Page images
PDF
EPUB

taxes to the State, 51. a year would not be too low, and any thing beyond 101. a year would be too high.

The qualification being fixed, the only thing that remains is to let in the qualified persons. They would vote along with those who are already qualified, or may choose to become so under the existing system. The qualification arising from real property must be made to altach to the ownership of houses, without which, indeed, nothiog effectual can be done. And therefore, whenever there was a town not comprehended within the sixty-six Royal Burghs, it would form a part of the county ;-a woful proposal, no doubt, for the country gentleman, but absolutely necessary for The welfare of the community. Things cannot last as they are; and the more gracefully they are changed the better.

2. For the Royal Burghs there are two ways of proceeding; -either to let the magistrates continue to elect by delegates, but to make the appointment of the magistracy depend on the people; or to leave the municipal structure of the towns as it is, but to throw the election of the member al once into the hands of the persons having the new qualification. Some will be disposed to prefer the first of these schemes, because it implies a reform in the constitution of the burghs, which is a subject on which the people have very deep feelings, justified by intolerable grievances. But the wiser resolution, with reference purely to the representation, is clearly to adopt the other course. In the first place, lo connect the reform of the representation with the reform of the burghs is to obstruct a very simple case by one which may easily be made extremely complicated; and, in the second place, even though the magistrates were to be properly appointed, no system of representation can ever be good which withdraws the direct election of the member from the peoplo, and vests it in any interposed body. Delegates in every shape are bad. The true course is to fix on the qualification, anıl then to let the qualified persons meel the proposed representative face to face.

The qualification for towns would probably require to be somewhat different from that for counties. But it ought not to be higher; and if it did not include a certain description of tenants, it would exclude large classes of the wealthy and best educated persons. Edinburgh stands clear of all connexion with other burghs. But where four or five of them are united, it has sometimes been stated as a difficulty, that except by delegales, they could not be brought together to elect. There is no difficulty in this at all. All that is necessary is, that the qualified persons should vote at any of the burghs that they pleased, and the result would be determined by the sum total of votes, when collected and examined. The small places will, probably, insist that the election shall depend, not on the majority of individual votes all over each class of burghs, but on the majority of burghs; because this would throw as much power into the hands of the most insignificant place as into the hands of the most important. But yielding to this would exhibit the spectacle of a member who was chosen by three hundred people, composing three burghs of a hundred votes each, although he were rejected by ten thousand who happened to live in one place. Each class of burghs should be dealt with exactly as if they formed one town, which had the privilege of voting at a variety of spots. It is the average mind of the whole that ought to prevail.

The safety and the advantages of these reforms can be doubled by pa sensible man, who either respects the constitution or experience. This is

the system which does not merely work well in England, Ireland, and Wales, but which works so well that the government could not be mainlained for a single year without it. The Scotch have never been tried with il; but if it be safe and beneficial any where else, it must be more safe with the people who are most cautious and educated, and more beneficial for those whose public character has hitherto been depressed by systematic exclusion from the exercise of political rights. It is scarcely twenty-five

years since they were trusted with even the election of their own CommisHii sioners of Police; and the first recognition for this purpose of numerous

classes of voters, beginning at 101. a year, was only yielded with a grudge, and with many a demonstration that it would lead to nothing but disorder

and riot. It was within a still shorter period that they were allowed to act - as jurymen in civil causes ; and this also was only conceded with great alarm. Lp Many other inferior points have been gradually obtained; all tending to s liberale the people from that detestable system of distrust and insignificance D in which they used to be kept. If we had wished for a triumphant answer

to all these fears, we could scarcely have got'a better one than what is afi forded by appealing to the results of these experiments. They have not ti merely succeeded, but they have succeeded with a degree of facility and But quietness, which is the best evidence of the advance of the public mind,

and of its being fully prepared for the exercise of still higher rights.

There never was a time in which these rights could be asserted with better reason. Not merely because the people are powerful, but because their power is founded on knowledge and right feelings. The case of the Scotch representation is in itself so perfectly clear, that were it not for fear

of the call for reform in England, we should have no doubt of its amendis ment being conceded. The outcry that will be raised by our own corpora

tion of electors, though it may probably be the loudest, is to be utterly disregarded. The whole of our representatives voting against increasing the number of their constituents, would only be a proper commentary on the system that returns them. But though our only hope, on the whole, is from England, we are exposed to two risks from that quarter,—one arising from the enemies of English reform being anxious to resist a precedent,the other from its friends being lukewarm about any improvement which does not apply exactly to themselves.

The friends of Scotland, however, must do their own duty. Is it be true that the people are pleased, they have only to continue silent. If they be displeased, they must employ the ordinary means by which redress of grievances is obtained. The redress of this one is no party measure.

It is the case, of course, of all those whose general principles incline them to the popular side. But still more is it the case of him who professes to be a lover of peace, who must know that there will be no peace in these realms until the restless and wearisome projects of the visionary are put down, by some change which shall destroy the abuses from which they derive their dangerousness ;—of him whose rule it is to strengthen the hands of government, which he can never do by depriving government of the public cooperalion ;-and of him who calls himself the friend of the monarchy,which he must be blind indeed if, in these times, he does not see cannot be more effectually undermined than by letting the people grow in number and in sense, but always with a just grudge at their condition. There are only tlarec sorts of people whose case it is not ;—the fool, who holds the constilution itself to be a grievance; the demagogue, whose vocation ends with the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1

removal of popular discontents; and the forlorn elector, who looks at his twelve children, and would like to have all that is going to himself. With these exceptions, this is the case of every man who wishes Scotland to be respectable, and public affairs to have the benefit of its people's reason.

We must warn our countrymen, however, not to stir this question at all, unless they be resolutely determined to persevere in their exertions for its accomplishment. Nothing is so injurious to a claim of this kind as a shortlived ebullition. It is the best evidence that those who urge it think it groundless or unimportant. The excitement of a few public meetings, and a few petitions, is soon over, and soon forgotten. They are powerful engines; but they require management. Nothing is to be gained without concert ; —without the press ;-without moderation ;-and, above all, without per

It is only by repeated movements, that deep impressions are produced on the public mind. It is not by a single blow, however judiciously aimed or successfully struck,-but by the constant repetition of the assault. Those who undertake a public cause, ought to remember, that in the case of the Catholics, it took above a hundred years to convince the most intelligent nation upon earth, that religious persecution could never benefit the persecutor; and that in the case of the slave-trade, thirty years were spent in discussion, before a senate of enlightened Christians could be induced to act on the conviction, that man-stealing, torture, and murder could never be lawful or expedient. They ought, therefore, to reflect before they begin. They ought to summon up a spirit of determination worthy of the object; and to go on, if they move at all, under the conviction, that to let their cause rest is only apathy, but that to let it be lost from inertness is treason. If the people of Scotland be true to themselves, the result is certain. Whether the triumph be witnessed in our day, or not, is a different and inferior question. By energy and union it certainly might. Far greater and far more hopeless measures have, after it has been made plain that they were never to be abandoned, succeeded in a moment, and even when the expectations of their friends were lowest. The result does not depend on the enemies, but on the friends, of the measure. If the excluded be firm and wise, they have no enemies to fear.*

• In Vol. xxx. p. 503., there is an article on the Scotch Burgh System. Of the other Essays on Parliamentary Reform, I have selected those which are likely to be deemed most interesting at the present crisis. It must be admitted, that the Edinburgh Review has not maintained the same bold, consistent, and uncompromising tone on the great question which now agitates the nation, that gave such value and popularity to its efforts in defence of many other measures of consti

: tutional improvement. Its policy on this vital subject was always too cautious and vacillating, and the improvements which it recommended in the representative system were not sufficiently broad and comprehensive to remove those glaring abuses, from which so frightful an accumulation of evils has sprung. Under its present admirable management, the Edinburgh Review has strengthened its tone, and advocated those sentiments, in refereuce to the Reform Bill of the present Ministry, which are in accordance with the sentiments of the great body of the people. See Vol. X. p. 407, Vol. xiv. p. 277. Vol. xvi. p. 204. Vol. xvii. p. 253. Vol. xx. p. 127. Vol xxvi. p. 307. Vol. xxvii. p. 381. Vol. xxviii. p. 126. Vol. lii. pp. 232–478.

[merged small][ocr errors]

ON THE PRODIGALITY AND CORRUPTIONS OF THE ENGLISH

AND IRISH CHURCH ESTABLISHMENTS. *

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

We should think it strange to hear it argued, that, because of the importance of a Secretary of State's office, or a Revenue Board, its establishment should be suffered to continue in whatever state of confusion time or neglect might have thrown it; that though one half the clerks should be too poor to be enabled to attend to their duties, and the other hall so overpaid as to be tempted to neglect them,-though some of them had no desks to write on, and others desks which they never occupied, -though one half the business was ill done, and the other not done at all, --still our great anxiely for the duties that were neglected should not tempt us to mend the matter, but to compel us to let it alone, or to heap money upon the functionaries, under the certainty that it would be misapplied.

The course which has been actually pursued towards the Churches of England and Ireland, in modern times, has not been very unlike this hypothetical absurdity. They have been like the daughters of the horseleech ; their cry has been, Give! give! The Legislature, acting upon this supposition, that money, no matter how unskilfully applied, would secure the performance of the duties of any office, has shown singular alacrity in complying with this demand. A brief history of the application of the hereditary revenue of the Crown, and subsequently of Parliamentary grants to the

augme ntation of ecclesiastical revenues, will show as much rapacity on the part of the Clergy, and as wasteful an expenditure of the property of the people on the Church, as was ever exhibited in the darkest times of Romish superstition.

It is well known that by the statute 26 Henry VIII. chap. 3., the firsifruits and tenths of spiritual preferments (which had formerly been paid to the Pope, or some other spiritual persons) were given to the King. The First Fruits were the revenues and profits for one year of every such preferment, and were to be satisfied or compounded for on good security by each incumbent, “ before any actual or real possession, or meddling with the profits” of a benefice. The Tenths were a yearly rent of a tenth part of all the revenues and emoluments of all preferments, to be paid by each incumbent at Christmas. These revenues were, as the statule phrases it, “united and knit to the Imperial Crown for ever." By the same statute, a provision was made for a commission to be issued by King's Highness, his heirs and successors, from time to time, to search for the just and true value of the said first fruits and profits ;” and similar means were provided for ascertaining the value of the tenths. In consequence

• 1. Remarks on the Consumption of Public Wealth by the Clergy of every Christian Nation, and particularly by the Established Church in England and Wales, and in Ireland; with a Plan for altering its Revenues, &c. &c. 2. The Rights of the English Clergy asserted, and the probable Amount of their Incomes estimated, in a Letter to the Author of "Remarks on the Consumption of Public Wealth,” &c. By Augustus Campbell, A. M. Rector of Wallasey, in the County of Chester.- Vol. xxxvüi. p. 145. February, 1823.

is the

of this statute, which was suspended during the papistical reign of Mary, but revived by the 1st of Elizabeth, a valuation was made, which is supposed to have been at the time an accurate one, of the yearly profits of the ecclesiastical preferments; and, according to this valuation, the first fruils and tenths were, as the 1st of Elizabeth has it, well and justly answered and paid, “ without grief or contradiction of the Prelates and Clergy of the realm, to the great aid, relief, and supportation of the inestimable charges of the Crown ; which inestimable charges may then possibly have amounted to a two-hundredth part of their present yearly

sum.

Under this valuation, which, in course of time, became quite unequal to the real emoluments of the preferments, these charges continued to be paid till the 2d year of Queen Anne, 1703, when an act was passed, reciting the Queen's most religious and tender concern for the Church of England, stating, that a sufficient settled provision for the Clergy in many parts of the realm had never yet been made, and giving to a corporation, which was to be erected for the augmentation of small livings, the whole of the first fruits and tenths. Her Majesty, however, in her religious and tender concern, was completely overreached by the Clergy. The professed object of the Queen was to increase the provision of the poor clergy :—the real and only immediate effect of it was to release the rich Clergy from a charge to which, by law, they were liable. We have before mentioned, that a provision was made in the statute of Henry VIII. for revising, from time to time, the valuations under which the first fruits and tenths were paid. It was not improbable, that the Clergy were apprehensive, as ihe nation was then (in 1703) engaged in an expensive war, that such a revision might be made ; and in persuading the Queen to renounce her hereditary revenue for the sake of her poor Clergy," they contrived, most effectually, to secure themselves by the following ingenious clause, the last in the statute in question :

“ VI. And whereas four bonds for four half-yearly payments of the first fruits as the same are raled, and also a fifth bond for a further valué or payment in respect of the same first fruits, have been required and taken from the Clergy, to their great and unnecessary burden and grievance : for remedy thereof, be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that from and after the 25th day of March, in the year of our Lord 1704, one bond only shall, in such case, be given or required for the four payments of the said first fruits; which said first fruits, as well as the tenths payable by the Clergy, shall hereafter be answered and paid by them according to such rates and proportions only as the same have heretofore been usually rated and paid: and no such fifth bond already given shall, from and after the said 25th day of March, 1704, be sued or recovered."

This clause is so ingeniously constructed, that it has actually puzzled some abridgers of the statute; and its real meaning has escaped many. The marginal abridgment in the Statute-book gives il “one bond only to be taken for the four payments of the first fruits”-than which, nothing can be more reasonable—or more different from the real import of the clause. If the real purpose of this act of Anne had been to augment the small livings, nothing could have been more reasonable than to do it by enforcing the legal claim for the first fruits and tenths on the holders of the larger benefices. The scandalous poverty of some livings (for there were then

« PreviousContinue »