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ART. IX.-Friendly Advice, most respectfully submitted to the Lords, on the Reform Bill. 8vo. London: 1831.
THE admirable temper with which this short Tract is written, well merits the praise which it has received from all but the violent and bigoted enemies of Reform, and accounts for the impression which it is said to have made upon the public. There is certainly no subject of more deep, we may say awful interest to the country at the present moment, than the question which it undertakes to discuss; namely, what conduct ought the Peers to pursue with respect to the Reform Bill?
That the Lords are likely to be much less favourable to this great measure than the Commons, is a proposition which may be laid down with great safety. The narrow majority which voted for the second reading, has been prodigiously extended by the bold and wise measure of Dissolution, and the results of the General Election. Before proceeding to contemplate the gratifying spectacle which these results exhibit to every lover of his country, and her institutions, let us pause for a moment to reflect upon the system of unwearied, oftentimes no doubt the wilful, misrepresentation which preceded, and we verily believe brought about, that great event.
The King's Ministers had brought their measure forward with all solemnity and previous notice. They had openly stated that their Sovereign approved of it; that it had been fully submitted to him in its details; and that he had maturely considered it. Any person of candour must have perceived that his Majesty was well inclined to the Bill; otherwise he never would have allowed the Government to bring it forward as their own measure. Any person of ordinary charity, to say nothing of feelings of merely decent respect towards the Monarch, must have thought it wholly impossible that a Prince, so fair and open in all his dealings, should lend himself to the course of duplicity plainly imputed to both the King and his Ministers, by the supposition, that he allowed the Bill to be brought in against his will. Any man of common sense ought to have known, that neither King nor Minister in this country was very likely to venture upon so hazardous an experiment as introducing a measure interesting to all the people, with the view of having it rejected. And yet rejected it must be, if so propounded as was insinuated. In truth, those anti-reformers-monopolists of all loyalty with one ceaseless cry of Church and King' on their lips, for the purpose of preserving their own power at the ex
pense of both, did neither more nor less than impute to their gracious Sovereign the design of letting his Servants propose the plan, in order that his Parliament might reject it. They everywhere gave out that the Bill was not acceptable to the King; and, by this most unfounded aspersion, they succeeded in lessening the majority in its favour.
A few unprincipled men may have known better than they rumoured abroad, the state of the facts. But we are inclined to think that, on one subject at least, the bulk of the Lords and Commons, who used such language, were the dupes of some artful individuals. Our reason is this: They were of course much averse to a dissolution, because they foresaw its inevitable consequences must be fatal to themselves and highly beneficial to the Ministers. Yet by holding the language, and pursuing the course they did, a dissolution was rendered inevitable, unless a resolution not to dissolve had been taken by the King. Now, such a resolution could only spring from lukewarm feelings towards the Bill; and, accordingly, we believe, many supposed his Majesty to be determined against dissolving, who yet thought him on the whole friendly to the measure. These had not the temerity to say, or the indecency to suppose, that he was hostile, but only that he was not zealously friendly to the Reform. They calculated that he would support it; and support his Servants in every thing but that which alone could secure them success they reckoned upon his refusing to dissolve a Parliament which had only sat a few months.
Never were hapless politicians so caught in their own snare. They went on from one violent act to another, heedless of all the warnings that were given, and disregarding every argument of probability which each succeeding day afforded, to demonstrate the good faith of the Monarch, and the firmness of his Ministers. They were resolved to be deceived; and deceived they were. Upon their false information, or upon surmises which hardly deserved the name, they acted; and they consummated the ruin of their hopes. First came their bitter opposition to the introduction of the Bill; but this they rather showed by much speaking than by venturing to divide. They debated it at endless length, with varying fortunes, in the Commons: in the Lords, they made up their minds to a discussion, but lost heart as soon as it had begun, and would fain have retreated from the conflict. The Ministers prevented this, and gave them such a debate as insured an unexampled discomfiture. Then came the second reading; but before it, the remarkable division upon the Timber duties, in which all the enemies of Reform joined, for the purpose of defeating a measure which some of their own leaders had
themselves introduced when in power. There is certainly no instance like this in the history of faction in modern times. We must go back to the days when principle counted for nothing in party proceedings; and when men took up or laid down their opinions exactly as it suited their purpose, in conducting the great contest for places, under the thin disguise of debating the affairs of the nation. A conduct, for some generations unknown among English statesmen, was now resorted to by the Opposition, in order to injure the Reform Bill. The behaviour of Sir Robert Peel, and Mr Herries, upon this remarkable occasion, will not soon be forgotten; nor will they who revert to it fail to mark the humbling contrast afforded to the proceedings of the leaders, by one or two men who had filled inferior offices under them, and who felt compelled, with all their hatred of the Reform Bill, to vouch their possession of something like consistency and public principle, by at least adhering to their own measures of commercial policy, though these were proposed by a reforming administration. There is another passage in recent political history, which will also be recollected as offering to the calm observer a contrast yet more remarkable, and more humiliating to the Peels and the Goulburns. When they, after years of bitter hostility to the Catholic question, brought it forward rather than relinquish their power (this motive their recent conduct entitles every candid enquirer to fix them with), who supported them among the foremost?--the original proposers and firm friends of emancipation, to be sure. They could do no otherwise: As men of common honesty, they could do nothing else. But neither honesty nor consistency required them to agree with the Government of that day, in admiring the weak and effeminate spite of one man, who, from personal hatred of one other man, encumbered the Relief Bill with a provision levelled at Mr O'Connell alone, and exposed the peace of Ireland to be destroyed, in order to gratify a fit of unaccountable and silly spleen. Yet, when the Opposition, we mean the Whigs, saw that the Ministers were deficient in firmness to grapple with those personal feelings, and were resolved to yield them a slavish obedience, rather than lose the great measure of religious liberty, they waved all objections, and joined in supporting the Bill, which, but for their self-denying patriotism, was now lost, and with it the Ministry dissolved. Again, when the disfranchisement of the forty shilling freeholders afforded those patriotic men another opportunity of opposing and of unseating the Ministers-without the slightest breach of their own consistency, the abandonment of a single pledge, or dereliction of one principle they had ever professed
they only looked to the success of the great measure of Catholic Relief, and gave their adversaries a cordial support at the risk of their own popularity, and with the certain result of keeping their opponents in power. This it was that made the Duke of Wellington praise their conduct as chivalrous.' We call it not so; but we say it was the course which public honesty and patriotism pointed out. We further say, that it was not the course pursued in 1831 by those who must have joined their noble colleague in the panegyric of 1829. We go on and add, that if in all the senate --ay, and in all the country, there was one man more than all the rest owed a debt of gratitude personally to the generous forbearance of the Whig Opposition in 1829, that man was Sir Robert Peel; but we cannot go still further and subjoin, that he took the opportunity of the Timber question in 1831 to repay even any small instalment of that debt. It remains unsatisfied: it was requited with hostility in circumstances that rendered the repayment not only easy but agreeable, and made the contrast we allude to prodigious in the eyes of all men. They who had hoped better things of him are certainly now disappointed; and there is no doubt of his having also failed in securing, even by such conduct, his object of a reconcilement with the party whom he lost for ever in 1829.
When Sir R. Peel in that year abandoned the Anti-Catholic cause, and took the foremost part in carrying the Emancipation, he conferred a great benefit on the country at the cost of large sacrifices to himself. But among those sacrifices, his adversaries remarked, was that of all claims to political consistency, and of all authority and weight in the country; and even his friends could not doubt that he had given up all possession of the political influence which he had enjoyed as the High Church champion; though they might hope for an extension of his influence in other quarters. Those who belonged neither to the class of friends or adversaries, the impartial public, deemed the whole proceeding unintelligible and equivocal, though they might rejoice in the results of it. Men were unable to comprehend how a person could at one time resist a proposition which he described as fatal to the constitution in Church and State, with a velemence fitted for such an occasion, and because of a majority against him, shortly thereafter lend his assistance in carrying the selfsame measure through Parliament. Men could not understand how the same person who this year declared he left office because the Prime Minister was a friend of the Catholic question, should next year himself join another Prime Minister in carrying the whole of the question, and proclaiming they must resign their places if they carried it not. Men seemed to think all con
fidence in the opinions of statesmen at an end; regarding it impossible to say what evolutions they should next witness performed by public men. Mr Wilberforce, upon an alarm as to West India concerns, might be for reviving the slave trade -or Mr Buxton, upon a Jamaica panic, defend Colonial Slavery-or, upon some misbehaviour of the working classes, Mr Brougham might avow himself the enemy of Education. But what most of all created wonder was, that Sir R. Peel should take such a step, and all the while declare that his whole opinions on the Catholic question and Test Act remained unaltered. To say the very least, he thus placed himself in a situation wholly novel, and full of difficulty; and adopted a line of conduct extremely liable to misconstruction. The memorable words of the historian were frequently cited, who, in recording Marlborough's apostasy at the Revolution, has thus expressed himself: Yet even he (Lord Churchill) could resolve, dur'ing the present extremity, to desert his unhappy master, who ' had ever reposed entire confidence in him. He carried with 'him the Duke of Grafton, natural son of the late king, and some troops of dragoons. This conduct,' adds Hume, was a signal sacrifice to public virtue of every duty in private life; and required ever after the most upright, disinterested, and 'public-spirited behaviour to render it justifiable.' Now, those who most charitably judged the case of the modern convert, admitted that it was, like his of 1688, one which justified a vigilant, and even jealous attention to his future conduct; and when they found him in 1831 pursuing the course to which we have alluded, they could hardly deny that the moment had arrived for looking back upon the dark passages of 1829, as if the light shed upon these made every thing intelligible now, which then might be charitably represented as only mysterious or equivocal. -But we pass on to the effects of the majority gained by such strange means upon the Reform Bill.
The second reading, which, but for that mischance, must have been carried by a considerable majority, was now carried even by a single vote. The enemies of the measure hoped to throw it out; exerted all their energies for this purpose; and flattered themselves that they might eat the fruit and live.' The recess at Easter gave them fresh warnings of their danger, in new assurances that they were rushing on to their ruin. All warnings were vain; some foolish persons had spread the notion that no dissolution would happen, whatever became of the Bill. Accordingly, after showing every species of virulence against all the measures of the Government, they succeeded in getting up a motion to change one not very essential portion of the