ページの画像
PDF
ePub

ignorant of the first half theorems of Euclid ? Yet, his presumption would not be greater than that of the politician who would pretend to discuss the practical application of the science of government, utterly ignorant of its first and leading principles. Such, however, is the posi. tion in which some of our most eminent Reformers have placed them. selves, if we put faith in their assertions. Others there are, who have not made up their minds on the subject of the Septennial Act; others, on that of an extension of the suffrage ; others, of Reform in the Church, and so on. We confess, that an extremely strong suspicion haunts our minds, when we hear these declarations of uncertainty. It is evident, that they may be made use of to screen knavish intentions; they are admirably fitted to that end. And one curious circumstance in several of these cases is, that very positive declarations have been made by persons now doubting, when the public were in a different state of mind, Have they not, some of them, publicly in their speeches; others of them by their organs of the public press, such as the Times, the Globe, the Edinburgh Review, &c. expressed themselves decidedly enough against the BALLOT ? If they have, What, we may ask, except the changed feeling of the people, and their own present position as parliamentary candidates, &c. has happened to create doubt in the minds of any of them now? Before, they were certain, and were enemies of the ballot; now they are uncertain, and cannot tell whether they be friends or enemies. The state. ment of Lord John Russell, on this matter, is naïve at least. “ If I be returned,” he says in substance, “ I shall still remain opposed to the ballot; but, if I be not returned, I shall become friendly to it ; so take care, gentleman, what you are about." That is to say, “ General reasoning, science, investigation, are of no weight with me. My mind is not open to that mode of conviction; put me, however, to personal inconvenience, and I shall see the evil at once.” He does not see, that, whether he be returned or not, the question must remain precisely the same as at present. Whether the men of Devon make, or do not make, Lord John Russell a member, the evils which require, as a preventive, the ballot, are, and ever will be, the same, while human nature is what it is. Neither can the Noble Lord understand that his very doubt has settled the question; the admission of the chance of danger is sufficient. But no, this is not his view; if the chance turn in his favour the ballot is bad for the nation ; if against him, the ballot is good for the nation. And such is the stuff of which our statesmen are made! Such is the way in which they are permitted to talk, without rebuke or censure! Just of the same nature was the conduct of Mr. Peel in the case which led to these remarks. For years we had heard him on one side, using arguments respecting the general evil that was to flow from concession. There came a change in his personal interest, and then those evils vanished. Would that we could impress upon the minds of all men, the paramount necessity under which we lie, of severely punishing this dereliction from truth; of binding men to their professions; of compelling them to be honest in word as well as deed! The ease with which falsehood is hazarded, in all public matters, cannot but appear remarkable, when we consider the hesitation which the very same men would feel at uttering falsehoods not half so gross in private life. Lies are laughed at in the House of Commons, which would, in a room, subject the utterer to hoot. ing and scorn. Why is this? Because hitherto the interests of public men required it. To blind and mislead, to cajole and deceive, was their business ; and like lawyers, they laugh at and even admire the knavery

which their business requires. We have no doubt but that the pick, pockets have precisely the same sort of conventional morality.

The mode in which Sir Robert Peel himself justified, and we suppose still justifies, his conduct, is as follows: In a speech on the address, Feb. 4, 1830, he said," To him it appeared much better to act upon the principle avowed by the honourable baronet, who had proposed the amendment, and to look at every measure solely in reference to its merits, uninfluenced by the ties of any party, or by any preconceived opinions on the subject. He was ready to adopt that principle ; he should always be ready to abandon opinions, when found to be wrong ; and, on the contrary, he should always support those which he conceived to be right. As he said before, he could not see any change of opinions on the part of a public man, in receding from those which he had hither, to maintained, when the interests of the country called on him to do so," This is just such a declaration as was to be expected from one whose interest it was to mislead and confuse. There is no change in departing from opinions! In the name of common sense, what is departing from an opinion, but changing it? And what has the interest of the country to do with the truth of an opinion? Sir Robert Peel had declared it to be his opinion, that the country would be ruined by catholic emancipation. He then says, the interests of the country required that he should recede from that opinion. What is meant by receding from an opinion ? Was his opinion correct? That is, was it true that the country was to be ruined by Catholic emancipation ? If it was correct, how could the interest of the country require him to recede from that opinion? In good truth, this, his defence, was sheer mystification. Moreover, his assertions were not true; he did not mean what he said : neither has he adhered to the principle he here attempts to enunciate. He declares he will not be influenced by the ties of any party, but that he will look to the merits of every question and judge by them. Was such his principle when he spoke against the present Ministry, on the Timber Trade Bill? Let us put the question distinctly to the right honourable gentleman. Was it not notorious that the opinion of himself and col. leagues was opposed to the existing restrictions on that trade ? Yet in spite of this opinion, did he not, when out of the Ministry, for mere party purposes, oppose the bill by which the existing Ministers were about to remove those restrictions ? That is, he, and his party, * joined with those interested in the monopoly, in the hopes of putting the mia nistry into a minority, and thereby forcing them out of place.-How he can reconcile this with his declaration above quoted, we leave him to explain.

What change of circumstances, we ask also, in a few months, ren. dered the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts no longer the cause of ruin to the Constitution ? Some pretext may be brought forward as to the Catholic Relief Bill : it is but a pretext, however. It may be said, that the state of Ireland was now so decidedly marked, as to be no longer a doubtful matter. This, though true, is indeed no justifica. tion, seeing that the condition of that unhappy country was precisely the same as when Mr, Peel could not come to the conclusion that relief was necessary. This shallow pretext, however, is wanting in the case of the Test and Corporation Acts. The dissenters were in no state of

• It deserves to be remarked, that one man of this party was too honest to play this game ; we mean Mr Courtenay. He supported the bill when out, which be had opposed when in.

combustion ; there was no increased excitement, no increased danger from resistance. What, then, we again ask, excepting the peculiar circumstances of the right honourable gentleman himself, had so changed as to lead to his sudden conversion on this head ?

We have not yet done with the double dealing of Sir Robert Peel. There is yet another direct assertion of an untruth which we are desir.. ous of bringing home to him. The reason of our being anxious to perform this office by him, will be immediately explained. In the memorable debate on the disfranchisement of East Retford, the Home Secretary entered into an elaborate defence of the then existing system, and also attempted to demolish the arguments of all who attacked it. Lord Howick, among others, had stated “that the abuses which were alleged to exist in East Retford were not confined to that town, but were notorious in many cities and boroughs in the United Kingdom ;" and proposed, as a consequence of this statement, that a general reform should be attempted, not the application “ of particular remedies to particular places.” The reply of the Home Secretary to this statement and argument is a curious specimen of hardihood. He denied at once the assertion of the noble Lord, as to the prevalence of corruption ; and how, gentle reader, do you suppose that he supported his denial? By adducing the case of his own borough of Westbury, which he had as directly and openly bought as ever did his father a bag of cotton. The one could not be a more business-like, mercantile transaction than the other; and yet he, a minister of the crown, gravely, before the whole kingdom, does not hesitate to say, “ he could not go along with the noble Lord in the declaration of general bribery and corruption amongst the boroughs and cities. He could not bring himself to consent to include in such a charge the borough of Westbury, which he had the honour to represent, or to involve its respectable electors in so sweeping a censure.” Upon the utterance of this palpable falsehood, what did the House of Commons ? were they shocked ? were they indignant? did any one castigate the right honourable offender? No such thing; but they burst into a roar of laughter, in which the report says, “the right honourable gentleman joined !” In a few minutes afterwards, he called upon the Ilouse to believe him, on his honour, when he said that there had been no understanding with the Duke of Newcastle as to extending the franchise to the hundred of Bassetlaw. Believe him on his honour! Why should they or any one believe in that honour of which he had just given so admirable a specimen? Why should any body put faith in anything he said? For our parts, this, if we had not other and damning evidence, would be sufficient to induce us to distrust the right honourable gentleman, wherever the case was one in which he had interest in uttering an untruth; and had it been our fate to be in the honourable House, we should have told him so.

It may now be demanded of us, why we are thus careful to fasten upon the right honourable baronet the charge of duplicity; why we wish to make the public believe him utterly untrustworthy. The answer is twofold. In the first place, it is always desirable that every man should have the character he deserves. In the second, the peculiar position of Sir Robert Peel renders it imperatively necessary to place him in his true light before the public. Reputations at the present day are, in most instances, the result of charlatan arts, of deceit, of pretence. The code of morality for public men has been drawn up by themselves ; made to suit their sinister purposes, and not the interests of the public, One striking illustration of this morality can be made to serve more powerfully in the way of a correction, than any ten thousand general descriptions. It is under the influence of this opinion, that we have uncere. moniously brought into relief the utter carelessness of truth evinced by Sir Robert Peel throughout his public life, that we have attempted to lay bare the selfish motives by which his conduct has been determined. Seen in their true light, in this striking and individual instance, these motives will serve as a clue or guide in other cases. Applying the tests here used, we may determine the value of most of the public characters that may appear ; we shall thus be guarded against imposition at the hands of others; and also, (and this is far from being an inconsiderable matter,) at those of the right honourable gentleman himself. Sir Robert Peel's career is not yet ended. He will again be a suitor for public favour ; and employing the same arts, though different pretences, he will endeavour to regain the power he has lost. If the public be forewarned, if they distinctly see what he has been, a wholesome distrust will occupy their minds; a distrust that will render powerless the artifices employed to delude them.

But, it may be remarked by some, that the people may thus do injury to the public cause, by excluding from the councils of the nation, the men best fitted, by their experience, to watch over the public affairs. And by these same persons it may be asserted that the aptitude of Sir Robert Peel may more than compensate for the want of the moral qua. lities requisite to the character of a perfect statesman. It may be thought and said, in short, that probity may be rated too highly. The answer to this statement, in the present case is, that whatever may be the con. sequence in other instances, this evil will not result from the exclusion of Sir Robert Peel, since his talents and habits of business are not of so great and commanding a nature, as to make his assistance any mighty benefit, his loss any alarming evil. A pertinacious friend may dispute this assertion, and adduce, as evidence of the great utility of Sir Robert Peel, the reforms he has introduced into the law ; this being usually the class of acts to which those persons now refer who are desirous of recommending him to public favour. They pass over the other part of his life; they attempt to slur over the many monstrous ills he has produced, and endeavour to fix attention upon these solitary instances of supposed good. While liking the man for the ills that he has accomplished, (his artful support of all abuses being his recommendation to them) they attempt to foist him upon the public by the aid of the few things he may have performed not exactly in accordance with their desires. Thus pretence is added to pretence throughout the whole range of their public dealing. But we meet them on this their chosen ground : we assert that the attempts at law reform made by Sir Robert Peel are the most convincing evidence of his unfitness; and, while his other acts show his moral unfitness, these prove his mental incapacity

Placed in a position wherein he had power to make the remedy co-ex. tensive with the evil, to frame and establish (had he been possessed of the mental qualifications for the task) regular and scientific arrangements, a simple and efficient judicature, he attempted nothing beyond some piecemeal alterations, some narrow expedients, some patch-work mending of a wholesale evil. The result was more evil than benefit: old decisions were disturbed, still greater uncertainty than previously existed was induced ; the amendments did not fit in with the old system, and looked like the attempts of a modern plasterer to repair a

Gothic edifice. Discredit was thrown upon the idea of reforming the law, among legal men; they became yet more wedded to the errors of their tribe ; and now point, with triumph, to the futile attempts, the blunders, and the many ills resulting from endeavours at reformation by the unhallowed hands of laymen. The crude and hasty performances of Sir Robert Peel, doubtless deserved, as they received the contempt of all legal men, though they by no means justified this conclusion so willingly adopted. Still, the countenance they have afforded to it must be considered, when we are attempting to estimate the worth of his law reform ; and we fear it will be found to overbalance any little good which they may otherwise have produced.

Let us hope that, when the people have weighed these things, when they have made a searching scrutiny into his past life, they will consign to utter insignificance and neglect this one of the many plausible pretenders by whom the world is infested.

LOVE TOKENS.

We lov'd, where lips and tongues are sealid,
And passions are by signs reveal'd;
Where from a flow'ret, or a wreath,
Affection's voice may only breathe ;
And held our sweet communion there,
Thro' mediums beautiful and rare ;
With citron blossoms, rosebuds bright,
As the first break of morning's light :
While in the tinting of a thread
The secrets of our hearts were read;
And hope, and joy, and grief, were told
With hues of green, and pink, and gold.
Qur's was a triple share of bliss,
E'en in a mystic love like this ;
Which made us one, ere either heard
The other's lips pronounce a word."

The Oriental custom of making flowers, and colours, the interpreters of love, is here alluded to It is still most prevalent in Spain, and in the ex-Governments of that nation in South America: a ver. bal communication between the sexes (with the exception of near relatives) being seldom periitted. If a lady present you a bouquet, tied with green silk, it is the bright messenger of hope ; and should you return the colour, she expresses affection's dawn by a delicate pink. The intermediate shades between that and scarlet denote the gradual rising of love's thermometer from 60 to 120. Yellow, in the pro. gress of passion, is often used to convey anxiety or sorrow; but if you receive it on the first overture, it denotes despair; and should you persist in the pursuit, after so unequivocal a discouragement, black seals your doom, and (unless philosophy coine to your aid, in the shape of a kinder beauty) may prove the last thread of your existence. Single flowers have also their various significations, and are receiy. ed or rejected in quick succession: I once saw a Spanish gentleman in a crowded Tertulia, present a rose to i Peruvian lady, who had captivated him; and shall never forget her look, and the fatal action which accompanied it. She dashed the flower on the ground, and trampled upon it with a frown of in. aflable contempt. The astonishment of the assembly, and the frantic rage of the Spaniard, can be more easily imagined than described. He rushed from the room, and the next morning was found a corpse, a strong dose of laudanum having terminated his earthly carcer. It is but just to add, that such in. stances of self-destruction are extremely rare, the philosophy of love being better understood by the Spaniards than perhaps any other nation; and the general remark made upon this melancholy event is seldom called for," Que sonso I debia haberse enamorado de otra." "* What a fool! he ought to have made love to another." The author of this tragedy was little affected by it. I met her at a ball a few evenings after, looking as gay and beautiful as ever,

« 前へ次へ »