« ForrigeFortsett »
testant martyrs, and strengthened by the resistance to Stuart oppression, it will sicken and languish from the first moment of its existence, and before its authors are gathered to their fathers, be numbered among the things that have been.
The new Bill differs in few essential particulars from its monstrous predecessor; in a few details it is better; in its leading principles and practical tendency, if possible, worse. The number of boroughs retained in schedule A, in other words, which are to be wholly disfranchised, is still fifty-six. So that 112 members are lost by this clause alone to the Conservative Party.
The boroughs in schedule B, which are to lose one member each, are reduced from forty-one to thirty-one -in other words, ten members are there saved to the Constitution; but, on the other hand, an equal number of additional members are given to ten manufacturing towns, that is, to the radical interest.
The ten pound franchise is placed on a different footing: the payment of rent is no longer required; and in its stead the houses are to be valued once a year, under the control of Barristers in each county, appointed by the Lord Chancellor, and evidence of the value by the rating in King's books for taxes, and in the parish-books for rates, is to be taken -and residence for twelve months in a ten pound house, or houses, is required.
The old freeholders in boroughs, instead of being preserved as under the old Bill for their lives only, are to be permanently engrafted on the Constitution.
Very little examination is requisite to shew, that these provisions render the new Bill even more democratical in its tendency than the former.
Formerly, evidence of the payment of rent or taxes was required; now the latter is sufficient, and no payment of rent whatever is necessary. What is the necessary tendency of this change? clearly to let in ultimately a still lower and more dangerous set of constituents than the former bill admitted, by removing that slender check on pauperism which the necessity of paying
VOL. XXXI, NO. CLXXXIX.
The houses claiming to be enrolled are all to be valued at first, and the valuation in the tax and parish books is to be given in evidence, fortified by the oath of the claimant if required. Now every body knows that when once a house is valued at a certain sum in any set of books regulating the paying of taxes, it is an easy matter to allow the valuation to remain; but a very difficult matter to get it lowered. If the owner or tenant makes no objections, the taxgatherer and overseer for the poor will allow the valuation to remain undiminished to the end of time. The result is, therefore, that how much soever the value of a house may be deteriorated, though it falls to be worth only L.2 or L.3 a-year only, still if the tenant is willing to have it rated at the old valuation in the public and parish books, and to pay burdens accordingly, it must confer a freehold. Thus the only test of the property, or respectability of these little householders, will be their ability to pay rates and taxes on a house valued at L.10 a-year, which, on an average, will not come to 30s. annually. And this is the constituency in whose hands it is proposed to place the nomination of 340 out of the 500 English members!
Houses, like every thing else, grow old; they decay rapidly, especially when built, as in England, of brick, and soon fall down to a lower class of inhabitants than at first possessed them. Under the new Bill, this progressive deterioration of the property, will be the means of admitting daily a more degraded and democratical constituency; and if nothing else brings the new constitution to an untimely end, the decay of the houses, on which it is based, will necessarily lead to its destruction. The owners or tenants of these frail and ruinous tenements will never think of proposing that their valuation should be lowered, when it brings so valuable a thing as the elective franchise; and the burden of paying ten or fifteen shillings additional ayear of taxes and rates, will be more than compensated by the periodical return of the good things with which a general election will be attended. The mere circumstance that the houses are to be valued once a-year,
is no security whatever against this progressive deterioration of the class of borough constituents, for on what data can the surveyors proceed, but the rating in the King's or parish books, and the declaration and oath of the householder what he considers the subject worth? and these will never be awanting when the question is, whether a valuable elective franchise is to be preserved.
Farther, while such is the perilous tendency of the new franchise in the great, and especially the manufacturing towns, what a broad gateway does it open to corruption in the smaller boroughs more immediately under aristocratic influence! The franchise is, literally speaking, vested now in the walls of houses; the Parliament is neither a representative of the wealth of the community, nor of its intelligence, nor its rank, nor its population, but of its buildings. Whoever can command the greatest number of houses, will carry the day at every election. A great proprietor wishes to get the command of a borough in his vicinity, he has nothing to do, but to purchase up all the L.10 houses as they come into the market, or build a great number within its limits, which can be done for L.150 a-piece, and put into them paupers, menials, or dependants of his own, who pay no rent, or a merely elusory one, and he must command the return. No matter how destitute, how indigent the householder may be; though he cannot muster up a farthing of rent, if he lives in a house rated at L.10, and paying 25s. or 30s. a-year of taxes, he must have a vote. The command of a borough containing 300 votes, may then be obtained to perpetuity, by expending L.30,000 on houses within it, besides the return which the rents of these houses will afford. And yet a system which throws open the gates in so shameless a way to the influence of corruption, is gravely put forth as a final settlement of the question, and an entire extinguisher upon the whole system of boroughmongering!
The multiplication of L.10 houses, like the multiplication of the L.10 freeholds in Ireland for electioneering purposes, will be a most serious evil under the new Bill. Sir Edward Sugden truly said, that it should be
entitled, "A Bill for the multiplication of L.10 houses." It is evident, that the proprietors in the neighbourhood of small boroughs will either themselves build, or promote the building, of such a number of houses, as may incline the balance in their own favour. Every body knows what a multitude of miserable tenants such a system of multiplying the poor has produced in Ireland. Those evils are not confined to the soil of that island; they will extend to England, if similar causes call them into operation. All these evils spring from that fatal innovation upon the constitution which the Reformers so obstinately insist upon introducing,-that of admitting, not the freeholder, who, in general, must be in some degree independent, because he is a proprietor, but the tenant, who cannot, in the general case, be so, because he is destitute of property.
The result, therefore, must be, what we have all along predicted, that the existing abuses will be greatly increased under the new Bill, and the country doomed to oscillate between the infamy of corruption and the perils of democracy; inclining, in periods of tranquillity, to the former-driven, in times of agitation, by the latter. This will be the result in the most favourable case, supposing the new institutions to prove stable, and not to yield speedily to the shock of revolution,-a supposition which all the experience of former times forbids us to entertain.
The litigation, electioneering intrigues, and political agitation, which must follow the annual making up of the lists of the freeholders, is another evil of the first magnitude under the new system. It is quite evident that it will keep the people in a continual state of hot water; the arts used to get their habitations raised up to the desired standard-the devices to prevent their being lowered below itthe perjury, chicanery, and falsehood annually adopted to accomplish these objects, must at once demoralize the people by habituating them to crime, and withdraw their attention from honest industry by keeping them continually immersed in a sea of politics. All the world knows how strongly these evils are felt on the eve of a general election: it was reserved for a
Reforming Administration, professing to abolish all existing evils, to render them annual instead of occasional, and a permanent tumour instead of a transient blemish in the constitution. The powers vested in the surveyors of houses, and the barristers, appointed by the Lord Chancellor, who are to review their judgments, is a new and unheard-of peril in the constitution. The returns of Parliament -the formation of a majority in the Lower House-will depend upon these officers. They are not to be appointed by a fixed Judge, such as the Chief Justice,- but a political officer, who stands or falls with Administration. It is easy to foresee what abuses may, in bad times, be committed under such a system; it is not difficult to prognosticate the discontent which, in periods of excitement, even the honest discharge of duty by these officers certainly will excite. And this is the system which is to correct all existing abuses, and effect a permanent settlement of the constitution!
The freemen under the existing system, are to be preserved to perpetuity in the new Bill. Those freemen constitute the existing demo cracy under the old constitution; and in many towns, as Liverpool, Norwich, &c., the franchise descends so low as almost to amount to universal suffrage. We have uniformly maintained, that the existence of those representatives of the working classes under the old constitution, was a very great advantage, because it gave them a voice in the legislature, and counterbalanced the nomination boroughs which constituted the representation of landed and commercial wealth. But what is now proposed? To keep up these operative electors over the whole country, at the very time that a new and wide inlet for the democracy is provided in the L.10 tenants, and when the representation of commercial, colonial, and landed opulence in the close boroughs is cut off. That is to say, we are to have on our back at once the old democracy and the new democracy, both that which is now pressing with such force on the constitution, and that which promises to overturn it in future times; and that too at the very time when the fortresses of the Con
servative Party in the nomination boroughs are to be entirely destroyed! And this is gravely held forth as the arrangement of the conflicting powers on a satisfactory basis, and which promises to restore that balance which, from the force of democratic ambition at this time, is in such danger of being subverted!
The superior weight given to manufacturing or democratic over agricultural or conservative industry, apparent in every part of the Bill, is in an especial manner conspicuous in the rise which is introduced in the qualification for county votes, compared with the fall in that for boroughs. After the termination of the existing lives, the qualification for a county vote is to be raised to a freehold of L.10 yearly value; so that in the space of twenty years the county members will be returned exclusively by that class of proprietors. The borough members are to be returned not merely by the owners, but the tenants of L.10 houses, a class of men, not at an average possessing a tenth part of the property of their brother freeholders in the county. Why is this extraordinary distinction made between the classes who are to return the members for counties and boroughs? Is it because the yeomanry of the country are so much more democratical than the householders of Manchester, Birmingham, the Tower Hamlets, or Greenwich, that it was necessary to go to a much higher class before the powers of representation could be securely vested? Is it because morality is so much more pure, life so much more innocent, passion so much more subdued, reason so much more powerful, among the ale-house keepers of St Giles, in the owners of brothels in Dublin or Glasgow, than among the statesmen of Cumberland, the freeholders of Yorkshire, or the peasantry of Scotland? Had the rule been just the reverse; had a tenpound proprietor been required in town, and a ten-pound tenant admitted in the country, the principle of the distinction would have been intelligible, because it would have been founded on the eternal distinction between the honesty of conduct and sobriety of thought in rural, compared with the profligacy of habit and vehemence of passion in
urban life. But to admit the poorer class amid the corruption, vice, and intoxication of cities, and confine the franchise to a far higher class amidst the simplicity and moderation of country life, is so utter a departure from the principles not merely of legislation, but of common sense and universal experience, that it is altogether inexplicable upon any of the known principles of human conduct. And it is to be recollected, that while only 157 members are given to the coolness, and sobriety of rural industry, no less than 340 are awarded to the passions and the corruption of city population.
For these reasons, the principle and practical tendency of the new Bill is even more dangerous than that from which we have just been delivered. The Whigs should have abandoned office, rather than have consented, for the purpose of gaining the Radicals, to bring in so ruinous a project; the Conservative Party had better remain for ever in opposition, than sully their hands by any connexion with it. We rejoice therefore at the noble stand which the friends of the constitution have again made in the House of Commons, and that the eloquence of Sir R. Peel and Mr Croker has exceeded even all their previous efforts, and recalled the brightest days of British glory. Nor have the Scotch less reason to be proud of the able and patriotic stand made by their leading nobility on this trying occasion. The Duke
of Buccleuch, who, throughout the whole contest, has acted the part of a true Patriot, has gone to London on purpose to lay the Address of the great Edinburgh Meeting before his Majesty, and it was received in a way worthy of the quarter from which it proceeded, and the hands by which it was delivered. If the other Conservative Nobility of the country have not been so conspicuous in their services, their firmness is as great, and their devotion to the public cause as unbounded. It is by such means that the Peers of Great Britain can best discharge the duty which at this crisis they owe to their country, which they have recently delivered from so great a peril.
Let them do their utmost to soften the dangerous features of the new measure, and diminish the mischief which it must occasion to the country; but let the whole responsibility of the future constitution rest upon its own authors. They have delivered into their hands a prosperous, tranquil, and powerful nation, with its empire surrounding the globe, its fleets whitening the ocean, its glory resplendent over the earth; let them beware of extinguishing so fair a fame, by mingling with the ambition, the recklessness, or the desperation which is destined, to all human appearance, to destroy so noble a fabric, and sink for ever in the waves the might and the honour of the British empire.
REPLY TO LORD BROUGHAM'S SPEECH.*
How spirit-stirring the commencement of a campaign! Our imagination travels along a shadowy succession of yet unfoughten combats of various fortune-now in victory, now in defeat, and now in drawn battle-but ever fearless of the final issue, and confident that, after some total overthrow, the war will terminate in the triumph of Truth, Freedom, and Justice. Such will be the end of the great struggle now renewed between the firm force of the Conservatives, and the feeble fury of the Revolutionists. On the restoration of peace, the eyes of the patriots will be gladdened to behold the blessing for which they conquered-unscathed by storm, flood, or fire, from turret to foundation stone, in all its ancient strength and state, that august and glorious edifice -the British Constitution.
We have called the reformers by a name which used to excite their ire -revolutionists. Some few months ago they grew red in the face at that appropriate polysyllable; his Majesty's Ministers rose indignantly, as one man, "to repudiate the charge,” “to reprobate the idea;" but a pallor now is on their crestfallen countenances, and you hear extorted confession in many a wrathful mutter. Why so loath still are some of the would-be leading men among them to avow the truth? They cannot be such simpletons as to dream now of deluding us into a belief that they desire to restore and preserve our liberties; and can they indeed be such fools as to fancy that they may play with safety upon the knaves who have enlisted themselves in thousands and tens of thousands under their tri-color-the rascally rag which never yet was hoistedand never shall be over
"The flag that braved, a thousand years, The battle and the breeze."
sands of knaves have taught them, and will continue to teach them, another lesson; and slow and stupid as they have shewn themselves to be "at the uptake," that other lesson will in time be instilled into their sluggish souls through incessant ink-dropping, by men får honester and abler than themselves, the EDUCATED RADICALS OF ENGLAND, who, instead of denying that they are for revolution, glory in the charge, and in proclamations and manifestoes somewhat more vigorous than that ludicrous and late lament issued in his Majesty's name against Political Unions, have long kept dinning into the deafest and largest ears, that they will never rest till they have gained their ULTERIOR OBJECTS-the overthrow of all ancient and all hereditary institutions.
That my Lord John Russell and "the rest" are sick of their estates and titles, we cannot believe, not even on the authority of their own conduct. They are not sick, then, but they are silly; and seek to shelter their large estates and noble titles and insignificant selves, behind a Bill which the most formidable foes of their order are all grimly laughing to behold them bringing up like a battering-ram to demolish their own powers and privileges in the state. Aye-the Bill-though far from being perfect in all its parts, in the eyes of the educated radicals, will, nevertheless, work well-it will butt forcefully against the ramparts of aristocracy—and out from among the dusty rubbish the radicals see, in imagination, running like so many rats, the Lord Johnnys and the Lord Dickies, and in imagination they hear-and can scarce retain their urine for affection,"-the creatures squeak.
That the rats chiefly composing his Majesty's Ministry should be mole-blind, did certainly at first The thousands and tens of thou- somewhat astonish the public. As
Reply to a Pamphlet, entitled Speech of the Right Honourable Lord Brougham, Lord High Chancellor of England, delivered in the House of Lords, on Friday, October 7, 1831. London: J. Hatchard and Son, 187, Piccadilly; and Roake and Varty, Strand.