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and to press more closely on our liberties, than any of l heir predecessors. For our own part, however, we have never been able to see things in this inauspicious light;—and having no personal or factious quarrel with our present ministers, are easily comforted for the increased chance of their continuance in office, by a consideration of those circumstances that must infallibly, under any ministry, operate to facilitate reform, to diminish the power of the Crown, and to consolidate the liberties of the nation. If our readers agree with us in our estimate of the importance of these circumstances, we can scarcely doubt that they will concur in our general conclusion.
In the first place, then, it is obvious, that the direct patronage and indirect influence 01 the Crown must be most seriously and effectually abridged by the reduction of our army and navy, the diminution of our taxes, ana, generally speaking, of all our establishments, upon the ratification of peace. We have thought it a great deal gained for the Constintion of late years, when we could strike oft a few hundred thousand pounds of offices in the gift of the Crown, that had become useless, or might be consolidated;—and now the peace will, at one blow, strike off probably thirty or forty millions of government expenditure, ordinary or extraordinary. This alone might restore the balance of the Constitution.
fii the next place, a continuance of peace and prosperity will naturally produce a greater diffusion of wealth, and consequently a greater spirit of independence in the body of the people; which, co-operating with the diminished power of the government to provide for its baser adherents, must speedily thin the ranks of its regular supporters, and expose it far more effectually to the control of a weightier and more impartial public opinion.
In the third place, the events to which we have alluded, and the situation in which they will leave us, will take away almost all those pretexts for resisting inquiry into abuses, and proposals for reform, by the help of which, rather than of any serious dispute on the principle, these important discussions have been waived for these last twenty years. We shall no longer be stopped with me plea of its being no fit time to quarrel about the little faults or our Constitution, when we are struggling with a ferocious enemy for its very existence. It will not now do to tell us, that it is both dangerous and disgraceful to show ourselves disunited in a season of such imminent peril—or that all great and patriotic minds should be entirely engrossed with the care of our safety, and can have neither leisure nor energy to bestow upon concerns less urgent or vital. The restoration of peace, on the contrary, will soon leave us little else to do;—and when we have no invasions nor expeditions—nor coalitions nor campaigns—nor even any loans and budgets to fill the minds of our statesmen, and trie ears of our idle politicians, we think it almost certain that questions of reform will rise into paramount importance, and the redress of abuses become the most interesting of public pursuits. We shall be once more entitled, 75
too, to make a fair and natural appeal to the analogous acts or institutions of other nations, without being met by the cry of revolution and democracy, or the imputation of abetting the proceedings of a sanguinary despot. We shall again see the abuses of old hereditary power, and the evils of maladministration in legitimate hands; and be permitted to argue from them, without the reproach of disaffection to the general cause of mankind. Men, and things, in short, we trust, will again receive their true names, on a fair consideration of their merits; and our notions of political desert be no longer confounded by indiscriminate praise of all who are with us, and intolerant abuse of all who are against us, in a struggle that touches the sources of so many passions. When we plead for the emancipation of the Catholics of Ireland, we shall no longer be told that the Pope is a mere puppet in the hands of an inveterate foe,—nor be deterred from protesting against the conflagration, of a friendly capital, by the suggestion, that no other means were lelt to prevent that same foe from possessing himself of its fleet. Exceptions and extreme cases, in short, will no longer furnish the ordinary rules of our conduct; and it will be impossible, by extraneous arguments, to baffle every attempt at a fair estimate of ourpublic principles and proceedings.
These, we think, are among the necessary consequences of a peace concluded in such circumstances as we have now been considering; and they are but a specimen of the kindred consequences to which it must infallibly lead. If these ensue, however, and are allowed to produce their natural effects, it is a matter of indifference to us whether Lord Castlereagh and Lord Liverpool, or Lord Grey and Lord Grenville are at the head of the government. The former, indeed, may probably be a little uneasy in so new a posture of affairs; but they will either conform to it, or abandon their posta in despair. To control or alter it, will assuredly be beyond their power.
With these pleasing anticipations, we would willingly close this long re view of the State and Prospects of the European Commonwealth, in its present great crisis, of restoration, or of new revolutions. But. cheering and beautiful as it is, and disposed as we think we have shown ourselves to look hopefully upon it, it is impossible to shut our eyes on two dark stains that appear on the bright horizon, and seem already to tarnish the glories with which they are so sadly contrasted. One is of longer standing, and perhaps of deeper dye.—But both are most painful deformities on the face of so fair a prospect; and may be mentioned with less scruple and greater hope, from tho consideration, that those who have now the power of effacing them can scarcely be charged with the guilt of their production, and have given strong indications of dispositions that must lead them to wish for their removal. We need scarcely give the key to these observations by naming the names of Poland and of Norway. Nor do we propose, on the present occasion, to do much more than to name them Of the latter, we shall pidbably contrive to 2 z 2
«peak fully on a future occasion. Of the former, many of our readers may think we have, on former occasions, said at least enough. Our zeal in that cause, we know, has been made matter of wonder, and even of derision, among certain persons who value themselves on the character of practical politicians and men of the world ; and we have had the satisfaction of listening to various witty sneers on the mixed simplicity and extravagance of supposing, that the kingdom of the Poles was to be re-established by a dissertation in an English journal. It would perhaps be enough to state, that, independent of any view to an immediate or practical result in other regions, it is of some consequence to keep the observation of England alive, and its feelings awake, npon a subject of this importance: But we must beg leave to add, that such dissertations are humbly conceived to be among the legitimate means by which the English public both instructs and expresses itself; and that the opinion of the English public is still allowed to have weight with its government; which atrain cannot well be supposed to be altogether without influence in the councils of its allies. Whatever becomes of Poland, it is most material, we think, that the people of this country should judge soundly, and feel rightly, on a matter that louches on principles of | such general application. But every thing j that has passed since the publication of our , former remarks, combines to justify what we '. then stated; and to encourage us to make j louder and more energetic appeals to the jus-! tice and prudence and magnanimity of the parties concerned in this transaction. The words and the deeds of Alexander that have, since that period, passed into the page of history—the principles he has solemnly professed, and the acts by which he has sealed that profession—entitle us to expect from him i a strain of'justice and generosity, which vulgar politicians may call romantic if they please,! but which all men of high principles and enlarged understandings will feel to be not more heroic than judicious. While Poland remains oppressed and discontented, the peace of Europe will always be at the mercy of any ambitious or intriguing power that may think fit
to rouse its rast and warlike population wi:l the vain promise of independence; while ¡!iperfectly manifest that those, by whom a!i*t that promise could be effectually kept, иск . gain prodigiously, both in security and in s..stautial influence, by its faithful perfonna: t». It is not, however, for the mere name >:' independence, nor for the lost glories of z. ancient and honourable existence, that ;b» people of Poland are thus eager to in\ themselves in any desperate strife of «ici; this may be proclaimed as the prize. We have shown, in our last number, tie sub<a> tial and intolerable evils which this еПш«мг. of their national dignity—this sore and nmerited wound to their national pride, b» necessarily occasioned: And thinking- is vdo, that a people without the feelings of ational pride and public duty must be a pert.t without energy and without enjoyments, »r apprehend it to be at any rate md¿pntab!'>. ^ the present instance, that the circumstarfs which have dissolved their political ':•: have struck also at the root of their indirki.. happiness and prosperity; and that it is:-: merely the unjust destruction of an and-1kindom that we lament, but the condenuau: of fifteen millions of human beings to cprofitable and unparalleled misery
But though these are the con?ideraurwhich the feelings of private indiv.ii^a most naturally affected, it should nerer ï< forgotten, that all the principles on vfcii-h -• great fabric of national independen« «ífessedly rests in Europe, are involved in ¡if decision of this question; and that Do си nation can be secure in its separate eiistiMt if all the rest do not concur in d:savi-: the maxims which were acted upor. j 'partition of Poland. It is not onh rr.>."".". to see the scattered and bleeding mtn;:- > that unhappy state still palpitating ar.J г: nising on the spot where it lately s'.iv.' -.' in youthful vigour and beauty; bat it isBnsp to breathe th,e noxious vapours which ¿J melancholv spectacle exhales. Thf •>•'••• • some neighbourhood is poisoned by their ¿¿ fusion; and every independence vrithin iberange, sickens and is endangered by lit •. • tagion.
Speech of the Right Hon. William Windham, in the House of Commons
Mr.Curwen's Bill, "for better securing the Independence and Purity у, ж«..—preventing the procuring or obtaining of Seats by corrupt Practice»." 8vo. pp. 0 London: 1810.«
Mr. WiNDHAMj the most high-minded and
in selling seats in parliament openly to t! incormptible of living men, can see no harm highest bidder, or for excluding риЬЬс í:--'-'
ponente of reform principles—which air iff :"* to all times, and all condition» of focie'j: »rc' which recent events and discussions seem to «* that the present generation may still need u M r» minded.
* The pasting of the Reform Bill has antiquattd •mich of the discusfion in this article, as originally written; and a considerable portion of it is now, for this reason, omitted. But it aleo contains answers to the systematic apologisis of corruption, and op
generally from the money market; and is of opinion that political influence arising from property should be disposed of like other property. It will be readily supposed that \v do not assent to any part of this doctrine; and indeed we must beg leave to say, that to ns it is no sort of argument for the sale of seats, to contend that such a transference is r.u worse than the possession of the property transferred; and to remind us, that he who objects to men selling their influence, must Ьз against their having it to sell. We are decidedly against their having it—to sell! and, as to what i.s here considered as the necessary influence of property over elections, we should think there could be no great difficulty in drawing the line between the legitimate, harmless, and even beneficial use of ¡iroporty, even as connected wilh elections; and its direct employment for the purchase of parliamentary influence. Almost all men—г indeed, \ve think, all men—admit, that some Une is to be drawn;—that the political influence of property should be confined to that « hich is essential to its use and enjoyment; —and that penalties should be inflicted, when it is directly applied to the purchase of votes; though that is perhaps the only case in which the Law can interfere vindictively, without introducing far greater evils than those which it seeks to remedy.
To those who are already familiar with the facts and the reasonings that bear upon this L'reat question, these brief suggestions will probably be sufficient; but there are many to •.vhom the subject will require a little more f.vplanation; and for whose use, at all events. the argument must be a little more opened np and expanded.
If men were perfectly wise and virtuous, they would stand in no need either of Government or of Representatives; and, therefore, it' they do need them, it is quite certain that their choice will not be influenced by considerations of duty or wisdom alone. We may assume it as an axiom, therefore, however the purists may be scandalised, that, even in political elections, some other feelinss will necessarily have play; and that passions, and prejudices, and personal interests, '.vill always interfere, to a greater or less extent, with the higher dictates of patriotism ami philanthropy. Of these sinister motives, individual interest, of course, is the strongest and most steady; and wealth, being its most common and appropriate object, it is natural to expect that the possession of property should bestow some.political influence. The question, therefore, is, whether this influence can ever be safe or tolerable—or whether it be possible to mark the limits at which it becomes so pernicious ae to justify legislative coercion. Now, we are so far from thinking, with Mr. Windham, that there is no room for any distinction in this matter, that we are inclined, on the whole, to be of opinion, that what we would term the natural and inevitable influence of property in elections, is not only safe, but salutary; while its artificial and corrupt influence is among the most
pernicious and reprehensible cf all political abuses.
The natural influence of property is that which results spontaneously Irom its ordinaiy use and expenditure, and cannot well be m,i:-. understood. That a man \vho spends a large income in the place of his residence—who subscribes handsomely for building bridges. hospitals, and assembly-rooms, and generally to all works of public charity or accommoda"tion in the neighbourhood—and who, moreover, keeps the best table for the gentry, and has the largest accounts with the tradesmen —will, without thinking or caring about the matter, acquire more influence, and find more people ready to oblige him, than a poorer man, of equal virtue and talents—is a fact, which we are as little inclined to deplore, as to call in question. Neither does it cost us any pang to reflect, that, if such a man was desirous of representing the borough in which he resided, or of having it represented by his son or his brother, or some dear and intimate friend, his recommendation would go much farther with the electors than a respectable certificate of extraordinary worth and abilities in an opposing candidate.
Such an influence as this, it would evidently be quite absurd for any legislature to think of interdicting, or even for any reformer to attempt to discredit. In the first place, because it is founded in the very nature of men and of human affaire, and could not possibly be prevented, or considerably weakened, by any thing short of an universal regeneiation; secondly, because, though originating from property, it does by no means imply, either the baseness of venality, or the guilt of corruption; but rests infinitely more upon feelings of vanity, and social instinctive sympathy, than upon any consciousness of dependence, or paltry expectation of personal emolument; and, thirdly, because, taking men as they actually are, this mixed feeling is, upon the whole, both a safer and a better feeling than the greater part of those, to the influence of which they would be abandoned, if this should be destroyed. If the question were, always, whether a man of wealth and family, or a man of sense and virtue, should have the greatest influence, it would no doubt be desirable that the preponderance should be given to moral and intellectual merit. But this is by no means the true state of the contest :—and when the question is between the influence of property and the influence of intriguing ambition and turbulent popularity, we own that we are glad to find the former most frequently prevalent. In ordinary life, and in common affairs, this natural and indirect influence of property is vast and infallible, even upon the best and most enlightened part of the community; and nothing can conduce so surely to the stability and excellence of a political constitution, as to make it rest upon the general principles that regulate the conduct of the better part of the individuals who live under it, and tc attach them to their government by the same feelings which insure their affection or submission in their private capacity
There could be no security, in short, either for property, or for any thing else, in a country where the possession of property did not bestow some political influence.
This, then, is the natural influence of property; which we would not only tolerate, but encourage. We must now endeavour to explain that corrupt or artificial influence, which we conceive it to be our duty by all means to resist and repress. Under this name, we would comprehend all wilful and direct employment of property to purchase or obtain political power, in whatever form the transaction might be embodied: but, with reference to the more common cases, we shall exemplify only in the instances of purchasing votes by bribery, or holding the property of those votes distinct from any other property, and selling and transferring this for a price, like any other marketable commodity. All such practices are stigmatized, in common language, and in common feelings, as corrupt and discreditable; and the slightest reflection upon their principles and their consequences, will show, that while they tend to debase the character of all who are concerned in them, they lead directly to the subversion of all that is valuable in a representative system of government. That they may, in some cases, be combined with that indirect and legitimate influence of property of which we have just been speaking, and. in others, be insidiously engrafted upon it, it is impossible to deny; but that they are clearly distinguishable from the genuine fruits joî that influence, both in their moral character and their political effects, we conceive to be equally indisputable.
Upon the subject of direct bribery to individual voters, indeed, we do not think it necessary to say any thing. The law, and the feeling of all mankind have marked that practice with reprobation: and even Mr. Windham, in the wantonness of his controversial scepticism, does not pretend to say, that the law or the feeling is erroneous, or that it would not be better that both should, if possible, be made still stronger than they are. %
Setting this aside, however, the great practical evils that are supposed to result from the influence of property in the elections of this country, are, 1st, that the representation of certain boroughs is entirely, necessarily and perpetually, at the disposal of certain families, so as to be familiarly considered as a part of their rightful property; and, 2dly, that certain other boroughs are held and managed by corrupt agents and jobbers, for the express purpose of being sold for a price in ready money, either through the intervention of the Treasury, or directly to the candidate. That both these are evils and deformities in our system of representation, we readily admit: though by no means to the same extent, leading to the same effects, or produced by the operation of the same causes.
With regard to the boroughs that are permanently in possession of certain great proprietors, these are, for the most part, such email or decayed places, as have fallen, almost insensibly, under their control, in con
sequence of the extension of their possession, and the decline of the population. Ojnsiiir: ed in this light, it does not appear that they can, with any propriety, be regarded either as scenes of criminal corruption, or as examples of the reprehensible influence of property. If a place which still retains (however absuro .: the right of sending members to parlamezL comes to be entirely depopulated, like ОУ Sarum, it is impossible to suppose that ;; • nomination of its members should vest n: 2: one but the Proprietor of the spot to wLci the right is attached: and, even where the decay is less complete than in this instance, still, if any great family has gradually acoi.;ed the greater part of the property from wW the right of voting is derived, it is equaflr impossible to hold that there is any thins; corrupt or reprehensible in its availing ittetf oí this influence. Cases of this sort, therero-we are inclined to consider as cases o! 'Ы fair influence of property: and though ire admit them to be both contradictor)- to ;:.general scheme of the Constitution, and »ctversive of some of its most important principles, we think they are to be regarded as tfev < and irregularities brought on by time ami \'^course of events, rather than as abuses a.'.rduced by the vices and corruptions of икс. The remedy—and we certainly think а тегт obvious and proper remedy—would be. • take the right of election from all plie« я small and insignificant as to have toss become, in a great measure, the property с; гindividual—not to rail at the individual в.' avails himself of the influence itutpard-' from such property—or to dream of retraining him in its exercise, by unjust pemltie and impossible regulations.
The great evil, however, is in the other *-• scription of boroughs—those that are b*'¿ ¡т agents or jobbers, by a very different letaut from that of great proprietors and benefart1::and are regularly disposed of by their r. every election, for a price paid down, filie: through the mediation of the ministry. • without any such mediation: a pan of tlm price being notoriously applied by such аг'"in direct bribes to individual voters—and :_•• remainder taken to themselves as the la«r.i. profits of the transaction. Now. without s? '; into any sort of detail, we think we mich: -,: once venture to ask, whether it be possitlt :' any man to shut his eyes upon the mdmdai infamy and the public hazard that are embed in these last-mentioned proceeimss. or :*•: one moment to confound their, even It. r: imagination, with the innocent arxi salutary :: • fluence that is inseparable from the pow**1'-"and expenditure of large property? The ditiVrence between them, is not les.« than betw-r. the influence which youth and manly bratx aided by act? of generosity and proofs ot Ьnourable intentions may attain over an ot •<• of affection, and the control that may be ?••'; quired by the arts of a hateful proco ress. =''by her transferred to an object of natura) >:.-gust and aversion. The one is founded ur> principles which, if they are not the ax< lofty or infallible, are «ill among the nx* amiable that belong to our imperfect nature, and leads to consequences eminently favourable to the harmony and stability of our social institutions; while the other can only be obtained by working with the basest instruments on the basest passions; and tends directly to tap the foundations of private honour and pubLc freedom, and to dissolve the kindly cement by which nature herself has knit society toL'other. in the bonds of human sympathy, and mutual trust and dependence. To say that both sorts of influence are derived from property? and are therefore to be considered as identical, is a sophism scarcely more ingenious, than that which would confound the occupations of the highwayman and the honourable merchant, because the object of both was gain; or which should assume the philosophical principle, that all voluntary actions are dictated by a view to ultimate gratification, in order to prove that there was no distinction between vice and virtue; and that the felon, who was led to execution amidst the execrations of an indignant multitude, was truly as meritorious as the patriot, to whom his gratei'ul country decreed unenvied honours lor its deliverance from tyranny. The truth is, that there is nothing more dangerous than those metaphysical inquiries into the ultimate constituents of merit or delinquency; and that, in every thing that is connected with practice, and especially with public conduct, no wise man will ever employ such an analytical procese to counteract the plain intimations of conscience and common sense, unless for the purpose of confounding an antagonist, or perplexing a discussion, to the natural result of which he is unfriendly on other principles.
Bat if the practices to which we are alluding be clearly base and unworthy in the eyes of all upright and honourable men, and most pregnant with public danger in the eyes of all thinking and intelligent men, it must appear still more strange to find them defended on the score of their Antiquity, than on that of their supposed affinity to practices that are held to be innocent. Yet the old cry of Innovation! has been raised, with more than usual vehemence, against those who offer the most caatious hints for their correction; and even Mr. Windham has not disdained to seek some si.l to his argument from a misapplication of the sorry commonplaces about me antiquity and beauty of our constitution, and the hazard of meddling at all with that under which we have eo long enjoyed so much glory and happiness. Of the many good answers that may be made to all arguments of this character, we shall content ourselves with one. which ieeme sufficiently conclusive and simple.
The abuses, of which we complain, are not bliL but recent ; and those who seek to correct them, are not innovating upon the constitution, but seeking to prevent innovation. The practice of jobbing in boroughs was scarcely known at all in the beginning of the last century; and was not systematized, nor carried to any very formidable extent, till within the last forty years. At all events, it most certainly was not in the contemplation of those
by whom the frame of our constitution was laid; and it is confessedly a perversion and abuse of a system, devised and established for very opposite purposes. Let any man ask himself, whether such a scheme of representation, as is now actually in practice in manyparts of this country, can be supposed to have been intended by those who laid the foundations of our free constitution, or reared upon them the proud fabric of our liberties? Or let him ask himself, whether, if we were now devising a system of representation for such a country as England, there is any human being who would recommend the adoption of the system that is practically established amorío us at this moment,—a system under which fifty or sixty members should be returned by twenty or thirty paltry and beggarly hamlets, dignified with the name of boroughs; while twenty or thirty great and opulent towns had no representation ;—and where upwards of a hundred more publicly bought their seats, partly by a promise of indiscriminate support to the minister, and partly by a sum paid down to persons who had no natural influence over the electors, and controlled them notoriously, either by direct bribery, or as the agents of ministerial corruption? If it be clear, however, that such a state of things is in itself indefensible, it is still clearer that it is not the state of things which is required by the true principles of the constitution ; that, in point of fact, it neither did nor could exist at the time when that constitution was established; and that its correction would be no innovation on that constitution, but a beneficial restoration of it, both in principle and in practice.
If some of the main pillars of our mansion have been thrown down, is it a dangerous innovation to rear them up again? If the roof has grown too heavy for the building, by recent and injudicious superstructures, is it an innovation, if we either take them down, or strengthen the supports upon which they depend? If the waste of time, and the elements, have crumbled away a part of the foundation, does it show a disregard to the safety of the whole pile, if we widen the basis upon which it rests, and endeavour to place it upon deeper and firmer materials t If the rats have eaten a way into the stores and the cellars; or if knavish servants have opened private and unauthorised communications in the lower parts of the fabric, does it indeed indicate a disposition to impair the comfort and security of the abode, that we are anxious to stop up those holes, and to build across those new and suspicious approaches?—Is it not obvious, in short, in all such cases, that the only true innovators are Guilt and Time, апф that they who seek to repair what time 1 has wasted; and to restore what guilt ha» destroyed, are still more unequivocally the enemies of innovation, than of abuse? Those who are most aware of the importance of re form, are also most aware of the hazards of any theoretical or untried change ; and, while they strictly confine their efforts to the restitu tion of what all admit to have been in the