: even the supremacy of the king was denied; and the divine authority of bishops, and their superiority to the civil power, became fundamental articles of the high-church creed. Nay, an open defence of popery itself, published by one Chowney,[*] was dedicated to, and patronized by, Laud. The assertion, therefore, that there was no danger of popery, if it be true in sound, is in substance one of the grossest falsehoods ever palmed upon the credulity of the world.

Of the punishments inflicted upon all who vindicated the doctrines of the reformed, in opposition to popery and to the Church of England, we shall present the reader with a few examples.

Leighton, a doctor of divinity, for writing against the hierarchy, and the new ceremonies,[†] was seized by the officers of the high-commission, and after the most brutal treatment, was adjudged by the star-chamber to pay 10,000 pounds; in addition to which, it was ordained that,

after degradation, he should be whipped at Westminster, and set in the pillory there during the sitting of the court; have one ear cut off, one side of his nose slit, and one cheek branded with s. s. for sower of sedition: that he should then be carried back to prison, and, at a future convenient time, be brought to Cheapside, on a market-day, and be there whipt again, and set in the pillory, and have his other ear cut off, his other cheek branded, and the other side of his nose slit: after which was only to follow imprisonment for life.*

The whole of this sentence was executed to the letter. What an unfeeling slave must he be, who can talk in the following strain of these atrocious cruelties:

Leighton who had written libels against the king, the queen, the bishops, and the whole administration, was condemned by a very severe, if not a cruel sentence; but the execution of it was suspended for some time, in expectation of his submission. All the severities, indeed, of this reign were exercised against those who triumphed in their sufferings, who courted persecution, and braved authority; and, on that account their punishment may be deemed the more just, but the less prudent.

A king, then, may justly be guilty of any cruelties which he pleases, provided he practises them only upon those who resist his power; only upon those on whom alone he can have any motive to practise them. The robber, who murders you to obtain your purse, would find this doctrine extremely convenient: had you quietly consented to give up your money you might possibly have escaped with your life; for which reason he is perfectly justified in depriving you of both.

Edition: current; Page: [22]

Prynne, declared by Lord Clifford in the House of Lords (10th May, 1809) to have been one of the most eminent lawyers whom England ever produced, had written a book to prove the unlawfulness of stage-plays.[*] Bastwick, a physician, in a work against popery and prelacy, had asserted the supremacy of the king.[†] For these crimes, Prynne was condemned to lose his ears, to stand twice in the pillory, to be degraded from the bar, and at the university, to pay a fine of £5,000, and to be imprisoned for life. Bastwick, to pay £1,000; to be debarred his practice of physic, to be excommunicated, and imprisoned till he made a recantation.

These two individuals published vindications of themselves;[‡] not without considerable warmth of expression (and no wonder): for this they were adjudged to lose their ears (Prynne’s having, on the former occasion, been imperfectly cut off), and to be closely imprisoned for life in the isles of Jersey, Guernsey and Scilly, without access of kindred or friends, and without books, pens, ink, or paper.[§] In this situation they continued until released by the long parliament. Burton, a divine, for two sermons which he had published, suffered the same punishment. This “severity” (such is the mild expression of Hume), he is pleased to acknowledge as having been “perhaps, in itself, somewhat blameable.”[¶]

Persecution was not confined to the opponents of the established religion; it was extended to all who resisted arbitrary power, and to all against whom Laud and Strafforde had any personal pique.

Sir David Foulis, a member of the council of York, was, upon a charge of speaking irreverently of his office, opposing the commission of knighthood, and throwing out some remarks against Wentworth, which he denied, fined by the star-chamber, 5,000l.; assessed in damages to Wentworth, 3,000l.; and ordained to make an acknowledgment of his offences, both to his majesty and to Wentworth, not only in the star-chamber, but in the court of York, and at the assizes, and condemned to imprisonment during the king’s pleasure, and to be deprived of his various offices as member of the council of York, deputy-lieutenant, and justice of peace; his son, Henry, was likewise fined 500l.*

Williams, bishop of Lincoln, who had raised Laud to his present power, and whom, as a formidable rival, Laud was resolved to crush, was, on frivolous Edition: current; Page: [23] pretences, suspended from his office, fined 10,000l., and imprisoned during the king’s pleasure; and further, on a charge of having received letters, in which contemptuous allusions were made to some one, supposed to be Laud, he was fined 8,000l. more, and again imprisoned.*

These are a few of the acts of that administration, under which Hume can say that the people enjoyed “every blessing of government except liberty”[*] (quære, what does he mean by liberty). These are some of the grievances which, in his opinion, were “neither burthensome on the people’s properties, nor anyway shocking to the natural humanity of mankind.”[†] And when Hampden, Pym, and others, resolved to seek refuge in another hemisphere from the tyranny which oppressed them at home, Hume can assert, that they fled in order to “enjoy lectures and discourses of any length or form which pleased them!”[‡]

But we are now drawing near to a period when these horrors were to be at an end; and the first blow was struck from a quarter from which it was least to be expected—from the aristocracy.

While in England the accumulation of property, and the rise of the commercial towns, had raised up a wealthy mercantile class, which trimmed the balance between the king and the nobility; the neighbouring country of Scotland had continued poor, and like the other poor countries of Europe, to a great degree feudal and aristocratic. Hence an important difference in the character of the struggle which ensued. In England, the people were strong enough to overcome the united force of the king and of the nobility. In Scotland, the quarrel was substantially nothing more than that struggle for power between the aristocracy and the king, which had existed in one shape or another from the earliest period of its history. The people followed, as usual, the banner of their superiors, with only the additional stimulus of religious zeal.

The king had never been so powerful in Scotland as in England, because the nobility had been more so. By the addition which he obtained to his power from his accession to another throne, he was enabled to carry various measures into effect, which, though hurtful to the aristocracy, were beneficial to the people. The greater part of the church-lands had, at the Reformation, been granted out to the nobility. Edition: current; Page: [24] A general revocation[*] was now published; it was never executed, but suspended, in terrorem, over their heads. The tithes, which had been transferred to them at the same period, and which they had exacted from the smaller proprietors, or heritors, with much greater rigour than ever the church had done, they were now ordered to dispose of to the heritors at a fixed rate.[†]

It was by the extraordinary institution of the Lords of Articles that the passing of these acts had been obtained. The lords of articles were a committee of thirty-two (eight barons, eight prelates, and sixteen commoners), appointed originally to prepare bills for the parliament, but who had by custom obtained the initiative of the laws. In this committee the spiritual lords chose the temporal, and the temporal the spiritual; but the commons had hitherto chosen deputies for themselves.[‡] By giving the choice of the sixteen commoners to the sixteen lords, James had given absolute power over the committee, and consequently over the parliament, to the prelates, that is, to himself, the parliament retaining only a veto, which they were usually afraid to exercise.[§]

Even this power Charles might have retained, could he have refrained from insulting the religious feelings of the people. But, whether from bigotry or love of power, or, as is most probable, from both combined, he cherished an inveterate hatred against the presbyterian religion.

For the overthrow of this sect, James had already done much; he had re-established episcopacy, as the religion of the state; he had obtained in a packed general assembly the ratification of the five articles of Perth, by which, ceremonies borrowed from the English church, and savouring of popery, were introduced; he had further, without any colour of law, established the high-commission court, which assumed the power of summoning persons before it, interrogating them on their religious opinions, and if their answers were not deemed satisfactory, inflicting the most arbitrary punishments.[¶] All this the people had borne; but this was not enough for Charles: not content with having established the episcopal church government, he must needs impose upon them the episcopal tenets also.

He visited Scotland in person, and summoned a parliament, which gratified him by passing, among other obnoxious acts, one which gave him the power of regulating the habits of the clergy.[∥] It was generally believed that this and other Edition: current; Page: [25] acts were obtained by making a false return of the votes. A petition which had been prepared against them, but which had never been presented nor published, was, nevertheless, made use of to crush Balmerino, one of the refractory lords. The only crime which could be laid to his charge, was that of possessing a copy of the petition, and showing it confidentially to a friend. For this he was tried by a packed jury, condemned to death, and only not executed from apprehension of popular resentment.[*]

The accurate, the candid Hume, who so often asserts that a groundless dread of popery was the sole cause of the Scottish troubles—what says he of this? Not a word. Of an event so notorious, he gives no intimation whatever; because it is alone sufficient to stamp with falsehood the whole of his assertions concerning the mildness of Charles, and the inoffensiveness of his measures.

Having thus struck terror, as he thought, into the Scottish aristocracy, Charles next proceeded to introduce a new liturgy and canons, resembling closely, in most respects, the religion of the Church of England, but in some points more nearly approaching to popery than their model.[†] A despot never knows when his safety requires him to stop short. At the introduction of the new service-book, the tumult was so great that it could not be read, and the bishop[‡] who attempted to read it was compelled to fly for his life. Charles still persisted in his design, and by his imprudent measures, the ferment was still further increased. The nobles improved the opportunity: petitions without number were poured in against the service-book; a great proportion of the gentry, and twenty peers, openly protested against it; the people thronged to Edinburgh, and the council, alarmed at their numbers, consented to the appointment of representatives to manage the concerns of the whole body. The popular party was thus regularly organized, and the four tables, so the deputies were called, gave unity to all their proceedings.

The king, as is usual with weak persons when their will is unexpectedly resisted, first bullied, and then became alarmed. A furious proclamation was put forth, bestowing praise on the liturgy, and abuse on the petitioners, and commanding them, under the penalties of high treason, to disperse.[§] This proclamation was protested against as soon as issued, and led to the famous Covenant, which was now drawn up and signed by a great majority of the Scottish population.[¶] The Edition: current; Page: [26] king at length took the alarm, and determined to temporize. He sent the Marquis of Hamilton into Scotland, with authority to treat; and “he thought,” says Hume, “that on his part he had made very satisfactory concessions, when he offered to suspend the canons and the liturgy, till, in a fair and legal way, they could be received, and so to model the high-commission that it should no longer give offence to his subjects.”[*] The Covenanters, however, were not to be so easily duped; and it was as impossible to disunite, as to deceive or overcome them. The commissioner wrote to the king, saying, that he must either prepare for war, or recal the canons, the liturgy, and the five articles of Perth, summon a parliament, and convoke a general assembly of the church.[†] Charles soon took his resolution; but directed Hamilton to temporize till his preparations for war should be completed. In Burnet’s Memoirs of the Hamiltons, a work to which Hume continually refers, several of Charles’s letters are preserved, in which he permits the commissioner to flatter the covenanters with what hopes he pleases, provided he does not commit the king himself; and tells him, that his chief end is, to win time till the royal fleet shall have set sail.* Yet, Hume can say, that Charles “was candid, sincere, upright, as much as any man whom we meet with in history;” that “it would be difficult to find another character so unexceptionable in this particular;” and that, “even his enemies, though they loaded him with many calumnies, did not insist on this accusation.”[‡]

Hamilton returned to London and, finding the king’s preparations less advanced than he had expected, convinced him that, to gain time, great concessions must be made. While the king, therefore, was maturing his preparations, Hamilton was sent back into Scotland with power to recal the canons and liturgy, to abolish the high-commission, to suspend the five articles of Perth, and to summon a parliament and a general assembly. He carried down with him a counter-covenant,[§] containing a bond to maintain the established religion as at present professed, a phrase applicable alike to both the contending sects. So palpable an evasion had no effect, but still further to disgust the opposite party. The general assembly met: and before any thing had been done, the commissioner, by the king’s direction (see his own letters), found a pretext for dissolving it.[¶] (Yet the king was ever “candid, upright, sincere.”) Matters were now at a crisis. The alternative was, to disobey, or to give up all that had been gained. Having proved Edition: current; Page: [27] by precedents their right of sitting, notwithstanding any injunction to the contrary, the assembly proceeded to abolish episcopacy, and abrogate the articles of Perth.[*]

It was impossible any longer to avoid a war. The king appears to have anticipated an easy conquest: so ill was he prepared for the resistance which he experienced, that without a single battle, or almost a single skirmish, he was compelled to patch up a peace, and convoke an assembly and a parliament.

Without mentioning the former assembly, that which was now convened proceeded to confirm its acts; and the new commissioner, Traquair, was authorized by the king to ratify these regulations, but not without captious distinctions. Even Hume is here compelled to admit, that the king secretly “retained an intention of seizing favourable opportunities, in order to recover the ground which he had lost:”[†] and yet, “in every treaty, those concessions which he thought he could not in conscience maintain, he never could, by any motive or persuasion, be induced to make.”[‡]

A piece of casuistry, therefore, was provided. The bishops protested against the acts of the assembly; that the non-concurrence of what they deemed an essential part, might afford a pretext for disregarding the proceedings of the whole. Traquair was also directed to put in, at the close of the session, a reservation, that anything done in the king’s absence might be challenged afterwards, if prejudicial to his interest.

Episcopacy having been abolished, the institution of Lords of Articles, as formerly constituted, could no longer exist; and the parliament proceeded to place it on a different footing. It was now enacted, that each estate should choose its own deputies to sit on the articles, and that they should no longer possess a veto on debate, but merely the powers of a committee.[§] A bill was also prepared for triennial parliaments,[¶] and several other important measures were in progress, when Traquair, by the king’s direction, prorogued the parliament, a power hitherto exercised solely by the parliament itself. Cautious not to give any hold against them, they obeyed the order, and in the mean time, sent commissioners to London to protest against the prorogation.

Charles, however, now determined to take off the mask. Scarcely had the commissioners reached London, when they were thrown into prison. “The earl of Traquaire,” says Hume, “had intercepted a letter written to the king of France by the Scottish malcontents.”[∥] The insinuation contained in this phrase is false. The Edition: current; Page: [28] letter had never been intercepted, for it had never been sent. It had only been written: and besides, there was nothing in it which did not fairly bear an innocent interpretation. This, however, was the pretence on which the commissioners, Loudon and Dunfermline, were imprisoned.

When, to the ordinary charges of government, was to be added the expense of a war, the illegal resources, which were adequate to all common occasions, could no longer suffice. Charles called a parliament at Westminster, but the Commons, as before, refused to give supply the precedence over grievances.[*] He saw, or thought he saw, that if they continued to sit, they would pass a vote declaring ship-money to be illegal. This he prevented by a hasty dissolution,[†] before they had granted a supply, and committed three of their leading members to the Tower.[‡] To obtain money, new extortions were practised; the East India company (on pretence of a purchase on credit) were robbed of all their pepper, which was sold at a great discount for ready money. A grant from the convocation, and three subsidies which had been obtained from the Irish parliament, did something;[§] voluntary contributions from the royalist party supplied the rest.

The second Scottish campaign was still more unsuccessful than the first. No sooner had the king’s army advanced to Newcastle, than the Scots passed the Tweed, routed Lord Conway, and forced the king to retreat. Newcastle then fell into their hands. With an army disaffected, and a people more disposed to join with the Scots than to attack them, Charles did not venture to fight. A negotiation was opened, and during its continuance he had to maintain the Scottish army as well as his own. The money which, for this purpose, he was compelled to borrow from the city, could only be obtained on condition of summoning a parliament.

It was under new and favourable auspices that the long parliament was convened. Secured against dissolution by the necessities of the king, and by the presence of the Scottish army in England, they had only to improve the opportunity, and tyranny might yet be overthrown.

The same historian, who has laboured to disguise the selfishness of Charles under the mask of conscience and of principle, has endeavoured, by malicious insinuations, to discredit the motives of the popular leaders.[¶] With their motives, however, we have nothing to do; nor, if we had, is it possible that their motives should ever be, with any certainty, ascertained. During their lives these statesmen enjoyed a high reputation for integrity; nor do they appear, by any thing which they did, to have deserved to forfeit that character. If they had possessed undue power, Edition: current; Page: [29] they would probably, like other men, have abused it; not having such power, they are to be judged by what they did, and not by what, under other circumstances, they might have done.

Among the first and best of their acts was the impeachment of Strafforde.[*] His general support of despotism, and specific acts of misgovernment, as lord lieutenant of Ireland, and president of the council of York, were the principal charges. Finch and Laud were likewise impeached.[†] The former in his successive capacities of Speaker of the House of Commons, chief-justice and lord-keeper, had been the instrument of some of the worst acts of the government of Charles. He fled, and it is a striking proof of the moderation of the popular leaders, if, as was suspected, they connived at his escape. Some judges, ecclesiastics and others, the subordinate instruments, shared the fate of their superiors.[‡] Prynne, Bastwick, Burton, and other victims of judicial tyranny, were liberated from confinement. Ship-money, and other extortions, were declared to be illegal.[§] The levying of tonnage and poundage, without consent of parliament, was forbidden.[¶] Petitions against episcopacy, and complaints against the lives of the clergy, were received from all parts of the kingdom.[∥] To inquire into this last grievance, a committee was appointed, which Hume stigmatizes with the strongest epithets of reproach.[**] That in some cases undue severity may have been used, or venial trespasses exaggerated, is probable enough; we will add, that it is not to be wondered at: for when was it known that, in a dispute of such magnitude, either party confined itself scrupulously within the bounds of moderation? The only question which deserves the slightest consideration is, which party was substantially in the right. To lay undue stress upon a trifling irregularity, is among the strongest of all presumptions against the goodness of a cause.*

To prevent that disuse of parliaments, which had been the fruitful cause of so Edition: current; Page: [30] many evils, the triennial act was passed,[*] that one meeting of parliament, at least, in three years might be secured. It was not without great reluctance that Charles assented to this important bill.

At this period, however, if Hume is to be believed, he “resolved to alter his whole conduct, and to regain the confidence of his people by pliableness, by concessions, and by a total conformity to their inclinations and prejudices.”[†] This is one of those bold assertions by which Hume has generally succeeded in deceiving his readers, merely because they cannot believe, that a historian of eminence would hazard an assertion which he must necessarily have known to be false. But the insincerity of Charles is a subject on which, as yet, we cannot enter. The trial of Strafforde first demands our attention, as well from its importance, as from the utter want of candour which Hume’s account of it displays.

A committee had been appointed to prepare the articles of charge, “with authority,” says Hume, “to examine all witnesses, to call for every paper, and to use any means of scrutiny, with regard to any part of the earl’s behaviour and conduct.”[‡] This he calls an inquisition. In the first place, his account of it is false. They were not authorized to employ the torture: they could not therefore be authorized to use “any means of scrutiny.” What is probably true is, that their powers were not defined; nor, indeed, in English law, is any thing defined: but it does not appear that they went, in any respect, beyond the bounds of justice. In the next place, nothing is easier than to call any kind of investigatorial procedure an inquisition. “No man can be expected to oppose arguments to epithets.”* The question is simply this: Shall, or shall not, the accusers be compelled to bring charges, without knowing what charges there is evidence to support? Is it meant, that to examine witnesses, and to call for papers, is an inquisition? If so, it is an inquisition which ought always to exist.

What, above all, excites the indignation of Hume, is, that the committee was permitted to examine privy counsellors with regard to opinions delivered at the board; which banished, he says, all confidence from the deliberations in council.[§] One thing is clear—either the king who acts, or the ministers who advise, must be responsible: but whether the one or the other be punished, Hume’s indignation is the same.

He then deliberately asserts, that the impeachment of Sir George Ratcliffe had no other purpose than to deprive Strafforde of the assistance of his best friend. And where is the proof? the charge, it seems, was not prosecuted against him.[¶] As if Edition: current; Page: [31] Hume did not know, that not Ratcliffe only, but numbers of the tools of power were now impeached, and never afterwards molested. Ratcliffe was the principal accomplice in all the atrocities of Strafforde’s government in Ireland; all the evidence against Strafforde, was evidence against him; and he might with perfect justice have been put to the bar with Strafforde, tried, condemned, and executed along with him. The Commons were satisfied with one sacrifice to public justice; they spared the rest: and their moderation and forbearance are to be construed into a proof of intentional injustice!

In commenting upon the articles of charge, Hume has, if possible, been still more disingenuous. The odium which Strafforde had drawn upon himself in Ireland, Hume coolly ascribes to his virtues; and the general character of his administration Hume asserts to have been “innocent, and even laudable.”[*] We cannot convey a better idea of the character of Hume, than by advising the reader to look into Mr. Brodie,[†] nay, into the letters and despatches of Strafforde himself, and see what was Hume’s idea of innocent and laudable conduct in public men. Would space permit, we might enlarge upon the despotism, the rapacity, the cruelty, which characterized this “laudable” administration, and leave the reader to judge of the feelings of the man who can assert, that his conduct was “equally promotive of his master’s interests, and that of the subjects committed to his care.”[‡] But we willingly stake our case upon one single act: and that act we will quote in the words of Hume himself.

It had been reported at the table of Lord Chancellor Loftus, that Annesley, one of the deputy’s attendants, in moving a stool, had sorely hurt his master’s foot, who was at that time afflicted with the gout. Perhaps, said Mountnorris, who was present at table, it was done in revenge of that public affront which my lord deputy formerly put upon him: But he has a brother, who would not have taken such a revenge. This casual, and seemingly innocent, at least ambiguous, expression, was reported to Strafforde, who, on pretence that such a suggestion might prompt Annesley to avenge himself in another manner, ordered Mountnorris, who was an officer, to be tried by a court-martial for mutiny and sedition against his general. The court, which consisted of the chief officers of the army, found the crime to be capital, and condemned that nobleman to lose his head.[§]

A pretty stretch of authority, and a tolerable proof what must have been the spirit of Strafforde’s administration. But mark what follows:

In vain did Strafforde plead in his own defence, against this article of impeachment, that the sentence of Mountnorris was the deed, and that, too, unanimous, of the court, not the act of the deputy; that he spake not to a member of the court, nor voted in the cause, but sat uncovered as a party, and then immediately withdrew, to leave them to their freedom; that sensible of the iniquity of the sentence, he procured his majesty’s free pardon to Edition: current; Page: [32] Mountnorris; and that he did not even keep that nobleman a moment in suspense with regard to his fate, but instantly told him, that he himself would rather lose his right hand than execute such a sentence, nor was his lordship’s life in any danger.[*]

If ever the truth was so told, as to have the effect of a lie, it is here. What is true, is, that Strafforde did make these assertions, as is represented: what is not true is, that Hume believed them. When Strafforde, and his panegyrist, asserted that the sentence was the act of the court, and that he procured the king’s pardon, because he was sensible of the iniquity of the sentence, they forgot to state, that it was at the persuasion of Strafforde himself, and not without great difficulty, that the court was persuaded to pass sentence, and that they did not at length comply, without previously stipulating for Mountnorris’s life; in consequence of which stipulation, he was only dismissed the army, imprisoned for three years, and deprived of his estate. It may be pardonable in a man, whose life is at stake, to endeavour to save himself by a falsehood;* but what shall we say of a historian, who, with the facts before him, repeats and countenances a story which he must have known to be false?

Being unable to extenuate the conduct of the council of York, which, if possible, exceeded even that of the star-chamber in atrocity, Hume does his best to exculpate Strafforde, by asserting that he never in person presided in the court.[†] But what is to become of official responsibility, if a public functionary is not responsible for the conduct of a deputy, removeable at his pleasure, and sure, therefore, to act in the way which he knows to be agreeable to his superior?

With regard to the evidence of the illegal advice which Strafforde was accused of having given as a privy counsellor, Hume has a number of cavils, which have been fully exposed by Mr. Brodie,[‡] but which, in fact, were scarcely deserving of notice. To prove the words, was rather necessary on technical, than on rational, grounds. If the tyranny of the government was notorious, and if, of that government, Strafforde was a member, he was surely responsible for its tyranny, in justice, and even in law, unless he could prove that he had actually done whatever he could to prevent it.

The most plausible part of Strafforde’s defence, was that in which he endeavoured to make it appear, that, whatever might be his guilt, he was not a Edition: current; Page: [33] traitor, the legal definition of treason not including his offence.[*] Nothing, indeed, can be more conclusive than his arguments against the practice of inflicting punishment for undefined offences; and it would be well if our lawyers, and lawyer-ridden legislators, would bestow somewhat more of attention upon them than has hitherto been usual. Unless, however, there be punishment for undefined offences, under English law there can be no punishment at all. Judge Hale long ago confessed, that he knew not what theft was;[†] yet we see men, every day, hanged for theft. It may be replied, moreover, that Strafforde, if he had not violated any one law, more than any other, had violated all the laws, by setting the royal authority above them: that if he was not tried under any particular law, so neither was he tried before a court of law, but before a tribunal expressly created to take cognizance of those offences, to the treatment of which the ordinary law was considered inadequate.

The legal argument, however, after considerable discussion, had so much weight with the Commons, that they dropped the impeachment and brought in a bill of attainder; a course which, though strictly legal, and a striking proof of their regard for the forms, as well as for the substance, of justice, is represented by Hume as a proof of their consciousness that grounds had not been shewn for a conviction.[‡] The impeachment, he says, was against law; and yet, to drop the impeachment, and proceed according to law, was, it seems, a proof of injustice.*

When the bill of attainder had passed both houses,[§] and awaited the royal Edition: current; Page: [34] assent, information was received of a conspiracy among the officers, instigated by Charles, to bring the army to London, rescue Strafforde, and dissolve the parliament. It is impossible to exceed the disingenuousness with which this incident is spoken of by Hume.[*] His object is, to make it appear that there was no plot, and to insinuate, that the whole story was a forgery of the popular leaders. He cannot deny that there was a secret association among the officers, in close correspondence with some of the king’s servants; that a petition was sent to Charles, countersigned by him, and sent back, to be signed by the army; and that in this petition they offered to come up to London.[†] He asserts, however, first, that the project had been laid aside, two months before it was disclosed to the parliament. In this he follows Clarendon:[‡] that the assertion is false, has been proved by Mr. Brodie from Clarendon himself, as well as by giving at length the evidence taken by the Commons on the occasion.[§] In the next place, he also copies from Clarendon in his account of the petition itself; although, as Mr. Brodie well observes, the gross anachronisms in Clarendon’s petition prove it conclusively to be a forgery. But, thirdly, he suppresses part, even of what Clarendon admits; viz. the recommendation to punish the ring-leaders in certain alleged tumults, for the suppression of which the army offered its services. But the plan, he says,[¶] was an absurd one, while the Scots were in England; yet the king is admitted to have countersigned the petition; folly, indeed, characterized his counsels throughout: and in calculating upon the probable conduct of a despot, we must never proceed upon the supposition that he possesses common sense.*

The king now finding it no longer safe to withhold his assent from the bill of attainder, the bill passed, and Strafforde was executed. The perfection of history, like the perfection of a novel, has usually been considered to be a strong dramatic effect. So fine an opportunity for pathos was not to be lost; of the last meeting of Strafforde with Laud, Hume has attempted to make a most affecting scene, and to call forth all the sympathies of mankind in favour of these great criminals, after turning the sufferings of their hundreds of victims into a jest.[∥] But this practice is Edition: current; Page: [35] universal with Hume; the many, and their sufferings, he laughs to scorn: are the one and the few affected? then is the time to whine.

Another bill, which received the royal assent conjointly with the bill of attainder, was, in its consequences, most fatal, and has never yet received due attention. We mean, the bill by which the parliament was made indissoluble, except by its own consent,[*] and was thus erected into a perpetual aristocracy. The professed object of this act was, to prevent the king from dissolving the parliament. But this might have been done, without rendering it indissoluble. The people, on those few occasions on which they have risen against misgovernment, have seldom, unhappily, been wise enough, while they overthrew one tyranny, to provide securities against the establishment of another.

The Commons might reasonably be expected still to continue faithful to their duty so long as they were weak; but no sooner was Charles overcome, and the powers of government thrown wholly into their hands, than the public interest was sure to be postponed to theirs, and their subsequent proceedings to degenerate into a mere struggle for power.

This bill gives Hume another opportunity for pathos; and he endows his hero, for the occasion, with an appropriate quantum of sentimentality.

Charles, in the agony of grief, shame, and remorse, for Strafforde’s doom, perceived not that this other bill was of still more fatal consequence to his authority, and rendered the power of his enemies perpetual, as it was already uncontrollable. In comparison with the bill of attainder, by which he deemed himself an accomplice in his friend’s murder, this concession made no figure in his eyes.[†]

Very pathetic truly; but history is not to be written like a tragedy. The truth is, that, without an abuse of terms, such a thing as friendship, between a king and his subject, cannot be said to exist; still less between a despot and his tool. As well might that name be applied to the connexion between a debauchee and the pimp who ministers to his pleasures. Charles knew, that by employing and protecting Strafforde, he was promoting his own interest; Strafforde knew, that, in serving Charles, he was promoting his. The real truth is, that Charles gave his assent to the bill, not out of grief for Strafforde, but as a means of getting money; a Lancashire knight having offered to procure him a loan of 650,000l. upon that condition. For the hero, however, of a romance, who could do so very unromantic a thing as to abandon his friend, it was absolutely necessary to find some palliation, and it was a very obvious thought to endow him with a remorse, which there is no sufficient reason to believe that he actually felt.

During the course of the above proceedings, bills had been prepared for the abolition of the council of York, the star-chamber, the high-commission, and other arbitrary and oppressive jurisdictions.[‡] After some hesitation, Charles passed the Edition: current; Page: [36] bills; and, though with great difficulty, was prevailed upon to disband the Irish army, which having been raised solely for the subjugation of Scotland, was now no longer required. The Scots immediately returned to their homes, and the English army was dismissed.

The king now determined to visit Scotland, where he had already begun to intrigue with a powerful party. “He arrived,” says Hume, “in Scotland with an intention of abdicating almost entirely the small share of power which there remained to him, and of giving full satisfaction, if possible, to his restless subjects in that kingdom.”[*] Hume’s language always imports, that he can dive into the hearts of all his characters. It is difficult to understand how that which he here asserts could have been known to him, even had it been true. In reality, however, he knew that it was not true; he must have learned as much even from Clarendon, who, for these transactions, is his chief authority.[†] That the king had no intention of resigning any power which he could safely keep, is sufficiently certain from the principles of human nature; but the perfidy which he meditated was of a still more atrocious kind; and the entire suppression of the evidence of it by Hume, had he been guilty of no other violation of truth, would alone suffice to cover him with eternal infamy.

Argyle and Hamilton, being seized with an apprehension, real or pretended, that the Earl of Crawford and others meant to assassinate them, left the parliament suddenly, and retired into the country; but, upon invitation and assurances, returned in a few days. This event, which had neither cause nor effect, that was visible, nor purpose, nor consequence, was commonly denominated the incident.[‡]

Would it be believed, that the event which is thus slurred over was a plot to seize, if not to assassinate the most distinguished of the popular leaders?

There were three parties at this time in Scotland; the royalists, the covenanters, and the trimmers. Of the covenanters, the acknowledged head was Argyle. The royalists had recently acquired a leader in Montrose, a man of no principle, who had begun his career as a covenanter, but finding himself supplanted in the field by Leslie, and in counsels by Argyle, went over to the court, and entered into a treaty to betray his late associates. Among those who by trimming and compromise endeavoured to keep well with both parties, Hamilton and his brother Laneric were the chief. As is usual with trimmers, they had no credit with either party; and were abhorred as rivals by Montrose, scarcely less than Argyle himself. A conspiracy was formed to seize the Hamiltons and Argyle, who were to be detained on board a frigate in Leith roads, and assassinated on the slightest resistance. Thus much is proved beyond the possibility of dispute, and confirmed, in the most material circumstances, by the evidence of the actors themselves. Such a project would Edition: current; Page: [37] never have been formed, without some ulterior design. The immediate renewal of the war is the very least which can have been contemplated. At the time, it was believed that the royalists were to rise in arms and possess themselves of Edinburgh, before the other party could recover from its surprise. We learn from Clarendon,[*] that Montrose had before offered to assassinate the three lords; but that the king had recommended as a preferable measure, that proofs should be prepared for a parliamentary impeachment. As it is evident by what sort of a parliament the impeachment would have been tried, if the conspiracy had succeeded, the atrocity would have been much the same whether perpetrated with or without the forms of law.

In a subsequent note,[†] Hume endeavours to prove, that Clarendon must have been mistaken in ascribing such an offer to Montrose; since, during the whole of Charles’s continuance in Scotland, Montrose was in prison; having been detected, during the expedition into England, in a secret correspondence with the court. But even men who are in prison may, notwithstanding, have ways and means of communicating with those who are without; no very recondite truth, one would suppose, but a truth of which Hume seems to have been ignorant. It is proved that three letters were conveyed to the king from Montrose, and that Cochrane, who carried the letters, and who was one of the chief actors in the conspiracy, had a secret interview with the king. We do not learn this from Hume, but we learn it from Murray,* groom of the chamber, through whose intervention Cochrane was introduced to a private audience.

The failure of this conspiracy did not deter Charles from engaging in new projects of a similar nature. And it was at this period that he resolved upon the violent proceedings, which almost immediately followed his return to Whitehall.

When he returned, he found the parliament already re-assembled, and the celebrated remonstrance already passed.[‡] In this document, the Commons recapitulated the principal of the grievances which had been complained of since Charles ascended the throne, ascribing them to the influence of evil counsels, which the king showed no inclination to discard. Nothing can be more undeserved than the reproaches thrown out by Hume upon this part of their conduct; nor any thing more unfair, than his whole representation of the posture of affairs at this crisis. “All these grievances had been already redressed, and even laws enacted for future security against their return.”[§] In the first place, it is not true, that all the grievances had been redressed. But secondly, in strictness of speech, none of them Edition: current; Page: [38] had been redressed at all. What, in fact, had been done? They had been declared illegal: was this an adequate “security against their return?” As much as this had been done by the petition of right; and with what advantage, the years of tyranny that followed abundantly testify. But further, Hume has entirely misrepresented the very nature and object of this celebrated state paper, in as far, at least, as it is possible to gather from his statements any conception of its nature and object at all. What the Commons complained of was, not the grievances, which had been removed, but the counsels which had occasioned them, and the want of securities against their revival.[*] Their object was, to obtain a real and effectual security, by making the appointment of public officers dependent upon the approbation of parliament. This, among many other beneficial regulations, had already been enacted in Scotland;[†] and a bill to the same effect had been introduced into the English House of Commons.[‡] The object of the remonstrance was, to prepare the way for this bill; and had the majority which passed the remonstrance been a large one, the bill would have been pressed with almost a certainty of success; the majority, however, being small, it was permitted for the present to drop.

The first act of Charles, on his return to the capital, was to dismiss a guard, which the parliament, in their alarm at the incident, had appointed under the Earl of Essex for their own protection. Hume plainly insinuates that their alarm was feigned,[§] which is exactly of a piece with all the rest of the story, as he tells it. The guard was no more than what is allowed to every petty court of justice; and when an attempt was made to circumvent the principal leaders of the popular party in Scotland, the leaders of that party in England had surely some reason for alarm. In lieu of the guard which he dismissed, the king offered them another; but they chose rather to dispense with a guard altogether, than to accept one under a commander of his appointment.[¶]

Various circumstances now contributed to hasten a breach. By the power of impressing any of his subjects at pleasure, the king could inflict a severe punishment upon any one who might be obnoxious to him for any reason. The bill which was before the House, for pressing soldiers to serve against the Irish rebels, seemed to offer a favourable opportunity for redressing this grievance; and a clause, directed against the power of arbitrary imprisonment, was inserted in the bill, and sent up to the Lords along with it.[∥] That Charles should willingly acquiesce in this invasion of his power, was certainly not to be expected; and in violation of parliamentary privilege, he came to the upper House, while the bill Edition: current; Page: [39] was there depending, and declared that he would not pass the bill if it contained any such clause.[*] The growing strength of the popular party had already begun to alarm the aristocracy; and the Lords endeavoured to delay the bill, not daring openly to reject it.

Although the designs of Charles were, as yet, by no means matured, he had the imprudence to act as if they had already been successful. Sir Henry Vane was dismissed from his office, for no apparent cause except the evidence he had given against Strafforde. A frivolous accusation was brought by Charles himself against Lord Newport, another material witness on the same great occasion. And he unaccountably chose this time to publish a proclamation, for conformity to the established church and worship;[†] thus clearly manifesting a determination to refuse all the demands of the Commons with respect to religion. At the same time, he gave fresh cause for alarm, by dismissing Sir William Balfour, Lieutenant of the Tower, and appointing in his stead one Colonel Lunsford, who was actually under outlawry for an attempt at assassination. Meanwhile, the king had collected round him a number of discharged officers and soldiers who, together with some royalist gentlemen, and students of the inns of court, formed, under the command of Lunsford and others, a sort of irregular guard, ready to act as circumstances might require.

Against the appointment of Lunsford as Lieutenant of the Tower, petitions were presented, and resolutions passed:[‡] when these were found ineffectual, Lord Newport, Constable of the Tower, was ordered by the parliament to reside within it, as a check upon Lunsford; but was immediately dismissed from his office. And when at length the king felt himself under the necessity of dismissing Lunsford, he appointed Sir John Byron, who was almost equally obnoxious.

The alarm of the Commons was still further heightened, when twelve of the bishops, alleging that their access to the House of Peers was obstructed by the mob, protested against any thing which might be done in their absence. This, it will be remembered, was the very artifice which had already been employed to invalidate the proceedings of the general assembly fo the Scottish church. The bishops were impeached and thrown into confinement.[§] Their conduct, though in itself merely Edition: current; Page: [40] contemptible, and utterly unworthy of notice, was calculated, from the accompanying circumstances, to give serious reason for alarm. The protestation, before it was presented to parliament, had been communicated to the king, and approved by him. This even Hume calls an “egregious imprudence.”[*] But was it no more? A declaration of the king (for having received his approbation it was his), that whatever the parliament might hereafter do, was by him considered to be invalid, and, therefore, not binding upon him, however he might find it convenient to give it his nominal assent—was this no more than an imprudence? To the impartial reader, it may perhaps appear to be treachery, and treachery of the basest, because of the most pernicious, kind.

“A few days after,” says Hume, “the king was betrayed into another indiscretion, still more fatal; an indiscretion, to which all the ensuing disorders and civil wars ought immediately and directly to be ascribed. This was the impeachment of Lord Kimbolton and the five members.”[†]

Even this admission from Hume is important. The measure, however, to which, as he truly says, the war which ensued is directly to be ascribed; the measure by which the king declared open war against his parliament, and demonstrated that his ever cordially acquiescing in the just and necessary diminution of his power was hopeless; this measure, which, in a most artful and plausible manner, Hume labours to represent as the effect of passion and precipitation,[‡] had actually been resolved upon before the king left Scotland.

In justice to Hume, it is necessary to state, that the correspondence between Charles and Secretary Nicholas, by which this important fact is completely and indisputably established, had not, at the time when he wrote, been given to the world.[§] Enough, however, was even then known to render it almost certain, that this violent measure had been long premeditated, and was by no means adopted, as he represents, in a moment of haste. The whole conduct of the king, from his arrival at Whitehall; the dismissal of the guard under Essex; the appointment of Lunsford and Byron to the command of the Tower; the large number of reformed officers whom he had assembled round him, and the threatening language which they held; all these are important articles of circumstantial evidence, and the exact similarity of the project to the Scottish incident, renders it probable that both were part of the same preconcerted plan of operations.

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The charges against the six members, Kimbolton, Hampden, Hollis, Pym, Hazlerig, and Strode, were, that they had attempted to subvert the fundamental laws, to alienate the people from the king, and deprive him of his authority, that they had endeavoured to draw the king’s army into disobedience, had encouraged a foreign power to invade the kingdom, had countenanced tumults, and lastly, had conspired to levy, and actually had levied, war against the king.

With the exception of the latter charge, which we do not understand, there was none of these accusations which was not equally applicable to a great majority of the parliament: if the leaders were guilty of high treason, so also were all those who had followed in their steps. Resistance was now an act of self-defence. In a period of peace and order, when a fair trial can be rationally hoped for, if the accused does not submit to it, he may fairly be presumed to be guilty; but such rules are not applicable to a crisis like the present; deprived of their leaders, the parliament would have been an easy prey to their infuriated enemy: war might now be regarded as openly declared, the king was plainly the aggressor, and on his head were all the consequences which might ensue.

A party was sent, by the sole authority of the king, to seal up the trunks and doors of the impeached members. This conduct the Commons declared to be a breach of privilege;[*] meanwhile, a serjeant at arms came to the lower house, and demanded the five members. The Commons hereupon appointed a committee to acquaint the king, that his message was so important as to require a serious consideration, but that they would return an answer as speedily as possible, and in the meantime would take care that the members should be ready to answer to the accusation. Without replying to this message, Charles came in person, the next day, to the lower house, “accompanied,” says Hume, “by his ordinary retinue to the number of above two hundred, armed as usual, some with halberds, some with walking staves.”[†] Thus much could not be concealed; but the fact was, that, in addition to his ordinary retinue, he was accompanied by the lately-enlisted guards, and that the whole number of his attendants was not less than five hundred; in addition to which, the gentlemen from the inns of court, who had recently been gained over, were ordered to be ready at an hour’s notice. The king’s followers used the most insulting and threatening language towards the Commons, and some of them asked, “When comes the word?” Being questioned afterwards by a committee of the House of Commons, what they meant by that expression, they answered that “questionless, in the posture they were set, if the word had been given, they should have fallen upon the House of Commons, and cut all their throats.”[‡] It was further proved, that a hundred stand of arms, and two barrels of gunpowder, with match and shot in proportion, were sent, on this very day, from Edition: current; Page: [42] the Tower to Whitehall, with the knowledge of the lieutenant.[*] All these facts, which Hume prudently conceals, render it manifest that the employment of force, if any resistance should be offered, had been fully determined on beforehand. The five members, however, having received timely notice of the king’s intention, had already left the house.

The same evening, they removed for protection into the city, whither Lord Digby proposed to follow them, “with a select company of gentlemen,” says Clarendon, “whereof Sir Thomas Lunsford was one, to seize upon them and bring them away alive, or leave them dead in the place, which,” he continues, “must have had a wonderful effect.”[†] The king chose rather to go in person into the city and demand them; but, though he was received without disrespect, he obtained no encouragement.* A petition against his late proceedings was presented, two days afterwards, from the city, but received an evasive answer.[‡] The total failure of the intended arrest had, for the present, disconcerted Charles’s plans; he issued a proclamation for the apprehension of the impeached members, and immediately retired from the capital.

Here was another fine opportunity for pathos:

the king, [says Hume,] apprehensive of danger from the enraged multitude, had retired to Hampton Court, deserted by all the world, and overwhelmed with grief, shame, and remorse, for the fatal measures into which he had been hurried. His distressed situation he could no longer ascribe to the rigours of destiny, or the malignity of enemies. His own precipitancy and indiscretion must bear the blame of whatever disasters should henceforth befal him.[§]

This may, for aught we know, be very pathetic; but it is wholly untrue. We pass over the insinuation of danger from the multitude, where there is no appearance that there was, and great appearance that there was not, any danger whatever. There is falsehood at the very root of the whole. The king, who is described as having left London thus overwhelmed by remorse, left it with a determination immediately to make war upon his people.

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The labyrinth of falsehood in which Hume found it necessary to involve himself, in order to exonerate Charles from the criminality of the ensuing war, is in itself no trifling presumptive evidence of that monarch’s guilt. In the first place, it was necessary to make it appear that the parliament were the aggressors; that they were encroaching upon him, not he upon them; that he was upholding that ancient constitution which they were endeavouring to destroy. For this purpose it was necessary to dwell minutely upon the most trifling instances of discretionary power in former reigns, and to make it appear that there was systematic despotism, where there was really nothing systematic at all; that there was a regular and definite constitution, when even the forms of public business had nothing settled or defined, and the substance still less than the forms.[*] In the next place, supposing this to have been established, what does it prove? It might have been retorted, that although the Commons had aimed at subverting the ancient constitution, yet, if the ancient constitution was a bad one, to subvert it was not only excusable, but meritorious. That it was a bad one, Hume admits; since he says it was a despotism; and no one but a supporter of despotism would blame those who resisted it. All this might have been said, Hume himself felt how justly; it being impossible, therefore, to blame the resistance itself, there still, however, remained two things to blame, the time and manner of the resistance, and the extent to which they pushed it. The manner, he represents as insidious, harsh, and cruel;[†] and the insinuations, for they are insinuations rather than reasons, by which he supports this representation, leave no other inference, than that he disapproved of the resistance itself: on no ground can resistance at that period be condemned, which would not be an equally good ground for condemning resistance at any period; on no ground can resistance by the means which they adopted, and which were the only means that they could adopt, be disapproved of, unless upon the supposition that they ought not to have resisted at all. So much for the means. Next, as to the extent of the resistance, it is Hume’s indefatigable endeavour, to prove that, after having obtained the temporary cessation of immediate oppression, they should have stopt short and left Charles with full possession to re-establish it: that so long as they resisted present tyranny, they were right; so soon as they attempted to obtain future security, they were wrong; an inference which the experience of every age and nation laughs to scorn; but which it was only for that reason the more necessary to support by falsehood and concealment. For this it is, that all the pretended perils of the king are magnified into the most serious dangers, while the well-grounded fears of the popular party are derided as visionary, or exclaimed against as feigned alarms—feigned for the mere purpose of stimulating the passions of the populace. For this, did Hume, with the evidence before him, ridicule the army-plot as an unfounded and calumnious imputation, and slur over the royalist conspiracy in Scotland, without even adverting to it as a subject of Edition: current; Page: [44] controversy. For this, finally, does he represent the project of resorting to arms, as having originated with the parliament; and as having been adopted by Charles, only in consequence of the attempt to wrest from him the power of the sword:[*] though Clarendon admits that Charles, before he left Whitehall, despatched the Earl of Newcastle to seize and garrison Hull; and that at the same time it was resolved, that the queen should proceed to Portsmouth, which Goring, the governor, had already engaged to surrender.[†] Not a trace of this is to be found in Hume, who abandons even the royalist historians, when by any accident they deviate into sincerity and candour.

In the same spirit, when Charles’s band of discarded officers, with Lunsford at their head, retired to Kingston-upon-Thames, and when Digby, having gone to them by the king’s command, accepted of their service in the king’s name, arms and ammunition being at that very time actually on their passage to the same place; the following is Hume’s version of this transaction: “Lord Digby having entered Kingston in a coach and six, attended by a few livery servants, the intelligence was conveyed to London, and it was immediately voted that he had appeared in a hostile manner, to the terror and affright of his majesty’s subjects, and had levied war against the king and kingdom.”[‡] Would it be believed, that Digby himself, in his apologetical defence of his conduct, admits that “many soldiers and commanders” were assembled at Kingston, and that he was sent there to convey his majesty’s good acceptance of their service?[§]

There can be little doubt that the purpose of Charles, at this juncture, was to assemble troops and march upon London, where a sure person was already in command of the Tower. This design, however, was frustrated by the vigilance of the Commons. The arms and ammunition which were on their passage to Kingston were stopped, and any attempt in that quarter was guarded against, by raising the four neighbouring counties. Goring was enjoined to obey no orders but such as came from the king and parliament: Sir John Hotham was sent as governor, with similar orders, to Hull. Hume, while he dwells invidiously upon these precautionary measures, omits to state the motives by which they were occasioned, and leaves it to be inferred, that they were acts of unprovoked aggression. Sir John Byron, Governor of the Tower, was ordered to attend the parliament and give an account of certain suspicious proceedings: on his refusal, he was voted a delinquent, a guard was placed round the Tower, and the king was petitioned for his removal, which was at length granted, now when he could be of no further use.[¶]

The immediate designs of Charles being thus defeated, the queen, under Edition: current; Page: [45] pretence of conveying her daughter, the Princess Mary, to her husband in Holland, went abroad to solicit assistance from foreign states, and raise money on the security of the crown jewels.* Meanwhile, the king resolved to temporize till he could reach a place of security, where he might organize an army.

A bill for removing the bishops from parliament had already passed both houses; and now, together with the bill for impressment,[*] received the royal assent. These bills, which he found it necessary to pass, when he feared least the queen should be detained in England by the parliament, he never intended to observe; and we are told by Clarendon that he satisfied his conscience with the wretched subterfuge, that in their passage through the houses there had been something like constraint. Hume, though compelled to acknowledge this piece of jesuitry in a note, has the boldness to say, “neither Clarendon, nor any other of the royalists, ever justify him from insincerity, as not supposing that he had ever been accused of it.”[†] He asserts, moreover, that this scruple of the king affected only the two bills in question;[‡] directly in the teeth of Clarendon (an unquestionable authority), who says, “I doubt this logic had an influence upon other acts, of no less moment than these.”

The bill for vesting the command of the militia in officers appointed by parliament, was the pretext, rather than the cause of the final breach.[§] By this bill, Edition: current; Page: [46] the parliament did not arrogate to themselves a greater power than the parliament of the present day constantly exercises by means of the annual mutiny-bill. In the posture of affairs at that time, it is not too much to say that it was absolutely necessary. The king still continued to temporize. Hume wishes it to be understood, that he had even yet no intention of war;[*] though even Clarendon does not attempt to conceal that, before the queen left England, not only had he resolved upon war, but had even promised never to make peace without her consent. Yet, even now, and long after, he continued to declare with the most solemn asseverations before God, that he had no thought of making war. Even after a supply of arms had been received from Holland, and when his warlike preparations were already far advanced, he issued a declaration, expressing in the strongest terms his abhorrence of such a design; and this declaration was signed by all the lords and counsellors present, not excepting the virtuous Lord Falkland;[†] of all which, not a word in Hume. At length, after some acrimonious correspondence between the king and parliament, and a fruitless attempt on the part of Charles to obtain admittance into Hull, he erected his standard at Nottingham, and hostilities commenced.

Thus, for the gratification of his own appetite for power, did Charles voluntarily plunge his country into all the horrors of a civil war. Next in immorality to the monarch, who could perpetrate, with his eyes open, this greatest of all crimes, may justly be reckoned the historian who could praise it, and who could hold up such detestable selfishness to the applause of the world, under the high-sounding names of conscience and of principle.

Had Charles succeeded in his guilty undertaking, we have it on unquestionable authority, that of the more moderate men in his own party, that all appearance of moderation would have been discarded from his counsels, and that he would have been wholly governed by the most furious of the royalists, particularly by his Catholic queen, and her Catholic faction. Such was the opinion of Lord Savile, afterwards Earl of Sussex; such was known to be the opinion of Lord Falkland; and such, from the letters of Lord Spencer, another distinguished royalist, Mr. Brodie proves to have been his opinion also.[‡] These men, who had not utterly discarded all regard for their afflicted country, dreaded almost as much the success of their own, as that of the opposite party.

More than once during the war, negotiations were opened for a treaty; and Hume, as often as he can, endeavours to throw the blame of their failure upon the parliament;[§] but Clarendon informs us, that the king’s overtures were feigned, and that from the beginning he was resolved against peace, upon any other terms Edition: current; Page: [47] than absolute submission; “the promise to the queen having shut out all opposite consultations.”[*]

As it is not our intention to write a history of the civil wars, we shall content ourselves with sketching the rise and progress of the dissentions in the popular party itself; a portion of history which even Mr. Brodie seems not fully to comprehend, though his conception of it is more correct than that of any former historian.

Of the two sets of men into which the popular party was divided, because one set called themselves Presbyterians, and the other set Independents, it has been supposed that the contest between them was mainly a religious dispute. In reality, it was essentially a struggle for power. The parliament, we have already observed, was an aristocracy, and, like every other aristocracy, it split into factions. It would have done the same thing had there been no religious disputes; though, as there were, the two parties naturally fell in with the two sects. Religion merely constituted that bond of union, which otherwise would certainly have been supplied by something else.

These calamitous dissentions were heightened by the death of the two men of highest character in the party, Hampden and Pym, which threw the government into the hands of such men as St. John, Hollis, Hazlerig, and Vane; men, for the most part, either unprincipled, or weak; and enabled one man of superior talents, to subdue one party, overreach the other, and raise himself to sovereignty upon the ruins of both.

Various circumstances combined to make the Presbyterian party, and the aristocratic, coincide. In the first place, the Independent tenets were nearly akin to republicanism. In the next place, the Scottish covenanters were bigotted Presbyterians. Further, the military leaders, being novi homines, were the great opponents of the aristocracy; but the military leaders were naturally of that religion which enabled them, in the capacity of preachers, to secure to themselves an undivided ascendancy over the soldiers, whose obedience they must otherwise have been content to share with the ministers of religion. Add to this, that Independency, excluding persecution, was the religion of the enlightened, and the enlightened are necessarily enemies to aristocracy. The leaders of the Independents were Vane and Cromwell; of the Presbyterians, Hollis, who was driven, we are told, into that party, principally by jealousy of those eminent men.[†]

Though weak, and in numbers insignificant in the commencement, the Independent party gained strength with the continuance of the war, by the gradual rise to power of the military leaders. But the epoch of their decisive victory was the self-denying ordinance,[‡] which, by excluding all members of either house from Edition: current; Page: [48] civil and military employments, threw the command of the army into the hands of Fairfax and Skippon, both of whom belonged to the Independent party.

Of the mode in which the Independents effected the passing of this act, Hume has borrowed from Clarendon a long account, which it is scarcely possible to believe that he did not know to be false.[*] The story is, that they caused a general fast to be proclaimed the day before, and procured the preachers at all the churches in the metropolis to exert themselves strenuously on that day in favour of the measure; of which concurrence they afterwards availed themselves, as a declaration from heaven in its favour. Now, Rushworth, who is also quoted by Hume, gives a circumstantial account of the whole proceedings, with dates and speeches, proving, says Mr. Brodie, “that the new model was resolved upon before a fast was even voted, and that the ordinance itself had undergone the fullest discussion before the fast was held:”[†] that the fast, moreover, when it did take place, was kept only by the two Houses, and not by the public, so that there could not possibly be that concurrence in the language of the different preachers on that day, which is pretended.

The self-denying ordinance was unquestionably a stroke of party, but it does not follow that it was a bad measure. Essex, Manchester, and the other aristocratic commanders, were destitute of military skill; and, as it was not their interest that the king should be entirely subdued, they did not exert to the utmost even the talents which they possessed. The new model placed the command of the army in abler and more efficient hands, and was so far good. In what respect it was bad we are yet to learn. If it be said that the new commanders would abuse their power, so also, we answer, would the old ones, or any others, under an equal absence of control. Power, without responsibility, can no more be trusted in the hands of one man, than in those of another.*

At length the decisive defeat of Naseby compelled Charles to throw himself upon the mercy of the Scots. Had this infatuated prince even then been capable of common honesty and fair dealing, he might have retained his throne, and with it a considerable share of power. But while in public he professed a resolution to put an end to the war, and wrote to Ormonde, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, to suspend the negotiations which he had been directed to open with the Irish rebels,[‡] he at the same time, sent privately to him, commanding him to disobey; and the result of his Edition: current; Page: [49] intrigues was, the conclusion of a treaty, by which the Irish agreed to pour an army of 20,000 men into Scotland. Even this, however, was not enough. Like most cunning persons, he laid so many trains that they interfered with one another. We shall not here enter into the history of the commission to Glamorgan; that transaction, which was so strenuously denied by the royalist party at the time, and the evidence of which has been so craftily, and, at the same time, so impudently evaded by Hume, who has not scrupled, for that purpose, to make assertions which even the royalists did not venture to hazard in their own vindication. The reader who has drawn his conception of Charles’s character from Hume, if he peruse the evidence as adduced by Mr. Brodie,[*] will be filled with astonishment at finding this paragon of candour to have been as finished a dissembler, and even perjurer, as the page of history can supply; false to his word, nay, false to his oath, and a traitor even to Ormonde, the most devoted of his adherents. “It is impossible,” says Hume, alluding to a letter in which the king tells Ormonde that he never meant Glamorgan to act independently of his control, “it is impossible that any man of honour, however he might dissemble with his enemies, would assert a falsehood in so solemn a manner to his best friend.”[†] Suffice it, then, to say, that Mr. Brodie has shown, that he actually did assert such a falsehood; and has laid open a scene of complicated treachery, which nothing can equal but the disingenuous arts of the historian, who, to pander to the vulgar appetite for an affecting story, has condescended to erect such a man into a hero!

Meanwhile, the struggle between the two parties was rapidly drawing to a crisis: the Presbyterian party still retained a majority in parliament, which was considerably increased since the close of the war: for when, at length, the western counties, so long the seat of military operations, began again to send members to parliament, these members, who were mostly royalists, joined with the Presbyterian party, as the best inclined to monarchy of the two. The grand object of Hollis, and the Presbyterian leaders now was, to rid themselves of the army: but while they were anxious to disband the troops, or send them to fight against the rebels in Ireland, they were by no means equally anxious to pay them their arrears, for which, indeed, they had not the means. The discontents in the army, which this had a tendency to excite, were the grand resource of the Independent party for raising themselves to power. They exerted themselves, not only to stimulate but to organize the malcontents. A council was formed of deputies from every troop, called adjutators, a word afterwards corrupted into agitators: Ireton, son-in-law of Cromwell, a staunch republican, took the lead in their proceedings. Deputies were appointed to negociate with the parliamentary commissioners. Encouraged by their growing strength, they were not content with demanding payment of their Edition: current; Page: [50] arrears. They soon preferred other complaints; they did not object to the Presbyterian church-government, but they objected to its intolerance; and complained that the parliament, notwithstanding the self-denying ordinance, shared all offices among their own body, and appropriated the public money to themselves.

Alarmed at the rising spirit of the army, and sensible that the probability of its quietly disbanding grew every day less and less, the Presbyterian leaders took measures for raising another. The army were guided at this time by men of talents. They acted with promptitude and decision; they possessed themselves of the king’s person (of importance now, when parties were so nearly balanced), and marched, without loss of time, against the parliament. Their professed object was to obtain a speedy dissolution, with a biennial law to secure a frequent change;[*] and, the seclusion, in the mean time, of eleven obnoxious members, including Hollis, Stapleton, Waller, Massey, Maynard,[†] and the other leaders of the Presbyterian party. The two Speakers,[‡] and a great proportion of both Houses, seceded, and joined with the army: after some unavailing attempts at resistance, the parliament was compelled to yield, the eleven members were expelled, and the Independent party became for the present supreme.

Their power, however, was still far from being firmly established. They had yet to conquer the whole Scottish nation; all of whom, whether Royalists or Presbyterians, were their irreconcileable enemies. Even in England, both Presbyterians and Cavaliers were still far from being entirely subdued. Thus situated, the Independent leaders were naturally anxious to obtain the king’s support and sanction to their undertakings, and so far were they, at this time, from meditating the abolition of monarchy, that they offered him better terms than had been proposed before the commencement of the war.

That unhappy prince, however, instead of hearkening to accommodation, only meditated a fresh war upon his people. Courted now by all parties, he was intoxicated by hope, and vainly believed that he had it in his power to hold the balance between them. Without relaxing in his exertions to obtain the aid of the Irish rebels, he was now intriguing with the Scottish commissioners, Laneric and Lauderdale: and at this time was laid, according to Clarendon, the foundation of the famous engagement.[§] So elated was he with the prospect of success in these various intrigues, that he not only rejected the overtures of the Independent leaders, but had the imprudence to give them personal offence. Not long after, finding that his secret plottings began to get wind, he determined upon flight, but Edition: current; Page: [51] managed his enterprise so ill as to fall into the hands of Hammond, Governor of the Isle of Wight, and a faithful adherent of the parliament.

Without one particle of evidence, Hume takes upon himself to assert, that the Independent leaders rejoiced at Charles’s flight because it gave them a pretext for keeping him in close confinement.[*] But why should we suppose them insincere in their wish for an accommodation? It was obviously for their interest; that they thought so, is proved by the mildness of their terms. They were not now so insane as to have any confidence in his sincerity; yet it is not true that they treated him with any degree of severity, beyond what the security of his person absolutely required; and they offered him, even now, better terms than had been proposed by the Presbyterians when he was in the Scottish camp. But Charles had now completed his negotiations with the Scottish commissioners. A clandestine treaty had been concluded, in which he engaged to confirm the covenant, to establish presbytery for three years, and to join in extirpating the sectaries, that is, the Independents. This treaty, which was never intended to be kept, but only to purchase the aid of a Scottish army, and enable Charles to recover the power of the sword, was inclosed in a sheet of lead, and buried in a garden, as it was suspected that the Scottish commissioners might be searched on leaving the Isle of Wight. It was afterwards, however, transmitted to them in London. The warmest advocates of Charles are unable to justify this new attempt to plunge his country into a war. It is in fact so difficult, even of palliation, that Hume found it the shortest course to say nothing about it. His silence, however, is in this case nearly as expressive as his words. Could any thing, even plausible, have been urged, either to justify the treaty, or to invalidate its authenticity, the historian who has ventured to deny the commission to Glamorgan, would not have allowed the “engagement” to pass unnoticed.

Not content with suppressing the truth, he tells a direct falsehood, or rather two: first, he asserts that the vote of the Commons to send no more addresses to the king, and the precautionary measures which they took to prevent his escape, were occasioned solely by his rejecting their terms,[†] when in reality they were occasioned by the detection of his intrigues with the Scots. Secondly, he has described those precautionary measures themselves, as being much more severe than they really were: as may be seen by comparing his statement with that of Herbert, a keen royalist, who, at this time, was in actual attendance upon the king.[‡] Herbert, however, was too honest a man to assert what he knew to be false. From what source Hume drew his statements, or whether from any source, except his own invention, we cannot pretend to determine.

Meanwhile, the effects of the engagement, so the secret treaty was called, began Edition: current; Page: [52] to manifest themselves. The royalists rose in all parts of the kingdom. On the return of Laneric and Lauderdale to their own country, an invasion of England was resolved on by the Scottish parliament,[*] notwithstanding the vehement opposition of Argyle, and the rigid Presbyterians, who, however attached to presbytery, and averse to a republic, would not trust Charles, nor unite themselves to the royalist party.

The renewal of the war, by removing from the English parliament such of its members as held commands in the army, restored a temporary preponderance to the Presbyterian party. The eleven secluded members resumed their seats, and in their turn opened a negotiation with Charles; who, even now, had he agreed to their terms, might have regained considerable authority. But he confidently expected that the success of the insurrection would restore him to absolute power. “Of all the demands of the parliament,” says Hume, “Charles refused only two. Though he relinquished almost every power of the crown, he would neither give up his friends to punishment, nor desert what he esteemed his religious duty.”[†] And upon this foundation, Hume proceeds to ascribe to him a high sense of principle and moral duty, as if he had been in reality a martyr to his friendship and to his religion. It happens rather unfortunately for Hume, that during these negotiations Charles himself writes to Sir William Hopkins, “To deal fairly with you, the great concession I made to-day was merely in order to my escape, of which, if I had not hopes, I had not done.”[‡] And from this and other evidence, which proves him to have been at this time meditating an escape, it is obvious that there was no sincerity in his concessions, that he was only temporizing, and that he made a stand upon the two points of religion and of his friends, merely because he thought them to be the most popular grounds he could choose.*

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This letter of Charles is in direct contradiction, by the way, to another also of Hume’s assertions: “Having given his word to the parliament, not to attempt the recovery of his liberty during the treaty, and three weeks after, he would not, by any persuasion, be induced to hazard the reproach of violating that promise.”[*] A very different story, we see, is told by the unhappy monarch himself.

While Charles was thus endeavouring to gain time, with a view to escape, the opportunity passed away. The royalist insurrection was suppressed; the Scottish army was defeated; Hamilton was taken prisoner, and Argyle and his party restored to undisputed sway. Triumphant now in every other quarter, the Independents had only to regain the ascendancy in the legislature. The army marched to London, and purged the parliament of almost all the Presbyterian members, thus finally crushing that party, which never recovered from the blow.

It was now manifest that the king was not to be trusted. No engagement which he might enter into would be held valid one moment longer than while he had not power to set it aside. While he survived, a hundred accidents might restore him to power. The dominant party consulted their own safety by bringing him to the scaffold.

That Charles deserved punishment, it has been our object, throughout this article, to prove. Whether, under a good government, he ought to have been put to death, would have been a question of policy, not a question of justice. He was sacrificed, however, not to the good of the many, but to that of the few, who then happened to possess power. His execution was the act of a nest of despots, removing a rival despot out of their way.

But Hume, whose grand object is, to render his hero interesting, and the enemies of his hero odious, seems to have picked up indiscriminately all the old woman’s stories which he could find, about the prodigious sufferings of Charles, and the unheard of enormities of those by whom he was put to death; to such of them, indeed, as are not of themselves sufficiently pathetic, he adds copiously from his own stores.

It is lamentable to find a writer like Hume, who cannot easily be suspected of credulity, retailing with an air of sincerity, the puerile tales of Clement Walker and Perinchief. The former of these he represents as a writer of vast authority; and why? because he is a parliamentarian.[†] Now we can inform the reader, that there were two sets of parliamentarians—Presbyterians and Independents; each of Edition: current; Page: [54] which hated the other with at least as much bitterness as either hated the royalists: and that Clement Walker happened to belong to that set by whom the regicides were considered to be little better than demons. As for Perinchief, from whom, without acknowledgment, Hume copies whole paragraphs almost word for word, he does not even dare to make a reference to him more than once;[*] well aware that any thing known to rest upon such authority, would never obtain so much as a moment’s belief.

Notwithstanding the length to which this article has extended, there are some of these stories, addressed either ad misericordiam or ad invidiam, which we cannot pass unnoticed. He puts a speech into the mouth of Cromwell, in which he makes him assert, that, when offering up prayers for the king, he felt his tongue cleave to the roof of his mouth. The first part of this speech is taken, without acknowledgment, from Walker; where he found the latter part we know not, except that there is something a little like it in Perinchief, which it is probable that Hume manufactured, to suit his purpose. (See Brodie, Vol. IV, p. 183.)[†]

He next makes up a good story concerning a prophesying woman of Herefordshire, out of a passage in Whitelocke.[‡] The passage, to be sure, does not bear him out in more than one half of the story; but this was nothing to a writer of Hume’s ingenuity; he could easily fill up the outline.

For the same purpose of making a good story, he affirms that Charles, when in the Isle of Wight, allowed his beard to grow as if estranged from the world; when, in reality, he was wholly intent upon the renewal of the war.[§] Now the fact is, that Charles was in the habit of wearing his beard. And what is the foundation of this story? A passage in Perinchief, stating that Charles neglected during that period to have his beard so neatly picked as was his custom![¶] Had not these artifices formed part of a system, we should be ashamed to insist upon things so little worthy of the notice of an historian. But Hume seizes hold of every thing that can be adapted to his purpose, from the gaining of a battle down to the combing of a man’s beard.

“The soldiers, instigated by their superiors, were brought, though with difficulty, to cry aloud for justice. ‘Poor souls,’ said the king to one of his attendants, ‘for a little money they would do as much against their commanders.’ Some of them were permitted to go the utmost length of brutal insolence, and to spit in his face as he was conducted along the passage to the court.”[∥] Now, is it possible to believe that, if this story of the spitting had been true, Herbert, the Edition: current; Page: [55] king’s most faithful attendant, and who was present at the time, would have omitted to mention it? Yet not only does he omit the spitting, but tells a very different story concerning the cry for justice.[*] Hume was not, however, without authority, for Mr. Brodie saw his pencil marks opposite to this story, in the copy of Perinchief belonging to the Advocate’s library.[†]

The silly story of the four lords who offered themselves to suffer instead of Charles, Hume himself quotes from Perinchief, and Lloyde, another writer of equal authority.[‡] The story about the conversation between Charles and the young Duke of Glocester, is taken, without acknowledgment, from Lloyde.[§] Both these tales, if true, must have been known to Herbert, yet he seems not to have been acquainted with them.

From the same Perinchief, Hume drew the ridiculous stories which he gravely relates, concerning women who miscarried, and men who died of grief, at the news of Charles’s execution. There is only one important part of the story which he has omitted to mention; an omission the more surprising, as it is very fully related by Perinchief. We allude to the miracles which were worked by handkerchiefs dipped in the royal martyr’s blood.[¶]

Hume likewise asserts, that, every night during the interval between his trial and his execution, “the king slept sound as usual, though the noise of workmen, employed in forming the scaffold and other preparations for his execution, continually resounded in his ears.”[∥] This, we presume, is meant to be a fine dramatic incident: it is taken from Walker. Not only is it false, but Hume knew it to be such; for Mr. Brodie found his pencil marks in Herbert’s Memoirs, opposite to the very passage in which we are informed that Charles slept at St. James’s, and therefore could not possibly hear the noise of the scaffolding at Whitehall.[**] Even Walker himself unguardedly admits, that he came from St. James’s to Whitehall on the morning of his execution.

But the instance of misrepresentation and misquoting which we have now to mention, is probably unmatched in the pages of any historian of reputation.

A fresh instance of hypocrisy was displayed the very day of the king’s death. The generous Fairfax, not content with being absent from the trial, had used all the interest which he yet retained to prevent the execution of the fatal sentence; and had even employed Edition: current; Page: [56] persuasion with his own regiment, though none else would follow him, to rescue the king from his disloyal murderers. Cromwell and Ireton, informed of this intention, endeavoured to convince him that the Lord had rejected the king; and they exhorted him to seek by prayer some direction from heaven on this important occasion: but they concealed from him that they had already signed the warrant for the execution. Harrison was the person appointed to join in prayer with the unwary general. By agreement, he prolonged his doleful cant until intelligence arrived that the fatal blow was struck; he then rose from his knees, and insisted with Fairfax, that this event was a miraculous and providential answer, which heaven had sent to their devout supplications.[*]

This is another of Perinchief’s stories, though Hume has the assurance to quote Herbert for it. Mr. Brodie has given the very passage of Herbert which Hume had marked in the copy belonging to the Advocate’s library.[†] And what does this passage prove? Merely that Herbert met Fairfax, who had been at prayer with other officers in Harrison’s room, and that from a question which Fairfax casually asked, Herbert inferred that he was ignorant of the king’s execution!

The truth is, that Fairfax was among the foremost in all the measures of the Independent party to a late period: at the Restoration, however, he ratted, and became a courtier, for which reason, as well as his high character, the royalists are eager to exculpate him from all these transactions, and to throw the blame upon any one rather than upon him.

But we have already far exceeded our ordinary limits, and we must refer our readers for further information to Mr. Brodie. One word, however, is required in justice to the memory of that unfortunate and traduced body, the Long Parliament.

They were despots, no doubt: but compare them with other despots—compare them with any English parliament before or since. What British legislature, subsequent to our boasted Revolution, has dared to execute the plans which they devised? Had their authority continued, landed property would have been made liable for simple contract debts; the absurd fictions of fine and recovery would have been abolished; a system of universal registration would have been established for contracts in land; and the whole body of law would have been digested into a code. Bills for all these reforms had been introduced into the Long Parliament,[‡] and were broken off only by its abrupt dissolution. So much for what they would have done. What they did was, perhaps, the most important step to a reform in the law, which in this country has ever been taken, down to the present day. The legal proceedings, which, till that time, had been carried on in Norman-French, were Edition: current; Page: [57] ordered to be henceforth transacted in the vulgar tongue.[*] The abolition, at the same time, of monopolies, and other exclusive privileges, gave a new stimulus to industry and accumulation, and caused wealth to increase with a rapidity before unknown.[†]

The Independent leaders have been as disgracefully calumniated by Hume, in their private, as in their public capacity. He has, indeed, made it his business to hold them up, individually and collectively, to sovereign contempt; yet they were men of the best education which their age and country could afford; men, for the most part, of approved integrity, and many of them of distinguished talent. The reader who wishes for specimens of the inaccuracy and disingenuousness which he has here displayed, may refer, in particular, to his characters of Cromwell, Harrison, Ireton, and Vane, with Mr. Brodie’s remarks.*

We shall not now relate the subjugation of the Presbyterian or monarchical party in Scotland; the forcible dissolution of the Long Parliament, and the elevation of one man to unbounded power; the struggles of that man to maintain himself against the two parties, the royalists on the one hand, and the republicans on the other; the impotent attempt of the Long Parliament to recover their authority at his death, and their renewed dissolution by the army; when the contest degenerated into a struggle between two rival generals,[‡] and he who was victorious found it more for his interest to restore the exiled king, than to take his chance of maintaining himself in that seat which Cromwell himself had scarcely been able to hold. Even Edition: current; Page: [58] Monk, of whose character the lowness and meanness has long been universally acknowledged, is not too contemptible to be made a hero by Hume.[*] But we may now leave this writer, after the specimens we have given, to the fair judgment of the impartial reader.

It is necessary to say something, though our limits preclude us from saying so much as we would wish, on the character of Mr. Brodie as a historian. From what we have said, it will readily be understood, that his principal merits are diligence, accuracy, and perseverance. He displays, too, considerable skill in evolving the facts from a number of scattered, and seemingly unconnected, articles of circumstantial evidence. In the higher qualities of an historian, in aquaintance with the great principles of legislative philosophy, and in that comprehensiveness of intellect, which traces up effects to their causes, and teaches the reader to take in by a coup d’œil the mutual connexion of all the great events of the age, Mr. Brodie has not evinced any extraordinary degree of excellence. His style, though not strikingly deficient, has no peculiar merit. He has produced, nevertheless, one of the most important historical works of which modern English literature has to boast; and although something had already been done by Mr. Laing and Mrs. Macauley, he has added so many new facts, and confirmed by so much new evidence the facts which they had adduced, that we cannot but express a hope that we do not now part with him for ever. We trust that he will persevere in his useful undertaking; that he will carry on his labours to the period immediately following the Restoration, and will render the same service to the history of the second Charles, which he has already rendered to that of the first.

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Parliamentary History and Review; Containing Reports of the Proceedings of the Two Houses of Parliament during the Session of 1825:—6 Geo. IV. With Critical Remarks on the Principal Measures of the Session. 2 vols. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1826, II (Review), 603-26. Headed: “Ireland./The ADDRESS—Catholic Association—Catholic Claims—Elective Franchise—Provision for Catholic Clergy—Church Establishment, &c.” Running titles as title. Unsigned; not republished. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “An article on the Catholic Question which appeared in the Parliamentary Review for 1825” (MacMinn, 7). For comment on the article, see xlix and lvii above.

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it is now our duty, conformably with the plan of this work, to pass judgment upon that portion of the proceedings of Parliament, a report of which is contained under the general head of Ireland.[*]

These proceedings divide themselves into two parts; the one consisting of acts, the other of discussions: the one comprising what was done, by one or other House, as a body; the other, what was said, by individual members.

In our examination of what was done, it will be necessary to state our own opinions on the great public questions which occupied the attention of Parliament; to assign the grounds of those opinions, without which neither our opinions, nor those of any one, are worth regarding; and, lastly, to examine how far what was done, did or did not accord with what, in our estimation, ought to have been done.

In our examination of what was said, it will be our duty to scrutinize rigidly the arguments advanced on both sides of every question; to expose the shifts and pretences of a bad cause, and rid a good one of those bad arguments by which its real merits are often so materially obscured.

When a ground shall thus have been laid for passing a deliberate judgment upon the conduct, both of the legislature as a whole, and of every member of it individually; something more will be necessary, to give to this part of our work all the utility of which it is susceptible.

Though many proceedings in Parliament are very important in their effects, few of them are so important in their effects, as they are in their causes. When an event, in addition to whatever good or evil may result immediately from itself, gives indication of the existence of a cause, from which an indefinite number of events of like tendency may be expected to flow; an estimate of its importance would be very imperfect, in which this indication should not be included.

The actions of public, like those of private, men, are governed by their interests. Their interests result directly from the institutions under which they live: if these be good, public men have no interest that is not in unison with the interest of the community: under bad institutions, their interest is frequently different from, and even opposite to, that of the community. Accordingly, the working of good or bad institutions may always be traced in the conduct of public men. If the institutions Edition: current; Page: [62] be good, their conduct is directed towards the advantage of the community, which in that case is also their own. If the institutions be bad, they pursue either their individual interest, or that of the class, or party, to which they belong: and the interest of the community is sacrificed.

In our comments, therefore, upon the proceedings in Parliament, we shall endeavour, in each instance, to bring to view, not only the events themselves, but their causes; viz.—the interests, generated by political institutions, and variously modified by those numerous and diversified circumstances which compose what is termed the spirit of the age.[*]

In all these points of view, few events will demand a greater share of our attention, than the proceedings of the last session in regard to the Catholics of Ireland. The range of these proceedings took in, not one only, but several great questions: the Catholic Association; the Catholic Claims; and the two measures, called the wings.[†] On each of these, rooted prejudices exist: the merits, therefore, of the different questions must be entered into, at least sufficiently to place every conclusion upon evidence sufficient to support it. The multiplicity of arguments, or what passed under that name, which were brought forward by all parties, render a proportional number of words necessary for making a due estimate of their validity: and finally, discussions, in which almost every prominent person in both Houses took a part, bore unusually strong marks of that general character which is impressed upon British statesmen by British institutions, and by the particular stage of intellectual and moral improvement at which the British nation has arrived.

The main question—that of Catholic emancipation—is, in our opinion, by no means a difficult one: and that any person capable of reasoning should feel a moment’s doubt upon the subject, would surprise us, if we did not know that the strongest reasoning powers desert their possessor, when he is frightened. With all opponents of the Catholic Claims, in whose instance private interest is out of the question, the contest is simply, as it seems to us, between the great principles of justice on the one hand, and vague apprehensions on the other.

The public mind, in this country, is now so far advanced, that we may affirm, without hazard of being openly contradicted, even by those who would contradict Edition: current; Page: [63] us if they dared, that to subject any person to temporal inconvenience in any shape, on the ground of his religious opinions, is, primâ facie, injustice and oppression: that it cannot be justified on any such ground as that his religion is bad, or unacceptable in the sight of God: nor by any thing but the certainty, or at least a preponderant probability, that some great temporal calamity will befal the rest of the community, unless averted by imposing restraints, disabilities, or penalties, upon persons of some particular faith. It will also be allowed, that, if there be a danger, and if security against that danger require the imposition of disabilities on account of religious opinions; at least no disability should exist which does not, in some way or another, conduce to the end in view; that end being, security. We might join issue on both points, and maintain, not only the non-existence of danger, but the existence of disabilities, which, with whatever view they were imposed, can under no conceivable supposition (except that of extreme mental imbecillity) be now maintained, with any such view as that of guarding against danger. But as we have not space to argue both these questions, we will confine ourselves to the first and most important.

Before we can be called upon to say, what the danger is not, we are entitled to expect that the opponents of Catholic emancipation will declare what it is. This, however, the greater number of them would find an embarrassing question: accordingly few of them have ever attempted to answer it. So vague and indefinite are those fears, on the ground of which they are willing to degrade five or six millions of their countrymen to the condition of an inferior caste, that if they were asked what great calamity it is which they apprehend from the concession of the Catholic claims, we doubt whether one in ten of them could tell. What they have in their minds is an indistinct feeling that the Catholics are dangerous persons: and this being assumed, it never occurs to them to consider, whether the Catholics not emancipated are not fully as dangerous as the Catholics emancipated would be.

We will concede one point, about which there has been much unprofitable discussion: that no confidence is to be reposed in the professions of the Catholics; that, whatever they may now say, or think, they would not be satisfied with equality, if they could obtain superiority. We know of no body of men who would. We have no doubt—it would be absurd to doubt—that the Catholic clergy would willingly possess themselves of the temporalities of the Protestant Church; that the Catholic nobility and gentry, in destroying Protestant ascendancy, would willingly supply its place by the ascendancy of their own creed; and that the great body of the Catholics would gladly embrace any opportunity, and any means, of making their own religion the dominant religion of the state. We will even allow that they would aim at the suppression of all other religions, by persecution: for this is no more than has been done by Catholics; and not by Catholics only, but, in every age and country, by that sect of religionists who have been uppermost, as far as they have dared.

That the Catholic aristocracy and clergy should desire a monopoly of political Edition: current; Page: [64] power, and of the wealth which that power affords, is no more than natural. The propensity to pursue their own interests, is not peculiar to Catholic human beings. To persecute, indeed, is not the interest of any sect: and this the majority of every sect would see, if they were wise. But the majority of every sect has hitherto been unwise: accordingly no sect (with at most but one or two exceptions) which has had the power to persecute, has ever failed to make use of it. The Romish Church persecuted, and does persecute, wherever it is strong enough: so did the Church of England, as long as it was strong enough; so did the Greek Church; so did the Presbyterian.

Now, therefore, when we have made every concession against the Catholics which the most unreasonable opponent could demand, we require of our antagonists, in our turn, that they will find some better ground for imposing disabilities upon millions of human beings, than the mischief which it is feared they would do, if it were but in their power.

If the Catholic disabilities were upheld as a measure of hostility, it would be fit to consider whether the Catholics were proper objects of hostility. But as they are professedly measures, not of hostility, but of security; the question, and the only question, is, not what the Catholics would be willing, but what they would be able, to do.

It is hard to guess what precise evil the fears of most of the Anti-Catholic orators point to. Some of them talk of a divided allegiance. “The Protestant,” says Lord Liverpool, “gives an entire allegiance to his sovereign; the Catholic, a divided one. The service of the first is complete, of the last only qualified.”*

Now, if by the sovereign be meant the king, we should be sorry to think that every, or any, Protestant gave to his sovereign an unqualified allegiance. If allegiance mean obedience, and what else it can mean we know not, an entire allegiance is suitable only to a despotic government. What there is of meaning in this accusation, must be, that the Catholics acknowledge a foreigner as the head of their church, to whose interests, it is imagined, they are disposed to sacrifice the interests of their country. That there is a party of persons, professing the Catholic faith, who are so disposed, is true: that this party is any thing but a small minority, is not true: for, if it were, what must be the situation, we do not say of Protestant states in which Catholics lie under no disqualifications, but of countries in which a vast majority of the people are Catholics, as France, Austria, and Spain? If the authority of the Pope be there paramount to that of the temporal sovereign; if the Pope be there suffered to depose kings; the danger apprehended is real: if not, it is imaginary.

The few Anti-Catholics who can tell what they are afraid of, seem chiefly to fear that the Catholics would attempt to subvert the established church; and this is the only tangible ground which they have assigned for their alarm.

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In the first place, then, we think we may lay it down as an indisputable axiom, that the re-establishment of Catholicism, as the dominant religion in this country, is an event quite beyond the range of human probability. That six millions of persons, not having the powers of government in their hands, should either convert or conquer twelve millions, does not seem a very probable contingency. If probable at all, however, it is more probable before emancipation than after: since the power, whether of converting or of conquering, is the same, and the motive incomparably greater. They are six millions now, they would be but six millions then: their clergy would hardly be more eager to convert, nor their laity more able to rebel.

But though they might not be able, in opposition to the whole body of Protestants, to make their own religion the religion of the state; they might still, it is perhaps supposed, in concert with the sectarians, and with those other Protestants who are hostile to a church establishment, bring about the downfal of the existing church, and make all religions equal in the eye of the law.

This is to suppose, that, persons of all persuasions being included, a decided majority of the population of the two islands either is, or is likely to become, hostile to the continuance of the present church establishment. For, under any other supposition, it is difficult to see what danger there could be in throwing an additional weight into a scale, which would continue, notwithstanding, to be the lighter. Now, if this be true; without giving any opinion on the question, how far good government, good order, or religion itself, would suffer, if all religions were made equal in the eye of the law; we may be permitted to doubt whether the minority should be allowed to establish their religion, against the will of the majority; and whether the few might not, with as much justice, tax the many to build palaces for them as churches, and to pay their physicians and their lawyers as their clergy. But we do not wish to argue the question on a ground which would provoke so much opposition.

If the church were to be subverted, it would be in one of two ways: by means of the legislature, or in opposition to it; that is, by rebellion. If, then, after emancipation, it would be in the power of the Catholics, aided or not by the dissenters, to effect, in either of these two ways, the subversion of the church; what hinders them from doing it at this moment? Is it to be done by physical force? But if they are not strong enough now, emancipation would not make them so. Is it to be done by commanding a majority in Parliament? A few Catholic peers would take their seats in the Upper House; but in the Lower, beyond those whom they command at present, they would not be able to command a single vote. There would not be one Catholic elector—the Catholic aristocracy would not possess one borough—more than at present. They would indeed be enabled to return Catholics to Parliament; and, if nobody could be found but Catholics to assail the church, the disabilities would be some security: but it would be affectation in the most zealous churchman to pretend to doubt that the number of Protestants who are Edition: current; Page: [66] hostile to the church, is at least sufficient to fill the few seats which are at the disposal of the Catholic party. How happens it then that the church is not destroyed? The question is absurd. With almost every liberal Protestant on their side, the Catholics cannot command votes enough to carry their own emancipation; and it is supposed that with the great body of the Protestants against them they could command enough to overthrow the Protestant church!—But their influence in Parliament may increase. The Catholic electors may grow more numerous; more Catholics may become borough proprietors.—They may: and so they may, while their disabilities continue, and to the full as easily.

For the above reasons, and many others which we have not room to mention, we dismiss the idea of danger from Catholic emancipation. On the other hand, we are inclined to abate much from the current estimate of its advantages. An importance has been attached to it, both in respect of good and of evil, for which we are at a loss to find any adequate ground. We do not think that of itself it would do much for Ireland; the evils by which that country is afflicted, are not to be so summarily cured: and though Catholic emancipation might be a useful preparative to other and more important ameliorations, we do not think that it is by any means a necessary one.

Catholic emancipation would do nothing for the body of the people. Eligibility to office would be to them but a nominal privilege: excluded in fact by their situation in life, it is scarcely an additional evil to be excluded in law too. If they really feel as strongly on the subject of emancipation, as the friends of that measure wish it to be believed,—a belief which we find it difficult to entertain,—they must expect much more from it than the removal of disabilities; they must expect something which cannot be realized: to them, therefore, the effect of emancipation would be disappointment; and disappointment is seldom followed by tranquillity.

It is idle to expect tranquillity in Ireland so long as its inhabitants are the poorest and the most oppressed people in Europe. That they are the poorest, appears from the testimony of all who know them: that they are the most oppressed, no unprejudiced person can doubt, who will read the evidence taken before the Committees of the two Houses in the sessions of 1824 and 1825.[*] He will there find, that whatever the end of government in Ireland may be, it at any rate is not the protection of the weak against the strong: that government and law exist in that country solely for the benefit of the strong: that, while the Negro slave is at least protected against the encroachments of all masters except his own, the Irish peasant is at the mercy, not only of a whole series of landlords, from the proprietor of the soil down to the lowest middleman, but moreover of the tithe-owner and the tithe-farmer or proctor, to say nothing of vestries and grand juries: that against Edition: current; Page: [67] undue demands on the part of all these persons he has no remedy: that there is no law, no administration of justice for him; the superior courts being at all times inaccessible to him, and those of the country magistrates who do not take bribes, being for the most part leagued together to deny him redress; which is in general the less difficult, as the defects of the law are such, that he who would oppress under color of the law must be exceedingly unskilful if he cannot accomplish his object without incurring the penalties of the law.

All these causes of misery, and of that discontent which does, and, we hope, ever will, accompany all remediable evils, are perfectly independent of the Catholic disabilities, and would in no respect be affected by their removal. And why should we deem it impossible to apply remedies to these evils, leaving the Catholic disabilities as they are? That “purer administration of justice,” which even the bishop of Chester* admits to be necessary, would of itself suffice, and without it nothing will suffice, to tranquillize Ireland. It is not the power of the Protestant over the Catholic, which has made Ireland what she is: it is the power of the rich over the poor.

A superficial observer might perhaps infer, from the active demonstrations of hostility between the two sects, that it is the Catholics who are oppressed as Catholics, not the poor as poor, and that the body of the people, if they were not oppressed as Catholics, would not be oppressed at all. But if, in removing the Catholic disabilities, the power of landlords over tenants, of the tithe-owner over the tithe-payer, and of magistrates over the great body of the people, were left untouched, we cannot perceive that the condition of the Irish peasantry would be in any respect altered for the better. There is no evidence that a Catholic landlord treats his tenants better than a Protestant landlord. Catholic emancipation would not affect the mode of collecting tithe; and the few Catholic magistrates that there are, have now an interest in protecting the poor against their brother magistrates, which, in the event of emancipation, it is possible they might not retain.

That the Protestant aristocracy, who are now in possession of a monopoly of political power and of its attendant profit, should be averse to sharing that power and profit with the Catholic aristocracy, is quite natural. It is quite natural also that the Catholic aristocracy should feel uneasy under this forced exclusion: and as the aristocracy are much better able to make their complaints heard, than the people are, it is also natural that their grievances should be more thought of, than those of the people; but we are not therefore to suppose them of more importance.

There still remains another question to be answered, before we proceed with our comment upon the debates. If the Catholic disabilities be not in reality the grand evil of Ireland, how happens it that, in the two Houses of Parliament, they are so often spoken of as if they were?

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Questions of this sort are what, in the sequel of this work, we shall very frequently have occasion to put.

In reviewing the proceedings of Parliament, it may in general be remarked, that the great abuses almost always escape its notice. The composition of the Parliament affords a key to this, as it does to so many of its other peculiarities.

The truth is, that there is scarcely an individual in either House whose interest it is that the great abuses should be reformed. The members of both Houses belong, almost all of them, to those classes for the benefit of which all great abuses exist; and not being accountable to, nor in any other way under the influence of, that much larger class, who suffer by the abuses, they have abundant motives to uphold, and no sufficient motive to redress them.

This interest being common to both parties in the two Houses of Parliament, the great abuses are, in Parliamentary discussions, by a sort of tacit consent kept out of view. The Opposition party, however, must have something to attack; or they could shew no ground for finding fault with the party in power. Nothing, therefore, remains for them to do, except to fall might and main upon the small abuses, and do every thing in their power to cause them to be taken for great ones.

To apply these principles to the case now in hand. Here is a country, the most miserable, and at the same time the most turbulent, of all countries pretending to civilization; and that, under a set of institutions, which all—that is, all who derive either money or power from them—unite in designating as the best institutions that wisdom ever devised for the government of mankind. Here then is an anomaly to be explained; a cause must be found for it, and that too without imputing blame to these admirable institutions. The Catholic Question, appearing well adapted to the purpose, is eagerly laid hold of by the Whigs, and a part of the Tories, and exalted into a sovereign remedy for the ills of Ireland. It answers the purposes of the Whigs, by affording a handle for attacking the ministry, who, having such a panacea in their hands, neglect to apply it. It serves the purposes of both sections of the Tories, by diverting the public attention, from much more important grievances. All parties being thus interested in making as much noise about this question as possible, it is not wonderful that so much noise has been made.

*     *     *     *     *

The subject which chiefly engaged the attention of Parliament, on the day of its meeting, and for some time afterwards, was the Catholic Association. We need not inform our readers what this Association was: it may, however, be of some use to put them in mind of its objects. It held meetings—and it raised money. At the meetings, certain persons, mostly Catholics, and of the higher ranks, were in the habit of expressing, in strong language, their dissatisfaction at the existing state of things in Ireland, chiefly as it regarded the Catholic disabilities. To what purposes the money was applied, has never been fully made known: the offer of the Edition: current; Page: [69] Association to produce their books not having been accepted by Parliament.[*] Part of it, however, is known to have been laid out in defraying the law expenses of such persons as had been, or were supposed to have been, injured, and were too poor to seek redress for themselves. The Association, moreover, put forth at least one address to their Catholic countrymen, earnestly exhorting them to remain peaceable and obedient to the laws.

Bodies of men very seldom act wisely: and it was little to be expected that a body of Irishmen should form an exception to the rule.

All men love power: most men love it better than any other thing, human or divine. There are times when, by joining in sufficient numbers, and acting in a body, men are enabled to exercise very considerable power. In this power, every man among them is eager to participate, by giving himself up heart and soul to the prosecution of the common design. The only part, however, of their joint operations which displays power, is the acting part; and this, accordingly, is the only part in which every man is eager to take a share. But to wise conduct, thinking is necessary, as well as acting. Thinking, however, is trouble: to the mass of mankind it is the most insupportable of all kinds of trouble: and trouble being pain, and pain being a thing which every body avoids as much as he can, we find that, as a general rule, a man will never do any thing requiring trouble, which he thinks he can, without too great a sacrifice, prevail upon another person to do for him. While every individual, therefore, is eager to act, the business of thinking for the whole body generally falls into the hands of a few: and these few will naturally be those who are known to the greatest numbers; the noisiest talkers, who, even when they have no private interest of their own to serve, are very seldom the best thinkers. As, moreover, people are naturally guided, other things being the same, by those who profess the greatest zeal to serve them; and as one very obvious mode of shewing zeal in a man’s service, is to rail vehemently against those whom he considers to be his enemies; the leaders will, in addition to their other attributes, be in general among the most intemperate of the set.

These considerations would have prepared us to expect much intemperance of language in the speeches of the Association, and no very great measure of wisdom in their acts. The most foolish of their acts, however, as far as they are known (and let it be remembered by whose fault they are not all known) were not of a nature to do much harm to any body except to themselves. Considering the number of persons interested in bringing whatever was exceptionable either in their purposes or in their measures to light, it is astonishing how little has appeared but what was allowable, if not laudable. The purpose of tranquillizing the Irish people was undoubtedly a laudable purpose; the purpose of exciting attention to their own claims, cannot well be said to be a blameable one. The purpose of giving the poor man access to that justice which the expensiveness of the law has put out of the Edition: current; Page: [70] reach of every man who does not come with a full purse in his hand,—this surely was among the most laudable of all purposes. And suppose that occasionally a party in the wrong were by their assistance enabled to come into court, and be told publicly, by judge and jury, that he was in the wrong—for that was the only privilege which their assistance conferred upon him—was this a thing to be complained of? There would be little use in a public trial, if no one were to have the benefit of it until it had first been ascertained that the right was on his side. Until malâ fide suitors shall wear their characters stamped in large letters upon their foreheads, a public investigation is, and ought to be, the privilege of every one, whether an honest man or a knave.

Such, however, as they were, these proceedings of the Association gave great alarm to the Protestant aristocracy of Ireland. The few, in every country, are remarkable for being easily alarmed; more especially when any one takes upon himself to censure their acts. So easily are they frightened at censure, that they never seem to feel secure until they imagine that they have put a stop to it entirely; and whenever they have been able, they have treated such censure as a crime which could never be punished too severely. It is no wonder, therefore, that they should have taken alarm at the Catholic Association. They did take alarm at it a year before. Even then, as Mr. Canning said, the ministers were “goaded” to put it down;* and, as the Association went on, the alarm increased, and ministers were “goaded” more and more, till at last they were goaded into compliance.[*] That which a large portion of their parliamentary supporters really and earnestly demand, the ministers, if they would continue ministers, cannot long persist in refusing.

At the opening of Parliament, it was stated from the throne, that there existed associations in Ireland, which had “adopted proceedings irreconcileable with the spirit of the constitution,” and were “calculated, by exciting alarm and exasperating animosities, to endanger the peace of society, and to retard the course of national improvement.”[†]

What is called a King’s speech enjoys a prescriptive right to be unmeaning, and we are not disposed to find fault with it for being so in the present instance. We cannot refrain, however, from representing to the framers of the speech, that a sic volo sic jubeo would have been more decent than the mere pretence of a reason. Such vague phrases as “irreconcileable with the spirit of the constitution,” “endanger the peace of society,” and the like, deserve no better name. They are not reasons; they are mere expressions of dislike. When a cause affords no better reason, there is little to be said for it: when it does, these phrases are useless, and can serve at best no higher purpose than that of swelling a period.

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If the King’s speech afforded few reasons, and those few of little worth, the subsequent speeches made ample amends, in quantity of reasons, if not in quality. We will lay before our readers the whole catalogue. We imagine that the more rational and sober among the Anti-Catholics will view it with as little complacency as we ourselves.

It was alleged, then, of the Catholic Association, 1st, that its tendency was to overthrow the constitution; 2nd, that the language of some of its members was inflammatory; 3d, that it imposed taxes, issued proclamations, made laws, and in fact, exercised all the powers of government; 4th, that its business was to evade and nullify the laws; 5th, that it was a convention; 6th, that it was an imperium in imperio; 7th, that it frustrated the effect of beneficial measures of government; 8th, that it diverted the attention of the people from honest industry; 9th, that its subscriptions were collected by Catholic priests; 10th, that it retarded emancipation; 11th, that it adjured the Catholics “by the hatred they bore to Orangemen”;[*] 12th, that it was a second Parliament, and used parliamentary forms; 13th, that it employed coercion in levying the Catholic rent; 14th, that it prevented capital from flowing into Ireland; 15th, that it pandered to the prejudices and passions of the multitude; 16th, that it interfered with the administration of justice; 17th, that even in cautioning the people to be quiet, it libelled the law; 18th, that its members, in their speeches, made attacks on private character; 19th, that it named those who should and should not be returned as members of Parliament; 20th, that it had not its freedom of speech from the crown, nor could the crown suspend it; 21st, that if it had power to quell disturbances, it had power to raise them; 22nd, that it could sit whenever it pleased; 23rd, that if it continued, it would demand the Church property; 24th, that it was the machinery of a rebellion, for the time when an occasion might arrive.

Of these twenty-four reasons, we abandon twenty-one to the justice and mercy of the reader. The remaining three we reserve in our own hands: viz. the inflammatory speeches; the levying of the rent, and the interference of the Association in the administration of justice.

By inflammatory language is, of course, meant, language calculated to excite hostility. Now whether hostility, and the language of hostility, be blameable or not, depends upon the occasion, and the manner. Both the occasion and the manner were in this case very peculiar.

Here is a country of which it has been said by a Lord Chancellor—Lord Redesdale—who will not be suspected of aspiring to that character which another Lord Chancellor says, he has lived too long to have much respect for, the character of a reformer:*—Here is a country, we say, in which a Lord Chancellor says, that there is one law for the rich, and another for the poor. Here is a people, who, Edition: current; Page: [72] having but the smallest pittance beyond what is barely sufficient to sustain life, are compelled to give up nearly the whole of that pittance to build churches and pay clergymen for about one-fourteenth part of their number: in return for which, that fourteenth part take every opportunity of expressing their hatred and contempt for those who furnish them with money for these purposes, and their firm determination to extort as much more money from them, for other purposes of all sorts, as they can. Now then comes the Catholic Association, and, addressing itself to the thirteen-fourteenths, tells them that all this misery and degradation is not the work of nature, but of men; powerful men, who produce it for their own advantage, who for their own advantage will continue it as long as they have power, and who therefore, as a first step to effecting any improvement, must be deprived of power. This may be called exasperating animosities; in a certain sense, it is exasperating animosities: to tell the many in what way the few have treated them, certainly has no tendency to make them love the few: and if the Catholic Association are to be tried by this standard, their cause, we fear, must be given up: as must also that of all other reformers, ancient or modern. If it be always a crime to excite animosities, it must be always a crime to expose abuses. If the exposure is to be deferred until it can be made in such language as will excite sentiments of affection and good-will towards the authors of the abuses, it would be as reasonable, and more honest, to say, that it is not to be made at all.

The language of the weaker party is ever inflammatory; that of the stronger, never: because it is the stronger who is the judge. A man may rail as much as he pleases at the party which is undermost, and the language which he makes use of will not be very nicely scanned: he may inflame the passions of the powerful; he may incite those to tyrannize, who have it in their power to tyrannize; and “every thing is as it should be.”[*] But let him address himself to the weak; let him attempt to stir them up, not to tyrannize, for that is not in their power, but to use their efforts to take from the strong their power of tyrannizing—and the state is going to wreck: sedition, insurrection are abroad: and one would imagine that heaven and earth were coming together.

It is a mockery to tell a man that he is wronged, and to bid him at the same time feel no hostility against those who have wronged him. The proper exhortation is, not to let his feelings of hostility overcome his reason, and drive him to acts of useless and wicked violence: not to wreak his vengeance upon the hay-stacks and barns of those who have acted so ill a part towards him, nor to set fire to their houses, and burn them and their families alive; but to direct all his energies to one great object, the ridding them of their mischievous power. Now all this, the Catholic Association did. It not only exhorted the people to be peaceable, but many of its enemies acknowledge, that it actually made them so.

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When a man has resolved to do a thing, and has it in his power, any reason will in general suffice. If the Association had not pacified the Irish, that would have been a reason for putting it down: but it did pacify the Irish: and this also was a reason for putting it down. It was discovered, that, as it had power, to quell disturbances, it probably had power to raise them: and as it was probable that it had the power, it could not but appear certain that it had the will. Upon this principle, we should be justified in throwing a man into prison, for helping a drowning person out of a river. If he had power to drag him out, he has power to push him in: so dangerous a man must not be suffered to go at large: no time must be lost in depriving him of the means of doing mischief.

It seems, however, that they had a way of pacifying the people, which made it much worse than if they had bid them go and cut throats: they adjured them to be peaceable, “by the hatred they bore to Orangemen:” it being deemed preferable by certain members of Parliament, that they should slaughter and burn the Orangemen, probably out of love, than live with them, out of hatred, in the peace of God and of the king. We will not now go over Dr. Lushington’s argument, which instead of answering, Mr. Canning sneered at, and put to flight a whole army of syllogisms with a volley of jokes.[*] But we do think that the Orangemen, who so rigidly act up to the Christian principle of returning good for evil, should make some allowance for the frailty of those inferior natures which fail of reaching that standard of perfection. They should bear in mind that all men cannot, like them, love their enemies, turn the left cheek to those that smite them on the right, and do good to those that hate them, and despitefully use them.[†] Pure as they are themselves from all malignant passions, Christianity does not surely enjoin so much severity, towards those who aim at no more than to make those passions subservient to virtue. We have no great objection to a species of hatred, which inspires men to obey the laws, and be good citizens and peaceable subjects.

We pass to the accusation of levying money, by improper means, from the people.

The Catholic Association was not the only association which was in the habit of levying money from the people. To say nothing of any others, the Methodist Conference is accustomed to levy money to a much greater amount, and for purposes much more strictly sectarian.* As therefore the receiving of the money could not, without too gross a violation of decency, be adduced as the heinous part of the offence; a vigorous attempt was made to get up a case which should shew that the subscriptions were obtained by coercion. It was first said, that the priests Edition: current; Page: [74] were in the habit of encouraging and collecting the rent: which not being denied, it was next insinuated, that they extorted subscriptions by refusing the sacraments to those who did not subscribe. We say insinuated, because it was only spoken of as a possibility; and upon this possibility the House was called upon to legislate. It was not shewn that the priests did as was represented, it being sufficient that they could do so, without violating their religion: this last was, indeed, denied by the Catholic prelates; but then it was affirmed by Mr. Goulburn,* and the Solicitor General.

Without cavilling at this logic; which, however, if nicely looked into, might probably be found to be not quite formal; we will content ourselves with asking one question. Since after all no physical coercion was used, what definition is it possible to give of moral coercion? Or how are we to distinguish that legitimate influence, by which the Rev. Mr. Wilson persuades his parishioner to give, through the fear of God, his guinea to the Bible Society, from that improper influence, that coercion (since that is the word) by which the Catholic priest persuades his parishioners to give, through a similar fear, their several pennies to the Catholic rent? We might also ask, if the peasant can be persuaded to give money, in order to purchase absolution, how it is expected, that this sort of traffic should be put a stop to by an Act of Parliament? But we have not space to follow out this question as we could wish.

Another sort of coercion, it was positively affirmed, was practised, not by the priests, but by the Association itself. This consisted in making entries in a book, which was called the black book, of the names of all those who refused to subscribe. Without repeating the question, which we put just now, or asking how a pretence can ever be wanting to the strong man, if such a proceeding as this is to be called coercion; we will content ourselves with one fact. It was publicly stated by Mr. Brougham,§ in behalf of the Association, that the names of those who refused to subscribe were not entered in any book: proof of this assertion was offered to be presented at the bar of the House; and the House would not hear it: the fact speaks for itself.

The only remaining charge against the Association, which we intend to notice, Edition: current; Page: [75] is one to which we have already made some allusion: the charge of interference with the administration of justice. We do not know very well how to meet this charge; having some difficulty in discerning through the vague and misty language of the accusers, what sort of improper conduct it is, that was really imputed to the Association. One of them, indeed, Mr. W. Lamb, has not left his sentiments on the subject uncertain.

There was already too much disposition, [said he,] about the lower orders, even in England, to litigation. Every body knew, that if half the indictments and causes which were tried in courts were entirely omitted, it would be for the benefit of all the parties concerned in them. Then, if people would go to law, and prosecute each other needlessly, at their own expense, and even to their own ruin, where would be the end of petty ill-blood and dissension, when they were enabled to do that free of cost!*

It having been made quite clear, by these shrewd observations, that the great fault of the judicial administration of both countries is, that justice is too accessible; that the only use of an administration of justice is to create “petty ill-blood and dissension,” and that it is a great crime to have been wronged; it is no wonder that Mr. Lamb should condemn the Catholic Association: who, instead of lamenting, with him, that people should apply for justice, were perverse enough to tell them that it was their due; and even gave them money to assist them in obtaining it.

Others said, that the Association, by putting forth ex parte statements, biassed the minds of the jury, and deprived those whom they prosecuted of their fair chance for justice. And this, we believe, is what the charge of “interfering with the administration of justice”[*] amounts to. In proof of this, two instances were given, and no more, of what were considered to have been improper prosecutions by the Association. In both these instances, Mr. Brougham succeeded in rendering the impropriety of the prosecution at least a matter of doubt.[†] But let us see what it is that is to be proved, and what it is that is given in evidence to prove it. The assertion is, that the minds of juries were prejudiced against the persons whom the Association selected for prosecution; and the proof is, two prosecutions in both of which the prisoners were acquitted.

One word on the subject of prejudging, and ex parte statements: a subject which we thought had long ago been set at rest for ever. What notion can these gentlemen have of trial by jury, if they imagine that jurymen, who have sworn to decide according to the evidence, will suffer themselves to be biassed by the vague rumours, the extrajudicial and unsupported opinions, which they have heard out of doors? If this be a true character of an Irish jury, either an Irish jury must be a very different thing from an English one, or jury trial is altogether a very different thing from what it is supposed to be.

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When it has been determined that a thing is at all events to be found fault with, it is usual, in making an account of its effects, to strike out all the good items, and leave the bad ones standing alone: to hold up to view the possible evils which may arise from it, and to say nothing of the necessarily accompanying good. When publicity was given, by the Catholic Association, to the whole story of the supposed offence, the minds of the jury, say these gentlemen, might possibly be biassed against the prisoner: well—we grant them this; let them make what they can of it. But may not this very publication raise up persons, to bear witness in his favour? Is it nothing that the public eye has been attracted to the case, and fixed anxiously upon the behaviour of the judge and the jury? And is it no advantage, to the prisoner himself, to know the prosecutor’s case,—the assertions which he intends to make, and the evidence by which he expects to prove them? What could be of more use to the defendant in a cause, than that the counsel for the prosecution should allow him to inspect his brief? Surely then it is no injury to him, that all which is contained in that brief should be made, before the trial, a subject of public discussion.

*     *     *     *     *

The petition of the Catholics of Ireland for emancipation was presented to the House of Commons on the first of March by Sir Francis Burdett, who, on the same evening, moved a string of resolutions setting forth the expediency of granting the Catholic claims.[*] The motion was introduced by what is termed a conciliatory speech; that is to say, a speech in which every body found himself praised, who had any reason for expecting that he would be blamed. “A more enlightened and liberal body of men” than the clergy of the Church of England, “did not do honour to this or any other country. The Church of England was, of all others, the faith he would rather adopt,” and no wonder, if we consider the excellent reason he had for adopting it: he had been “bred up” in it, “as ample a reason as any man could be called on to give for his religion.”* The Orangemen, too, were nearly perfect. “There did not exist more honourable or more liberal men.” They had, to be sure, one small failing, an “unfortunate propensity to domination;” an “unwillingness to be deprived of the power they had been accustomed to exercise;” a “right which they fancied they had by birth, to trample upon their Catholic fellow-subjects.” They had no fault, in short, but a desire to get and keep, at all costs, as great a quantity of undue power as they could. We would ask, in what other habit of mind the worst acts of the worst tyrants have taken their rise? What else was it that Edition: current; Page: [77] prompted the crimes of an Augustus or an Aurungzebe? What else made an Alexander or a Napoleon the scourges of mankind?

There is no mistake which seems to be more universal among public men, not to speak of other men of all descriptions, than that of imagining it to be of no consequence what they do with their praise. In most other matters it seems to be pretty generally understood that the gift which is meant to be valued must be sparingly bestowed: but no measure, no temperance, is thought necessary in the distribution of praise; people seem in general to be ready to throw it at the first dog they meet. After what fashion men bepraise their friends, the proceedings at any public dinner will testify. At such entertainments (next to eating and drinking), the principal purpose for which the guests are assembled, seems in general to be that of receiving assurances from one another that they are patterns of every human virtue. Most men, too, are glad of any decent opportunity for bestowing laudation upon their opponents. It has so candid an appearance, and men are so naturally, and even so properly, eager to shew that they have no private hatred of those to whom they are politically hostile, that, even in bringing accusations against their opponents, which, if true, import the very essence of imbecillity and wickedness, they frequently clothe them in language expressive of the most profound veneration.

If Sir Francis Burdett,—after representing the state of things in Ireland as uniting a flagrant breach of faith with the most odious tyranny—after characterizing the Orangemen as the upholders of this state of things, and imputing to them as motives, a “propensity to domination” and a fancied right to “trample upon their Catholic fellow-subjects,”—can yet affirm, in the same breath, that “there did not exist more honourable or more liberal men” than these same Orangemen; how is it possible, henceforth, to set any value on any praise which he can bestow? We are not blaming the disposition to conciliate opponents; and we have the strongest objections to vague and general vituperation: but excessive praise, much more that which is totally unmerited, is equally mischievous, and almost equally offensive.

Bating this one fault, which, however much to be regretted, is too common not to be quite venial, and which we are far from imputing to any but the most creditable motives; the tone of Sir F. Burdett’s speech was highly commendable. In some of his reasonings we are not quite sure that we concur; in particular where he partly founds the claims of the Catholics upon the treaty of Limerick. We are favourable to those claims, because we are unfavourable, on general principles, to all religious distinctions; unless when there is strong ground for them in point of expediency, which, in the case of the British Catholics, we think that there is not: but if there were,—if it were really dangerous to admit the Catholics into a participation of political power,—we are by no means prepared to say that we should be bound to incur this danger, because certain persons, none of whom are now in existence, promised something about a hundred and thirty years ago, to certain other persons, none of whom are now in existence. Every man is bound to Edition: current; Page: [78] keep his promise—agreed: that is, he ought not to make the promise, unless he is sure that he can keep it. But that the Government of that day should be at liberty to make promises which should be binding under all circumstances upon the Government of this, or that we should be pledged to do for one set of men, whatever our ancestors promised to do for another, is a maxim of much wider extent, and we will add, of much more dubious propriety. Granting, for the sake of the argument, that the Catholics of that day, though all of them partisans of the exiled family, were wronged by the non-fulfilment of the pledge which was given to them at Limerick: nothing which can be done now, will be any reparation to them. The question at present is, what is to be done with another set of men professing the same religion, but in no other conceivable sense the same, and who, whatever claims they may have upon our justice, or our humanity, can have none upon our good faith, since our faith has never been plighted to them. The fallacy of irrevocable laws is alike absurd, in every one of its shapes.

Mr. Leslie Foster, Mr. Peel, and the Solicitor General, followed in the debate,[*] on the side opposed to the Catholics, and set forth, at considerable length, the badness of the Catholic religion, the intolerance of Catholics in other countries, &c. &c., all which being very little to the purpose, unless it could be shewn that they would derive an increase of power for bad purposes, from the concession of their claims, the following arguments were thrown as a makeweight into the scale: 1. Grant this, and they will ask for more:* (fallacy of distrust). 2. “This concession to the Catholics would involve a violation of the Constitution: Was not the principle of the Protestant religion in church and state, made a fundamental and inviolable part of the compact with King William III after the expulsion of James II?[†] and would they abandon that indispensable principle of the Bill of Rights?” (fallacies of irrevocable laws, and vague generalities, cloaking a petitio principii).[‡] 3. The House ought not to yield to menace and intimidation: or, in other words, having driven the Catholics to exasperation by denying them justice, they were to make that exasperation a reason for denying it to them still longer. 4. The great men, who framed the Act of Union with Scotland,[§] introduced into that measure the principle of excluding Catholics from office:§ (fallacies of Edition: current; Page: [79] irrevocable laws, and wisdom of ancestors).[*] 5. Retaining the religion of the minority as the religion of the state, would it be safe to allow the majority to come into an equal participation with them of rights and power?*—A mere assumption, in the first place; and in the next place, it looks a little too much like the argument of the highwayman who ties your hands in order that he may more safely rob you.

Mr. Plunkett and Mr. Brougham, without grappling with the question, pointedly exposed some of the fallacies of their opponents, and addressed themselves to the House in the manner which alone has much influence with an interested audience, by appealing to their fears.[†] In the present case, it was not possible to act upon this passion but through the medium of a fallacy. The two assumptions, upon which these gentlemen proceeded, were that Catholic emancipation would, and that, without that measure, any thing else would not, tranquillize the Irish people. The unconscious action of those interests, to which we have before pointed as the secret springs of the conduct both of Whigs and Tories on this question, will sufficiently account for the course pursued by both these gentlemen. But to those who desire the passing of this question on its own account, and on its own account solely, we recommend a much more effectual mode of frightening its opponents into concession. Let them drag forth and hold up to view the real evils of Ireland: let them assail the abuses of the Church, the Law, and the Magistracy: and the alarmed participators in the profits of these abuses will soon consent to forego the small interest, which they have in the exclusion of Catholics from office, in hopes of disarming some portion of the opposition to those much greater evils, to which they are indebted for so much of their wealth, and their power, the power of the few over the many.

In the interval between this first debate on the Catholic question in the Commons, and its final rejection in the Lords,[‡] much of the time of both Houses was occupied by angry discussions, arising out of the petitions which were presented for and against the bill. This, which would have required no notice if it had occurred only once, having been repeated so often as to become a marked feature in the history of the Session, we will not omit those observations which appear to us to be applicable to it.

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The grand object, with both parties, in these discussions, was to make it appear that public opinion was in their favour. When a petition was presented, either from the friends or the opponents, but particularly from the opponents of the bill, up started somebody on the contrary side to prove that the petition did not, followed by somebody on the same side with the petitioners, to prove that it did, represent the true state of public opinion on the question. All this solicitude about public opinion clearly shewed how nicely the two parties were balanced. When either of them is sure of a majority, right or wrong, it seldom troubles itself much about public opinion.

The meaning (if it had any meaning) of all this talk, must have been either, 1st. That, if the public were with them, they must necessarily be in the right, (vox populi, vox Dei);[*] or, 2nd. That public opinion had declared itself so strongly on one side, that for Parliament to take the opposite side, however right at other times, would at this time be unsafe, and therefore wrong. The first supposition (the fallacy of authority, in its least delusive shape)[†] is too obviously absurd, to be imputed to any body: and the very fact, that there could be any dispute upon the subject, proves the falsity of the second. Those who felt sufficient interest in the question to put their names to a petition being in number no more than a minute fraction of the public, and these being nearly equally divided, things were exactly in that state in which it was quite certain that Parliament might take either course without one atom of risk from public opinion. To what end, then, all these acrimonious discussions?

If we disapprove of the end, we disapprove equally of the means; we see as much to blame in the tone and spirit which characterized the discussions, as we do in the discussions themselves.

It is a principle of human nature, as well established as any principle can be, that, taking men as they are (that is, ninety-nine out of every hundred of them), a man’s opinion, as such, is of no value, on any matter in which his interest is concerned. Not only the assertion of the knave, but the unfeigned opinion of the honest man, if he be not a man of an unusually powerful mind, is sure to follow any strong interest, or fancied interest. On this principle nobody attaches any weight to the opinion of a Catholic, in favour of Catholic emancipation: and, on the same principle, no weight ought to be attached to the opinion of a clergyman of the Church of England, against that measure.

It admits of no question that the clergy of the Established Church in general apprehend great danger to the Church, from the concession of the Catholic claims. The clergy of an establishment, and dissenters from the establishment, are seldom on very good terms with one another; and the clergy, knowing that no Catholic can possibly approve of a Protestant church establishment, imagine that the establishment Edition: current; Page: [81] would go to pieces immediately if a single Catholic were admitted into power. The correctness or incorrectness of this notion, is not now in question; its existence is all that we are arguing for; and while it exists, every body must perceive that the clergy are as incompetent witnesses on Catholic emancipation, as they would be on the expediency of the Church Establishment itself.

When, therefore, petitions were presented from clergymen of the Church of England against the bill; supposing Lord King, or any other supporter of the Catholic claims, to have said any thing, what would it have been proper for him to say? Simply this:—that the petitions came from a body of men, who, as to this question, were an interested body: that if their only object were to shew that the opinions of the petitioners were unfavourable to Catholic emancipation, this was scarcely worth proving, since it was hardly to be expected that they would be favourable; but that if the object of the petitioners were to prove that the measure ought not to pass, they deserved not one particle of regard beyond what might be due to their reasons, if they gave any; and that these were no more than a repetition of what had been said and answered a hundred times in that House.

This would have been common sense, and would have had its effect, both in Parliament and out of it, without the aid of declamation or invective.—The advocates of the Bill took, however, a different course. Instead of shewing that the opinions of the clergy, on this question, were worth nothing, they did what was utterly useless as well as irrelevant, they vituperated the men. They told them, that they were intolerant, that they were illiberal, that they were deficient in Christian charity; all which language, besides that it assumed the very point at issue, namely, that the sentiments of the petitioners were wrong,—really meant nothing, except that those who used the terms were very much dissatisfied with those to whom they applied them; and moreover had all the appearance of that disposition which is itself the very essence of intolerance, a disposition to apply bad names to others for having a different opinion from ourselves.

The handle which was so injudiciously given by the one party was eagerly laid hold of by the other. They retorted the charge of intolerance upon the impugners of the clergy; they called the clergy a proscribed body.* As the other side had begged the question against the clergy, they, not content with begging it in their favour, proceeded to something like a threat, saying, that “the petitioners belonged to a body of men whom their lordships would find out one day, as their ancestors had found before them, that they ought to treat with respect, and not with contumely.”

The debate on the second reading of the Catholic bill opened with an exhibition of honesty and courage not often exemplified in public men. Mr. Brownlow, a leading Orangeman, abjured his old opinions, and declared himself a convert to Edition: current; Page: [82] the cause of Catholic emancipation.[*] Such things rarely happen in the sphere of party morality, where consistency in right or wrong usurps the praise of honesty, and where the merit of having chosen and for half a century rigidly adhered to that path which is the shortest cut to honour, wealth, and power, is accepted as an equivalent for every quality which goes to make a good minister or an honest statesman.* Where the interests of rival parties have succeeded in rendering almost infamous the highest act of virtue perhaps which a public man can perform, we hail with joy the dawn of a better morality in the public recantation of Mr. Brownlow. The manner in which that recantation was received is among the most striking marks of the improving spirit of the age.

At the same time, we must be permitted to remark, sorry as we are to say any thing which may seem indicative of a wish to tarnish the credit which Mr. Brownlow has so justly earned,—that his new opinions, upon his own shewing, have scarcely more foundation in reason than his old ones; and we should not be surprised if some of the late proceedings of the New Catholic Association were to shake his recently acquired liberality, and re-incline him to his former prejudices.

The evidence before the Committees had wrought, he said, his conversion. Dr. Doyle had declared that two doctrines, the power of the Pope to exercise temporal authority over the subjects of other sovereigns, and his power to grant dispensations for crimes, were not doctrines of the Catholic church. Dr. Doyle certainly did say so.[†] He also said (what Mr. Brownlow did not mention) that these doctrines never had been doctrines of that church; by which latter assertion he took away the whole value of the former. If, according to Dr. Doyle, the temporal authority of the Pope is as much a doctrine of the Catholic church as it was when a Gregory or a Boniface fulminated their excommunications and sentences of deposition against kings and emperors; if the power of dispensation is as much a doctrine of the church as it was when indulgences were openly sold from one end of Europe to the other; of what consequence is it that, in the opinion of one man, or of two men (Dr. Doyle and Dr. Murray), these powers were not authorized? Their not being authorized did not prevent their being acted upon then, nor could it prevent them, if an opportunity offered, from being acted upon now. If individual opinions were wanted, we had opinions already; opinions of foreign universities, at least as high authority as Dr. Doyle. As for the Pope, we can hardly conceive any thing more ridiculous than to talk of danger from him. The real danger is from the power of the priests, whether concentrated in one man, or Edition: current; Page: [83] diffused through a great number. If they place the supreme direction in his hands, it is for their own purposes: and if they do not, it is for the same reason. His power is only their power: and does Mr. Brownlow really think that either priests or any other sort of men ever give up any power which they can possibly keep; or are withheld from resuming it by any other reason than because they cannot?

We shall pass slightly over the remainder of the debate. Mr. Dawson brought forward several arguments against emancipation, the chief of which were, that Mr. O’Connell and Dr. Doyle were temperate before the committee but turbulent in Ireland: that the Catholics, in 1824, petitioned parliament for a reform in the temporalities of the Irish church, and that a Catholic parliament treated the Protestants in 1687 pretty much as Protestant parliaments have treated the Catholics ever since.[*] Sufficient answers having been given to these objections, either by the speakers who followed, or in the former part of this article, we shall not waste our readers’ time and our own by going over them again.

Mr. Goulburn and Mr. Peel again insisted upon danger to the Constitution, the Church, and the State,[†] but without proving, any more than their predecessors had done, that whatever danger there might be would be in any wise increased by Catholic emancipation. Mr. Peel illustrated his general argument by a particular example; he put the case of a Catholic king, who, by the bill before the House, would have it in his power to appoint a Catholic ministry.[‡] The contingency is somewhat distant, as well as somewhat improbable: but suppose it certain and near at hand; unless a majority in Parliament were Catholics too, what harm could be done by a Catholic king, though backed by a Catholic ministry? If such chimerical terrors are to be listened to, what dangers are we not exposed to already! What is there to hinder the King from turning Presbyterian, and filling every office in the ministry with Presbyterians? yet is this very likely to happen? or where would be the harm if it did? Has the King, with or without a ministry of his choice, the power to change the established religion, against the will of his people? If so, he can as well change the constitution itself; whatever advantages we owe to it, exist only by his sufferance, and the government of this country is in reality despotic. But if not, what becomes of the imaginary danger?

We must now need say something (much we need not) on the celebrated speech of the Duke of York.[§] What there was objectionable in it has been sufficiently exposed by others; and the station of the royal speaker has drawn down animadversions more severe than the speech, if delivered from other lips, would Edition: current; Page: [84] probably have called forth. As a piece of argument, it cannot be spoken of seriously; indeed it scarcely laid claim to that character. With the exception of what Mr. Canning called “the idle objection of the coronation oath,”* it only offered one reason, which turned upon the oddest of all équivoques. No clergyman can sit in the House of Commons; therefore (said his Royal Highness), the Protestant church, meaning the clergy, is not represented; ergo, the Catholic church, meaning the laity, ought not to be represented either. Considered merely as a declaration of opinion, we have not much to say against this speech: his Royal Highness was as well entitled, as any other person, to choose his side. It may be questioned, however, whether it would have been in any way discreditable to his Royal Highness, if, in testifying his attachment to the opinion he had chosen, he had remembered that even the Heir to the Throne is not infallible, and that it was just possible, that the opinion, to which he was thus solemnly vowing an eternal adherence, might be wrong.

In the interval between the second and third reading of the Catholic bill, two auxiliary measures were introduced into the Lower House, which have excited much discussion, and occasioned much difference of opinion, both among the supporters and among the opponents of the Catholic claims.[*]

The question of a state provision for the Catholic clergy does not seem to us encumbered with many difficulties. Such a provision certainly is not per se desirable. To a Protestant, it must of course appear desirable that there should be none but Protestants, in which case there would be no Catholic clergy, and consequently no need of paying them.—There are, however, Catholic clergy, and they exercise great influence over the people. We should be very glad to see that influence weakened: but, in the meantime, the question is, whether every thing which can be done ought not to be done, towards rendering it as little noxious as possible.

By the admission of all who know any thing of Ireland, one of the greatest evils of that country is, a deficiency of employment compared with the numbers of the people, or, what is the same thing, an excess of numbers, compared with the means of employment. As the best established general principles forbid us to expect that any measures, having for their object to provide employment for the people, can afford any thing more than a temporary palliation to the evil, whilst their numbers continue to increase at the present rate—there is nothing to be done without correcting the prevailing habit of early marriages and heedless increase of families. But to the introduction of any change in this respect, no state of things can Edition: current; Page: [85] be more adverse than one in which the priests derive their chief emoluments from marriages, baptisms, and funerals.* We make no invidious insinuations; we will not ask, whether the priests have given direct encouragement to those early marriages, which have co-operated with bad government to make the Irish people what they are; but we say that nothing can be more impolitic, nor can shew a greater ignorance of human nature, than to admit of the continuance of a state of things in which it is their interest to do so.

Whenever, therefore, a public provision shall be granted to the Catholic clergy of Ireland, we hope that the act conferring it will contain a clause, providing, not for the discontinuance of the fees on marriages and baptisms, but for their being regularly handed over to some officer, for the benefit of the public revenue. To reconcile the priests themselves to this transfer, we would suggest that a portion of their stipends should be in name as well as in reality a commutation for their fees. Under this arrangement they would no longer have an interest in encouraging improvident marriages, while the money received on account of fees would in part contribute to defray the expense of the stipends.

Another reason for paying the Catholic clergy, is to diminish the interest they now have in proselytism. Believing, as we do, the Catholic religion to be a bad one, we of course think it undesirable that proselytes should be made to it. The motives to proselytism will be but too strong, without the aid of pecuniary interest: but when the priest’s emoluments entirely depend upon the number of his flock, those motives are at the highest pitch. Surely all Protestants should wish this to be at an end.

It deserves notice, that of all those who advocated this measure in the House of Edition: current; Page: [86] Commons, there was not one who placed the expediency of it upon the right grounds. One reason assigned was, that the Catholic clergy were a meritorious body.[*] Another, that it was desirable they should be connected with the state;[†] a proposition in which, if, by connexion with the state, is meant dependence upon the government, we are so far from agreeing, that if the stipends were to be put upon such a footing as to create any such dependence, it would shake our confidence in the expediency of the measure itself. Another reason was, that it was desirable that a portion of the higher classes should form a part of the Catholic clergy.[‡] We do not exactly see why; or how the higher classes could be drawn into it by changing the source of its emoluments; unless at the same time an increase were made in the amount, which would be objectionable on another score.

If the reasons given for the measure were bad, the reasons against it were still worse.

The first was, that no provision is made for the clergy of any of the dissenting sects. But there is no other sect, for the payment of whose clergy there are the same reasons.[§]

The second was, that the Catholic clergy, if paid at all, ought to be paid out of the superfluous property of the Established Church: and if the payment could not be made in that way, it ought not, however desirable, to be made at all.[¶]

The third was, that the measure tended to undermine the Established Church. Of this tendency no proof was so much as pretended to be given. But danger to the church is that sort of thing which persons of a certain stamp are accustomed to see in every thing which they do not like.[∥]

The fourth was, that the House ought not to establish a Papal Church, armed with all the jurisdiction belonging to Papacy.* Who would not have supposed that the question before the House was whether there should be a Catholic church in Ireland, or not?

The fifth was, that it would diminish the influence of the Catholic clergy over their flocks. This objection was brought forward in the House by nobody but Mr. Edition: current; Page: [87] Goulburn;[*] in whose mouth it seems to be any thing but appropriate: but it is the objection which we have heard oftenest urged in other places. It has not, however, been proved by any sufficient evidence, that the Catholics would like their priests the less for being no longer a burden on them; that they feel the burden most severely, is well known: that the priests’ fees were a subject of complaint with the discontented, almost equally with tithes and rents, has been given in evidence by several witnesses before the Committees.* Further, if it were made out, that the influence of the priests would be diminished by a public provision, we should not consider this an evil, but a good; it appearing to us to be any thing but beneficial, either to religion or morality, that a body of priests should exercise any such influence over the people, as is exercised by the Catholic clergy: and the influence of the priests having besides afforded to the enemies of emancipation their most plausible topic of alarm.

The proposed alteration of the elective franchise in Ireland appears at first sight a measure of greater delicacy. To those, however, who look to things rather than names, there is no great difficulty in the question.

The forms of liberty, are one thing; the substance another. These two things are often confounded; and the consequence is, that the substance is very often sacrificed to the forms. There is a certain set of politicians, who maintain it as an established principle, that the substance always ought to be sacrificed to the forms; the form being in their estimation every thing, the substance nothing. It is, according to them, not only useful, but essential to good government, that the body of the people should, at every election, go to the poll, and vote for somebody; because this contributes exceedingly to the generation of public spirit: but once there, it is not of the slightest consequence whom they vote for; at least, it is not necessary that they should exercise any choice; or rather, it would be of the most fatal consequence if they did. Elections, according to them, are on the best footing, when there are but two or three real choosers; the two or three thousand, who are the nominal choosers, discharging no other functions, in regard to the favoured candidate, than that of committing to memory his name, and repeating it at the hustings, to a person stationed there to hear it.

This class of politicians find in Ireland a system of election management to their heart’s content. Droves of electors, driven to the poll often without knowing, till they reach the spot, the name of the candidate whom they are to vote for; themselves the property of their landlord, a sort of live stock upon the estate, whom nobody thinks of canvassing, and who would probably stare on being told that the franchise (as it is ironically called) was regarded as a privilege to Edition: current; Page: [88] themselves. In one or two instances of late years, when the state of misery to which they were already reduced rendered ejectment from their wretched tenancies an event scarcely to be dreaded, they did, in considerable numbers, break through their subjection, and from being the tools of their landlords, became the tools of their priests: in consequence of which defection they had to endure all the sufferings which the rage of their thwarted taskmasters could inflict upon them.*

It is moreover well established, though in the lamentable ignorance which prevails in this country with respect to Ireland, it seems not to be generally known, that, of those who are called, and give their votes as, forty-shilling freeholders, it is a very small proportion indeed who are really so; the remainder consisting of persons who not only have not an interest to the value of forty shillings in the land, but who pay to their landlords a full, and more than a full rent; and are registered as freeholders by the grossest perjury on their own part, and the grossest subornation or rather compulsion of perjury on that of the Irish gentlemen, their landlords.

It is true, as was justly observed by Col. Johnson, that the proper remedy for these evils is not disfranchisement, but vote by ballot.[*] Vote by ballot, however, there was no chance of obtaining. Disfranchisement there was a chance of obtaining: it could do no harm, and might do good; by taking away from a few lords of the soil the power of bringing their thousands and tens of thousands to the poll, it would tend to give at least somewhat more importance to the small number of electors who can choose for themselves, without drawing down upon their heads inevitable ruin. It is no mark of wisdom to reject what is good, because you cannot have what is better.

On the other hand, we agree with Lord Milton, that the good effects of this measure have been much exaggerated. It has been assumed, as it appears to us on scarcely any evidence, that the desire of making freeholds for electioneering purposes, has been a great cause of the minute subdivision of lands. That it may have been so in one or two instances we do not deny; indeed it is sufficiently proved Edition: current; Page: [89] that it has. But, that, as a general rule, such political influence as the landlords of the predominant party might acquire by splitting farms, over and above what they might have had without it, could act upon them with sufficient force to counterbalance the direct and obvious interest which they have in the good cultivation of their estates, is a conclusion not to be founded on one or two, or even on ten or twenty, instances. That the lands should be parcelled out in small farms, was no more than is natural in a country where, till of late, scarcely any tenants had capital enough to occupy large ones. Now, when capital is flowing into the country, the landlords are rapidly clearing their estates of the wretched cottier tenantry; uniting numbers of small farms into one, and introducing a better system of cultivation. Observe that the church lands, on which no freeholds can be created, are just as minutely divided as the rest;* while in England, where political influence is fully as much valued as in Ireland, the land is generally let in large farms: why? because there are farmers possessed of sufficient capital to occupy them; and because it is in general of much more importance to a landlord that his lands should be cultivated by persons of capital and intelligence, than that he should gain a few votes, by means which are equally open to the opposite party, if they are willing to make the same sacrifice.

We, therefore, do not claim for the proposed bill, the merit of giving to Ireland a “sturdy and independent yeomanry;” we bound its pretensions to those of diminishing, in some small degree, the power of the aristocracy, and putting an end to a great amount of perjury. Though, even for these purposes, we are much inclined, with Mr. Leslie Foster and Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald,[*] to think that it did not take a range sufficiently wide, and that to produce any very sensible improvement, the disfranchisement ought to have extended to freeholders in fee, as well as to freeholders for lives.

In the debates on this question, it may be remarked, that the extremes both of Toryism and of Whiggism were found on one side, and the more moderate of both parties on the other. This anomaly appears to us to have naturally arisen out of the circumstances of the case. The thorough-goers on both sides, in their opposition to this measure, will be found to have been perfectly consistent with themselves; while the more moderate have on this occasion made a sacrifice of party principles, from an honest desire to promote the public good.

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Every Englishman who knows any thing of the manner in which the legislature of his own country is formed, knows perfectly well that the great mass of the electors, though they have somewhat more of the form, have as little of the reality of a free choice, as their degraded brethren, the forty shilling freeholders of Ireland. If all the English electors were disfranchised, who dare not vote but according to the bidding of their landlords, or customers, so few would be left that there would be no semblance of a popular choice, and the real amount of the aristocratic power would be made universally apparent. This would not suit either section of the aristocracy: neither the stronger section, who are now the absolute masters of the government, nor the weaker section, who hope to become the stronger, and by that means to become the masters of the government in their turn.

In confirmation of the above remark, so far as it affects the Whig party, it may be observed that the various plans which have been proposed by that party for putting the election of Members of Parliament upon a different footing, have been of a nature to add to the aristocratic power, not to diminish it: and to add to it, too, in the very manner to which the principle of the Irish freeholders’ bill is most directly hostile, viz. by giving the franchise to a set of electors who are irresistibly under aristocratic controul. One of these plans is to take away the franchise from the electors of the rotten boroughs who do exercise a free choice, though from their small number they are interested in making a bad one, and to give an additional representation to the county electors, who are almost all of them under the absolute command of their landlords, and who are the very same class of electors whom the Irish freeholders’ bill would disfranchise.[*] Another of their plans, is to extend the elective franchise to copyholders; who would be every where under exactly the same influence as the freeholders.[†]

The more consistent, therefore, and clear-sighted among the Whigs, perceived that it was impossible for them to give their support to this measure, without departing from the principles on which they had constantly acted, and to which they were determined to adhere. Mr. Lambton’s declaration, then, that he would oppose Catholic emancipation in order to frustrate this measure, appears to us perfectly consistent, and, on his own principles, proper.[‡]

The consistent Tories had exactly the same interest in opposing the measure, as the consistent Whigs: they were also actuated by the general hostility to change; and several (Mr. Goulburn for instance)[§] who approved of the measure, opposed it with the view of thwarting Catholic emancipation. Some persons have wondered that such men as Mr. Bankes should stand forward on this occasion as the champions of popular rights: but to us it appears nothing surprising, that a man Edition: current; Page: [91] who has been all his life a determined opponent of all innovation, should oppose it on this occasion as on any other.[*]

If we have succeeded in laying open the springs of action which impelled both classes of opponents to say and do what they said and did against the bill, the reader will be able to make the application to the different speeches without our assistance, and we should have quitted the subject had there not been one passage in the speech of Mr. Brougham, which appears to us to call for particular animadversion.[†]

We do not allude to the bitter complaint which he made [pp. 192-3], oddly enough, of the want of information, when there is probably no subject relative to Ireland, in respect to which the information was equally complete; nor to the still odder reason that he gave for suffering the Irish freeholders to continue perjuring themselves, because officers in the army, members of parliament, and bishops, perjured themselves too [pp. 194-5]; nor even to the excellent definition which he gave of the “natural influence of property,” when he defined it to consist in driving Englishmen by threats to go to the poll and utter a deliberate falsehood, enforcing that falsehood by the ceremony of an oath, to put a candidate into parliament of whom they knew nothing; of which influence he added that he did not complain, and that it must exist every where.* The only part of his speech which we have it in view to touch upon, is the unprovoked attack, which he went out of his way to make, upon “the political economists.”

They were told by a class of men, who had carried their dogmatical notions almost as far, and with a spirit similar to the religious persecutions of other times—he meant the political economists, who had held up a valued friend of his, Mr. Malthus, to public ridicule, only because he differed from Mr. Ricardo on a mere metaphysical, not a practical point—that they ought to pass this measure, &c. &c.

(Ibid., p. 193.)

We cannot see in what manner a knowledge of the circumstance, that the political economists were intolerant, or had dogmatical notions, conduced to the forming a right decision on the subject of Irish freeholds; but the irrelevancy of this accusation is the least of the faults, with which it is justly chargeable.

If, by the term “political economists,” Mr. Brougham intended to designate any particular individuals, we would recommend him,—before he again vituperates the cultivators of a science, the first principles of which it would do him no harm to study,—to consult Lindley Murray’s English Grammar,[‡] from which he will learn the difference between nouns proper and appellative, and will be taught to avoid confounding classes with individuals. But if he include under the expression Edition: current; Page: [92] “political economists,” all or most of those who have made the cultivation of that science their particular pursuit, we have not heard of any act which has emanated from these persons as a body; and we imagine that Mr. Malthus must have been somewhat surprised to find himself represented by his “valued friend” as having been “held up to public ridicule,” by a class of philosophers, among whom he probably esteems himself to be not one of the least considerable. It strikes us, too, as rather odd, that the act of “holding a man up to public ridicule” should be regarded as proof of “a spirit similar to the religious persecutions of other times.” Religious persecutors have been wont to resort to tortures of a keener description than public ridicule: and is Mr. Malthus the first person who has been held up to ridicule for a “merely speculative” opinion?

To be serious, it is astonishing, that a man like Mr. Brougham should either be ignorant himself, or should count upon so extraordinary a degree of ignorance on the part of his audience, as to impute intolerance to the political economists: a class of men who are by nothing more distinguished, than by the mildness and urbanity with which their warmest discussions have been carried on: a mildness till then unknown in the history of controversy; and forming a most striking contrast with the bitterness and animosity which have characterized the disputes not merely of politicians and theologians, contending for power over the bodies or souls of mankind, but even of the professors of purely abstract science, for example the mathematicians: who in their controversies with one another, or with those who have impugned any of their doctrines, have on several occasions displayed even more than ordinary arrogance, petulance, and ill-temper. He who was ignorant of all this, or knowing it could charge the political economists with dogmatism and intolerance, must have merely taken up the first bad name which occurred to him, and without for a moment considering whether it was applicable or not, flung it at the heads of those whom he had a mind to assail.

We have not left ourselves space to comment at much length upon the two remaining discussions on the Catholic question.[*] The subject was much more thoroughly sifted in these two debates than in the foregoing: we allude particularly to the speeches of Mr. Horace Twiss and Lord Harrowby, by both of whom the only argument was put forward which really goes to the bottom of the question, namely, that, for any mischievous purpose, the Catholics would not gain one particle of power by emancipation.[†] Mr. Charles Grant was, as usual, honest and manly.[‡] The opponents of the Catholics begged the question against them, in all the old, and a variety of new ways: but their speeches were in every material feature so like those of their predecessors, that we need not waste any words upon Edition: current; Page: [93] them. The only speech deserving of notice on that side of the question was the speech of the Bishop of Chester: and this not so much from the merits or demerits of its arguments as from the lengths to which the right reverend prelate was hurried by the clerical esprit de corps, and the cavalier manner in which he treated all classes in Ireland, except the priesthood of the church, “a priesthood,” (including, we suppose, the Honorable and Venerable Archdeacon Trench, and the Rev. Mr. Morrett of Skibbereen)* “which, in the moral desolation of Ireland, remained the Oasis of the desert, and gave to the eye some points on which it could rest with pleasure.” It was ludicrous enough too, to hear a man who is pocketing thousands a year by his opinions, and who has nothing to fear from a strict adherence to them but removal from a lower grade of emolument and grandeur to a higher, spout mock-heroics, and talk of martyrdom.

*     *     *     *     *

Hitherto what we have been mainly considering, in the different speeches, has been their arguments. The occasion now calls for another sort of remark.

In private life, no maxim, that has human conduct for its subject, is more universally assented to than the paramount importance of an inviolable adherence to truth. To charge a man with a disregard to truth is justly considered as the most flagrant insult which can be put upon him: and the state of mind which characterizes an habitual liar, as one with which no good or great quality can easily coexist.

It has however been long ago observed by Addison, that party lies are in a great measure exempt from this stigma; and that men who would sooner die than be guilty of the slightest violation of truth for their individual advantage, are ready, for the benefit of their party, to put forth assertions which they not only know to be false, but which they know cannot, in the common course of things, be believed by any body for more than a few days.[*]

Whether matters have altered in this respect, since the days of Addison, is what we do not pretend to determine. Thus much, however, will, it is believed, be found to be borne out by a considerable body of modern experience: that what would be a falsehood anywhere else, is a justifiable piece of rhetorical artifice in the House of Commons; and that gentlemen, in all other respects of the most unblemished Edition: current; Page: [94] honour, and quite incapable of saying or doing any thing which is generally regarded as dishonorable, are in the daily habit of making assertions in Parliament, which would infallibly lead an indifferent auditor to suppose that the convenience of an assertion for their purposes was a circumstance much more regarded by them than its truth.

It will be for the reader to judge, whether the assertions which we are now about to quote, belong to the class of assertions which we have just mentioned, or not. We will deal fairly by him and them; we will lay before him,—together with the assertions,—if not the proofs, at least an indication of the proofs, which lead us without hesitation to pronounce them unfounded. It is possible that the gentlemen to whom they are ascribed, may have been misrepresented by the reporters; if so, they are bound in justice to the public and to themselves, to disavow them. It is also, in the case of some of these gentlemen, just possible, that they may not have known positively that the assertions were unfounded, but only, not known them to be true. We shall be extremely glad to find that the gentlemen have been misrepresented. We bear them no ill will; on the contrary, we have for some of them individually great respect. In the code of party ethics, the stain may not be a very black one; but we confess it is one from which we would gladly see them freed.

Mr. Doherty:

Frequent allusions had been made to the partial administration of justice in Ireland. Now he would say, and the experience of some years entitled him to say it, that the Catholics of Ireland enjoyed the fullest and fairest administration of justice. He affirmed, without fear of contradiction from any Irish member, that the courts of justice were equally open to the rich and the poor, without distinction of religious sentiments.*

The same gentleman:

As far as the experience of seventeen years’ attendance on the Irish circuit enabled him to judge, the administration of justice in ireland was perfectly pure. He repeated that the administration of justice in Ireland was perfectly pure, that the rights of the poor man were equally respected with those of the rich, and that no distinction whatever was made between Catholic and Protestant.

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Mr. North:

Mr. Cobbett, who within the last two months had become the oracle of the Catholics, had desired them to make out a list of the cases in which justice had been denied, or in which oppression and violence had received a sanction from the law. The Catholics, however, had drawn out no such list, because they could not; no such cases of successful injustice existing except in the heated imaginations of those who had fabricated them.*

Mr. Goulburn:

It had been said that there was one law for the rich and another for the poor in Ireland. If that meant that there was a denial of justice to the poor man, he begged to deny the fact. With respect to magistrates, he would assert, and he defied contradiction, that there was no such thing as a disposition among them to take bribes for the administration of justice to the poor.

To the above list, it is with great pain we add the following passage; which, however, is so vague and intangible that it can hardly be said to contain an assertion at all, consequently not a false assertion.

Mr. Brownlow:

The Protestant gentlemen of Ireland, in the relations of parents, landlords, and magistrates, followed the precepts of their religion, by studying the good of all committed to their charge, in a manner not to be surpassed by a similar body of men in any country.

The following assertion belongs to the same class:

The Earl of Roden:

The situation of the peasantry of Ireland had, he conceived, been very much misrepresented. No set of people enjoyed more amply the benefits of the British Constitution than the peasantry of Ireland.§

We shall not attempt to do what volumes would not do effectually, to present the Edition: current; Page: [96] reader with the original of this delightful picture: but we can at least tell him what to read. If he will peruse those passages in the Evidence before the Committees to which we are about to refer him, he will form some conception of the purity of the administration of justice in Ireland (we are not speaking of the superior courts), both in other respects, and in regard to the taking of bribes; of the benefits which no set of people enjoy more amply than the peasantry of Ireland, to wit, those of the British constitution; and of the manner in which the Protestant gentlemen of Ireland follow the precepts of their religion, by studying, in the character of landlords and magistrates, and we will add, grand jurors, the good of all committed to their charge. We have inclosed our references to the most important passages within brackets. The authority of any one of these witnesses may be cavilled at; but we recommend to the reader to count them.

Before the Commons’ Committee of 1825.

Mr. [Daniel] O’Connell, pp. 51, 55-6, [60, 61]. Col. Currey, 297, [312]. Major Gen. Bourke, 324, [325], 326-7, 330, [336], 339, [340]. Rev. John Keily, 397. Rev. Thomas Costello, [417], 418. Mr. Rochfort, 446, 448, [449]. Mr. [Arthur] Kelly, 521, [522, 526]. Mr. Barrington, 578. Lord Carbery, [603]. Mr. [John] Currie, [634]. Mr. [John] Godley, 741. [Parliamentary Papers, 1825, VIII.]

Before the Commons’ Committee of 1824.

Mr. Blacker, pp. [60, 61]. Major Willcocks, 101, [109], 113. Major Warburton, 164. Mr. [William Wrixon] Becher, [183, 184, 185]. Mr. Leslie Foster, 242. Mr. Justice Day, [253, 257-9, 264]. Mr. [William Henry] Newenham, 306. Mr. Macarty, [328-9, 332]. Rev. Michael Collins, 335, 336, [337, 371-7]. Mr. O’Driscol, 381, [383-5, 396]. Dr. [John Richard] Elmore, [417]. Dr. Church, 424, [429-30]. Mr. Lawler, 441, 442-3. [Ibid., Vol. VII.]

Before the Lords’ Committee of 1825.

Mr. Leslie Foster, pp. 55, [60], 65. Mr. Doherty, 91, 94, [95]. Mr. O’Connell, [130], 131, 134, [135]. Major Gen. Bourke, 173, 176, [178], 180. Mr. [Joseph] Abbott, [196-8]. Rev. Henry Cooke, 217. Sir John Newport, 288. Mr. Barrington, 305. Earl of Kingston, [437, 439]. Archdeacon Trench, [447]. Mr. Justice Day, [524], 526, 527, [528-9]. Mr. Dominick Browne, 588. [Ibid., Vol. IX.]

Before the Lords’ Committee of 1824.

Major Willcocks, pp. 554-5. Major Warburton, [579]. Major [Thomas] Powell, 609. Mr. [Alexander] Nimmo, [631-2], 659, 663, [665], 679. Mr. Becher, 634, [637], 639. The Duke of Leinster, [Augustus Frederick Fitzgerald,] Edition: current; Page: [97] 704. Mr. Macarty, 719. The Marquis of Westmeath, [George Thomas Nugent,] 728-31. Mr. O’Driscol, [733-4]. [Ibid., Vol. VII.]

But, infinitely more than all these, let him read from beginning to end the evidence of Mr. Macdonnell, of Ballinasloe, before the Commons’ Committee of 1825: that part of it which relates to magistrates, that part of it which relates to grand juries, that part of it which relates to illegal tolls, and other illegal charges, and that part of it which relates to tithes.[*] He will find there—it is not safe to tell him what he will find: let him read for himself.

*     *     *     *     *

Among the minor proceedings of the last session relative to Ireland, none are of sufficient importance to require notice, with the exception of Mr. Hume’s motion concerning the Irish church, and the debate to which it gave rise.[†]

As this was only a motion for inquiry, we are not called upon to give any opinion on the expediency of a revision of the Church Establishment of Ireland: a large subject, and one upon which we shall have other opportunities of stating our opinions, at greater length than our limits would have enabled us, on the present occasion, to afford. We shall content ourselves, then, with an examination of the grounds, on which the House resolved, that there was no need of inquiry.

The only speaker against the motion (Mr. Peel said but a few words)[‡] was Mr. Canning. His arguments were two. One was, that a revision of the Irish Church Establishment was contrary to the Union.[§] The other consisted in calling the church revenues property, in denouncing all interference with them as spoliation, and affirming that the House might, with equal right, seize upon the lay tithes, and the property of corporations. To these arguments Mr. Canning added (what is often more effective than argument) vituperation: “he had never heard a principle so base propounded for consideration in that House.”*

The first argument is defective in two ways: in the first place, because, as was remarked by Sir Francis Burdett[¶] in his pointed answer to Mr. Canning, the Act of Union is not a law of the Medes and Persians; in the next place, because, supposing it were so, the opponents of the motion failed, on their own shewing, in making it out to be a violation of the Union. It is a mockery to say, that, in merely enacting that the churches of England and Ireland should be united in one Protestant Edition: current; Page: [98] Episcopalian church, to be subject to the same laws, it was ever intended to tie up the hands of the legislature from introducing any reform into either, which might render it more conducive to its object, or to the good of the state. Mr. Peel attempted to bolster up this flimsy argument, by referring to that article of the Union by which it was provided, that the Irish bishops should succeed in a certain order to seats in Parliament:[*] this he called recognizing the number of bishops; and so it was: recognizing the actual number; recognizing it as being the actual number: but not surely as a number never to be altered, should any other number be, in the opinion of the legislature, more eligible. Is a law to be construed as giving perpetuity to every thing, the existence of which it takes for granted as a fact, and provides for the consequences of it accordingly? If there had been a provision in the Union to regulate the right of pasturage upon a common, or of cutting turf upon a bog, would it have been a consequence of that provision, that the common should never be ploughed up, the bog never drained? If a man had bound himself by a contract to give his footman a livery, would he by that contract have debarred himself from ever parting with his footman?

The other argument, which turns upon the words property and spoliation, was completely demolished in the masterly speech of Mr. Brougham,[†] who pointed out the inherent distinctions between the revenues of the Church and private property, and the consequent inapplicability of such a term as spoliation to any measure for regulating their amount. Spoliation,—whatever be meant by spoliation, must at any rate be spoliation of somebody. The spoliation in question, if such it is to be called, would not be spoliation of the present incumbents, since it was proposed to leave their incomes untouched: it would not be spoliation of their children, or heirs, since these would not have got the incomes, and therefore cannot lose them. No man, no person, no actually existing being would be deprived by the proposed measure of any thing which he has, nor of any thing which he is entitled to expect. Of whom then would it be spoliation? Of an ideal being; a mere imaginary entity: an abstract idea: a name, a sound. It would, in one word, be spoliation of nobody.

Having no better arguments than these, it is no wonder that Mr. Canning should have had recourse to the old expedient of “flinging dirt.” It is the characteristic of a bad cause to resort to such helps, as it is of a good one to have no need of them.

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Westminster Review, V (Jan., 1826), 1-22. Headed: “Art. I. Report from the Select Committee on the Laws relating to Game. Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, 18th April, 1823. [Parliamentary Papers, 1823, IV, 107-53.] / [John Weyland.] A Letter on the Game Laws. By a Country Gentleman, a Proprietor of Game. [London:] Baldwin, [Cradock, and Joy,] Paternoster Row, and Hatchard, Piccadilly, 1815. / [John Weyland.] A Second Letter on the Game Laws. By a Country Gentleman, a Proprietor of Game. [London:] Baldwin, [Cradock, and Joy,] Paternoster Row, and Hatchard, Piccadilly, 1817. / [Edward Harbord.] Considerations on the Game Laws. By Edward Lord Suffield. [London:] J. Hatchard and Son. 1825. / Reconsiderations on certain proposed Alterations in the Game Laws. By George Bankes, Esq. [London:] J. Hatchard and Son. 1825.” Running titles: “The Game Laws.” Unsigned; not republished Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “An article on the Game Laws, in the 9th number of the Westminster Review” (MacMinn, 7). For comment on the essay, see lvii above.

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The Game Laws

when we learned from the newspapers, that a bill to reform the Game Laws had been introduced into parliament by the representative of the greatest agricultural county in England, had been supported by a home secretary, and triumphantly carried through the Lower House; we pleased ourselves with the thought that, for once, at least, the aristocracy of Great Britain had shewn that the happiness and virtue of the bulk of the community were not altogether a matter of indifference in their eyes.[*] They have hastened to undeceive us. They have shewn a commendable anxiety that the public may not continue long to think better of them than they deserve. It has pleased our lords the peers to exercise, on the occasion of Mr. Stuart Wortley’s bill, that glorious privilege of crushing improvement, which has been vested in them, no doubt, for wise purposes, by our happy constitution. The legislature of this country has once more solemnly declared, that, come what will of the morals, the liberties, and even the lives, of the great mass of the agricultural population, the amusements at least of the aristocracy shall not be invaded. It remains to be seen how this declaration will be received by the public. How it ought to be received is evident enough.

To a superficial observer it might appear, that the wisdom and virtue to which we are thus indebted for the perpetuation of poaching, and (by an infallible consequence) of all other kinds of crime, are those of the House of Lords. More accurate reflection shows, that the root of the evil lies far deeper; that the peers have but borne their share in the triumph of the few over the many; and that to lay the blame upon them would be to throw that responsibility upon a part, which in justice belongs to the whole.

In the examination which we thought it necessary to institute in our first number Edition: current; Page: [102] into the nature and composition of the British aristocracy, we pointed out the manner in which the governing power is shared between the landed and the monied interests; the landed interest, however, retaining a decided preponderance.[*] Had any new proof been wanted of this preponderance, such a proof would have been afforded by the fate of Mr. Stuart Wortley’s bill. It is well known that those members of both branches of the legislature, who voted against the bill, have belonged almost exclusively to the class of landholders. The monied interest have been almost unanimous in its favour. The reason is obvious: the exclusive privilege which it was the object of the bill to take away, was a privilege created not for them, but against them. The whole body of peers are, almost without exception, landholders. Even in the Lower House a large majority are either themselves landholders, or are returned by that class. In that House, however, there were found landholders possessed of common humanity, and of an ordinary share of understanding, in sufficient numbers, when supported by the monied interest, to turn the balance in favour of improvement. That it was otherwise in a House composed almost entirely of landholders, only proves that in the agricultural class, as in every class, the purely selfish always form a large majority.

The fate of the Game bill, therefore, is a pretty conclusive proof, what, in this country, the landholders can do: it is also a pretty decisive specimen of what they will do, and such a specimen as, antecedently to experience, it would not have been very easy to anticipate.

Let us see what it is which the landholders get by these laws. They have a little more game to shoot, and a little more game to eat, than they possibly might have, if the game laws were amended; and they have the privilege of sending such game as they have shot, and do not desire to eat, as a present, to an unqualified friend, under pretence of its being a rarity; though all the world knows that it may be had of any poulterer for a few shillings.

Let us now turn our eyes to the other side of the account; and try to form some conception, though it be but an imperfect one, of the price which the Many pay to secure the Few in the enjoyment of these inestimable advantages.

If we were writing for the “great men,” we should descant upon the hardship of denying to the “second son of a man of £20,000 per annum,” the liberty of shooting over his father’s estate,* and refusing to the merchant or manufacturer the luxury of game, unless he happen to have a qualified friend who is able and willing to keep his table supplied. In the eyes of the said second son, or of the said merchant or manufacturer, these grievances might, for aught we know, be more acceptable subjects of remonstrance than those which we have chosen; and there have been pamphlets enough, and speeches enough, in which these and similar topics have Edition: current; Page: [103] been dwelt upon usque ad nauseam. As, however, the little men happen to outnumber the great men in the proportion of some thousands to one; and as, moreover, in our estimation, to be first tempted to crime, and then transported for it, with a considerable probability of being ultimately hanged, is a greater evil than that of being debarred from the pleasure of shooting, or the pleasure of eating, a partridge; we shall leave these last-mentioned privations to the generous indignation of would-be sportsmen, and of aldermen, with their associate speech-makers and pamphlet-makers. Our objection to the Game Laws rests upon a different ground. The class of evils to which we shall direct the attention of our readers, are so immeasurably superior in magnitude, that we cannot think it worth while to insist upon any others.

That among the poorer classes in the game-preserving districts, the crime of poaching is almost universal, and that the habitual poacher almost constantly ends by being a thief, are facts unhappily so notorious, that to adduce any proofs in support of them is a labour which may be spared. It is instructive, however, to mark the acute sense which is entertained of these evils by those who, in their capacity of magistrates, are best able to appreciate their magnitude and extent.

The receipt to make a poacher, [says Lord Suffield,] will be found to contain a very few and simple ingredients, which may be met with in every game county in England. Search out (and you need not go far) a poor man with a large family, or a poor man single, having his natural sense of right and wrong, and as much more as he was taught before he was seven or ten years old; let him absent himself from church, or go to sleep when he is there; give him little more than a natural disinclination to work; let him exist in the midst of lands where the game is preserved; keep him cool in the winter, by allowing him insufficient wages to purchase fuel; let him feel hungry upon the small spare pittance of parish relief; and if he be not a poacher, it will only be by the blessing of God. In the poacher thus easily concocted, my experience justifies me in asserting, that we have at least a fair promise, if not the absolute certainty, of an ultimately accomplished villain.*

The extent and progress of the evil, [says the able author of the letters on the Game Laws,] cannot be conceived by those who are not conversant with the lower ranks in the country villages. From extensive observation and inquiry, I believe in my conscience, that it is not too much to assert, that three fourths of the crimes which bring so many poor men to the gallows, have their first origin in the evil and irregular habits, necessarily introduced by the almost irresistible temptations held out, in consequence of the prohibitions of the Game Laws, to a nightly breach of their enactments. This I can safely declare of my own knowledge—that of the numerous country villages with which I am acquainted, not one exists in which the profligate and licentious characters may not trace the first and early corruption of their habits to this cause. The experience of every impartial magistrate, of every judge of assize, will fortify this assertion; many, indeed, have openly declared it.

This state of things, dreadful as it is, the situation in which the country labourer is placed, might of itself have led us to anticipate.

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It is well known that, over a great part of England, the common agricultural labourer, by the most incessant toil, can scarcely earn more than nine-pence or a shilling a day. In comparison with this the gains of the poacher must be enormous. A gang of poachers has been known to take as much as three sacks of game in one night.* At however low a price game may occasionally have been sold, the dividend of each poacher upon a booty like this must have been ample. The pursuit is not only no toil, but a positive pleasure; the risk of detection is little or nothing; for though an habitual poacher probably is in most cases ultimately discovered, the chances are many to one against the detection of any individual act. The same feelings which guard the honesty of the poor man on other occasions, have no existence here; for nothing is more notorious than that the taking of game is regarded as no crime, either by the offenders themselves, or by their neighbours. A little wire and string are the only materials required; and the facilities which exist for the immediate disposal of game can only be appreciated by those who have read the minutes of evidence taken before the committee of the House of Commons. Is it not, then, much more wonderful that any should resist such temptations, than that so many should yield to them?

If, by frequent and undetected repetition, the poor man has acquired a habit of trusting either wholly or in part to the illegal traffic for his subsistence; the first time that by accident or precaution he is prevented from obtaining his usual supply of game, he is averse to return to that life of toil which he has abandoned, and unable, perhaps, if his practices are suspected, to obtain employment were he to seek it. Inured now to the breach of the laws, he no longer regards the violation even of acknowledged property in the same light as before; what little scruple he has, soon yields to the pressure of necessity, and the orchard, the hen-roost, or the sheep-fold becomes the next object of his depredations. His illicit pursuits, too, bring him into contact with other characters of greater experience in crime; with poachers of longer standing than himself, and of more depraved habits; with thieves by profession, who, in the exercise of their calling, do not neglect a line of business at once so easy and so safe.

The thieves who become poachers, [says Lord Suffield,] united with the poachers who become thieves, are usually those who lead the gangs whose bloody and ferocious deeds are so frequently recorded during the winter months in all the newspapers of the day. These desperadoes provide guns and other instruments, the materiel for poaching—they hire (the fact falls within my own immediate knowledge) poor men, generally upon the same wages, or very little more, than are paid by the game-preserver to his night-watchers—they discipline these unhappy mercenaries in the exercise of their calling—they sometimes claim the whole of the booty—offer their mighty protection, and often actually do pay the penalties, if any novice should get into trouble by detection in a trivial offence on some other occasion; and finally, they undertake to dispose of the game with safety and profit, whenever it suits the convenience of the young beginner to produce any. (Pp. 26-7.)

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Under such tuition it is not necessary to trace the progress of the unhappy novice from crime to crime. He who knows the first steps, can imagine the last.

If, on the other hand, he be detected, he is imprisoned for one, two, or three months, with or without hard labour, as the caprice or revenge of the game-preserving magistrate, who sits in judgment in his own cause, may dictate. If things were so ordered in an English gaol, that imprisonment should have the effect of making a man better, instead of worse, this temporary suspension of his illegal pursuits, and separation from his guilty associates, might be made the means of saving him from destruction. After he had endured, or while he was enduring, his allotted quantum of punishment, pains might be taken to eradicate his mischievous habits, to implant good ones in their stead, and to send him forth an altered man. This is what might be done, if prisons were what they might be made. To all who know what English prisons are, it is unnecessary to say, that their effects are precisely the reverse. There is nothing, even in the best of them, which deserves the name of reformatory discipline. Nothing is done to make the prisoner better; and when there is nothing doing to make him better, it is pretty certain, that there is enough doing to make him worse. Habituated to the society of criminals, he not only becomes prepared for the perpetration of any villainy, but learns from his associates the most skilful modes of committing crime and eluding detection. On leaving prison, he finds himself shut out from all decent means of obtaining a livelihood; those to whom he once looked for employment have learned from experience what sort of characters the discipline of an English gaol turns out upon society; his imprisonment, instead of being the instrument of his reformation, is the badge of his infamy, and an effectual bar to his ever retracing his steps, and quitting the path which leads from crime to crime, from punishment to punishment, and terminates in premature death.

This may suffice for a general sketch of the progress of village criminality. Particular instances, without number, might be selected from the works before us, if particular instances could give any additional certainty to general facts so unhappily notorious.

Daniel Bishop, one of the principal officers of the Bow-street Police Office, said on his examination,

“I think within four months there have been twenty-one transported that I have been at the taking of, and through one man turning evidence in each case, and without that they could not have been identified; the game-keepers could not, or would not, identify them.” [Parliamentary Papers, 1823, IV, 138.]

“You detected some men in Dorsetshire; how far did they come?—Sixteen miles, the whole of the village from which they were taken were poachers; the constable of the village, and the shoemaker, and other inhabitants of the village.” [P. 137.]

“Does not the poacher become frequently, what he does not allow himself in the first instance to be, a thief?—Yes; they go on from step to step; I had a case at Bishop’s Stortford, where they began with poaching and went on to thieving; and one was hanged, and there were seven or eight transported for life.” [P. 138.]

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“Have you ever heard from any of the poachers that they have been concerned in other robberies?—Yes, I have; poaching is the first step to all depredations; if they are disappointed in poaching, they will go on and rob hen-roosts, or break into any farmer’s house, or steal a sheep, they have told me that.” [P. 136.]

Mr. John Stafford, chief clerk at the Bow-street office, being asked whether he was acquainted with any cases of particular atrocity, answered:

“I think one of the worst cases that I recollect, and that was a pretty early one (in the year 1816), was the case in Gloucestershire, where there was a large gang thoroughly organized, and bound together with secret oaths, that attacked the keepers belonging to the Berkeley estate, near Berkeley castle. Vickery, who was a very intelligent officer, was sent down upon that occasion, and from his exertions and the assistance he met with in the neighbourhood, he was enabled to bring the whole gang, or pretty nearly so, to justice. It consisted of about twenty; there were thirteen or fourteen of them, I think, tried and convicted of the murder. A man of the name of William Ingram, one of the principal keepers, was shot dead upon the spot; another of the keepers had an eye shot out; another was shot through the knee; and several of them were dangerously wounded. A man of the name of Allen, who was a farmer, and also a collector of rates or taxes in the parish, and looked upon as a respectable man, was at the head of that gang; and Allen was executed with a man of the name of Penny, who was a labourer, and was supposed to be the man that actually shot the game-keeper who was killed; the other offenders were all transported for life. And after that a young man, who was a lawyer or a lawyer’s clerk in some village adjoining, and who had administered the oath to those people to bind them together, was also tried and transported; it turned out that he swore them upon a Ready Reckoner,[*] but the court took that as sufficient, it having the effect to bind them.”

“Was the union of these men solely for the purpose of poaching?—Solely for the purpose of poaching in that instance, and the offence arose in the act of poaching. About the same time, I rather think a little before that, there were two men executed at Chelmsford; their offence was not committed in the act of poaching, but they certainly commenced their career by being poachers. There was a shoemaker of the name of Trigg, who lived at a little village called Berden, in Essex, who was shot . . . . Vickery and Bishop were sent down, and I went afterwards myself to direct them, and after a little time they succeeded in apprehending two men whose names were Turner and Pratt; they were apprehended at Bishop’s Stortford, and the number of implements that were found in the possession of these two men, exceeded any thing I ever heard of or saw before. It was astonishing the number of picklock keys they had, also wires, snares, every thing for the carrying on the combined operations of poachers and thieves . . . . Both were convicted and executed for the murder; and one of these men himself told me, that he had all his misfortunes to blame himself for, from originally commencing poacher; that poaching led them out at nights, and into bad company; that when they went out to get game, if they were disappointed in getting game, they would take poultry sometimes, and sheep; and that sometimes, rather than go home without any thing, they would break open houses; and it was in the breaking open of this shoemaker’s shop, that the man was shot in coming down to prevent the act; each charged the other with the actual commission of the murder, but they admitted they were both present.”

“Were these people at the time connected with poaching, and was poaching one of their occupations?—Certainly.”

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“From the result of your information, has it appeared to you, that thieves and poachers are frequently connected together in the country, and that they are frequently the same persons?—I think that very soon after men become poachers, they either become thieves or are led into connection with them. I think that many men, perhaps, would not have been thieves if they had not previously become poachers.” [Ibid., pp. 143-4.]

Mr. Page, a Surrey magistrate, whose evidence to this point is particularly valuable, because he is hostile to any alteration in the law, says “I conceive that poachers are all poultry stealers and sheep stealers also.” [Ibid., p. 149.]

Mr. William Peel, another opponent of the bill, stated in Parliament, that one fourth of all the commitments in England were on account of offences against the game laws.[*]

The return made to the House of Commons shews that the number of persons in prison for such offences, in England and Wales, on the 24th February 1825, amounted to 581.[†]

And lastly, Mr. Secretary Peel, in his place in Parliament, declared, that the commitments for this class of offences, during the last six or seven years, had exceeded 9000; being considerably more than 1200 annually.[‡]

When we consider that, at least, eleven-twelfths of these unfortunate persons, from the loss of character which they suffered by being thrown into gaol, and the habits which they acquired while there, became, by a sort of moral necessity, confirmed and accomplished depredators, and the majority in all probability ended their career in New South Wales, in the hulks, or on the gallows, we may form some faint conception of the amount of evil which is annually inflicted upon the community by the game laws. And for what purpose?

Let us concede to the advocates of these laws, all which they could ask. Let us grant that the end and object for which all this misery is occasioned, is not the mere maintenance of an exclusive privilege. Let us grant that the measures proposed by Mr. Stuart Wortley would altogether extirpate the breed of game. This, at least, is the maximum of its mischievousness, the very “head and front of its offending;”[§] and if it did so much, it could not well do more. Now, is there any one, we ask, whose love of partridge is so strong, or his love of his fellow creatures so weak, that if he had to choose between depriving himself of the former, and inflicting all the evils, which we have attempted to delineate, upon the latter, he would feel so much as a moment’s hesitation in making his choice? Or if our great landholders be such persons, have they any reason to complain of any one for holding them up to hatred and contempt?

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The end of property, as of all other human institutions, is, or ought to be, no other than the general good. If the existence of any particular kind of property be contrary to the general good, that kind of property ought not to exist. If the existence of game, and the existence of all this crime and misery, be necessarily concomitant, a reward ought to be offered for every head of game till the whole breed be extinct. Nor have there been wanting men who have had honesty enough and courage enough to avow such a doctrine, in the very face of an assembly of landholders. Lord Milton “thought the House had nothing to do with the effect which the bill might have, either as to the increase or the diminution of game. It was not the duty of parliament to provide for the amusement of country gentlemen, but to legislate for the preservation of the morals of the country.”* Lord Suffield, whose benevolence and manliness form so striking, and, to him, so honourable a contrast with the cowardice, the bigotry, and the selfishness, which fill the benches around him, declared in the House of Lords (February 20, 1824) that “so enormous were the evils produced by the present system, that he would give his support to the proposed alteration, though its effect were to be, to sweep every head of game from the face of the earth.”

According to Mr. William Peel, indeed, even the extirpation of game would not put an end to those evils, of which the existence of game is positively proved to be the cause. “Because if there were no poachers, there would not cease to be criminals. After a few years, when the occupation of poachers should be destroyed, was it supposed that these men would return to the habits of honest industry?”[*] We never met with any one who supposed that because there were no poachers, there would cease to be criminals; nor did we ever meet with any one who supposed, that if there were no murderers, there would, for that reason, cease to be criminals. As little, however, did we ever meet with any one, who argued from thence, that it was not desirable there should cease to be murderers; or that it was not worth while to make a considerable sacrifice, if by any sacrifice this object could be attained. That they who have grown old in the crimes to which they were first allured by the temptations arising out of the game laws, might not cease to be criminals under any laws, is probable enough. But if the dreadful evils which these laws have produced in time past cannot now be remedied, even by the abolition of the laws, does it follow that they should not be prevented from continuing to produce evils equally dreadful in time to come? If it be proved, and the reader can judge for himself whether it be so, that poaching is, to an enormous extent, the cause of other crimes, that cause to which they owe their existence, and but for Edition: current; Page: [109] which, they would not have been; the truism, that “because there were no poachers, there would not cease to be criminals,” will avail the country gentlemen very little.

Mr. Stuart Wortley’s bill is an experiment, and ought to be considered as such. It is an experiment to ascertain, whether it be possible to have the pleasures of game, without the evils of poaching. Granting that its success is doubtful; granting that its promoters have failed of making it perfectly certain that it would really produce all the good which they anticipate; does this exculpate those by whom the bill has been thrown out? No! If they, who have forbidden this experiment, had instituted any other experiment which might afford a better chance of mitigating the evil—if, objecting to this mode, they had pointed out any other mode by which their amusements might be reconciled with the happiness and virtue of their countrymen,—something more might have been said for their benevolence as well as for their wisdom. But if they who have so strenuously resisted this alteration, are as strenuous in their resistance to every alteration in that system which is the cause of such unspeakable evils; if they oppose this plan, only as they oppose every plan by which their exclusive privileges are to be curtailed; then are they accountable for all the misery which is produced, for all the lives which are sacrificed, by the direct or indirect consequences of the system; and whatever appellation is due to the man who, for a paltry gratification, knowingly and wilfully inflicts the greatest conceivable evils upon hundreds and thousands of his countrymen, that appellation properly belongs to them.

The alterations proposed to be made in the existing game laws by Mr. Stuart Wortley’s bill are principally three: 1. to legalize the sale of game. 2. to abolish qualifications. 3. to render game the private property of the person on whose land it is killed.

Of the first two of these proposed changes, we unequivocally approve; and of the principle of the third, though we disapprove of some of the details.

It is against the first proposition, to legalize the sale of game, that the enemies of the bill have mainly directed their opposition. Let us hear what can be said for them on this point, by the ablest of their advocates.

I must be allowed, [says Mr. Bankes,] to insert a short extract from Lord Suffield’s pamphlet. “Few persons, I am apt to think,” says his lordship, “are aware of the sum it costs to rear pheasants. I have seen a very accurate calculation, made upon a series of years, for one of the best stocked estates in the kingdom, and computing at the very lowest rate, it appears that every pheasant killed thereon, has cost the proprietor twenty shillings.” I suggest, then, [continues Mr. Bankes,] that if the proprietor attempts to undersell the poacher, supposing game to be sold at the same rate at which it stands at this day, as between poulterer and poacher, viz. for pheasants, sometimes no more than one shilling a head, he, the proprietor, will lose nineteen shillings a head upon every item of his dealings, and this on the very lowest rate of computation: the idea of underselling, therefore, is absurd, and some other principle of excluding poachers from the market must be fixed upon, or the subject will not bear a grave consideration; for, admitting that the profit of the poacher were Edition: current; Page: [110] reduced far below even the low quotation which I have above made, if he gained only one penny a head, and subjected the landed proprietor, his competitor, to a loss of nineteen shillings and eleven pence farthing, still, is it not clear, that he would poach and sell to advantage? the prime cost of the pheasants to the poacher being the expense of a little wire and string; a cheap and durable material! Of the value of his time and trouble, I say nothing, for it is admitted that he is allured by an innate love of the sport, which is the common property of our nature; no wonder, therefore, if he shall unwillingly forego a course of life, which combines profit with amusement; and, in whatever ratio the profit may decrease, the amusement is still the same: he will pursue it, therefore, so long as the produce will barely feed and maintain him.*

Now this, we own, might appear very plausible, did we not happen to possess positive proof directly in the teeth of it. The evidence taken before the committee establishes, that a considerable proportion of the game which is sold in London, is even now received from the rightful owners. One poulterer says, that he draws one third of his supply from that source. Another, that he has had upwards of 400 head of game per week from a qualified person. Another, that he has had two hampers, or three hampers, a day, from noblemen.[*]

I have heard, [says Lord Suffield,] from a friend, on whose veracity I can place the most perfect reliance, of a nobleman who did send his game to a poulterer. The poulterer returned him in exchange a certain quantity of poultry, for which, without this set-off, he would most unquestionably have been paid in cash. From another friend, equally entitled to credit, I have heard of another nobleman who actually did sell his game to a London dealer, and was annually paid for it in money. From a third friend, whom I believe as implicitly as the two former, I have heard of a country magistrate who now annually pockets from three to five hundred pounds by the sale of his game. . . . An example has fallen within my own knowledge, of a proposal made by a London dealer, to take all the game a gentleman, possessing a large estate well furnished, might choose to send him. And what renders the matter still more singular, and still more illustrative of the fact, that such contracts are common—the party applied to was a gentleman whose character was of a kind to render his entering upon such a traffic utterly improbable, and the dealer had not the slightest knowledge of him, either personally or by intercourse of business. I ask, then—I confidently ask, is it reasonable to suppose that such a proposal as this could be made to a gentleman, unless the professed dealer in game had some reason to think it would be accepted? And what reason could he have for thinking it would be accepted in this instance, but the positive knowledge of similar transactions?

Proprietors, then, in considerable numbers, do sell their game, and find poulterers to buy it, even under the present law, under which it is alike punishable to deal with the lawful proprietor, and with the poacher; notwithstanding, too, that the game which the gentlemen send, being mostly shot, is usually in worse condition than the snared game of the poacher. There could not well be a more Edition: current; Page: [111] complete practical refutation of Mr. Bankes’s nineteen shilling argument. If a proprietor can afford to sell his pheasants* contrary to law, he can afford to sell them according to law.

We have reason to believe, that Lord Suffield’s estimate of the cost of rearing pheasants is greatly above the mark. Be this, however, as it may; game is an article, the price of which is not regulated by its cost of production. It is killed for amusement, and not for profit. If so many landholders are willing to rear pheasants at so enormous a cost, for the mere amusement, when they are not permitted to send them to market at all, it is not very likely that, if the sale were legalized, they would cease to rear them, because, in addition to the amusement, they could only obtain five shillings a head for them, and not twenty.

As we are anxious to make every possible concession to our opponents, we will suppose that the object for which game is preserved, is not the pleasure of killing it, but the pleasure of giving it away; a pleasure which would cease, when the game itself ceased to be, or rather to be called, a rarity; and that the game-preserver would no longer incur so great an expense merely for the amusement of shooting. What then? The worst that could happen, is, that there would be no preserves, no feeding, no artificial multiplication of game. Whatever might be the case with the game which is fed and preserved, it cannot be said of the game which flies about and finds subsistence for itself, that the cost of its production is nineteen or twenty shillings. Of such game the cost of production is really nothing; and what Mr. Bankes says of the thief, may be said, with equal truth, of the proprietor, that “even the lowest price must always bring in more than he gave.”[*] The sum total, then, of the greatest evil, which, under any possible circumstances, could arise from the measure, is, that there would be no more battues, and that gentlemen would be under the necessity of resigning themselves to the hard fate of killing, like their fathers before them, twenty or thirty birds in a day, instead of four or five hundred. We cannot say that we think them much to be pitied; we have no sensibility to spare for this kind of distress; and even if the worst fears of the country gentlemen were realized, if an end were put, for good and all, to game-preserving, we are inclined to suspect that the sun would continue to rise and set, very much as usual. Such a consummation, perhaps, is rather to be wished than dreaded;[†] for experience has proved, that if there be one passion, more than another, which, when once it takes possession of a man, has a tendency to extinguish in his mind every spark of Edition: current; Page: [112] humanity, and to make him inflict, without remorse, for the sake of a selfish gratification, the most immeasurable evils upon his fellow-creatures, it is the passion of game-preserving; “the very mention,” it has been truly said, “of hares and partridges in the country, too often puts an end to common humanity and common sense.”[*]

But we are told, that, if game were made saleable, no penalty could be inflicted upon any one for having it in his possession, and the principal means of detecting poachers would thus be sacrificed.

If game is made saleable, [says Mr. Bankes,] it may, by possibility, form part of the provision of the bill which makes it so, that licensed brokers alone shall deal it forth to the public, and that qualified persons alone shall be the first suppliers of it; but, that there should be any qualification or license required for the buyer, is of course out of the question; that which every man may buy, it follows of consequence, every man must have a right to hold in possession, unmolested and uncontrolled; consequently, when the proposed law shall have passed, if the poacher shall succeed in taking his prey from the trap or wire unnoticed, his danger is at an end; if questioned, the law will have furnished him with an answer; nay, how shall the law allow of his being questioned? unless, indeed, under such suspicious circumstances relative to time or place, as would justify the detention of a man under the same circumstances, who might have fowls or any other articles of property about him; but in such cases the detention is solely intended to give opportunity for an owner to come forward, and if no owner shall appear, the suspected party is necessarily discharged. With respect to game, since it cannot be identified, ownership of course cannot be proved; a game-keeper, who should attempt to swear to the bulk or plumage of his master’s pheasants, would he not be laughed at by a jury? It will be of no avail, therefore, to commit a man, though you should meet him not far from your own preserves, with part of your patrimony, ratione soli, peeping from his pockets; for, unless by his own confession, he never can be convicted. Will it be said—Oh! but a poor man—a pauper—a man who has no means—a man who cannot have bought; we may convict him—What? convict him of being poor!*

It is a very trite adage, that prevention is better than cure. If you cannot go to the root of the evil, it is the next best thing, but only the next best, to lop off the branches. So far as regards those who poach for gain, it is sufficiently proved that the motive to poaching would be taken away, if the sale of game was legalized, since they would be undersold by the rightful owner. It is of very little consequence, therefore, so far as they are concerned, whether the facilities of detection would be increased or diminished. What it is not a man’s interest to do, he will not do, whether the facilities of detection be great or small. It is only with respect to those who poach for sport, that the means of detection need to be attended to. What proportion this class of poachers bears to the whole, it is impossible to guess—it can only be proved by experiment. We may be permitted to doubt, however, whether the penalty against unqualified persons having game in their possession, be the chief, or anything like the chief, security against Edition: current; Page: [113] poaching. “Poachers,” says Mr. Secretary Peel, “are much more frequently convicted for being detected in the act of killing game than for having game in their possession. It appeared, from a return of persons convicted for having game in their possession, in Norfolk, Suffolk, Dorsetshire, and Sussex, that they bore no proportion to those convicted for being found out at night in the act of destroying game.”* In fact, as we have already observed, and as is fully proved by the Minutes of Evidence, the facilities for the immediate disposal of game are such, that unless from mismanagement, it can very rarely happen to a poacher to be found with game in his possession, unless the game-keepers have the good fortune to catch him immediately after he has shot it, or taken it out of the snare. It would still be punishable, in any but persons legally entitled to game, or their game-keepers, to possess snares, or any other engines for the destruction of game, except a gun. To be found out at night with a gun, unless for sufficient reasons assigned, might also be punishable.

We have hitherto contented ourselves with pointing out the specific evils arising out of the prohibition of the sale of game, and have abstained from insisting upon the general argument, that all laws, which are practically inoperative, should be repealed. Yet this is an argument which the supporters of the existing laws would find it extremely difficult to answer. “If laws,” says Mr. Secretary Peel, “stand upon our Statute Book which are practically evaded and violated every day; this is of itself a sufficient reason for their repeal—the constant violation of laws is a bad example. And by whom are these laws violated? In general, by those whose duty it is to enforce the laws of the country. It often happens that a gentleman who is occupied during the morning in enforcing the laws, himself sets the example of violating them in a subsequent part of the day.”[*]

The extent to which these laws are violated needs not to be dwelt upon, for it is sufficiently known. Suffice it to say, that one poulterer says, he would undertake to provide every family in London with a dish of game on the same day; another, that he would engage to supply the whole House of Commons, without the least difficulty, twice a week for the whole season; and a third, that he sells on the average 500 head per week for about three months in the season, and has sold upwards of 1200 head in the course of a single week.[†] It appears, indeed, that almost the only person who is ever prevented, by the existing laws, from selling game, is the rightful owner. For the end for which they were designed, no laws can be more completely and notoriously inefficacious. For the end of securing to the Edition: current; Page: [114] thief almost a monopoly of the market, they are unfortunately to a great degree effectual.

On the subject of qualifications, but little needs be said; the state of the law under this head is too ridiculous to require any exposure. Let the reader who wishes to know it in all its absurdity, turn to Mr. Secretary Peel’s humorous description.[*] For what reason should not the poorest man in the kingdom be at liberty to kill game, if invited by the owner of it? except in so far as it might be expedient to make this privilege a source of revenue, by requiring the payment of a certain tax for a game certificate. There cannot be a more unobjectionable subject of taxation; and the only restriction necessary to be observed (a restriction applicable to all other taxes) is, not to raise the tax so high as to afford an adequate motive for its evasion.

To the general principle of vesting the property of game in the owner of the soil on which it is found, there can, as it appears to us, be no valid objection. It has, indeed, been said, that, inasmuch as the produce of the soil which the game feeds on, belongs to the occupier, and inasmuch as it is just that the game should be the property of him at whose expense it is maintained, therefore, the ownership of game should be vested in the occupier, and not in the landlord; a question, in reality, of mere form, and not of substance, since in whatever way this matter might be regulated, the terms of the lease would be adjusted accordingly. The tenant, of course, would be willing to give a considerable additional rent, for the power of destroying, and the right of appropriating game. On the other hand, if the landlord chose to reserve to himself the exercise of the same privileges, either conjointly with his tenant or exclusively (as he now reserves the right of sporting over the land), he would also, as a matter of course, make a proportional abatement of rent.

So much for the principles of the bill. Details are foreign to our present purpose. We shall not, therefore, take up the time of our readers by examining, whether the subordinate arrangements might or might not be improved. We trust that we have sufficiently established the general expediency of the measure.

There is scarcely any thing so bad, as not to have its use; and however bad a thing may appear on the whole, nevertheless in a fair estimate of its character, such uses as it may have, ought not to be omitted. Even the Game Laws, it must be acknowledged, have their uses; and it is but just that these should be taken for as much as they are worth. Accordingly, near the commencement of this article, we made an enumeration of as many of them as at that time occurred to us; which seemed chiefly to consist in affording to honourable gentlemen a few additional pheasants and partridges, to be consumed at their own tables, or despatched (with compliments) to their friends. We omitted, however, to notice one highly important use, of which, to say the truth, we were not, at the time, apprized; but, having since received information of it, fairness requires that we should afford it a Edition: current; Page: [115] place in our pages. That our readers may not suppose it to be the work of our invention, we inform them that it rests on no less authority than that of a writer in the Sporting Magazine, under the signature of “Nimrod,” who, we are told, is regarded as a sort of oracle by the sporting world; and that the person to whom, according to Nimrod, mankind are indebted for the idea, is “a large landed proprietor, a magistrate for two counties, a preserver of game” (this we could have guessed) “and a member of parliament of more than twenty years standing.”

I am one of those, [says this preserver of game,] who think that evil alone does not result from poaching. The risk poachers run from the dangers that beset them, added to their occupation being carried on in cold dark nights, begets a hardihood of frame, and contempt of danger, that is not without its value. I never heard or knew of a poacher being a coward. They all make good soldiers, and military men are well aware, that two or three men, in each troop or company, of bold and enterprizing spirits, are not without their effect on their comrades. Keepers are all brave men, and willingly subject themselves to great perils to preserve their employer’s property.[*]

What a pity that the good old English practice of highway robbery has of late years so lamentably declined; a misfortune for which we are in some measure indebted to the mistaken policy of our ancestors, who most unwisely laid hold of every highwayman they could catch, and hanged him. Had they been gifted with a tithe of the wisdom which falls to the lot of a modern game-preserver, they would have joyfully embraced the opportunity of recruiting the army with such undaunted spirits; in which case the highway might very probably, to the great advantage of the state, have remained a nursery for soldiers to this day. Bereft of this resource, the squires are now compelled to betake themselves to the poachers; who, if they are not highwaymen, are something very nearly as bad.

Considering the vast importance of an army to Great Britain, it would be squeamishness to find fault with the morality of filling the country with bloodshed and murder, in order to make good soldiers; since, after all, it is not much worse than impressment, which, however, we do not remember to have ever heard so ingeniously defended. But we submit that, if to the training of a good soldier it be indispensably necessary that he be engaged, once a week, or thereabouts, in a nightly affray, means might be found of securing to him this inestimable advantage without the expense of so much crime and so much wretchedness to the community. Instead of fighting against the gamekeepers, these future heroes might be set to fight against one another: a battle-royal might be held, if deemed requisite, every “cold, dark night” in the season; with the assistance of a drill-serjeant, they might be put in the way of destroying one another scientifically, which would at all events be a point gained; and if an adequate motive were found wanting, when pheasants and partridges were no longer to be the reward of their toils, parliament could not decently refuse an annual grant, to Edition: current; Page: [116] promote so laudable an end. Or if it be the pains and penalties of poaching, rather than the nighly affrays, which beget that “contempt of danger,” so highly prized by this sporting philanthropist, we would suggest the sending down commissioners, once a year, into every village, there to call together all the able-bodied men in the neighbourhood, for the purpose of drawing lots, which of them should be hanged or transported. This scheme (besides being fairer than the present system) would have a twofold operation, and, indeed, in every supposable case, could not but prove highly advantageous, since if it failed in producing “hardihood and contempt of danger,” it would have the opposite advantage of striking a salutary terror into the lower classes. There is indeed, as we are informed by the same authority, “a certain canting party in the House of Commons, who want to appear better than their neighbours; and, in affectation of finer feelings, would soon, if left to themselves, alter the bold and manly character of this country” (of the poachers, we presume) “but I hope they will never succeed:”[*] these persons who “want to appear better than their neighbours,” for which insolent wish they deserve to be hunted out of respectable society, will be apt to state, as an objection to the proposed plan, that it involves the shedding of innocent blood; but if it be necessary that a certain number of our countrymen should be annually hanged, pour encourager les autres,[†] we conceive that it is better to take hold of the first man you meet, and hang him out of hand, than to wait till he shoots a gamekeeper, and then hang him for the offence.

The arguments of the landed gentlemen against Mr. Stuart Wortley’s bill, are not all of them, it may be supposed, of the force of that last mentioned; several of them, however, are curious, and characteristic. Thus, Mr. William Peel’s “great objection to the bill was, that it would destroy the noble amusement of fox-hunting; for when to the other inducements to destroy foxes, the occupier of land had the additional one of preserving his game, the race would soon be extinct.”[‡] If this be fox-hunting morality, truly fox-hunters seem to be blessed with an easy conscience.

Mr. Lockhart was of opinion, that “qualifications had their value; they afforded inducements to the acquisition of learning and honour, and to the perseverance necessary to attain the stations which conferred them. They were cheap incentives to exertion.”[§] Mr. Lockhart seems to imagine that learning and honour, like waifs and estrays, are perquisites which attach themselves to the lord of the manor.

Mr. Horace Twiss objected to legalizing the sale of game, because “its tendency Edition: current; Page: [117] would be, to degrade the country gentlemen into hucksters.”[*] This being said of those who without any scruple sell the consciences of their tenants at every election, either for money or for power, is not a little ridiculous; but it seems that a man then only becomes a huckster, when he sells that which is his own. Yet we never heard that country gentlemen felt any invincible aversion to selling their timber, or any other part of the produce of the land.

Mr. William Peel “was surprised that his honourable friend, the member for Yorkshire, who was so little of a reformer in general, should have disposed in so radical a manner of the Game Laws, by a bill which would annihilate all the Game Laws in the country.”[†] It is, indeed, but too plain, that this is the first step towards the subversion of the social fabric; and had Mr. Stuart Wortley succeeded in carrying his bill for the annihilation of the Game Laws, no doubt his next step would have been, to bring in a bill for the annihilation of all laws. Mr. Peel, however, did not go far enough, in calling this bill a radical measure. Why not call it atheistical? The epithet would have been equally appropriate.

“Had not this country,” asked Sir John Shelley, “had not this country risen to its highest pinnacle of glory during the existence of these laws.”* We cannot be too thankful to the country gentlemen for their conduct on this occasion. They have ridden all the vulgar fallacies so hard, that one would almost think they had a mind to try how ridiculous they could make them.

But the argument which has been repeated oftenest, and insisted upon most earnestly, is the importance of a resident gentry; a favourite topic in an assembly of landowners, and which was re-echoed from all sides of the House, it is difficult to Edition: current; Page: [118] say by whom loudest, the supporters or the opponents of the measure.[*] By the latter, it was made the foundation for the following exquisite ratiocination. It is of the greatest importance that there should be a resident gentry—now if there be no game, there will be no resident gentry, it being notorious that the only purpose, for which a country gentleman ever resides on his estate, is that of killing game; but if the law be altered, there will be no game; the law, therefore, ought to remain as it is, and we ought to go on as hitherto, making poachers first, giving them time to ripen into thieves, and hanging them afterwards. This is not bad logic, for a country ’squire, and, but that every one of the premises is false, it would be quite unobjectionable.

Assumption the first: Alter the law, and you destroy game. Destroy game, and there will be no resident gentry; this is assumption the second, and a curious one too. A resident gentry is of vast importance; this is the grand assumption of all. If we were content to refute them out of their own mouths, we might ask what great good can come out of the residence of a country gentleman, whose sole motive for residing upon his estate, is, by their own confession, the killing of game? But we wave this: their authority is not worth having, even against themselves.

We ask, then, why it is of such vast importance that country gentlemen should reside on their estates? By what means do they contrive to render their presence so great a blessing to their tenantry? Is it by riding with horses and hounds through the growing corn, destroying for a day’s amusement the labours of a year? Is it by carrying with them a whole host of London retainers, to infect the village with the vices of the town, as if the vices of the country were not sufficient? or if not in either of these ways, how is it?

We shall be told, no doubt, of the unwearied exertions of the country gentlemen in administering justice, and preserving the peace of the country. Particular stress will be laid upon the circumstance, that these exertions are unpaid; it being in this country an article of faith, that whatsoever is unpaid is good, and that every thing is unpaid which a man does not actually pocket money for. The real character of that unpaid magistracy, who, if credit is to be given to their own assertions, are the most glorious of all the glories of this happy country, and who are really the cause why, in England, which is called the land of freedom, the mass of the people are Edition: current; Page: [119] the slaves of a more degrading despotism than they probably are in any other country in Europe, will, on some future occasion, be examined in detail. For the present purpose, a few obvious reflections will suffice: That one-fourth of the annual commitments in England and Wales, and probably, as far as regards the agricultural population, much more than half, are for offences against the Game Laws: That on every one of these occasions, the committing magistrate is at the same time judge and party; that he is deciding in his own cause, just as truly as if he were pronouncing sentence upon a poacher taken on his own estate. The consequences, in a tribunal unchecked by publicity, and subject to no appeal, unless from the magistrates individually to the magistrates collectively, are exactly such as might be expected. But the oppressions practised upon poachers convict, are nothing in comparison with the oppressions which are practised upon those who are only suspected to be poachers. Every one who has lived in the country knows what we mean, and the memory of every one will supply him with numerous instances; though it is not every one who is aware of the legal traps which it is in the power of a magistrate to lay for any one who has offended him—of the number of sleeping laws which he can revive when he pleases, laws which are not, and cannot be, impartially executed, or common justice and common humanity would be shocked, but which it is left to the discretion of a vindictive or tyrannical magistrate to execute or not as he will. Many a man has been immured, many a man is even now lying in a gaol, whose nominal offence has been that of cutting a twig, or going off a path; his real offence, that of being poor, and being suspected, truly or untruly, of being a poacher.

If the reader wishes to form some conception of the extent of the arbitrary power which magistrates possess, let him look at the late Report of Commitments under the Vagrant Laws.[*] Under these laws it is scarcely too much to say, that there is not a man, certainly there is not a poor man, who is not in the power of any one who will take the trouble of watching him for a short time; there is scarcely an act of human life which, if done in the way in which it often must be done by the poor man, is not an act of vagrancy. To convict a man of being a vagrant, little more is necessary than to find him guilty of the crime of being poor.

It is an insult to our understandings to say, that powers like these are not abused. Till lately, indeed, the abuses of magisterial power, like the abuses of almost every other power, were comfortably hidden from the public eye. Of late, however, it has not been in the power of libel law to prevent occasional instances from becoming known. In one instance within our own knowledge an unfortunate man was committed to the treadmill for a month as a “rogue and vagabond” under the Vagrant laws, on no ground whatever but that of being found on a private path. Edition: current; Page: [120] This act of magisterial tyranny took place in Yorkshire.* Ex uno disce alios. It is not every magistrate who would commit an act of this kind; but every magistrate can do so if he please.

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Parliamentary Review. Session of 1826-7:—7 & 8 Geo. IV. London: Baldwin and Cradock, 1828, 298-335. Headed as title. Running titles: “foreign relations.United States.” Unsigned; not republished. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “An article on the Commerce between the West-Indies and the United States of America, which app. in the Parliamentary review for the session of 1827” (MacMinn, 9). In the Somerville College copy of this volume an inked note in Mill’s hand on the title page identifies this article as his, and, at the equivalent of 133.27-9, there is a pencilled comment (possibly in Mill’s hand) that reads (ignoring a cancellation and an incomplete revision): “The Superior skill of Shipbuilders & Seamen is decidedly with the Americans”. For comment on the article, see lvii-lviii above.

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Intercourse between the United States and the British Colonies in the West Indies

a short conversation which took place when a late correspondence between the British Government and the Envoy of the United States was laid upon the table of the House of Commons by Mr. Canning,* affords us an opportunity, of which we gladly avail ourselves, to lay before our readers the history of that correspondence, with a few observations on the subject which has produced so much unfriendly feeling between two kindred nations.

It is known that, until within a short period, it was a favourite object of British policy that British shipping should engross as large a share as possible of the commercial intercourse of the world. With this view, foreign vessels resorting to the ports of Great Britain and her dependencies, and goods imported into Great Britain and her dependencies in foreign vessels, were made subject to numerous burthens and restrictions, from which British vessels, and goods imported in British vessels, were exempt.

It is known, also, that by several recent statutes commonly called the Reciprocity Acts, these restrictions were relaxed, and some of them entirely abrogated, in favour of such countries as should relieve British shipping from all similar restrictions, to which, by the laws of those countries, it was subject. Among the Reciprocity Acts, was one called the 6 Geo. IV, c. 114, an Act passed on the 5th of July, 1825, which permitted foreign nations, upon certain conditions of reciprocity, to trade, in their own vessels, with the British colonies.[*]

Among foreign nations, that which, from its situation and productions, is capable of carrying on the most beneficial trade with our colonies, is the United States of America. That country, however, did not comply with the conditions of reciprocity which the act of parliament required, and consequently did not become entitled to the privileges which that act conferred. An order in council was therefore issued, in July 1826, interdicting, after a certain day, all intercourse, in Edition: current; Page: [124] American vessels, between the United States and the British West India colonies;[*] and, consequently, the shipping of the United States not only did not acquire any new privileges under the Act of 1825, but lost those which it already enjoyed by virtue of a partial relaxation of our Navigation Laws which took place in 1822.[†]

On the appearance of the Order in Council, Mr. Gallatin, Envoy Extraordinary of the United States, addressed an official note to Mr. Canning, as Secretary of State for the Foreign Department, remonstrating against it. He observed that, by the laws of the United States, our commerce and navigation stood, in every respect, on the footing required by the Act of 1825, with the exception of certain discriminating duties on British vessels, and on goods imported in British vessels, entering the ports of the United States from the British colonies. That the British government had already retaliated, by the imposition of countervailing duties on American vessels, resorting to our colonies, and on their cargoes. That, the only inequality supposed to exist having been removed by these countervailing duties, there could be no reason for adopting the harsher measure of altogether interdicting the intercourse, in American vessels, between the United States and so important a part of those colonies.[‡]

In answer to this communication from Mr. Gallatin, Mr. Canning addressed a letter to that gentleman,[§] of which we shall next endeavour to explain the purport. It is, however, not easy to present a connected view of Mr. Canning’s argument, without expressing much of what he himself has rather left to be understood. This is no matter of blame to him; it is no fault of his, if what was meant only for purposes of information, is not sufficiently explicit for purposes of argument. But when a proposition is to be discussed, it must be written out at full length. Mr. Canning rather indicated than stated the several points which he sought to establish; and did not so much make out a case, as bring together the materials, out of which, when properly connected together, a case might be made.

He began by complaining that Mr. Gallatin treated the question as if there were no inherent distinction between colonial trade and the trade of independent nations. Mr. Gallatin misconceived the nature of the colonial trade. It was the unquestionable right, and had, till within these few years, been the invariable practice, of countries having colonies, to reserve to themselves the trade with those colonies, and to relax that reservation only under special circumstances, and on particular occasions. The right, therefore, which Great Britain clearly possessed, as against all nations, the United States could not justly complain if she thought fit Edition: current; Page: [125] to exercise against them. In 1822, Great Britain conceded to the shipping of the United States, under certain restrictions, the privilege of trading with the British West India colonies; a privilege which she still withheld from all the powers of Europe. It could not, however, be supposed—it was not affirmed by Mr. Gallatin—that, by granting this privilege to one nation, Great Britain came under any implied engagement, not at any future period to extend it to others. As little could be supposed that, because Great Britain submitted, at a moment of necessity, to terms which were inconvenient to her, she bound herself to continue to submit to them when that necessity should have passed away. She had a right to open the ports of her colonies, or to keep them closed, as might suit her own convenience. She had a right to open them either unconditionally or conditionally; and if conditionally, on what conditions she pleased. She had a right—(but this necessary step in Mr. Canning’s argument was rather understood than expressed)—she had a right, after her original conditions had been accepted, to revoke them whenever she pleased, and impose others; and though she might profess to take the principle of reciprocity for the guide of her counsels, no other nation had a right to remonstrate, as Mr. Gallatin had done, if the conditions she imposed were at variance with the principle of reciprocity; for Great Britain was not bound to abide by that principle.

Having thus disposed of the general subject of Colonial Trade, Mr. Canning proceeded to explain why the British Government, not satisfied with laying the same burthens upon the trade in American vessels which had been laid upon that in British vessels by the United States, had recourse to the more severe measure of prohibiting the trade in American vessels altogether.

In 1822, when Great Britain permitted the United States, under certain limitations and conditions, to trade in their own vessels with our West India colonies; in accepting these terms Congress at the same time imposed on all British vessels trading between the United States and the West Indies, and on all goods imported in such vessels, an alien duty.[*] This duty was to continue until American vessels, and their cargoes, should be admitted into our colonies on the same terms as British vessels, and as the same description of goods imported from elsewhere: meaning by elsewhere, not only all foreign nations, but the other trans-marine possessions of Great Britain, and even the mother country herself.

This unwarrantable pretension on the part of the United States, to an equalization of the duties on their produce with those on our own, was the motive which had induced the British Government, after an interval of three years, to issue the Order in Council now complained of. The delay which had intervened, Mr. Canning thus accounted for: The British Government at first misapprehended the import of the term elsewhere, conceiving it to apply to foreign countries alone, and not to the British possessions in North America; and could not, for some time, be Edition: current; Page: [126] brought to believe, that it was intended to lay claim to the admission of American produce into our colonies, subject to no higher duties than that of the mother country herself, and her other dependencies. When such was at length ascertained to be the true construction of the Act of Congress, our Government, by their own Act of 1822, were entitled to have at once interdicted all intercourse between the United States and the British West India colonies. The milder measure of a retaliatory duty was preferred, because it was not supposed that a claim so extraordinary as that implied in the above-mentioned Act of Congress would be persisted in after explanation. The attempt, however, to obtain the abandonment of it by means of negociation having failed, and Congress having, during the last session, rejected a motion for the repeal of the discriminating duties, Great Britain had now asserted that right, which, as long as there appeared to be any chance of an amicable arrangement, she had forborne to exercise.

But further, Mr. Canning could not admit the assertion that the discriminating duties were our only ground of complaint. In making this averment, Mr. Gallatin appeared to overlook the fact, that, by the same enactment which imposed those duties, it was provided that no British ships not coming directly from the West Indies, should be allowed to clear out for the West Indies, from a port of the United States. It was true that something analogous to this regulation had existed on our side. By the Act of 1822, American vessels entering the ports of our colonies, were prohibited from clearing out for any country other than the United States. But such was the peculiar character of colonial trade, that we were justified in imposing this restriction; the Americans were not justified in retaliating.

To allow a foreign ship to enter colonial ports at all, and upon any terms, is a boon; to withhold from the ship of a country having colonies, trading from the mother country to a foreign state, under a regular treaty between the two countries, the right of clearing for another port belonging to that mother country, in another part of the world, is an injury.*

Had the restriction, therefore, still existed on our part, this would have formed no justification for its imposition on theirs. But it did not exist on our part. It had been repealed by the Act of 1825; and yet the retaliatory restriction, expressly founded upon it, continued in force.

Since the 5th of January, 1826, an American ship trading to a British West India colony, may clear out from thence to any part of the world, the United Kingdom and its dependencies alone excepted. But the British ship in the American port still remains subject to all the restrictions of the American law of 1823, prohibiting a trade through the United States between the mother country and her West India colonies. (Ibid.)

In conclusion, Mr. Canning said, that the British Government could not consent to enter into any further negociation upon the intercourse between the United States and the colonies, so long as the pretension recorded in the Act of 1823 remained part of the law of the United States. But further, after the United States Edition: current; Page: [127] had declined conditions which other nations had thought worthy of their acceptance, and by so doing had compelled the British Government to apply to them the interdict prescribed (he should have said allowed) by the Act of 1825, it could not hold itself bound to remove that interdict, as a matter of course, whenever it might suit the convenience of the United States to reconsider the measures by which the application of that interdict was occasioned.

We have thought it necessary to give this full abstract of Mr. Canning’s first letter to Mr. Gallatin, because the views of the British Government concerning the whole matter to which the Order in Council relates, are no where else so clearly and fully set forth. The same minuteness will not be necessary in the account, which it now remains for us to give, of the remainder of the correspondence.

Mr. Gallatin intimated his dissent from the doctrine of Mr. Canning with respect to Colonial Trade.[*] The right of Great Britain to reserve to herself the trade with her colonies, or to open it to whatever nations, and upon whatever terms she thought proper, was not denied; but, considered purely as a matter of right, this, which was an attribute of sovereignty, applied to all other territories as well as to colonies. The real distinction between the trade of foreigners with colonies, and that with other territories, did not consist in a greater or less complete right, but in a difference in the usage and practice. Since the late final separation, however, of the greater part of the continent of America from the mother countries, and the more liberal policy adopted towards the remaining colonies, the usage of nations in respect to colonial policy might be considered to have changed, and the Colonial Trade to have been so far assimilated to all other trade as to admit of being discussed on the basis of equal and reciprocal conditions. Indeed, in every negociation which had taken place on this subject between the United States and Great Britain, the principle of reciprocity had been the basis assumed, by the consent of both parties.

Mr. Gallatin next proceeded to vindicate, at some length,[†] the enactments of Congress, to which exceptions had been taken by Mr. Canning: the imposition, or rather revival, of the discriminating duties, and the prohibition of what is called the circuitous intercourse between Great Britain and her colonies, through the United States. But the reasons which induced Congress to adopt these measures will be more conveniently stated in a subsequent part of this article.

Finally, Mr. Gallatin said, that the United States could scarcely be expected to repeal their restrictions upon British vessels, when not only the intercourse was altogether prohibited in American shipping, but when they were with frankness informed, that a removal of that interdict would not, as a matter of course, follow such repeal on their part.[‡] Since Mr. Canning, however, had refused to negociate while the pretension involved in the Act of 1823 continued part of the law of the Edition: current; Page: [128] United States, Mr. Gallatin informed him, that the Act complained of was already repealed, by virtue of one of its own provisions, which enacted, that it should cease to operate if at any time the British Government should prohibit the intercourse with our colonies in American vessels. That contingency having taken place, the laws of 1818 and 1820 had revived, which prohibited the intercourse in British vessels altogether;[*] and all laws since passed to regulate the intercourse, were abrogated by its entire interdiction.

The answer of Mr. Canning was brief,[†] and replied only to that part of Mr. Gallatin’s letter which denied the peculiar character of the Colonial Trade. It might be true, as stated by Mr. Gallatin,[‡] that every country had a right to interdict to foreign nations a trade even with itself; but the exercise of that right had been so unusual, that foreign nations might justly complain of such interdiction as a grievance. They had no such ground of complaint, and no other nation than the United States had ever complained, of the interdiction of trade to the colonies; because, in all ages, all nations having colonies had maintained such an interdiction. The assumption that the colonial system was at an end, Great Britain explicitly denied. Whatever relaxation Great Britain might think fit to introduce, for her own sake, and for that of her colonies themselves, into her colonial system, she held her right to maintain that system, as with respect to foreign nations, to be unaltered and entire. Considerations of which she alone was the judge, had induced her to open her trade to other nations, on specified conditions, offered to all nations indiscriminately. Other nations had accepted these conditions; the United States, having declined them, were excluded from our colonies, not by any act of ours, but by their own free and deliberate choice.

After an interval of a few weeks, Mr. Gallatin, having received a despatch from the Secretary of State of the United States, again addressed Mr. Canning[§] with a statement of the reasons which had hitherto prevented the United States from accepting the conditions of the Reciprocity Act of 1825. The first of these reasons was, that they had so much difficulty in comprehending the import of the act, and how much it did or did not repeal of former acts, that they did not venture to legislate on the subject without receiving such previous explanations as could not fail to be obtained in the course of the negociation which Mr. Gallatin came authorized to renew. In the next place, so far as they were able to understand the meaning of the act, the reciprocity which it offered appeared to be a reciprocity in name only, not in fact; and this Mr. Gallatin, at some length, proceeded to demonstrate.

In reply to the above communication, Mr. Canning declined entering into any Edition: current; Page: [129] discussion with respect to the nature of the reciprocity offered by the act of 1825.[*] He contented himself with justifying the resolution of the British Government, not to enter into any further negociations on a subject on which there had been clearly ascertained to be an incurable difference of opinion; and with adducing evidence to prove that it was not for want of a sufficient understanding of the intent of the act of parliament, that the conditions of it were not accepted by the United States.

We quote some of the concluding paragraphs of Mr. Canning’s letter, chiefly because they afford indication of the opinion which our Government entertains concerning the principle of reciprocity, and the nature of trade in general.

The undersigned trusts that it is unnecessary for him, in concluding this note, to return to Mr. Gallatin’s assurances of the friendly disposition of the United States of America—assurances equally sincere, that there is the most cordial desire, on the part of Great Britain, to cultivate the friendship of the United States.

The ties of common origin, laws, and language, must always form strong bonds of national alliance between them. Their respective interests, well understood, harmonize together as much as their feelings.

But it has never yet been held a duty of international amity (any more than of friendship in private life) to submit to unequal compacts; nor has it ever been held an offence against such duty that a nation (any more than an individual) should decline to make uncompensated sacrifices.

The refusal to regulate the trade of our colonies by a commercial treaty, which the British Government may think (even if erroneously) disadvantageous to its interests, cannot give just cause of offence to any power whatever. (Ibid., p. 51.)

Among the many observations suggested by the perusal of this correspondence, none is more obvious than the continual endeavour of Mr. Canning, not, perhaps, sufficiently resisted by Mr. Gallatin, to give a character to the discussion foreign to that which belongs to the nature of the subject. The whole argument is made to turn upon the question of right; as if our right to regulate the trade of our colonies were disputed, or as if the conduct either of a nation or an individual, in the exercise of a right, could never be a proper subject for censure or animadversion. The clearness of our right does not justify whatever use we can make of it. One person may injure another almost to any extent, by the exercise of an acknowledged right. A man who quarrels with his friends, turns off his servants, or disinherits his children, merely does what every person will allow to be his right; yet surely any of these things, if done without just cause, is an injury, and the party aggrieved by it might very reasonably complain, without being supposed to dispute the right which every man possesses of cultivating what acquaintances, employing what servants, and appointing what legatees he pleases.

But, in the case before us, there is neither any question of right, nor any complaint of injury, except on our side. No such complaint could be made without absurdity. In the commercial intercourse between two nations, as in Edition: current; Page: [130] transactions of the same nature between man and man, the only considerations relevant to the subject are those of mutual interest. If each party, instead of seeking or making occasions for crimination where none exist, would put aside all feelings except those which arise from a calm and dispassionate consideration of the interests of the parties,—those interests, in the case of commercial intercourse, never being contrary, but always the same,—there might be reasonable hope that some arrangement would be adopted advantageous to both. But if either country is more anxious to prove to the other that it will not suffer itself to be dictated to, than to establish the commerce of both upon the most desirable basis, and does not choose to concede to foreigners on their asking, what it ought to grant even if unasked, not for their sake, but for its own; then, indeed, neither the commerce nor the friendship between the two nations, rests upon a very secure foundation.

Putting apart any pretended right on either side to prescribe measures to the other, let us consider merely the interests of the two nations, and examine how far each of them appears to understand rightly what those interests require.

It seems, then, in the first place, that the two parties,—who are, so far, perfectly agreed, that both entrench themselves within the principle of reciprocity, but who differ so widely in its application,—are neither of them by any means aware of the serious objections which may be made to the principle of reciprocity itself.

According, indeed, to Mr. Canning’s view of the principles of trade, there is no room for doubt or hesitation. The permitting foreign vessels, under any circumstances, to carry goods to any part of our possessions, he considers as an advantage to the foreigner, not only unattended with any benefit to ourselves, but implying a sacrifice on our part, and therefore not to be conceded, unless an equal advantage, either of the same or of some other kind, be granted to us in return.

But this, surely, is a very partial view of the case, and implies an entire misconception of the nature and objects of commerce.

That a measure is injurious to Great Britain because it diminishes the employment for British shipping; that it causes a loss to the country because it causes the loss, or the decay, of some particular branch of manufactures, or some particular branch of trade; this would have been consistent language from the lips of a merchant of the days of Sir Josiah Child, but it is scarcely what we might expect from a ministry who inscribe free trade upon their banners, and claim the merit of being guided, in their commercial legislation, by the principles of Smith and Ricardo.

Bread, we apprehend, does not exist for the sake of the farmer, cloth for the sake of the manufacturer, ships and navigation for the sake of the builder and ship-owner. The numerous and diversified productions which conduce, each in its way, to the relief of human necessities, or the convenience of human life, are not called into existence merely in order that somebody may be paid for producing them. That a large number of productive labourers should be employed and maintained, where a small number would suffice, is no advantage, but the reverse. Edition: current; Page: [131] The real advantage would be, if the same amount of produce could be obtained by employing, that is to say, expending, less labour and less capital. Whatever was thus saved would constitute an addition to the fund which might be appropriated to further production, and the further increase of the comforts and enjoyments of man. For what reason, then, does the language we hear from all practical statesmen, even from those who make pretensions to political economy, always import that the one grand danger in the production of commodities is, lest we should get them without employing capital enough? The golden age, then, was not, after all, so desirable a state of existence; since all human wants were then supplied, if we are not mistaken, without employing any capital at all.

The proper and only end, both of production and of commerce, is, to supply commodities: nor, with a view to the national wealth, does one employment of capital possess any advantage over another, except that of supplying them at less cost. It is for the interest of the consumer, not for that of the producer or carrier, that production and commerce exist. The interest of the consumer, however, is an element which is usually left out of the calculations of practical statesmen. They generally imagine that it is their business to take care of the producer. The consumer is commonly left to take care of himself.

Now, the direct contrary of this ought to be the case. The late Mr. Ricardo, in replying to those who never ceased to talk of protection to the farmer, and protection to the manufacturer, and protection to every other description of producer, used to say, that it was strange nobody ever called for protection to the consumer, when, in fact, it is the consumer alone who needs protection.[*] The producer can protect himself. If he is not paid for producing he will not produce. Time, for disengaging his capital, and allowing that portion to wear out gradually which cannot be disengaged, he may justly claim; the rest is in his own hands. It is to the consumer that protection, protection against too high a price, is indispensable. The only protection that is effectual (but it is always effectual) is liberty to supply his wants wherever they can be supplied at the smallest cost. Our legislators are prodigal of protection to those to whom it is superfluous; they withhold it from those to whom alone it is needful.

When we take this view, which surely is not a visionary, overstrained, or fanciful, but a sound, practical, and experimental view of the nature of trade, we are led to conclusions, on the subject discussed in Mr. Canning’s correspondence, widely at variance with his. We conclude, that the opening our ports to foreign vessels is not a boon to foreigners, but a benefit to ourselves, and a much greater benefit to ourselves than to foreigners; that our interest is more promoted by our allowing foreigners to bring goods to us, than even by their granting permission to our vessels to carry goods to them.

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To those who cannot perceive that commerce yields any benefit to the nation, other than what it yields to its own instruments and agents, overlooking the great body of consumers, for whose sake it really exists, the above thesis may seem a paradox; but to them alone will it appear so.

From the language which our statesmen hold, one would imagine them to suppose, that, by obtaining the privilege of importing into foreign countries in our own ships, we should gain an entire new branch of trade, with the whole of its profits as a neat addition to the national income. Yet, this is only true in the sense in which it might be said that by planting vineyards on the Surrey hills we should gain a new branch of productive industry. The industry and trade of a country are limited by the capital of the country: if a new channel be opened to either, the capital which supplies it must be drawn from the other channels. We cannot raise capital from the ground, as Pompey imagined that he could raise armies, by stamping upon it with our feet.[*] So that the subject of all this contention is merely the difference between one mode of employing capital and another. The new employment may, indeed, be the more profitable one; and in this consists the advantage, when advantage there is, of the opening of a new channel of trade. But the commonest principles of trade shew us, that when the profits in any employment exceed what can be obtained in others, additional capital rushes in, and restores the level. If it were found that our ship-owners, on being permitted to carry for other countries, could gain more than the ordinary profits of British stock, British competition would compel them to go on lowering their freights (by which reduction the foreigner alone would benefit) until, with the exception of the extra profit which they had made for a short time, neither they nor their country would have gained any thing by the privilege they had acquired. So little is a nation benefitted by being a carrier for other countries; except, indeed, so far as it is an advantage, for purposes of national defence, to possess a large commercial marine; an advantage which, as our marine is already so much more than sufficient for that purpose, may be laid out of the question.

But it is impossible to set any limits to the degree in which we might be benefitted, by permitting foreign vessels to carry for us. They would not be able to do so, unless they could do it cheaper than our own vessels; and if they could, what would be saved in freight would be gained by the British consumer in the price of the goods. If we consider how much of what all of us consume is imported from abroad,—how much more there is which could not be produced, unless the “appliances and means”[†] of its production were imported from abroad,—as likewise, how much of all this is composed of bulky goods, and how great a proportion of its price is occasioned by cost of carriage,—we shall be enabled to Edition: current; Page: [133] form a rough estimate of what the country would gain by allowing its trade of importation to take place in foreign vessels, if the fact be, that it can be carried on less expensively in that way. If, in consequence, any British shipping were thrown out of employment, the evil to the ship-owners might easily be prevented from being considerable. The foreigner would probably be willing to purchase their ships; and, at the worst, a ship does not last one third part so long as a house, or even so long as a steam-engine; and, if a few years were allowed, those ships which could not find other employment would wear out in the course of nature, as would have happened in any other circumstances. Nor would there be the slightest reason to fear, from such an event, the loss of any useful naval strength. Were we excluded from all other commerce—our fisheries, and the perils of the most difficult coasting navigation in Europe, would keep us supplied with ships and seamen to meet every possible emergency.

The admission, therefore, of American vessels to trade with our colonies, not being any sacrifice, does not require any compensation; and if our colonies are to be considered (which for this purpose they must) as a part of ourselves, it is a moot point by which of the two we should gain most, the compensation, or the sacrifice.

The state of the case is this: so far as concerns the trade to the United States, that it should take place in ships of the one country rather than of the other may be of consequence to the people of the United States, who consume the cargoes, but to us it is merely a question whether a certain amount of British capital shall be employed in navigation, or in some other equally profitable business. With respect, however, to the trade from the United States, or from any third country, to our colonies, it is a concern of the colonial consumer, and exclusively so. It is his interest that the goods should be carried by whichever of the two countries, or of all other countries, and carry them cheapest. If the two countries are nearly equal—(which we believe to be the case; for the advantage which America possesses in cheapness of material, we make up by the superior skill of our ship-builders and seamen,) even in this case it is very much the interest of the consumers, who are the inhabitants of our colonies, that the trade should be left open to the competition of both, in order that each may be urged on to the rapid adoption of every species of improvement, by the rivality of the other.

All these things, which are demonstratively true, if such a thing as demonstration be possible in human affairs, clearly show what the principle of reciprocity, in the commerce between two nations, is, and on what grounds it may admit of justification. The only case which offers any difficulty may be stated as follows:

Two nations have carried on, for many years, a war of prohibitions, to the great detriment of both; each of the two perceiving, in the effect of its own interdictions, that part only which is injurious to the other country, and being blind to that part which affects itself. One of these governments subsequently embraces sound and liberal principles of trade, while the other still adheres to antiquated prejudices. As long as the enlightened government maintains its restrictions, it has in its power Edition: current; Page: [134] to offer to the stupid government what that government may consider as an equivalent for the abandonment of the counter-prohibitions. By giving up the restrictions unconditionally, this advantage would be sacrificed. It is a question between the immediate advantage of getting rid of one evil, and the chance of being freed from two by suffering that one a little longer. And we can easily conceive that it may be a very fit problem to propose, though often a very difficult one to solve, whether the enlightened government is justified in maintaining its own restrictive laws, after it has become sensible of their mischievousness, in order to induce the bigotted government to purchase their abrogation by renouncing its own.

But the case before us has none of these difficulties. Perfect reciprocity is here the declared object of both nations: and neither party objected to the conditions proposed by the other, on any ground excepting that they were not reciprocal; each country professing complete readiness to take off its restrictions, provided that the other country would do the same. That two nations, meeting one another with these avowed dispositions, should so far misunderstand one another as to terminate their negociations without removing a single restriction, is sufficiently unaccountable: but that the attempts of both parties to render the trade free, should end by interdicting it altogether, argues either a strange obliquity of intellect, or at least a complete misunderstanding of the principle of reciprocity, on one side, or on both. It shall be our endeavour, in the remainder of this dissertation, to shew, by which of the two governments the principle which both profess has been misunderstood, and at whose door the failure of the attempts at an amicable arrangement ought to be laid.

In order that the commercial intercourse between two countries should be on a footing of exact reciprocity, it is necessary that either there should be no discriminating duties in either country, upon the shipping of the other; or that those duties, if any exist, should be equal. On the first of these suppositions there is free trade on both sides, and consequently reciprocity: in the second case, there is reciprocity of restriction, which, though never desirable, may be allowable as a means of arriving at reciprocity of free trade.

It was in conformity with these principles, that the trade between the United States and the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, was regulated by the Convention of 1815.[*] That treaty provides, that no distinction shall be made by either nation, between the ships of the other country coming directly from that country, and its own. Thus far there is reciprocity of free trade. In what follows, there is reciprocity of restriction:—neither country enjoys the privilege of importing into the other the produce of a third country, on any conditions or under any circumstances whatever.

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This treaty of commerce extends only to the King’s European dominions. The party, at whose instances it was thus limited, was Great Britain. It was the wish of the United States, that the British colonies should, for the purposes of the treaty, be considered as a part of Great Britain, and the trade between America and those colonies laid open, like that of the mother country, to the shipping of both nations, on a footing of perfect equality. This proposition was recommended, not only by its conformity with sound principles, but by what, to the then ministry, might be supposed a more powerful recommendation,—the authority of Mr. Pitt. We believe it is not generally known, that this statesman, shortly after the close of the American war, introduced a bill into Parliament, admitting American vessels, so far as regards the direct trade between the United States and the West Indies, to all the privileges of our own.[*] The bill was lost by the breaking up of the Shelburne Administration; when the vulgar and exploded ideas of commercial policy regained their ascendancy, by the elevation of Mr. Fox. But the Castlereagh ministry, faithful to their custom of borrowing nothing from Mr. Pitt except whatever was bad in his principles or policy, were resolved to keep, so far as it was still in their power, the monopoly of the colonial trade unimpaired. The colonies were therefore excepted from the Convention of 1815; and the intercourse, in American vessels, between the United States and the West Indies, remained interdicted. The United States, becoming impatient under the exclusion, at length interdicted the intercourse in British vessels, until it should be permitted in their own: a measure which Mr. Canning, in his first letter to Mr. Gallatin, allows to have been, under the circumstances above stated, justifiable.[†]

We have mentioned these circumstances, (although they have no immediate bearing upon the matter at issue,) because they shew that it was Great Britain, and not the United States, who commenced the war of prohibitions; and that nothing, except the obstinate refusal of Great Britain, prevented a perfect system of reciprocity from having been established as long ago as 1815. From what cause such a system failed to be established, when a ministry hostile to free trade had been succeeded by one which has given substantial proofs of an inclination to it, remains to be accounted for.

An examination of the provisions of our Act of Reciprocity, will, we think, explain very satisfactorily the causes of this failure.

The privilege conferred by the Act in question upon foreign nations was, in all cases, one and the same. It was that of trading to our colonies in their own vessels, subject to the same duties, and no more, which were imposed upon the same intercourse when carried on in British ships.

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But while the privilege offered was the same to all nations, there was a great diversity in the conditions by the acceptance of which, that privilege was to be purchased. Even the apparent difference in the terms was very great; but the real difference still greater.

From nations which, having colonies, could repay us in kind, nothing more was required than that they should do so. Their colonies were to be opened to our vessels, in the same manner, and on the same footing of equality, on which our colonies had been opened to theirs.

If we examine these terms of reciprocity by the principles laid down by Mr. Canning, in his correspondence with Mr. Gallatin, we must pronounce them highly disadvantageous to Great Britain. No other nation now possesses colonies, in any degree to be compared for extent and productiveness with those of Great Britain. If, therefore, the admission of foreigners to share the trade and navigation of our colonies be indeed, as Mr. Canning represents it, a sacrifice, assuredly our admission to a like share of the trade and navigation of theirs, is by no means an adequate compensation. Sweden, for instance, (as Mr. Gallatin very pertinently observed,)[*] by admitting British vessels to trade, on the same terms as her own, with the single island of St. Bartholomew, would obtain all the privileges which were offered to the United States. All this, in our opinion, is no evil; because it is not the carrier nation, but the nation for whose use it carries, that we consider to be mainly, we may almost say solely, benefitted by the existence of the trade. But Mr. Canning’s opinion was different, and it was his part to shew, how such opinions and such conduct could be reconciled.

These terms, which were offered to nations having colonies, being in their nature inapplicable to those which had not; other conditions, therefore, had to be thought of for these last, of which class America was one. It was accordingly required, that they should place the commerce and navigation of Great Britain and her dependencies on the footing of the most favoured nation.

It is obvious, without proceeding further, that this was a very different, and might be a much greater concession, than that which was required from nations having colonies. A nation, therefore, which possessed colonies, might act very reasonably in accepting the reciprocity offered to it, while yet the United States might be perfectly right in supposing, that what was required from them was not reciprocity, but something totally different. From the acceptance, therefore, of the conditions of the Act, by any nation having colonies, no just argument can be drawn, in condemnation of the policy of the American government in refusing them.

But further, even to countries in a similar situation with the United States, the terms which the Act offered differ in their nature as widely as the laws of one country differ from those of another. What is required is, that they should admit Edition: current; Page: [137] Great Britain to the privileges of the most favoured nation. But the privileges of the most favoured nation are as diversified as the commercial policy of different states. In some countries they may amount to a free trade; in others, to no more than an intercourse loaded with innumerable burthens and restrictions. Nor should we omit to observe, that the concession required from nations without colonies, by what Mr. Canning terms reciprocity, is great in proportion to the general liberality of their policy. And as the policy of the United States, in respect to navigation, is more liberal than that of any other maritime power, Mr. Canning’s assertion, that the United States had rejected terms which other nations had accepted, cannot be admitted. From no other nation were concessions required, equal to those which were demanded from the United States.

Mr. Gallatin, however, with great propriety, waived this objection.[*] He made no complaint on account of the more favourable conditions which were offered to other countries: he looked only to the conditions offered to the United States; and we shall follow his example.

By the laws of the two countries, the trade, both in British and in American vessels, between the West Indies and the United States, had been long prohibited, and when permitted, loaded with heavy duties on both sides. For our permitting this trade to be carried on in American vessels, the proper equivalent would, it should seem, have been, that America should permit the same trade to be carried on in British vessels; to which, equally with those of America, it had, up to that time, been closed. With regard to discriminating duties, if none were imposed on our side, the equivalent would have been, that none should have been imposed on theirs.

Our Reciprocity Act required much more than this; and for what it required beyond this, it offered no equivalent.

It claimed for British vessels freedom of trade between our colonies and the United States; and for this it offered the proper equivalent,—freedom of the same trade to American ships. But it claimed, moreover, certain privileges in the ports of the United States, for the commerce and navigation of the mother country. Now the commerce and navigation of Great Britain, considered as distinct from her colonies, already enjoys every privilege in the American ports, which Great Britain herself grants to the commerce and navigation of the United States. The sole object, therefore, of our pretended reciprocity must have been, to obtain further privileges from the United States, which we ourselves do not grant to that power; or to retain the privileges which our commerce and navigation now enjoy, although we should cease to grant the corresponding privileges to that of the United States.

It has been already mentioned, that, with respect to the direct trade between Great Britain and the United States, British shipping enjoys all the privileges not Edition: current; Page: [138] only of the most favoured nation, but all those of American shipping itself. British vessels, however, are not permitted to trade from any third country to the United States. A similar prohibition applies, in this country, to American shipping. But with us this restriction is founded on the exclusive principles of our Navigation Laws;[*] with the United States, it is part of the general system of reciprocity, and therefore extends only to those countries which have adopted a similar regulation. Were we admitted, therefore, to the privileges of the most favoured nation, (merely in return for our admitting American vessels to our colonies,) we should acquire this privilege without giving the equivalent which the most favoured nation has given for it.

If the United States had accepted what we termed reciprocity, British vessels would have been permitted to trade between the United States and all foreign nations without any discriminating duties whatever; while American vessels would still have been entirely prohibited from trading between Great Britain and any foreign country except the United States. Is this reciprocity?

Moreover, Great Britain, after the expiration of the convention of 1815, (which was concluded for a limited period only,) might have imposed whatever restrictions she pleased upon American vessels trading to the mother country, while the United States must have continued to admit British vessels, on an equality with their own, to every branch of their trade except the coasting trade, or have lost that participation in the colonial trade which was extended to them by this Act. Is this reciprocity?

The reciprocity, then, which we offered to the United States, was a sham reciprocity, a reciprocity only in name. Instead of requiring concessions from America only equivalent to those which we offered in return, we demanded privileges for our vessels which we withheld from hers, and which if we ceased to withhold from hers we should by that alone, as her law actually stands, obtain for ourselves without difficulty.

The navigation laws of the United States are founded on perfect reciprocity.[†] No nation which does not impose restrictions on American vessels, has any restrictions imposed upon its own. But Congress did not think it fair reciprocity that our vessels should be relieved from all restrictions, while restrictions continued in this country on the shipping of America; our ministers did. This was the radical and incurable difference of opinion, which Mr. Canning held it to be beyond the power of negociation to remove.[‡] And certainly any minds which were capable of for a moment entertaining such an opinion as that professed by our Edition: current; Page: [139] ministers on the subject, might be very well presumed capable also of holding that opinion, in spite of any arguments which it would be in the power of the ablest negociator to adduce in opposition to it.

Thus far, it will probably be admitted, that the state of the case, as we have represented it, has not tended to place the conduct or policy of ministers in a very advantageous light. But it may perhaps be supposed that although the rejection, by the United States, of the conditions of our act of 1825, might not be a sufficient reason even for withholding from them the privileges of that Act, much less for depriving them of that partial trade with our Colonies which they had enjoyed since 1822; those Acts of Congress which Mr. Canning complains of as unfair and injurious to this country, must be of a character to justify the very strong measures which were adopted in retaliation.

It is proper, therefore, that we should give some account of these Acts of Congress, which unquestionably, on the face of every statement yet laid before the British public, appear highly discreditable to the United States. Yet these Acts were not passed without sufficient cause, although the cause has never been clearly stated in this country; and if it were stated, it is doubtful whether it would be listened to. The people of this country expect little wisdom in the commercial legislation of a nation who can be persuaded to pay 25 per cent for the pleasure of having manufactures of their own. Their preposterous tariff,[*] contrasted with the liberal policy which has been adopted and is still adhered to by our ministers, has prepared the most intelligent Englishmen to consider any thing which can be said or done by the Americans, against such antagonists as our ministers, in the matter of free trade, as worthy of entire disregard. This prejudice, or prejudgment, is a natural, well-grounded, and unavoidable one under the circumstances of the case. If the people of the United States did but know how much injury the tariff has done them, and will continue to do as long as it exists, in the opinion of all instructed and unprejudiced persons in this country, of all who were best able to appreciate their character, institutions, and policy when good, and on whom they might otherwise have confidently relied for doing them justice, and forcing the British public to do them justice, now when they are in the right—this alone ought to make them lose no time in blotting out this absurd law from their statute book, and in consigning the foolish idea of protecting manufactures to the contempt it deserves.* But, be their commercial policy in all other respects what it may, they are entitled to a vindication of it where it is justifiable, as we are prepared to maintain that it has been with respect to the question between our navigation and theirs. And the Edition: current; Page: [140] partial and prejudiced representations which have been made to the British public on the question, by authorities which in other respects rank deservedly high, ought to be, and so far as depends upon us, shall be, fully exposed.

The reader will not have forgotten, that the enactments of Congress, which Mr. Canning resented as acts of injustice at least, if not of special hostility, to this country,[*] were the imposition of an alien duty on British vessels trading between America and our Colonies, and the prohibition of the circuitous intercourse between Great Britain and her colonies, through the United States. We shall consider these questions separately, since they are separate in their nature.

The following extract from Mr. Huskisson’s speech in Parliament, on the 21st March, 1825, contains the history of the alien duty, placed in the point of view in which it was convenient to our ministers that it should appear:

The committee would perceive that, in allowing the countries of America to trade with our colonies in their own vessels, we had, in fact, conceded to the navigation of the United States a privilege which was not granted to any state in Europe; and this privilege, though nominally extended to all the countries of America, was really a boon to the United States alone, as the other countries had as yet scarcely any commercial marine. What had hitherto been the return made by the United States for this indulgence? In the first session of their Congress, which had followed the opening of this trade by our Act of Parliament, they passed a law, imposing alien duties in their ports upon all British ships which might trade between those ports and our colonies, to be levied until the productions of the United States should be admitted into our colonies upon the same terms and duties as the like productions of any other country; meaning thereby, the like productions not of any other foreign country, but of our own country, or of our own provinces in North America. Whatever might have been the arguments used to induce the American Congress to adopt this course, their real reason for making the attempt was an impression, on their part, that we had yielded this intercourse to necessity, and that as our colonies could not subsist without it, they might prescribe the conditions under which it should be carried on.*

The name of Mr. Huskisson has long been so completely identified with liberal and enlightened principles of commercial policy, that his reputation is national property, and we should be most unwilling to prejudice it undeservedly, or to put any other than the most favourable interpretation upon his words or actions. Yet the representation contained in the above passage is so grossly unfair, the facts of the case are so egregiously misstated, and the intentions imputed to the government of the United States are so directly contradicted by the whole tenor of their conduct, that the promulgation of such a statement by Mr. Huskisson seems to argue a degree of blindness which, if involuntary, cannot possibly be too much regretted, nor, if wilful, too severely condemned.

Mr. Huskisson pretends, that Congress requited us for removing restrictions from their ships, by laying restrictions upon ours. Now the direct contrary of this is Edition: current; Page: [141] notoriously the truth. To lay on restrictions did not happen to be in the power of the United States; since the intercourse in British ships, being already altogether prohibited, did not admit of being further restricted by any act of theirs. Far from laying on, the sole intention and effect of the Act was to take off restrictions; and all the complaint is, that it did not, in Mr. Huskisson’s opinion, take off enough.

Could Mr. Huskisson have forgotten that, previously to the measure of which he complains, the intercourse between the United States and our colonies in British vessels was prohibited? And because the act of Congress which took off the prohibition, did not also take off the discriminating duties, which have existed by the American navigation laws ever since 1790, and which have never been rescinded except in favour of those nations which would extend similar privileges to the United States, is it fair in Mr. Huskisson to represent the Act as imposing restrictions, when all the effect it was intended to have, or could have, was that of mitigating them?

So anxious were Congress to meet all our concessions by corresponding ones with the least possible delay, that they began to legislate even while our Act of 1822 was still pending in parliament. In order not to lose even the interval between two sessions of Congress, they passed a temporary bill, authorizing the President, on receiving satisfactory evidence that the trade had been opened to American vessels, to open it by proclamation to British vessels, on what he should consider fair conditions of reciprocity.[*] The President did so, and what they had authorized him to do by proclamation, was done in the succeeding session of Congress by a permanent law.

It is another question, whether Congress would have done right in taking off the duties as well as the prohibition; whether, when we removed the interdict from American vessels, they were bound in justice, or on the principle of reciprocity, to have taken off all restrictions whatever, and left the trade with our colonies subject only to the general regulations of their customs. Yet if this ground be taken by Mr. Huskisson’s partisans, it may very properly be asked in return, had we also taken off all special restrictions on our side? By no means. Our Act of 1822 only opened the ports of our colonies to certain enumerated articles, and that under high duties. Among these articles, pot and pearl ashes, dried and pickled fish, beef, pork, bacon, whale oil, spermaceti oil and candles, butter, and cheese, which are articles of considerable importance among the exports from the United States, were not included. All these commodities not only could not be imported in American, but could not even be imported in British vessels.

Did Mr. Huskisson—did our ministry—did these patrons of reciprocity seriously expect, that in return for the partial freedom of trade thus conceded to the United States, entire freedom of trade should be granted by them to Great Britain? Edition: current; Page: [142] If instead of opening their ports to all the produce of our colonies, Congress had opened them only to certain enumerated articles, excluding from the number some of the most valuable staple productions of the West Indies, this surely nobody would have thought of denying to be fair reciprocity. And perhaps it is to be regretted that Congress did not take this mode of limiting their concessions, to correspond with the limitation of ours. They preferred to open their ports to all the produce of our colonies, subject, when imported in British vessels, to a discriminating duty. This restriction was certainly different in kind from the restriction which provoked it; but if it was not greater in degree, it is no ground of complaint against the United States, that being entitled on the principle of reciprocity to withhold something, they thought proper to be themselves the judges what they would withhold.

Such is the true history of the Alien Duty. It was not, as Mr. Huskisson mistakenly imagined, an attempt to take advantage of our necessities, and engross the whole trade of our colonies to the shipping of the United States. It was adopted in perfect simplicity, as a matter of course, arising naturally out of the system of reciprocity, which they had uniformly and consistently observed towards us. As they had met our interdict by another interdict, so they never dreamed of giving any thing in return for our partial concessions, but partial concessions. In the choice of a limitation, they were guided by their own convenience, and by the ancient established principle of their navigation laws; never suspecting that our government would resent their not giving up the whole in return for a part, or that, if the nature of the restrictions which they retained did not please us, it would deprive them, in our eyes, of the whole merit of those they gave up.

Our ministers, misunderstanding the object of the discriminating duties, imposed countervailing duties, of equal amount, in the ports of our colonies, upon the shipping of the United States. And that measure, although condemned in the first volume of this publication,[*] would have been proper, if Mr. Huskisson’s view of the conduct of the United States had been the true one. It was the interest of our colonies that there should be freedom of competition between the vessels of the two countries; and the Americans having created an artificial inequality in favour of their own ships, our countervailing duty did no more, so far as navigation was concerned, than restore the equality. The error of our ministry consisted in not reflecting, that,—restrictions having been imposed by America, only because restrictions existed in our colonies,—to impose ulterior restrictions would not be to retaliate upon the United States, but to create a new source of inequality, justifying retaliation on the other side.

The following was now the comparative state of the restrictive regulations on both sides. Their duties on our shipping were equivalent to our duties on theirs, and so far there was reciprocity; but, on our side, many productions of the United Edition: current; Page: [143] States were prohibited, while all those of our colonies were admitted into the American ports. The principle of reciprocity would have justified them in imposing fresh restrictions; but from this they, with great good sense and moderation, abstained: while we, who could neither plead the principle of reciprocity nor any other rational principle for restricting still further an intercourse in which already the excess of restriction was on our side,—we chose rather that there should be no trade, than this equal trade—equal as respects navigation, unequal in other respects by our own act, and, as we imagined, in our own favour. We interdicted the trade in American vessels; knowing all the time that when our ports should be closed to their ships, their interdict on ours would revive; so that not even our ship-owners, and our cherished navigation, would gain one jot by this ebullition of national jealousy and pique.

Perhaps, if Congress had simply re-enacted the discriminating duties, and had evinced no disposition to consent to the abandonment of them upon any conditions whatever, they would have produced considerably less irritation in the minds of our government. But by offering to give up the duties on a condition which ministers considered derogatory to our dignity—namely, the admission of their produce into our West India colonies, subject to no higher duties than that of Canada,*—they rendered their case considerably worse than it could have been made by expressing the most fixed resolution to hold fast by the discriminating duties to the end of time.

This stipulation,—(we do not, with Mr. Canning and Mr. Huskisson, call it a pretension;[*] for the offer of a benefit, upon conditions however inadmissible, is no pretension; nor does there seem any peculiar propriety in treating it as an affront,)—this stipulation, it must be allowed, was evidently an ill considered one. It is true that what it required from us was no more than what we ought to have had no hesitation in consenting to; the abolition of a most pernicious and indefensible tax, imposed by us on the West Indies, ostensibly for the benefit of Canada, but with no effect save that of diverting the capital of that colony to other than its natural and most beneficial employment. However, on the principle of reciprocity, the United States were bound, if they claimed this, to grant us the corresponding privilege, by admitting our colonial productions into their ports, subject to no higher duties than their own produce carried coastwise.

The United States were not indeed without plausible, and even, to a certain extent, sound reasons, for insisting on this point. The British North American Edition: current; Page: [144] colonies (they urged) have by no means a large surplus produce to dispose of, and cannot export much to the West Indies, without importing, for their own consumption, from the United States. The trade, therefore, between the West Indies and Canada, is in reality a circuitous trade through Canada, between the West Indies and the United States: with this difference, that, being a trade between one part of the British dominions and another, it is confined by our navigation laws exclusively to British vessels. To admit, therefore, the produce of Canada, on more favourable terms than that of the United States, is really to admit the produce of the United States on more favourable terms when imported in British, than when imported in American vessels. This argument, though it does not entirely destroy, must be admitted to weaken considerably, the force of the objection to the supposed pretension involved in the Act of Congress.

But our ministers were destined to lose even the feeble apology which this infringement of reciprocity on the part of the United States might, by very partial judges, have been supposed to afford them. The negociations of 1824, regarding, inter alia, the Colonial Trade, had been suspended, with the understanding that they were to be renewed at an early period. The United States had never been informed that the Act of 1825, passed in the interval, was intended to preclude the resumption of these discussions. This our ministers knew; and they knew moreover, that Mr. Gallatin was actually on his way to Europe, specially commissioned to renew this very negociation. What might be his instructions they knew not; and therefore, probably, most persons in their situation, knowing that they had not the ultimatum of the United States, would have thought it expedient to wait for its arrival before they acted upon the presumption that nothing beyond what had been offered previously, would be granted now. Unfortunately for their foresight, two days after the publication of the Order in Council, Mr. Gallatin arrived, with instructions to give up the claim to an equality of duties between the produce of the British possessions and that of the United States. Any person may persue these instructions, by consulting Niles’s Register for 23d June 1826, which contains the original document signed by Mr. Clay, Secretary of State to the United States.[*] The principal point of difference, and the only one in which the United States were not thoroughly in the right, being thus removed, Mr. Canning chose rather to take refuge in the pretence of an “incurable difference of opinion,”[†] than to retract the uncalled-for interdict, or, by resuming the negociation, to draw forth information which would have shewn his conduct as petulant and precipitate as it was: and up to this day it has never been stated, and is not Edition: current; Page: [145] generally known to the British public, that Mr. Gallatin had authority to waive the pretension characterized in Mr. Canning’s correspondence as the ground of the interdict, and the one insuperable bar to all further negociation.

The only measure of the United States which still remains unexplained, is the prohibition of what is termed the circuitous intercourse: and Mr. Canning’s remonstrances on this point are so vehement,[*] that it must not be passed by without full consideration. We shall therefore explain the motive which induced the United States originally to withhold, from British vessels, the privilege of clearing out from their ports for the British colonies.

To understand the circumstances which dictated, and sufficiently warranted this restriction, it is necessary to remember, that previously to our Act of 1822, all commerce in ships of either country, between our colonies and the United States, was interdicted by the reciprocal prohibitions of the two countries.

The means of enforcing the prohibition on our side, were simple and obvious. We had only to declare that no American vessels should be permitted to unload their cargoes in our colonial ports. But the United States could not, in the same manner, prohibit British vessels from trading to their ports; because the trade, in British vessels, between America and the mother country, was not, nor consistently with the treaty could be, interdicted. Not being at liberty, therefore, nor probably desiring, to prohibit British vessels from coming to them at all; what means had they of excluding such vessels from the prohibited trade, except by requiring bonds that they should not take in cargoes in America and land them in the West Indies? All the attempts of the United States to enforce the prohibition would have been fruitless, if what they might forbid to be done in vessels coming directly from the colonies, they were bound to permit in the same vessels coming from any other part of the British dominions.

It may be asked, why the prohibition of the circuitous intercourse, adopted as being necessary to the due enforcement of the prohibition against the direct intercourse, continued after this latter prohibition was done away by the Act of Congress of 1823.

The reason was, because a similar restriction existed on our side.

In permitting the trade between our colonies and the United States, as well as all other countries of America, in foreign vessels, our Act of 1822 required, that goods imported from these countries in other than British ships must be brought and shipped directly from the country of which they were the produce; and that goods exported to these countries from our colonies in foreign ships must be exported directly to the country to which those ships belonged. By this Act, therefore, no trade could take place in vessels of the United States between that country and our colonies, unless such vessels came directly from the United Edition: current; Page: [146] States, and returned thither directly. Hence it is obvious that the United States only exercised a fair reciprocity in confining the same trade, when carried on in British vessels, to such as came directly from our colonies, and returned directly to them.

Mr. Canning’s attempt to shew that the one restriction did not justify the other, because the colonial trade is, by the consent of nations, an exclusive trade, is founded on incorrect reasoning. We may admit his premises, and yet deny his conclusion. However widely the colonial trade may differ from that of independent nations, yet, if we have a right to prescribe the conditions on which we will admit the United States to our colonial trade, they have an equal right to determine for themselves on what conditions they will accept of it.

It is, indeed, made matter of additional complaint by Mr. Canning, that although the prohibition of the indirect intercourse had been removed on the side of Great Britain by the Act of 1825, no steps had yet been taken by Congress to remove theirs.[*] In answer to this, Mr. Gallatin could only say, that he, and (as he conceived) his Government likewise, had been unaware that the Act of 1825 had the effect now ascribed to it.[†] This appears, from documentary evidence, to be perfectly true. Mr. Gallatin’s instructions, which may be perused, as we have already observed, in Niles’s Register, proceeded upon the supposition that the restriction imposed by the Act of 1822 still continued; and any one who will take the trouble to read a despatch from Mr. Gallatin to Mr. Clay, printed in the number for 6th January, 1827, of the same periodical work,[‡] will not wonder that an enactment so confusedly and unskilfully drawn up as our Act of 1825, should not have been understood by those who had no access to any commentary, and to whom no official explanation was afforded.

After all, this Act, even as interpreted by Mr. Canning, takes off only one half of the interdict on the indirect intercourse. Foreign vessels trading to our colonies may now export colonial produce to a third country; but they may not import into our colonies the produce of any other country than that to which the vessels belong.

These, and all other misapprehensions, would at once have been cleared up, if the negociations which the United States have professed throughout to wait for, in order that they might be guided by the result, had been renewed. But Ministers had determined otherwise; and when Mr. Gallatin arrived on the implied understanding that the discussions were to commence immediately, and bearing instructions in which almost the only disputed claim which was not given up was that which, according to Mr. Canning, we have yielded, a participation in the trade between our colonies and foreign countries; he is told that not only now, but hereafter, even if the United States should grant to us every thing which our Edition: current; Page: [147] pretended reciprocity system demands, we will not pledge ourselves to suffer any trade in American vessels, between our colonies and America![*]

Could we hope that Mr. Canning’s American policy had died with him, it would be no inconsiderable advantage to set off against the evils of a loss otherwise so deeply to be lamented. We are persuaded that no impartial person, who takes for his standard of approval any kind of reciprocity, except that which is jocularly said to be all on one side, will consider that any one has deviated from the principle of reciprocity, except our Government; or that any thing would be necessary to bring America to reason, except to be ourselves reasonable. We wish it were in our power to add, that the present ministers,* by the conduct which they have pursued either before or since they came into office, had afforded much ground for hope that they are the men through whose agency these differences will be accommodated. That strength of intellect which comprehends readily the consequences of a false step, and what is a still rarer endowment, that strength of character which dares to retrace it, are not qualities which have often belonged to a British ministry. That the present ministers possess these attributes, it still remains for them to prove. For us, if we can contribute in any degree to give the right direction to the opinions of any portion of the public on this question, we shall have effected all that we aim at, and all that is in our power.

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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.

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Notes on the Newspapers

NO. I, MARCH, 1834

5th February
The King’s Speech[*]

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 Edition: current; Page: [152] 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 Edition: current; Page: [153] 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 Edition: current; Page: [154] 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 Edition: current; Page: [155] 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?

*     *     *     *     *

6th February
Mr. Shiel and Lord Althorp

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 Edition: current; Page: [156] 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 Edition: current; Page: [157] 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.[†]

*     *     *     *     *

7th February
The Monopoly of the Post Office Clerks

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 Edition: current; Page: [158] 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.

*     *     *     *     *

12th February
Attendance in the House

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 Edition: current; Page: [159] 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.

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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.

*     *     *     *     *

15th February
Lord Althorp’s Budget[‡]

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 Edition: current; Page: [161] 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 Edition: current; Page: [162] 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 Edition: current; Page: [163] 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.

*     *     *     *     *

17th February
The Leeds Election

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 Edition: current; Page: [164] 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.

Edition: current; Page: [165]

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 Edition: current; Page: [166] 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 Edition: current; Page: [167] 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 Edition: current; Page: [168] 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*

21st February
The Ministerial Resolutions on Irish Tithe[*]

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 Edition: current; Page: [169] 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 Edition: current; Page: [170] 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.

*     *     *     *     *

22nd February
The Debate on Agricultural Distress[*]

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 Edition: current; Page: [171] 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 Edition: current; Page: [172] 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 Edition: current; Page: [173] 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 Edition: current; Page: [174] 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;[‡] Edition: current; Page: [175] 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 Edition: current; Page: [176] 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.*

Edition: current; Page: [177]

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 Edition: current; Page: [178] 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.[†]

*     *     *     *     *

5th March
Mr. Buckingham’s Motion on Impressment[‡]

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 Edition: current; Page: [179] 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 Edition: current; Page: [180] 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 Edition: current; Page: [181] 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.

*     *     *     *     *

1st March
The Dudley Election

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 Edition: current; Page: [182] 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 Edition: current; Page: [183] 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?

*     *     *     *     *

8th March
The Debate on the Corn Laws[*]

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 Edition: current; Page: [184] 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, Edition: current; Page: [185] 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 Edition: current; Page: [186] 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.

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12th March
Political Oaths[¶]

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, Edition: current; Page: [187] 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 Edition: current; Page: [188] 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.*

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15th March
The Trades’ Unions

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 Edition: current; Page: [189] 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 Edition: current; Page: [190] 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 Edition: current; Page: [191] 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.

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19th March
The Solicitor General’s Motion on the Law of Libel[*]

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 Edition: current; Page: [192] 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 Edition: current; Page: [193] 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.

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20th March
Sir Robert Peel on the Corn Laws

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 Edition: current; Page: [194] 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.

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26th March
The Ministry and the Dissenters

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 Edition: current; Page: [195] 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 Edition: current; Page: [196] 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!

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NO. III, MAY, 1834

16th April
The Tithe Bill[∥]

This project appears to us no improvement upon the tithe commutation of last Edition: current; Page: [197] 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? Edition: current; Page: [198] 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 Edition: current; Page: [199] 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.

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17th April
National Education

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 Edition: current; Page: [200] 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, Edition: current; Page: [201] 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 Edition: current; Page: [202] 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.

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18th April
Mr. Roebuck and The Times

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 Edition: current; Page: [203] 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 Edition: current; Page: [204] 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 Edition: current; Page: [205] 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 Edition: current; Page: [206] 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.

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19th April
Government by Brute Force

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 Edition: current; Page: [207] 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 Edition: current; Page: [208] 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 Edition: current; Page: [209] 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 Edition: current; Page: [210] 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 Edition: current; Page: [211] 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.

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22nd April
The Church-Rate Abortion

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 Edition: current; Page: [212] 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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24th April
The Beer-Houses

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 Edition: current; Page: [213] 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 Edition: current; Page: [214] 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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25th April
Repeal of the Union

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 Edition: current; Page: [215] 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 Edition: current; Page: [216] 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 Edition: current; Page: [217] 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 Edition: current; Page: [218] 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

1st May
The Press and the Trades’ Unions

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 Edition: current; Page: [219] 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 Edition: current; Page: [220] 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 Edition: current; Page: [221] must be got rid of, or the next generation, perhaps the present, will severely suffer for it.

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2nd May
Sir Robert Heron’s Motion, and Mr. Bulwer’s Amendment[*]

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 Edition: current; Page: [222] 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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8th May
Loss of the Registration Bills[*]

The defeat of these important improvements in the law, now for the second time Edition: current; Page: [223] 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 Edition: current; Page: [224] 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 Edition: current; Page: [225] 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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13th May
Lord Brougham’s Defence of the Church Establishment

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 Edition: current; Page: [226] 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 Edition: current; Page: [227] 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 Edition: current; Page: [228] 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 Edition: current; Page: [229] 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 Edition: current; Page: [230] 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.

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14th May
Mr. William Brougham’s Bills for a Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages[*]

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 Edition: current; Page: [232] 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 Edition: current; Page: [233] 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.[*]

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17th May
Sir Edward Knatchbull’s Beer Bill[†]

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.

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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 Edition: current; Page: [235] 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.

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19th May
My Grandmother’s Journal

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.

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22nd May
Death of Lafayette

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 Edition: current; Page: [236] 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 Edition: current; Page: [237] 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.

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23rd May
Lord Althorp and the Taxes on Knowledge

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 Edition: current; Page: [238] 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.

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24th May
Progress of the Poor Law Bill

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 Edition: current; Page: [239] 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 Edition: current; Page: [240] 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 pen