« ForrigeFortsett »
of the position of an adversary, which none could do better than Mr. Webster, and which none could doubt was the strongest method of stating it; and then following it, step by step, with the appropriate answer. This was the reduction of the whole controversy to the severest forms of logic.” — Life of Daniel Webster, by GEORGE T. CURTIs, vol. i. p.
359. Two years passed, and again Mr. Webster faced this same question in the Senate, but this time with an antagonist more formidable than Mr. Hayne. Mr. Calhoun's speech on that occasion has been considered as perhaps the ablest effort of his life. It became the scripture from which almost a whole generation of the young men of the South learned those lessons which afterward carried them into the War of Secession. Mr. Webster's reply was this time more closely reasoned, more compact and powerful as an intellectual effort than the earlier speech, though less interesting, it may be, to the general reader. But the great debate of 1830 seems to have exhausted the arguments upon this subject. Whatever was said later upon either side seemed to be but restatement or re-arrangement of what was there laid down. One thing only remained, and that was to bring the opposing views to the arbitrament of actual conflict. That crisis seemed actually to have come, even while this second debate was going on. South Carolina, with Mr. Hayne as Governor, undertook to put her views in practice, and armed herself to stop the collection of United States duties in her ports. President Jackson sternly prepared to enforce the laws with all the powers the goverment could wield. But the storm that threatened did not break then after all. The matter was compromised, and South Carolina took back her Act of Nullification. The final issue came a generation later, and on those battle-fields where brave men freely gave their lives “that government of the people, by the people, and for the people should not perish from the earth.”
THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY was born Oct. 25, 1800, the eldest son of Zachary Macaulay, a prominent reformer and abolitionist, a follower and friend of Wilberforce. His boyhood was passed at his father's home in London, and afterwards at a private school, until at eighteen years of age he entered Cambridge. Here he took his degree in 1822, and was elected Fellow two years later. While yet a mere child he had become interested in the great public questions discussed at his father's table. At the university he won academic honors for composition, oratory, and political debate. Thus were already outlined the two fields of his future achievement. His literary career opened first with the publication in 1825 of his famous essay on Milton, the first of a long and brilliant series of papers which ended only with his death. In 1812 appeared his Lays of Ancient Rome, inspired in part by visit to Italy. Of his History of England two volumes were published in 1848, two in 1855, and one after his death.
His political career began with his entrance into Parliament in 1830. It continued unbroken for seventeen years, and was even resumed for a time at a later period. His voice was heard with no uncertain sound on all the great questions of that stirring time, but he is specially remembered for the ardor with which he threw himself into the great Reform Movement of 1832. Twice he held cabinet offices in Whig Ministries, and once he was sent to India as legal adviser to the Supreme Council and president of an important Commission. In 1857 he was made Baron Macaulay of Rothley -— “ the first literary man to receive such a distinction.”
Into each of these careers he put energy and talent enough to have made him famous without aid from the other. Between
them both his life was crowded with effort and excitement beyond the lot of most famous men, and beyond the powers of his own abounding vitality to sustain. A weakness of the heart ended in his death on December 28, 1859.
SPEECH ON THE REFORM BILL.
The House of Commons was formally established in England when Edward I. in 1295 summoned to his Great Council two burgesses to be elected from every city, borough, and leading town” of his realm, and two knights from every shire. A body so constituted must have been fairly representative of the nation. There was, however, no definite ettlement of the details of representation; it still remained with the Crown to determine what boroughs should be invited to participate. In the sixteenth century the Tudor sovereigns had learned the art of managing their Commons by managing the election of members. Elections, of course, could most easily be controlled in small and unimpor tant places ; hence such from time to time were added to the list. Thus began one form of the “ rotten borough.” In the seventeenth century representation in Parliament crystallized permanently almost in the form in which the Tudors left it. As time went on, places once important and populous often dwindled or stood still, while the mighty towns of modern England were growing up about them, and wholly without representation. These boroughs thus accidentally decayed were quite as ready means for corrupt uses were quite as “ rotten” as were those of the other sort. By this time Parliament had ceased to be in any true sense the representative of the nation. The pressure of the “new wine in old bottles” was already alarming in the eighteenth century, when it attracted the attention of such men as Chatham and Burke. But consideration of it was impossible amid the tumults of the French Revolution and of the Napoleonic
It had to wait till 1820, when Lord John Russell proposed his bill for Parliamentary Reform. The demand was nothing less than that a corrupt Parliament, intrenched within these “rot
ten boroughs,” should reform itself, and abolish these instruments of corruption. This, of course, it would not do without external pressure. The bill was therefore promptly rejected, as were others brought forward in later sessions. In 1830 the popular demand grew so formidable that Wellington and the Tory Ministry, who held out stiffly against it, were forced to resign, while the Whigs under Earl Grey came into power, pledged to the reform. On the 1st of March, 1831, their scheme was laid before Parliament by Lord John Russell, who, though not a Cabinet Minister, was chosen for this important duty on account of his ability and of his long and honorable service in the cause. It was proposed to disfranchise fifty-six “rotten” boroughs, and to distribute their one hundred and forty-three seats among the great cities and the towns hitherto not represented. The battle thus joined continued with but little interruption for fifteen months. In it was engaged every man of ability on either side, while the whole nation waited for the issue with ever-growing excitement. The bill came to its second reading with a majority of one vote. In the discussions which followed, the Ministry was defeated on a point of detail, and promptly dissolved Parliament and appealed to the people in a new election. Intrenched as corruption was in the existing order of things, the reformers were nevertheless returned in overwhelming majority. At the assembling of the new Parliament in June, Lord John Russell introduced his bill again, in the form known as the Second Reform Bill. All that its opponents in the House could now do was to delay its progress. It finally passed the Commons by a majority of over a hundred votes, but was rejected by the Lords. Parliament was then prorogued. After the recess the bill was introduced for the third time, and at the end of March had passed the House by a majority more decisive than ever. Popular excitement was now at fever heat, and repeatedly broke out into rioting. The Lords seemed as obstinately bent on defeating the measure as ever before; but the gravity of the crisis, and the knowledge that the king's consent had been given to the creation of enough new peers to overcome their majority, at last sobered them. Wellington and his followers decided to withdraw from the final deliberations and voting, and to allow
the bill to pass in their absence, rather than face an issue so hazardous to their order. The bill became law on June 7, 1832.
During this long debate Macaulay spoke many times. Of the five speeches on the Reform Bill, which he himself corrected for the press, we have chosen the first as the most comprehensive and the best suited for our purpose. In it his characteristic brilliancy of expression and of argument are abundantly exemplified. Those who are interested in looking further into the points of his style will find the matter fully treated in Minto's Manual of English Prose Literature, pp. 76-130.
PAGE 252, 20. Paymaster of the Forces Lord John Russell, mentioned in the Introductory Note above. He was afterwards Earl Russell, and a conspicuous figure in European politics as late as the close of the Crimean War. For the "courtesy-title" borne by him at this time, see note to page 6, 1. 6–14.
It is not thought necessary to burden the student with the names of all the persons referred to in this speech. Many of them are unknown to general fame. The exceptions will be noted as they occur.
Page 253, 28. those cheers the cries of “ Hear, hear,” with which the Commons punctuate, or rather annotate, the utterances of their speakers. An astonishing variety of meaning can be put into them. Macaulay understands the contemptuous irony of these cheers from the Opposition. So, too, on the next
page, l. 12.
PAGE 258, 33, 34. Benevolences and Shipmoney were exactions of money made by the earlier English kings without authorization of Parliament, and consequently illegal.
PAGE 259, 24. liverymen members of the great guilds of London, entitled to wear their livery, and to vote as burgesses.
PAGE 265, 5–7. The list brought forward in this debate contained such names as North, Burke, Pitt, Fox, Grenville, Wellington, Brougham, and Grey. Macaulay himself might have been added — member for Calne, “one of the most degraded of the