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macy to a system in which the worldly predominates, must be to disparage, to impede, and to imperil, the spiritual as existing elsewhere. We are in our state of separation, not that we should be chiefly employed in pulling down the frame-work of our neighbour's church, but that we may build up men in the intelligence and piety which we regard as belonging properly to all churches.
It is scarcely necessary to observe, that in holding these opinions concerning religious sects and religious establishments, Lord John Russell is not singular. They are the opinions of the great majority of our statesmen, whether whig or tory. If some believe more than his lordship in regard to Christianity, many believe less. Lord John Russell is a more sincere man-a man of more faith in the positive truth and goodness of things, than most of his contemporaries holding a similar position. But this susceptibility in him has been affected peculiarly, by circumstances. We think we may venture to say, that his character as a statesman has been formed by these two influences, by this particular temperament, and by the circumstances which have acted upon it. His lordship is descended from a line of nobles.
With his progenitors, all the pageantries of church and state belonging to ihe past are associated. Their story is interwoven with that of senators and prelates, of courts and kings. They have been men of marked action, and have bequeathed an example to those who should descend from them. In the feelings of such a man, homage to the past is cherished as a kind of filial duty. The ties of ancestry become almost inseparable from the influences which bind the imagination and the affections to the institutions and usages which point to the bygone.
In the mind of Lord John Russell, there is a self-reliance and vigour which will not allow him to be wholly distrustful of new things. But his relation to the old so affects his sympathies, as naturally to curb his desire of change, and to retain it within comparatively narrow limits. He may not talk of the wisdom of our ancestors' in the manner of some men, but he is a sincere believer in that wisdom. We may startle some of our readers when we say, that the labours of Lord John Russell as a conservative, will be much greater than his labours as a reformer. But we speak advisedly. The abuses diminished or removed by his means, will be few compared with those which he will leave wholly untouched. He is an innovator, and at times may seem to be a bold one; but our admiration begins to abate, when we think simply of what is done, and not at all of the man who does it or when we look from the one evil which has been mitigated, to the many which are passed by, and which are to remain
undisturbed. On such occasions, our people have shown that they know how to be thankful for small mercies-small, of course, we mean, if compared as things done with those which still need to be done; but great things, if compared with what Englishmen have received from other hands during the last hundred years.
One other course may be mentioned as having contributed to give this restricted character to the policy of Lord John Russell. When his lordship entered public life, the whig party had been long in opposition. The question of parliamentary reform, which began to excite some interest before the French Revolution, was, for a while, totally silenced by that event. The aristocracy became greatly alarmed, and drew more closely together from a sense of common danger. Nor was that alarm confined to nobles and the more wealthy. Burke was only one man among many, who, from motives hardly open to impeachment, began to think that the time had come when liberal principles must be avowed with more caution than heretofore, if avowed at all. It was in vain that the bolder men of that crisis endeavoured to rally their dispersed adherents—to win them by reason, or to shame them by sarcasm. For a while the stream must have its
Charles Fox alone was a tower of strength in that day; and by the time his warfare approached its close, a powerful phalanx stood ready to come into his place. Among these were such men as Holland and Lansdowne, Romilly and Macintosh. The
party of which these names are representatives, had taken their position, had adjusted all their principles and their course of policy, when Lord John Russell entered parliament. But the party to which they stood opposed was still overwhelming. Prudence, accordingly, dictated moderation in speech, moderation in measures. They meddled little with the speculative, but confined themselves almost wholly to the immediate and the practical. Catholic emancipation, and a very limited reform in parliament, were the outposts of the onward which they seemed to contemplate. So long were they employed in pointing attention to the warts, that even they seemed to have forgotten that there were ulcers beneath; and having lived to pass the Reform Bill, a measure so far exceeding anything of that nature which they could once have hoped to realize, the whole party appear to this day as though incapable of disenchanting themselves from the imagination, that a reach in advance, so marked and so powerful, must necessarily include all the seeds of improvement which our social state can require. In the school of politicians—enlightened, patriotic, humane, the mainspring of everything good in our recent history, but still trammelled, awed, and controlled by the power of circumstances-in this school Lord John Russell found the type
of all his opinions, and hitherto the courage to pass beyond that magic circle has not been evinced by him. But the times to come will be different from the times which have been, and our statesmen must keep pace with them, or give place ere long to other men.
It was in the latter years of the Liverpool ministry that Lord John Russell began to be distinguished as a statesman. From the commencement of his career, he saw that there could be no hope of peace for the empire, so long as the one half of its people were excluded from all share in the honours and powers of the state on religious pretences, or so long as the inhabitants of Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds, and the majority of the middle classes of the three kingdoms, were denied the electoral rights enjoyed by the proprietors of Gatton and Old Sarum, and the immaculate freemen of Liverpool and Stafford. The repeal of the corporation and test acts was the work of Lord John Russell more than of any other man. On that subject, we have have had the means of knowing that he was resolute, when many of his coadjutors counselled retreat and delay. He took his
full part in passing the Catholic Relief Bill, and the service which devolved on him in relation to the Reform Bill is sufficiently notorious.
Concerning this last measure, it was far from being perfect in its original shape, and unfortunately it was greatly injured in its progress through parliament by the perpetuation of the old freemen, which bound up the living with the dead, and by the enfranchisement of the tenants by will, which has given the landlords a greater influence than ever in county elections.
These mischievous changes, however, were not the work of Lord John Russell, or of the Grey ministry, but were forced upon them by a combination of landlords desirous to preserve their own influence, and of the friends to an extended suffrage, who, in their anxiety to add to the number of electors, lost sight of the great fact, that to enfranchise dependent voters is to create instruments for crushing all real independence. Had not those two changes been forced upon ministers, we should have heard much less complaint with regard to the defective working of the Reform Bill. Even with these grave blunders, which can never be enough deplored, it has annihilated those nests of corruption and intolerance, the close corporations; has thrown open the trade with the Chinese empire, after it had remained for ages in the hands of monopolists ; has struck the fetters from the limbs of the slave; and has wrought out the great principle of commercial freedom. In this last principle we have our only effectual remedy for the physical distresses of a large portion of the labouring classes, the only security against commercial convulsions, and
the only means by which the interests of all nations can be brought into union, and an effectual counterpoise can be created to the national jealousies, to the lust of empire, and to those short-sighted views of public and private interest, which have led to such a waste of the earnings of industry, and to the shedding of so much blood.
The points in which the Reform Bill has hitherto most sig. nally failed in producing the benefits which were expected to result from it, are in its effects on the policy adopted towards Ireland, and in its little influence on the physical condition of the masses of the people. These are the two great questions of the age. On the solution of the first of them depends the continuance of the union; on the latter, the peace of the empire. With regard to Ireland, the policy opposed to that of the whig ministry has triumphed. The effect of that triumph has been to make ninety-nine out of every hundred Roman-catholic priests, repealers; it has rendered the English government odious and contemptible in the eyes of foreign nations; and it has been the fatal impediment in the way of every effort to reconcile the people of Ireland to the institutions of Great Britain. Had it not been for the fanatical feeling and factious duplicity, which were manifested on the other side, it is impossible that a policy so just, and demanded imperatively by the interest of the empire and of Ireland, as that adopted when the Marquis of Normanby was lord-lieutenant, and Lord John Russell home secretary, should have failed. With the help of the Irish church, however, it was clamoured down as hostile to protestantism, and the repeal agitation is the result.
Next to the offence thus given, by attempts to do justice to British and Irish catholics, was that given by the real or supposed sympathy of the ministry with protestant nonconformists. It was from these two points that their enemies assailed them with the greatest success; and since their decline as the abettors of this generous policy, there have been occasions on which they have shown some disposition to complain of the want of gratitude in the parties whom they endeavoured to serve, as well as of a want of fairness in the parties to whom they were so much opposed.
Those who have been most observant of the career of Lord John Russell, will be aware, that his genius as an orator has something of the unequal and the fitful in it. It has often served him with felicitous effect in some of the critical junctures of debate and of affairs. On many occasions, he has been seen to rise, when the timid have dropped. In fact, he is never more in tone to say or do something brilliant than when men whisper to
him from the right and left that mischief is brewing. Danger, which so completely destroys the self-possession of some men, appears to give to him only the fuller command of his resources. It is then that even his lighter faculties-imagination and wit, come most into play. It is something ominous, accordingly, to see him in much higher spirits than usual—to find him walk the room with a quicker step, talk more fluently, spout poetry, and seem to be in one of those happier moods which do sometimes come to mortals. When his lordship gives forth these signs, you may be sure that affairs have some movement in them, and ihat they are about to have more of it. We have sometimes thought, thai had the reaction after the passing of the Reform Bill been as fatal to Lord John Russell, as was the reaction after the loss of the Exclusion Bill to his great ancestor, there would at least have been thus much of solace left to us,—that this second martyr in the cause of freedom from the House of Bedford, would be sure to deliver one of the most admirably poised and admirably pointed dying speeches upon record.
We can imagine, too, another kind of speech, which, if occasion offered, or we should, perhaps, rather say if occasion provoked,—his lordship would not be slow to deliver; we mean a speech in impeachment of the course pursued by nonconformists and ultra-liberals, since the accession of the Grey ministry, and in defence of the policy of the whigs in reference to those parties. Lord John is not more decided as to the point from which every wise man should move forward, than as to the point where he should stop. He is as little disposed to advance with the man who demands too much, as to remain stationary with a man who does not demand enough. In regard to all public questions, there is a strong infusion of the infallible in his nature, and he must not be expected to show himself pliant and silky towards his friends, any more than towards his foes, if it should be the pleasure of the said friends to place themselves in a false position.
Now let it be supposed that some zealous nonconformist, intent on the diffusion of his principles, and deeply chagrined that so little way should seem to have been made by these principles of late years, should take upon him to declare to his lordship, that the disappointment felt in that respect, in common with the enfeebled state of the liberal party generally, is to be attributed to the hesitating, vacillating, and timid policy of the late whig governments. His lordship listens to these words of accusation. But as he so does, you see his head take a somewhat more erect position than before, and those keenly-set features become fixed, like a spare but resolute phalanx, to their purpose.