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Oct 1832 – Mar. 7833
WILLIAM TAIT, EDINBURGH ;
OCTOBER, 1832... .
THE MINISTRY AND THE PEOPLE.
It is high time that the present Ministers should be distinctly informed of the relation in which they stand, as well to their old oppo. nents, as to the people at large. Their situation is a peculiar one in the annals of this country; and from many circumstances which have lately occurred, it is plain that they by no means understand its difficulties, or seem prepared to pursue that line of conduct which, on this trying occasion, can alone save them from defeat and disgrace. It is in no spirit of hostility that we now speak of them. Our part (and we are of the people is not difficult of comprehension. Whatever may be the fate of the present Administration, that will remain unchanged. The objects we have to attain, will be more easy of attainment, should this administration still continue; therefore, though under every ceragency our purposes and conduct will remain unchanged, we are desirous of maintaining the present state of the Government. Let not, therefore, that party which has taken to itself the comfortable appellation of moderate, believe us to be their enemies. Desiring their continuance in office, we are about to give them wholesome warning.
The present Ministry, then, should understand, that the conquest of the Reform Bill was no party achievement. It was not a victory of the Whigs over the Tories; of one portion of the aristocracy over another. Its purpose was not to benefit any mere section of the nation. The victory was one of the friends of good Government over those of bad Government ; of the people over the aristocracy; and its purpose was the well-being of the whole. The ministers, whatever may be their own opinion of the matter, were not the chief actors of the drama; they were merely the ministerial instruments of that great whole; the nation. They might, and did in some cases, give expression to the popular will; but they acted in the subordinate capacity of servants to that will. Some there are, who have dared to lay this fact to their charge, and as matter of reproach. They who have shamelessly deemed that Government was not a trust, but a heritage ; who have considered the people as an estate, to be worked for their own peculiar benefit; these people acted
consistently, when they sneered at the Ministers for obeying the voice of the nation. Such virtuous obedience they naturally considered folly, having always preferred the part of dishonest and idle masters to that of industrious and honest servants. But the ministers, by seeming to feel this accusation as a reproach, will assuredly give a handle to their enemies ; who, without hesitation, will assert that they are either imbe. cile or knavish. This repudiation of their true office, it will be said by their enemies, proves either that they know not their true position, and then are they imbecile; or that knowing it, they endeavour to escape from its obligations, and to deceive the people, and then it will be said they are knavish. To avoid these charges, they must steadily accept the taunts of their opponents; they must acknowledge that they are acting as the servants of the people. They must intrench them in this position, and then will they be inexpugnable.
If the present Ministry be considered in the light of a section of the aristocracy, seeking aristocratic purposes, and acting by aristocracy rules, then must every one, of common sagacity, perceive that their power is a mere shadow, and as compared with that of their opponents, thoroughly contemptible. The Tories (it is utter childishness to deny the fact,) are in truth the aristocracy. They correctly represent the feelings of the class, as a class ; they are backed by them; they are distinctly their acknowledged agents; and on this account alone, they would be formidable. But they are powerful on other grounds. They are not numerically strong ; but they are enormously rich. They thus are not disturbed by a multiplicity of councils; and what they resolve to attempt, lags not for want of money support. Moreover, the Tories, from long experience, are admirable men of business in their vocation ; or, speaking more correctly, they have hired and framed for themselves men admirably fitted for the offices which they impose on them. We inust not judge of the party by some of its noisy, empty mouth-pieces. Sir Charles Wetherell, for example, is merely the buffoon of the party, and is no more a correct specimen of them than would a court fool be of a court. It must be acknowledged, that in permitting his extravarencias, the Tories did not wisely. The people generally felt that such antics as he exhibited were not in accordance with the place in which they were enacted. The permission by the party of such absurdities, appeared a wanton insult; “ and sober citizens sighed to see such subjects turned to farce.” In the employment of this man, as well as that of that other jack-pudding, Dr. Croker, they seem to have erred like Napoleon at Waterloo, through confusion of ideas, brought on by the mighty crisis of their fate. Their admirable dexterity deserted them in these instances : but generally speaking, they are, that is, they who direct the machinery of the party, shrewd men of business, wily politicians ; cool, subtle, and unprincipled ; shrinking from nothing, because it may be base or dishonourable ; (nothing being so considered among them, which is necessary for their safety and well-being ;) dexterous in the management of fallacies, and thoroughly trained to ready unblushing assertion. In the conducting of official business, they are ready, clear-headed, and regular. Thus are they well fitted for party warfare. The Ministers, on the other hand, if we view them as a mere party, are in all these cases, immeasurably inferior. Not one of the whole party has been accustomed steadily to business. They have been trained merely to opposition ; to desultory attack, not to systematic conduct of any sort. They possess not the art of dexterous imposition : whatever
their will may be, they fail wretchedly in putting a decent covering over knavery. As a party, too, they are feeble in influence. The aristocracy feel that the steady pursuit of aristocratic objects by Tory ministration is what they, the aristocracy, ought really to desire ; and they believe the fencing of the Whigs, their bastard liberality, their wordy appeals to popular influence, to be a very dangerous mode of proceeding. It in no measure meets with their approbation. They never have given, they never will give, their hearty support to those who adopt it. It has been the fashion to speak highly of the talents of some of the more distinguished of the Whigs; and to believe that the showy qualities of these leaders would overbalance the less imposing, but far more serviceable fitness of their opponents. The event has not answered this expectation. In every matter of mere detail, they have been signally defeated. As a striking instance, the timber question may be cited ; one in which they were right in principle ; one in which every argument was in their favour: and yet so badly was every part of the business managed, that they experienced a marked defeat. In truth, on every matter, with the single exception of the Reform Bill, they have been in exquisite terror lest they should be left in a minority. They possess not skill in the train. ing of ministerial majorities ; so that where the majority is not made by the voice of the imperious multitude out of doors, defeat stares them in the face. The showy oratory, and power of vituperation, possessed by some of them, have been much overrated. A little talent and a good deal of courage, always sets at nought a mere talker ; so that nothing has resulted from this boasted superiority, except some exceedingly unworthy vapouring, in which common sense and common decency have been forgotten. The Whigs then, as a party depending on themselves, that is, on a portion of the aristocracy for support, cannot, for a moment, hope to hold the situations which they now fill. How, then, it may be asked, have they contrived to retain their position during the last two years? The answer to this question will explain the true situa tion of the present Government, and point to the only means by which they can hope to continue in existence.
The present ministers have been maintained in office, solely to carry the Reform Bill. They have been supported by the people against the aristocracy; and have been thus supported because in this one case they have really forwarded the interests of the people. This great measure has been to the existing ministry, their safeguard ; it has shielded them from the consequences of all their various manifold blunders; it has shored up and maintained the tottering fabric of their power, and rendered utterly ineffective the attacks of their opponents.
The feeling and conduct of the people on this measure deserve attentive consideration. They mark well the position of opposing parties, and must give every lover of his country confidence in our future safety and success. They plainly prove the people clear-sighted and prudent. A knowledge of their wants, a thorough understanding of who are their enemies, and of the mode in which those enemies are to be combated, is possessed by the people. This clear-sightedness and prudence have hitherto saved the present ministers. But the Reform Bill is now passed ; and the same virtues on the part of the people, unless the ministers again distinctly come forward as their advocates and servants, will quickly place them in a position by no means agreeable to persons fond of the power and emoluments of office.
The Ministry ought to know that the time for party warfare has gone