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tives which make men bow down to station and opulence have less allurement, but because, we repeat, the numbers to be gratified are augmented beyond the inclination of the rich to expend, or their capacity to purchase. General means, however, are still resorted to. Corporations, where they are entrusted with the distribution of public property, either in the shape of patronage or poor-rates, are engines of considerable potency for individual interests or party purposes.
From this rapid but concentrated view of the religion, morals, manners, and opinions of the various classes of English society, it will be gathered that we consider the power of the democracy to be incalculably increased. Touching the once primary motive of human action, religion, it is to be feared not only that its influence is, upon the whole, reduced, but also that, where it still retains its place and supremacy, the mode of its operation is entirely altered. The spread of dissent declares, by the incontrovertible demonstration of the fact itself, that there is something essentially and inherently defective in the ministration of the Church. It is but reasonably to be suspected that an erroneous education of the Clergy, the qualifications which are the passports to holy orders, the consequent and disproportioned distribution of the rewards of ecclesiastical service, the non-residence, the want of a due provision for the religious and moral instruction of the people, the collection of tithes, and above all the haughty and unpopular demeanour of the clergy, have assisted far more than differences concerning doctrine, to alienate those who have separated. The freedom with which not alone religious topics, but the abuses of the establishment are discussed, the pertinacity of the hierarchy and the body in maintaining claims at total variance with the character of the have heated their enemies and cooled their friends; and upon that vast proportion of the people, now amounting, it is avowed, to a majority of those who really and seriously take a part in the controversy, the political effect of both doctrine and discipline is to incline them to republican forms, because these appear to be the most likely to rid them of ecclesiastical burdens and a Statereligion. It has happened in this particular as in Parliamentary Reform, that the blind and obstinate refusal of partial redresses has brought the whole question to issue. The dissenters are not perhaps yet sufficiently strong to insist potentially upon the disjunction of the Church from the State, or the equal support of every Church, so to speak, by the State; but Mr. Burke's maxim of comprehensive and concentrated wisdom is fast coming to be the prevailing sentiment, namely, that “ The cause of the Church of England is included in that of religion, not that of religion in the Church of England." The furious display of zealotry at Oxford will at once confirm the antipathies of sectaries of all denominations, while it will terrify the timid and disgust the moderate (by far the two greater sections) of the supporters of the Church. Such appearances all unite to favour and promote the power of the democracy.
When we examine the moral state of the country, there are, alas, but too many symptoms of its absolute decay. The purity of village life, we have already said, and we repeat it emphatically, has departed with its simplicity. The calendars of county crime might be brought for proof, strong as holy writ, but there is the larger and all-embracing demonstration of pauperism, the relaxed ties of rural life producing a total want of respect for superiors, and the thousand incidental circumstances of depravation that daily show themselves, yet do not rise to the general observation in the shape of legal accusation. The wholesome influences that made rural society a sort of patriarchal government, and which none other can replace, are lost in the changes of manners, and thus an individualization is engendered which will be re-combined only for personal redress. The depression of agriculture will but increase the exasperation. The disorder indeed has been suffered to grow till there is scarcely a hope, while the proposal of the Commissioners, founded upon very extensive inquiries, and embodied in the Poor Laws Amendment Bill, is open to the palpable objection, that it suggests no lenient palliative, no substitute for the actual want of employment but the workhouse, no incentive to industry and virtue but penal privation*. The fiscal benefits are more than doubtful, its exasperation certain, while the arbitrary nature of its intended scheme of Government is alike diametrically at opposition with the Constitution of England,“ the spirit of the age," and the principles of the Administration. These facts counteract the hope of gradually restoring the health of this portion of the commonwealth by safe but speedy reformation, and seem more likely to fill the country with a despair most tempting to violent courses. They diminish the authority of the superior and the few—they stimulate the dissatisfaction and reinforce the discontent of the
many. There is even in the slow and imperfect progress of the science of political economy much to republicanize. It is yet in its very infancy. The practice of agriculture and commerce has taught, by the vast accumulations of capital showing themselves in every shape around us, that skill and industry can produce all that man requires or can covet in an indefinitely increasing superabundance compared with population, space being given. So far from the Malthusian doctrine being practically true, it ought never to begin to be felt till the whole earth is densely covered with the dwellings of man; for the numerical proportions of the productive and non-productive classes, no less than all the symbols of wealth created, and we may almost say perpetuated, by labour over the entire surface of the yet peopled globe, declare that a few can provide, amply provides, for the wants,conveniences, and most extravagant luxuries of the many. There are, indeed, no bounds but the limits of space to productive power. Nor can even that limitation be ascertained till the limit of science is also fixed. But possessing this power, so ill is the distribution of goods yet understood, that even in this land of enormous capital, prodigious science, and untiring industry, millions live and die in unprovided wretchedness. The knowledge which discloses the one fact can but augment the discontent at the other; and the distressed will imagine that the evil must lie in the forms of the institutions and the government. The self-same knowledge, from its very imperfection, renders the possessor a restless seeker of relief from change, and here it is that the individualization operates against any and all settled order. He who cannot fathom the cause can feel the pressure. He attributes to rulers a control over mundane affairs they have never yet been permitted to exercise ; his dissatisfaction prompts him to action, but relaxed as are now all those bonds which used to combine men into parties upon understood principles, the unhappy casuist, made more acute by the incomplete information he has attained, and more envious, by the same agency, of the advantages others appear to possess, becomes the ready dupe of his own impulses, and adopts the theory of the day, which best suits his fortune or hits his fancy. This mighty error was encouraged and even nurtured into its present growth, when Government assented to the formation of societies, even for beneficial purposes (years and years before the scheme of Unions was promulgated), superseding in any degree its proper office. The consequence has been that it can no longer combinate masses for its own objects, nor dares it put down those imperia in imperio which are united, not nominally indeed, but practically, to the destruction of all Government; but rather proposes, wisely as it appears, to trust their dissolution to their natural want of cohesion. All these agents are more palpably and distinctly visible amidst the dense and demoralized population of the metropolis and of the manufacturing districts, wherein the recklessness of luxury and the almost boundless expense exacerbate the disease.
* Earl Grey, in his address to the House of Peers, when he signified his resignation, according to the reports in the papers, represented this measure as “ forced upon Ministers by the Commissioners.”
If our delineation be at all true, it cannot be denied that the power of the democracy has fearfully enlarged itself, -enlarged itself greatly beyond its just relation to the other branches of the constitution. Has reform done this? Yes : but not the Reform Bill. The Reform Bill has rather acted like the safety valve, by removing a pressure which could not longer be borne. To the proof:-A Conservative Administration, headed by the Duke of Wellington, the conqueror of a permanent peace after a war of a quarter of a century (for that of 1802 was a mere truce), an Irishman, too, in the full plenitude of his power, could not, dared not, in spite of his acknowledged conviction of its mischievous tendency, could not, dared not, refuse to his countrymen, backed by an indefinite proportion of the British nation, the measure of Catholic Emancipation. It was forced upon his ministry, who forced it upon their sovereign by the growing (in this respect the full-grown) intelligence of the times. Thať same leader could not withstand the same power of intelligence which drove him from office, and carried the reform he so fruitlessly refused to the very same voice to which he conceded emancipation. Such is the development, such the manifestation of the power of the democracy. The demonstration that it is irresistible is complete. And what is this power? Opinion. And what is opinion? Justice working by knowledge.
And if opinion be sooner formed, sooner and more universally expressed now than heretofore, it is owing to the instrumentality of the periodical press which, with inconceivable rapidity and impulse, assists in moulding, while it reflects, popular sentiment. And the periodical press, as a whole, is eminently liberal. The ablest London and provincial journals, having engaged in their service a very efficient portion of integrity and talent, are conducted by Whigs or ultra-Whigs. The circulation of the Conservative papers is small in the comparison; a sufficient indication not only of the present state of opinion, but of its probable future bearing. For we repeat, the operation of the journals, daily, weekly, and monthly, political and literary, is to reflect even more than to lead the public mind, and to diffuse the general judgment with
Aug.-Vol. XLI. NO. CLXIV.
astonishing rapidity. Nor is the entire literature of the country free from the same bias. The men of letters, cautioned and instructed by the progress of the French Revolution of 1789, are still moved by the spirit of improvement,—by the belief always cherished by study, that knowledge is the only true source of power,--that power ought to be their meed, and may most safely be entrusted to those who possess it. It is this power alone which overthrew Toryism, after its uninterrupted reign of nearly a century, while it still united the undivided patronage of the state, and the majority in both houses of Parliament by the boroughs. No other power could have accomplished such a reversal. And this power still wars on the side of the democracy.
What, then, it will be demanded, is to stem the current which sets so strongly towards change, and, it should seem, towards change which menaces the public credit, no less than the Constitution in its unity of Church and State, and in the equipoise of its triple combination of Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Democracy, by the preponderance of the latter?
Amongst the best instructed and most virtuous portions of the people, there is not only a prejudice, but a rational conviction—not only a rational conviction, but a feeling amounting almost to intuition, communicated from our very birth upwards, and confirmed by all the experiences of after life, that, well administered, the British Constitution is theoretically the most perfect-practically the most free-of any scheme of government; and that, upon the whole, it has 'conferred the greatest happiness for the longest period upon those who live under it. However divided with regard to the derangement of its forces—however much the Tory deplores the loss of power to the crown and the aristocracy, entailed by the extinction of the close boroughs--however much the Whig denounces the prejudices of the aristocracy which clog the speed of further reforms, they will both declare for the constitution with original and unabated fondness. They both desire to preserve that character of liberty and protection in its purity; they differ only concerning the preponderance of one or other branch, and the fittest means of restoring the balance. A regard for property, and a sense of the important necessity of guarding its rights, if merely with a view to individual safety, pervades every class of Englishmen, excepting only those whom the old statesman we have before cited quaintly denominates “the rascabilitie of the popular.” These two principles have hitherto kept, and will continue to keep, us from revolution, while they are allowed to act with their own natural vigour, neither depressed by the fears, nor maddened by the fury of civil contention in its wildest form, and will be the safeguard of the commonwealth of England. For though the numbers of the reformers are almost countless, taken in all their shades and gradations, republicans and revolutionists, alter et idem, are comparatively extremely few. The great reformer, whose prediction we have taken for a motto to this paper, penetrated with the glance of a prophet into the hopes and extravagancies that would be engendered by the Reform Bill in its first workings. Savings to the amount of three or four millions have been made," yet new and more violent changes " are demanded.” But in the same spirit of wisdom he has made appeal to the judgment of his countrymen, and in a coinciding temper of pru
dence will they respond. Nothing but a haughty resistance on the part of the aristocracy against improvements required by justice will precipitate the sober, reflecting, the honest and industrious people of England into a violent and forcible contention even for their own rights. The Crown and the aristocracy have had too many warnings to adopt a course so dangerous. No honourable, no honest politician, denies the provocation, the extreme provocation, which idleness and want have given the humbler classes; and all such are earnestly and eagerly solicitous to remove the excitement by enlarging the scope of agricultural employment, (the true intent and meaning of the small allotment scheme, adding gardens to cottages, plans of emigration, &c. &c.,) and by removing every legislative restriction upon commerce. These are but measures of redress, and measures which, instead of bringing the aristocracy and democracy into conflict, would draw them into union. For, although the latter has incalculably augmented its power, it has, in fact, only attained its real place in the constitution. It can now defend its own rights, in the manner and to the degree contemplated by that constitution. There has been no abatement of the just and natural influences of the aristocracy. But aristocracy cannot now trample upon the people, except by the means of their own corruption. And this is the Constitution of England.
The path is, therefore, plain; and we may conclude our Essay in the words of the temperate and judicious reformer, whose clear sight has anticipated the possible evils of an abuse of the power always recognised by the constitution, but now, for the first time, really and truly surrendered to the people. For in his words may be traced the way to the utmost point of political improvement and national prosperity, without the slightest compromise of the majesty of the Crown, the dignity of the Peerage, or of the safety of the Commonwealth. It is thus, then, that Lord John Russell closes his book :
“ In plain words, they must consent to reform what is barbarous, what is servile, what is corrupt in our institutions. They must make our government harmonise one part with another, and adapt itself to the state of knowledge in the nation. I would fain hope that it will be so: I trust that the people of this great community, supported by their gentry, will afford a spectacle worthy of the admiration of the world. I hope that the gentry will act honestly by their country, and that the country will not part with the blessings which it obtained by all the miseries which a nation can encounter, by suffering persecutions, by confronting tyranny, by encountering civil war, by submitting to martyrdom, by contending in open war against powers that were the terror of the rest of Europe. I would fain believe that all ranks and classes of this country have still impressed upon their minds the sentiment of her immortal Milton:—Let not England forget her precedence of teaching nations how to live.'