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The absolute exclusion of Open Questions now insisted on, is a novelty of recent growth in English politics. There is no reason for believing that they will do more harm in the future than they have done in the past. We know the worst. It is not necessary to exclude them, in order to give a Government unity of action upon those subjects in which it really is desirable that it should proceed to act. On the other hand, the exclusion of all difference of opinion among the members of a Government upon any subject, must unavoidably derange its working and obstruct its use. The basis of any possible administration must be often absurdly narrowed by such a rule. The co-operation of the ablest men, agreeing possibly upon all subjects but one, may be precluded by it; while in the conflict of parties, it may bring to the top a mere faction, whose very want of morality and of opinions will give it a principle of cohesion, sufficient to enable it to take advantage of these divisions, and, though least and basest of them all, to triumph over the rest. The system of Open Questions, is indispensable at times for the attainment of correct decisions. It is often to the full as necessary for another equally important end. The dilemma in which the members of a Government are placed, in differing from their colleagues on a particular measure, must always apply to many of its supporters. As often as a measure of which they disapprove is made a Government measure, they must either press their consciences by voting for it; or, voting against it, may possibly overturn a Ministry to which they are cordially attached on public as well as private grounds. That public-spirited patriot Sir James Graham sees no difficulty in this, and cries to the conscientious Minister, 'Quit 6 your colleagues and resign.' Mr Hume, on the other hand, avows that to do a great right he would do a little wrong, and would vote black white rather than be the means, by an untoward vote, of bringing back to power a Government he thinks a public grievance. Whatever general rule is laid down, cases may arise in which the alternative cannot be avoided. Causelessly to multiply them to let one remain which can possibly be helped -is a cruel hardship to individuals, and a serious injury to the community. Open Questions are the natural and reasonable solution of this problem. They save the repetition of painful struggles. They reconcile the rights of private conscience with the public welfare.
The prohibition of Open Questions, evinces either a want of respect for public opinion, or a want of knowledge of the means by which it can be best developed and ascertained. A Government should be very careful what it is about, when it undertakes to lead public opinion one way or another-whether to urge it
forward, or to hold it back. Mistakes are so soon made, and may be so very perilous. There are some occasions, however, in which it is the duty of a Government to assume the responsibility-not so much of putting itself in the place of the opinion of the public, as of acting at an early period upon what resolute and able men may recognise as its sufficient indications. These cases a well-constituted Government takes up. On the other hand, there are many measures with respect to which it is its duty to follow-or rather to elicit and ascertain what the sound intelligent public opinion really is. These last are the proper region of Open Questions. In this, we assume that, in a free state, public opinion must ultimately rule; and that the best arrangement and course of Government is that which gives it its way, easiest and soonest. The public opinion thus spoken of, of course is that which is, or plainly is to be, permanent, and which is daily gaining strength. It is great part of the sagacity of a statesman to discern from a distance what is to be durable, from that which is to pass away. It can seldom be safe, however, in legislating for a divided people, to move suddenly in advance upon the faith of pure and individual anticipations. In the mean time, Open Questions, debated as such in Parliament, are among the best means for multiplying the data for bold conclusions, and for accelerating the natural formation of the new events and reasonings, which, in stirring times, are thrown so abundantly into the great bubbling caldron of the public mind. It would be easy to find striking instances of the evils of too protracted an unconsciousness of the course of public opinion, on the one hand, and of too precipitate a following of its transient indications, on the other. The former used to be the besetting sin of Governments-the latter may be more threatening at present-though probably not, if we have wise men to read the signs of the times. But while there is no unreasonable indecision, and the demand for action. is not urgent, there should be Open Questions for this purpose, if for no other;-namely, in order to prepare the minds of men by agitation or discussion, (call it which you will,) and in order to collect, at large and at leisure, authentic materials for proceeding to legislation, the moment that the public and the subject are both ready for it.
Thus, were it possible to shut out Open Questions from politics, we feel justified in saying, that it would be wrong to do so. For to do so, would be to deprive ourselves of what can ill be spared--a security for prudent legislation. But it is not possible. If former generations had proscribed Open Questions as unconditionally as Sir Robert Peel does now, their example would have been no precedent for us. Since, supposing an identity of
opinion to be the natural course of things, while politics were in few hands, and were merely an affair of party, this would cease to be so, as soon as the people at large, by the formation of an intelligent middle class, take an interest in polities, and have opinions of their own. We could not reason from a sluggish and dependent period to more awakened times; times, in which a free and extended representation has called into the field vast constituencies, entitling them to expect, and enabling them to enforce a visible attention to their wishes.
The time for this novelty is therefore very strangely chosen. The Roman Catholic Relief Bill, the Reform Bill, the progress of education, and a more general interest in politics, have contributed to break the spell of Party. A greater number of persons interested in politics, are at present free from party trammels, than at any time since parties first came in among us. Yet the exclusion of Open Questions would substitute a bondage more heavy and more degrading than its severest despotism. Men are thinking now with more boldness and diversity than formerly. But the exclusion of Open Questions is an unexampled invasion of freedom of opinion, by its unnecessary restraints. Contemporary politicians boast that they are a purer and more independent race than that which was the scandal of former generations. But the exclusion of Open Questions is an insult on every man of principle, by the unnecessary compromises which it involves. A strong Government, such as accident might give us for a time, in the terrors of another French Revolution, or from the excitement of a Reform Bill, or under the absorbing influence of a commanding character like Pitt's, might domineer and dictate in this manner; but a strong Government, in generous hands, would disdain to exercise its power in this manner, as in fact we know that Pitt disdained. When politics fall back into their ordinary channel, and a hundred varieties of opinions and of discontents have restored us to the rule of weak Governments, (for weak Governments henceforth will be the rule,) Open Questions must come in with them. In this case there is but one alternative-a Government with Open Questions, or no Government at all.
When the age of strong Governments is passed away, and that of weak Governments has come, it is impossible to govern without those forbearances and compromises which (whatever may be their form in different ages or countries) constitute substantially Open Questions. This, or nearly this, is taking place in every quarter of free Europe. Look, for instance, at the turns and the perplexities of the Government in France. On reflecting calmly upon the state of things in England, it will
that neither of its existing parties can long dispense with Open Questions. The present Government is only weak from the extent to which divisions and subdivisions of opinion have broken up community of sentiment throughout the country. There have been great constitutional, almost organic changes effected, not through overwhelming and paralysing force, but by conflict of opinions. There is now partly a revulsion, partly a revival; but chiefly a gradual splitting and hiving off of sections and shades, which were blended at first as against a common enemy. Something like this, more or less, is the cause of all weak Governments. We have first the destruction of old unquestioned authority, by just and successful resistance; and then come the divisions which necessarily ensue among the different parties into which the conquerors array themselves-each in a great degree ignorant of its own actual following, and usually overrating it. So it has ever been, since the feuds among the successors of Alexander, or Charlemagne, down to those among the conquerors of Lewis Seize; or the dissensions which broke out in our own land among the survivors of our majestic Cromwell. The former had room and verge enough to betake themselves to separate regions. In our narrower confines, we had to fight it out at home-and in many a doubtful conflict-till main force and fear brought about a strong Government again; and stupidity and want of interest and of intellect restored, for some sixty years, the old habit of submission to authority. We are at length recovered from that collapse, over all free Europe; and are consequently once more in the sphere of weak Governments. That is, weak for carrying or resisting any speculative or theoretical changes, or for repressing the vexatious cross-play of intractable sects and cliques; but strong for maintaining clear rights, and demolishing established abuses. The weakness of modern Governments therefore, is a circumstance of which we need be neither ashamed nor afraid. They are Govern ments which must be creditably administered; and under which, all who are not childishly impatient, or crazily in love with their own nostrums, may manage to live on, in peace and hope. But they are Governments under which men will think for themselves. The consequences of private judgment inevitably follow-appearances of infirmity from within, and of dissensions from without.
In this respect temporal governments are destined to run the same course through which ecclesiastical governments have passed before them. The Pope has no Open Questions. It is the Church of England (or still more truly, it is Protestantism, embodied in less arbitrary and rigid forms) which has to bear
the ridicule of being called, and to encounter the risk of being, in some measure, the mere mock queen of a divided host.' What then? These controversies and trials and divisions are our strength and glory. They are the terms on which alone our faith can hope to approximate to the truth, or our service become perfect freedom. The Tories, if they choose, may blindly pledge themselves to the infallible authority of Sir Robert Peel-semper idem-the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. The Whigs are freer spirits. What Burke said of other pledges is equally true of the official pledge, which puts a negative upon all Open Questions. Depend upon it, that the lovers of freedom will 'be free; nor shall we improve the faculties or better the morals of public men, by our possession of the most infallible receipt in the world for making cheats and hypocrites.' Unless the system of Open Questions is to be continued as largely as we received it from our fathers, the defence of our mode of government by parties, always more or less unsatisfactory, will become absolutely shocking. The authority of party in public life, its maxims and inducements, are strong enough already. The air breathed there is even now too close. It must not be made closer, if honest men are to breathe in it at all.
ART. VII.-1. Letter from Sydney. 12mo. London : 1829.
2. Report of the Committee on the Disposal of Lands in the British Colonies. Printed by Order of the House of Commons: 1836. 3. Instructions to the Colonial Lands and Emigration Commissioners: 1840.
W E have observed, with great satisfaction, the general and increasing interest which has recently been shown concerning the condition and management of our colonies; and especially the stream of enterprise which is daily setting more and more strongly towards Australia. Not only are emigrants of the lower classes proceeding thither annually by thousands instead of by hundreds; but gentlemen, whose fortunes are to seek, are beginning to suspect that those countries offer a better field than the overcrowded liberal professions for ripening competency into affluence-large capitalists begin to look thither for the chance of a larger dividend upon their capital-companies are formed for all manner of enterprises, and the shares are at a premium in the market-thousands of pounds are paid down in London for