Page images

claret, hock, champagne, &c., the whisky was the only thing he liked.'— P. 189.

We suspect that the story of the pearls was a mere invention of the Maharajah's, to justify the charge which he thought proper to make for his liquor.

In the midst of his excesses and intrigues-in the full indulgence of licentiousness and ambition-Runjeet Sing was called to his account-worn-out and decrepit-at the age of sixty. His character, when fairly considered according to such authorities as we possess, resembled in most of its features those of other recent founders of military monarchies in the East-such as Ali Pasha of Albania, and, in some degree, the present ruler of Egypt. In all of them we trace the same almost instinctive disposition to artifice and chicanery; the same species of deliberate courage, useful rather than chivalrous, unsheathing itself only where a plain opportunity offers of striking with advantage; the same strange mixture of unbelief and fanaticism in religious matters; and the same tendency in the later years of life to miserly habits-deadening by degrees not only the nobler qualities of the heart, but the acuteness of the intellect. There were, however, many differences between them, both in circumstances and disposition. Runjeet Sing does not seem to have had either the extraordinary daring, or the equally extraordinary finesse of our ancient ally, the Albanian tyrant; but he had over him the great advantage of humanity. He was by no means cruel by temperament, and his policy confirmed him in the practice of clemency. He never took away life-a strange example among the sanguinary rulers of Persia and India; and though his justice in other respects was summary and savage enough, it was mildness itself in comparison of that which was administered from the durbars of his neighbours. He is not to be compared, undoubtedly, to the Pasha of Egypt, either for the grandeur of his projects or for compass of mind; but having to deal with very different subjects with independent Sihks whom it was necessary to control by management, instead of a wretched peasantry, with whom the only problem was, to stop short in the course of oppression exactly at the point beyond which it would have exhausted and destroyed them, he has necessarily pursued a more useful though less ambitious career. On the whole, his detestable profligacy apart, there are few Eastern despots who will have left a better personal character in history, when little or nothing else is left of his name, and the fabric of his policy shall have fallen to pieces. This will probably soon be the case. He seems to have looked to Britain for the maintenance of his monarchy in the person of his

son; but Britain has no means of preserving in unity a body composed of a hundred petty republics or clans, held together for a time by the genius of a single chief. If we are to maintain all our positions beyond the Indus, it will probably be necessary for us to command, in some way or other, the passes of the five tributary rivers which wash the plain between that great stream and our western frontier; but to control the conflicting passions and interests of the chiefs of Lahore, seems beyond our power.

From the moment that Runjeet allied himself with us,' (says our author,) he appears to have cast away all doubt, jealousy, and fear; to have treated us with uniform cordiality, and to have reposed with entire confidence on our friendship and support-a confidence which is now repaid by the exercise of our influence and authority to secure to his legitimate son, and designated heir, the inheritance of the kingdom which was created by the wisdom and the valour of his father.'

Short has been the period that our influence and authority' furnished this security! Captain Osborne-more honest than the Abbé Vertot, who refused to stop, in their passage through the press, those pages of his work in which he predicted the immortality of the Swedish constitution, when the news arrived that the King had abolished it has appended the following note to this passage :—

The reign of Kurruck Sing, who mounted the throne upon the death of his father Runjeet, has been of brief duration. For while these sheets are going through the press, intelligence has been received of a revolution in the court of Lahore, by which Kurruck was dethroned, and his son elevated to the musnud in his stead.'

ART. VIII.-Speeches in the House of Commons on the Motion of Sir J. Y. BULLER, That her Majesty's Government, as at pre'sent constituted, does not possess the confidence of this House.' 8vo. London: 1840.

IN N a free country like ours, periods recur at which it specially becomes the interest, as it is always the duty, of those who desire the preservation and improvement of our institutions, to consider attentively the state of parties, and the principles professed and acted upon by the men who possess, and by those who seek to obtain, political power. At all times these enquiries are important; but at a time like the present, when parties in the legislature are nearly balanced, and when unexpected events have more than once brought the objects of ambition within

[ocr errors]

the sight, and almost within the grasp of the leaders of Opposition, it is incumbent upon all who have political duties to discharge, to weigh well the relative claims of the parties contending for dominion, and to ascertain the trustworthiness of those to whom the public interests are confided. In despotic countries such enquiries are perhaps of less importance-where the sabre or the bowstring decide upon a royal succession, and where, as has been well expressed, le despotisme est temperé per l'assassinat,' the agents or the opposers of revolutions may be few in number, or they may not be of a class accessible to sober reason. Where military power, or the brutal force of the multitude decides the fortune of a dynasty, it is not to the precepts of the philosopher, or the examples of the historian, that those who attack or those who defend are wont to appeal. But far different is the case under a constitutional government like ours. With us the base on which political power rests, is wide and strong. It includes the whole mass of the population, there being none who are debarred from the possibility of acquiring political rights; and every right so acquired involves a duty to the state, which can only be effectually discharged where a just estimate is formed of political parties and of public men. It is the diffusion of power among all classes which constitutes the real strength of the state. From the minister who advises the Crown, to the humblest non-elector, who, through the medium of opinion and of influence, acts on those who possess the franchise, the chain is unbroken. Rights exist which are to be protected, duties exist which are to be performed: whether a parliamentary vote is given which decides the fate of a government, or a shout is raised at the hustings for or against a candidate, it is only by a just consideration of facts, and a fair estimate of principles, that the peer or the peasant can effectually discharge his functions.

We do not pretend to approach the consideration of this question with indifference, or with apathy. One of the besetting sins to which nations in an advanced state of civilisation are liable, is a careless insensibility to the public character of their rulers. The number of those who only seek and require tranquillity and repose, may undoubtedly comprehend many very excellent persons. But their sluggishness to public interests is a great evil. It is an evil, as it leaves the political arena to be occupied only by the fierce zealots of party; it is an evil, as it withdraws a considerable portion of the community from the performance of duty, or in other words from the school of virtue; it is an evil, as it limits the sympathy which is felt for public exertion, and diminishes the impulses which public opinion should ever give to public men. A base and inglorious sloth,' observes Mr Burke,

[ocr errors]

is the master-vice in men of business:' it is a vice scarcely less formidable in those by whom the actions of men of business are to be weighed, and their merits rewarded. The secession of the calm and of the reasonable deprives party-spirit of all moderating powers the ship is sent adrift without adequate ballast; it first degrades political struggles by lowering their dignity, and having degraded political men in public estimation, acting in a vicious circle, it justifies the degradations to which it has mainly contributed. In this class of lukewarm politicians we desire not to be enrolled. On the contrary, we are inclined to think that those who act upon the low and contemptible principle of caring but little who are to guide and to govern, are unworthy of a safe guide and of an honest government, which constitute the glory of a free state.

Nor is the duty which is to be performed in the days in which we live, more imperative in its character than it appears to us to be clear and easy in its performance. In a parliamentary government there must be always two great and leading divisions, under which, parties, however broken into more minute sections, must ultimately be enrolled;-the one, a party which, feeling confidence in the people, will, alike in applying the principles of executive government and of legislation, favour all propositions for the extension of public liberty, so far as is consistent with order and with security; the other, a party distrusting the judgment and the virtue of the people, and which seeks to confine their rights and powers within the narrowest limits compatible with contentment and obedience. Both principles are liable to be carried to a dangerous excess. But, assuming a reasonable and constitutional application of the one and of the other, the practical question is, to which our preference ought to be given; and which principle is most consistent with human happiness, and most in conformity with those general laws which Providence has ordained for the government of mankind. Lord Bacon has truly observed that the mind cannot remain stationary-it must go back if it does not advance; and the political party which vainly imagines that they can compel all around them to stand still, because they are themselves afraid of an onward movement, commit as great a blunder as that of a man who seeks to control the motion of a steam-engine by overloading the safety-valve, in place of guiding the action of the machine.

At no one period of our history does it appear to us that this great and leading distinction has been more obvious and palpable than at the present-provided we judge of parties by their acts, rather than by their professions. The ruling passion may not be avowed; but it influences when it does not absolutely govern.

Whigs and Tories may inscribe what devices they please upon their banners; but the one party acts upon the principle of confidence and of progress, the other regulates its proceedings by the opposite principle of mistrust and of restraint. It is between these two antagonist opinions that Parliament has lately decided, and that the public are called upon to decide; and it is by the judgment, when finally pronounced, that the future destinies of this country must be determined.

It should be remembered that the one of these principles as well as the other is capable of almost an indefinite application. It is not a naked profession of faith which either party adopts. From the high functions of the legislature itself to the lowest duties of administration in a parish vestry, these principles of good and evil are in opposition. Even were the legislative measures proposed by the two parties the same, the consequences of those measures would very widely differ. A reform, liberally and cheerfully proposed by those who have been and are reformers, binds the people to the constitution; the same enactments, tardily and reluctantly conceded, only gratify self-love, perpetuate party violence, and provoke to further aggression. Measures of restraint, where unhappily necessary, are submitted to, if introduced by friends of the people, whose feelings and inclinations form the best evidence that such restraints are recommended with regret, and that they will be limited both in their force and in their duration. Nor is it otherwise in the administration of public affairs. A popular spirit may be infused into the administration of a turnpike-trust, or applied in the meetings of Justices at quarter-sessions. It was observable that Grosvenor Square was for a season a sacred district, into which the alarming novelties of gas-lamps and macadamized pavement were not allowed to enter. The Tory party would in like manner reject all improvements, unless demonstrated by actual experiment, and yet would resist all experiment as a dangerous innovation.

We have stated the nice balance of parties in Parliament to be a reason why the claims and the conduct of both Whigs and Tories should be carefully scrutinized and compared. There are other motives, also, which render such an examination most important. If it can be proved that either of these parties is fighting under false banners-seeking and obtaining support under false pretences-that one profession of faith is made in Parlia ment to influence a division, and another in popular assemblies to deceive the constituencies ;-if these frauds can be exposed, and this want of truth and of directness can be held up to the scorn and contempt of the people, not only will that good be attained which is always consequent upon the unmasking of

« PreviousContinue »