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not have suggested itself, even to the persons by whom it has been so triumphantly recommended, unless it had been palliated by some colour of plausibility: And their error (which really does not seem very unnatural for men of their description) seems to have consisted merely in supposing that all those who were discontented in the country, were disappointed candidates for place and profit; and that the whole clamour which had been raised against the misgovernment of the modern world, origi
that, in that period, there has been a prodigious development in the understanding and intelligence of the great mass of the population; and that this makes them much less willing than formerly to submit to the folly and corruption of most of their ancient governments. The old instinctive feelings of loyalty and implicit obedience, have pretty generally given way to shrewd calculations heir own interests, their own powers, and the rights which arise out of these powers. They see now, pretty quickly, both the weak-nated in a violent desire to participate in the nesses and the vices of their rulers; and, emoluments of that misgovernment. Upon having learned to refer their own sufferings this supposition, it must no doubt be admitted or privations, with considerable sagacity, to that their remedy was most judiciously detheir blunders and injustice, they begin tacitly vised. All the discontent was among those to inquire, what right they have to a sove- who wished to be bribed-all the clamour reignty, of which they make so bad a use- among those who were impatient for preferand how they could protect themselves, if all ment. Increase the patronage of the Crown who hate and despise them were to unite to therefore-make more sinecures, more jobs, take it from them. Sentiments of this sort, more nominal and real posts of emolument we are well assured, have been prevalent and honour,—and you will allay the disconover all the enlightened parts of Europe for tent, and still the clamour, which are now the last thirty years, and are every day gain-"frighting our isle from her propriety!" ing strength and popularity. Kings and nobles, This, to be sure, is very plausible and ingeand ministers and agents of government, are nious-as well as highly creditable to the no longer looked upon with veneration and honour of the nation, and the moral experience awe, but rather with a mixture of contempt of its contrivers. But the fact, unfortunately, and jealousy. Their errors and vices are is not as it is here assumed. There are two canvassed, among all ranks of persons, with sets of persons to be managed and appeased! extreme freedom and severity. The corrup- and the misfortune is, that what might gratify tions by which they seek to fortify them- the one would only exasperate the discontents selves, are regarded with indignation and of the other. The one wants unmerited honvindictive abhorrence; and the excuses with ours, and unearned emoluments-a further which they palliate them, with disgust and de-abuse of patronage-a more shameful misaprision. Their deceptions are almost universally plication of the means of the nation. The seen through; and their incapacity detected other wants a correction of abuses-an abridgand despised, by an unprecedented portion of ment of patronage-a diminution of the public of the whole population which they govern. burdens a more just distribution of its trusts, dignities, and rewards. This last party is still, we are happy to think, by far the strongest, and the most formidable: For it is daily recruited out of the mass of the population, over which reason is daily extending her dominion; and depends, for its ultimate success, upon nothing less than the irresistible progress of intelligence of a true and enlightened sense of interest-and a feeling of inherent right, united to undoubted power. It is difficult, then, to doubt of its ultimate triumph; and it must appear to be infinitely foolish to think of opposing its progress, by measures which are so obviously calculated to add to its strength. By increasing the patronage or influence of the Crown, a few more venal spirits may be attracted, by the precarious tie of a dishonest interest, to withstand all attempts at reform, and to clamour in behalf of all existing practices and institutions. But, for every worthless auxiliary that is thus recruited for the defence of established abuses, is it not evident that there will be a thousand new enemies called forth, by the additional" abuse exemplified in the new patronage that is created, and the new scene of corruption that is exhibited, in exchanging this patronage for this dishonourable support?—For a nation to endeavour to strengthen itself against the attempts of reformers by a deliberate augmentation of its corruptions, is not more poli
It is in this sense, as we conceive it, that the people throughout civilised Europe have grown too strong for their rulers; and that some alteration in the balance or administration of their governments, has become necessary for their preservation. They have become too strong, not in wealth-but in intellect, activity, and available numbers; and the tranquillity of their governments has been endangered, not from their want of pecuniary influence, but from their want of moral respectability and intellectual vigour.
Such is the true state of the evil; and the cure, according to the English opponents of reform, is to increase the patronage of the Crown! The remote and original cause of the danger, is the improved intelligence and more perfect intercourse of the people,-a cause which it is not lawful to wish removed, and which, at any rate, the proposed remedy has no tendency to remove. The immediate and proximate cause, is the abuse of patronage and the corruptions practised by the government and their wealthy supporters:-and the cure that is seriously recommended, is to increase that corruption!—to add to the weight of the burdens under which the people is sinking,—and to multiply the examples of partiality, profusion, and profligacy, by which they are revolted! An absurdity so extravagant, however, could
tic, than for a spendthrift to think of relieving himself of his debts, by borrowing at usurious interest to pay what is demanded, and thus increasing the burden which he affects to be throwing off.
The only formidable discontent, in short, that now subsists in the country, is that of those who are reasonably discontented; and the only part of the people whose growing strength really looks menacingly on the government, is that which has been alienated by what it believes to be its corruptions, and enabled, by its own improving intelligence, to unmask its deceptions, and to discover the secret of its selfishness and incapacity. The great object of its jealousy, is the enormous influence of the Crown, and the monstrous abuses of patronage to which that influence gives occasion. It is, therefore, of all infatuations, the wildest and most desperate, to hold out that the progress of this discontent makes it proper to give the Crown more influence, and that it can only be effectually conciliated, by putting more patronage in the way of abuse!
In stating the evils and dangers of corruption and profligacy in a government, we must always keep it in view, that such a system can never be universally palatable, even among the basest and most depraved people of which history has preserved any memorial. If this were otherwise indeed-if a whole nation were utterly and entirely venal and corrupt, and each willing to wait his time of dishonourable promotion, things might go on with sufficient smoothness at least; and as such a nation would not be worth mending, on the one hand, so there would, in fact, be much less need, on the other, for that untoward operation. The supposition, however, is obviously impossible; and, in such a country at least as England, it may perhaps be truly stated, as the most alarming consequence of corruption, that, if allowed to go on without any effectual check, it will infallibly generate such a spirit of discontent, as necessarily to bring on some dreadful convulsion, and overturn the very foundations of the constitution. It is thus fraught with a double evil to a country enjoying a free government. In the first place, it gradually corrodes and destroys much that is truly valuable in its constitution; and, secondly, it insures its ultimate subversion by the tremendous crash of an insurrection or revolution. It first makes the government oppressive and intolerable; and then it oversets it altogether by a necessary, but dreadful calamity.
These two evils may appear to be opposite to each other; and it is certain, that, though brought on by the same course of conduct, they cannot be inflicted by the same set of persons. Those who are the slaves and the ministers of corruption, assuredly are not those who are minded to crush it, with a visiting vengeance, under the ruins of the social order; and it is in forgetting that there are two sets of persons to be conciliated in all such questions, that the portentous fallacy which we are considering mainly consists. The government may be very corrupt, and a very considerable part of the nation may be debased
and venal, while there is still spirit and virtue enough left, when the measure of provocation is full, to inflict a signal and sanguinary vengeance, and utterly to overthrow the fabric which has been defiled by this traffic of iniquity. And there may be great spirit, and strength, and capacity of heroic resentment in a nation, which will yet allow its institutions to be, for a long time, perverted, its legislature to be polluted, and the baser part of its population to be corrupted, before it be roused to that desperate effort, in which its peace and happiness are sure to suffer along with the guilt which brings down the thunder. In such an age of the world as the present, however, it may be looked upon as absolutely certain, that if the guilt be persisted in, the vengeance will follow; and that all reasonable discontent will accumulate and gain strength, as reason and experience advance; till, at the last, it works its own reparation, and sweeps the of fence from the earth, with the force and the fury of a whirlwind."
In such a view of the moral destiny of nations, there is something elevating as well as terrible. Yet, the terror preponderates, for those who are to witness the catastrophe: and all reason, as well as all humanity, urges us to use every effort to avoid the crisis and the shock, by a timely reformation, and an earnest and sincere attempt to conciliate the hostile elements of our society, by mutual concession and indulgence. It is for this reason, chiefly, that we feel such extreme solicitude for a legislative reform of our system of representation,-in some degree as a pledge of the willingness of the government to admit of reform where it is requisite; but chiefly, no doubt, as in itself most likely to stay the flood of ve nality and corruption,-to reclaim a part of those who had begun to yield to its seduc tions, and to reconcile those to the govern ment and constitution of their country, who had begun to look upon it with a mingled feeling of contempt, hostility, and despair. That such a reform as we have contemplated would go far to produce those happy effects, we think must appear evident to all who agree with us as to the nature and origin of the evils from which we suffer, and the dangers to which we are exposed. One of its immediate, and therefore chief advantages, however, will consist in its relieving and abating the spirit of discontent which is generated by the spec tacle of our present condition; both by giving it scope and vent, and by the vast facilities it must afford to future labours of regeneration. By the extension of the elective franchise, many of those who are most hostile to the existing system, because, under it, they are excluded from all share of power or political importance, will have a part assigned them, both more safe, more honourable, and more active, than merely murmuring, or meditating vengeance against such a scheme of exclusion. The influence of such men will be usefully exerted in exciting a popular spirit, and in exposing the base and dishonest practices that may still interfere with the freedom of elec tion. By some alteration in the borough
qualifications, the body of electors in general course which is pointed out by these new cirwill be invested with a more respectable char- cumstances in our situation, appears to us no acter, and feel a greater jealousy of every less obvious, than it is safe and promising.— thing that may tend to degrade or dishonour If the people have risen into greater consethem: but, above all, a rigid system of econo-quence, let them have greater power. If a my, and a farther exclusion of placemen from greater proportion of our population be now the legislature, by cutting off a great part of capable and desirous of exercising the functhe minister's most profitable harvest of cor- tions of free citizens, let a greater number ruption, will force his party also to have re- be admitted to the exercise of these funccourse to more honourable means of popu- tions. If the quantity of mind and of will, larity, and to appeal to principles that must that must now be represented in our legislaultimately promote the cause of independ- ture, be prodigiously increased since the frame of that legislature was adjusted, let its basis be widened, so as to rest on all that intellect and will. If there be a new power and energy generated in the nation, for the due application of which, there is no contrivance in the original plan of the constitution, let it flow into those channels through which all similar powers were ordained to act by the principles of that plan. The power itself you can neither repress nor annihilate; and, if it be not assimilated to the system of the constitution, you seem to be aware that it will ultimately overwhelm and destroy it. To set up against it the power of influence and corruption, is to set up that by which its strength is recruited, and its safe application rendered infinitely more difficult it is to defend your establishments, by loading them with a weight which of itself makes them totter under under its pressure, and, at the same time, affords a safe and inviting approach to the assailant.
By the introduction, in short, of a system of reform, even more moderate and cautious than that which we have ventured to indicate, we think that a wholesome and legitimate play will be given to those principles of opposition to corruption, monopoly, and abuse, which, by the denial of all reform, are in danger of being fomented into a decided spirit of hostility to the government and the institutions of the country. Instead of brooding, in sullen and helpless silence, over the vices and errors which are ripening into intolerable evil, and seeing, with a stern and vindictive joy, wrong accumulated to wrong, and corruption heaped up to corruption, the Spirit of reform will be continually interfering, with active and successful zeal, to correct, restrain, and deter. Instead of being the avenger of our murdered liberties, it will be their living protector; and the censor, not the executioner, of the constitution. It will not descend, only at long intervals, like the Avatar of the Indian mythology, to expiate, with terrible vengeance, a series of consummated crimes; but, like the Providence of a better faith, will keep watch perpetually over the actions of corrigible men, and bring them back from their aberrations, by merciful chastisement, timely admonition, and the blessed experience of purer principles of action.
Such, according to our conviction of the fact, is the true state of the case as to the increasing weight and consequence of the people; and such the nature of the policy which we think this change in the structure of our society calls upon us to adopt. The people are grown strong, in intellect, resolution, and mutual reliance, quick in the detection of the abuses by which they are wronged, and confident in the powers by which they may be compelled ultimately to seek their redress. Against this strength, it is something more wild than madness, and more contemptible than folly, to think of arraying an additional phalanx of abuses, and drawing out a wider range of corruptionsIn that contest, the issue cannot be doubtful, nor the conflict long; and, deplorable as the victory will be, which is gained over order, as well as over guilt, the blame will rest heaviest upon those whose offences first provoked, what may very probably turn out a sanguinary and an unjustifiable vengeance.
The conclusions, then, which we would draw from the facts that have been relied on by the enemies of reform, are indeed of a very opposite description from theirs; and the
In our own case, too, nothing fortunately is easier, than to reduce this growing power of the people within the legitimate bounds and cantonments of the constitution; and nothing more obvious, than that, when so legalised and provided for, it can tend only to the exaltation and improvement of our condition, and must add strength and stability to the Throne, as well as to the other branches of the legis lature. It seems a strange doctrine, to be held by any one in this land, and, above all, by the chief votaries and advocates of royal power, that its legal security consists in its means of corruption, or can be endangered by the utmost freedom and intelligence in the body of the people, and the utmost purity and popularity of our elections. Under an arbitrary government, where the powers of the monarch are confessedly unjust and oppressive, and are claimed, and openly asserted, not as the instruments of public benefit, but as the means of individual gratification, such a jealousy of popular independence is sufficiently intelligible: but, in a government like ours, where all the powers of the Crown are universally acknowledged to exist for the good of the people, it is evidently quite extravagant to fear, that any increase of union and intelligence any growing love of freedom and justice in the people-should endanger, or should fail to confirm, all those powers and prerogatives.
We have not left ourselves room to enter more at large into this interesting question; but we feel perfectly assured, and ready to maintain, that, as the institution of a limited, hereditary monarchy, must always appear the
wisest and most reasonable of all human institutions, and that to which increasing reflection and experience will infallibly attach men more and more as the world advances; so, the prerogatives of such a monarch will always be safer and more inviolate, the more the sentiment of liberty, and the love of their political rights, is diffused and encouraged among his people. A legitimate sovereign,
Short Remarks on the State of Parties at the Close of the Year 1809. 8vo. pp. 30.
in short, who reigns by the fair exercise of his prerogative, can have no enemies among the lovers of regulated freedom; and the hos tility of such men-by far the most terrible of all internal hostility-can only be directed towards him, when his throne is enveloped, by treacherous advisers, with the hosts of corruption; and disguised, for their ends, in the borrowed colours of tyranny.
THE parties of which we now wish to speak, | both parties, and looking on both with too visiare not the parties in the Cabinet,-nor even ble a resentment, aversion, and alarm. The the parties in Parliament, but the Parties in two great divisions, in the mean time, are the Nation; that nation, whose opinions and daily provoking each other to greater excesses, whose spirit ought to admonish and control and recruiting their hostile ranks, as they adboth Cabinet and Parliament, but which now vance, from the diminishing mass of the calm seems to us to be itself breaking rapidly into and the neutral. Every hour the rising tides two furious and irreconcileable parties; by are eating away the narrow isthmus upon whose collision, if it be not prevented, our which the adherents of the Constitution now constitution and independence must be ulti- appear to be stationed; and every hour it bemately destroyed. We have said before, that comes more necessary for them to oppose the root of all our misfortunes was in the state some barrier to their encroachments. of the People, and not in the constitution of the legislature; and the more we see and reflect, the more we are satisfied of this truth. It is in vain to cleanse the conduits and reservoirs, if the fountain itself be tainted and impure. If the body of the people be infatuated, or corrupt or depraved, it is vain to talk of improving their representation.
The dangers, and the corruptions, and the prodigies of the times, have very nearly put an end to all neutrality and moderation in politics; and the great body of the nation appears to us to be divided into two violent and most pernicious factions;-the courtiers, who are almost for arbitrary power,-and the democrats, who are almost for revolution and republicanism. Between these stand a small, but most respectable band-the friends of liberty and of order-the Old Constitutional Whigs of England-with the best talents and the best intentions, but without present power or popularity, calumniated and suspected by
*This, I fear, is too much in the style of a sage and solemn Rebuke to the madness of contending factions. Yet it is not all rhetorical or assuming: And the observations on the vast importance and high and difficult duties of a middle party, in all great national contentions, seem to me as universally true, and as applicable to the present position of our affairs, as most of the other things I have
ventured, for this reason, now to produce. It may be right to mention, that it was written at a time when the recent failure of that wretched expedition to Walcheren, and certain antipopular declarations in Parliament, had excited a deeper feeling of discontent in the country, and a greater apprehension for its consequences, than had been witnessed since the first great_panic and excitement of the French revolution. The spirit of such a time may, perhaps, be detected in some of the following pages.
If the two extreme parties are once permitted to shock together in open conflict, there is an end to the freedom, and almost to the existence of the nation,-whatever be the result, although that is not doubtful: And the only human means of preventing a consum mation to which things seem so obviously tending, is for the remaining friends of the constitution to unbend from their cold and repulsive neutrality, and to join themselves to the more respectable members of the party to which they have the greatest affinity; and thus, by the weight of their character, and the force of their talents, to temper its violence and moderate its excesses, till it can be guided in safety to the defence, and not to the destruction, of our liberties. In the present crisis, we have no hesitation in saying, that it is to the popular side that the friends of the constitution must turn themselves; and that, if the Whig leaders do not first conciliate, and then restrain the people,-if they do not save them from the leaders they are already choosing in their own body, and become themselves their leaders, by becoming their patrons, and their cordial, though authoritative, advisers; they will in no long time sweep away the Constitution itself, the Monarchy of England, and the Whig aristrocracy, by which that Monarchy is controlled and confirmed, and exalted above all other forms of polity.
This is the sum of our doctrine; though we are aware that, to most readers, it will require more development than we can now afford, and be exposed to more objections than we have left ourselves room to answer. To many, we are sensible, our fears will appear altogether chimerical and fantastic. We have
always had these two parties, it will be said- and gradual change in the condition of Euroalways some for carrying things with a high pean society, by which the lower and midhand against the people-and some for sub-dling orders have been insensibly raised into jecting every thing to their nod; but the con- greater importance than they enjoyed when flict has hitherto afforded nothing more than their place in the political scale was originally a wholesome and invigorating exercise; and settled; and attempted to show in what way the constitution, so far from being endangered the revolution in France, and the revolutionary by it, has hitherto been found to flourish, in movements of other countries, might be reproportion as it became more animated. Why, ferred partly to the progress, and partly to the then, should we anticipate such tragical effects neglect of that great movement. We cannot from its continuance? stop now to resume any part of that general discussion; but shall merely observe, that the events of the last twenty years are of themselves sufficient to account for the state to which this country has been reduced, and for the increased number and increased acrimony of the parties that divide it.
Now, to this, and to all such questions, we must answer, that we can conceive them to proceed only from that fatal ignorance or inattention to the Signs of the Times, which has been the cause of so many of our errors and misfortunes. It is quite true, that there have always been in this country persons who The success of a plebeian insurrection--the leaned towards arbitrary power, and persons splendid situations to which low-bred men who leaned towards too popular a government. have been exalted, in consequence of that In all mixed governments, there must be such success-the comparative weakness and inmen, and such parties: some will admire the efficiency of the sovereigns and nobles who monarchical, and some the democratical part opposed it, and the contempt and ridicule of the constitution; and, speaking very gener- which has been thrown by the victors upon ally, the rich, and the timid, and the indolent, their order, have all tended to excite and agas well as the base and the servile, will have gravate the bad principles that lead men to a natural tendency to the one side; and the despise existing authorities, and to give into poor, the enthusiastic, and enterprising, as wild and extravagant schemes of innovation. well as the envious and the discontented, will On the other hand, the long-continued ill sucbe inclined to range themselves on the other. cess of our anti-jacobin councils-the sickenThese things have been always; and always ing uniformity of our boastings and failuresmust be. They have been hitherto, too, with- the gross and palpable mismanagement of our out mischief or hazard; and might be fairly government-the growing and intolerable considered as symptoms at least, if not as burthen of our taxes-and, above all, the imcauses, of the soundness and vigour of our minent and tremendous peril into which the political organisation. But this has been the whole nation has been brought, have made a case, only because the bulk of the nation has powerful appeal to the good principles that hitherto, or till very lately, belonged to no lead men into similar feelings; and roused party at all. Factions existed only among a those who were lately unwilling to disturb small number of irritable and ambitious indi- themselves with political considerations, to cry viduals; and, for want of partizans, necessa-out in vast numbers for reformation and rerily vented themselves in a few speeches and dress. The number of those who have been pamphlets-in an election riot, or a treasury startled out of their neutrality by such feelprosecution. The partizans of Mr. Wilkes, ings, very greatly exceeds, we believe, that and the partizans of Lord Bute, formed but a of those who have been tempted from it by very inconsiderable part of the population. If the stirrings of an irregular ambition: But they had divided the whole nation among both are alike disposed to look with jealousy them, the little breaches of the peace and of upon the advocates of power and prerogativethe law at Westminster, would have been to suspect falsehood and corruption in every changed into civil war and mutual proscrip- thing that is not clearly explained-to resent tions; and the constitution of the country every appearance of haughtiness or reservemight have perished in the conflict. In those to listen with eager credulity to every tale of times, therefore, the advocates of arbitrary detraction against public characters-and to power and of popular licence were restrained, believe with implicit rashness whatever is not merely by the constitutional principles of said of the advantages of popular control. so many men of weight and authority, but by the absolute neutrality and indifference of the great body of the people. They fought like champions in a ring of impartial spectators; and the multitude who looked on, and thought it sport, had little other interest than to see that each had fair play.
Such are the natural and original causes of the increase of that popular discontent which has of late assumed so formidable an aspect, and is, in fact, far more widely spread and more deeply rooted in the nation, than the sanguine and contemptuous will believe. The enumeration, however, would be quite incomplete, if we were not to add, that it has been prodigiously helped by the contempt, and aversion, and defiance, which has been so loudly and unwisely expressed by the opposite party. Instead of endeavouring to avoid the occasions of dissatisfaction, and to soothe and conciliate those whom it could never be creditable to have for enemies, it has been
Now, however, the case is lamentably different; and it will not be difficult, we think, to point out the causes which have spread abroad this spirit of contention, and changed so great a proportion of those calm spectators into fierce and impetuous combatants. We have formerly endeavoured, on more than one occasion, to explain the nature of that great