Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

violence, and attended by a total change in the fundamental laws of a commonwealth, have a natural tendency to throw a power into the hands of their leaders, which, however disguised, must in truth be unlimited and dictatorial. The restraints of law and usage necessarily cease. The factious among the partisans of the revolution, and the animosity of those whom it has degraded or despoiled, can seldom be curbed by a gentler hand than that of absolute power; and there is no situation of human affairs, in which there are stronger temptations to those arbitrary measures of which the habit alike unfits rulers and nations from performing their parts in the system of liberty.

If, on the other hand, a plan of Constitutional Reform were heartily adopted by an Administration, it might reasonably be hoped that the benefits of such an adoption would extend beyond the immediate effects of the Reform itself. It would be a pledge that the Ministers who adopted it, would carry a liberal, popular, and reforming spirit into every branch of their Administration ; that they would not only practise economy and retrenchment, and observe moderation in enforcing, as well as lenity in executing the laws, but employ the utmost zeal in all subordinate, though important improvements; that they would undertake the reform of the Criminal, and, where necessary, of the Civil Code; that they would begin the gradual abolition of restraints on Industry and Commerce; and complete the still unfinished fabric of Religious Liberty. Such a Government, which must derive its chief hopes of strength from popular support, would honestly desire to consult the opinions, and, as far as possible, to satisfy the wishes of the people. A fair trial would then be made, whether the people could be conciliated by confidence, and would support a Government that put its trust in them. On the issue of the experiment, the existence of such an Administration must depend. By its failure, the situation of the country could hardly be made worse than it now is. By its success, the King of England, reinstated in the hearts of his people, at the head of a contented and united nation, would resume his high station in the system of Europe, and, as became a Constitutional Monarch, mediate with decisive effect between the contending powers of Revolution and Despotism; instead of beholding, as at present, the strength of this great nation palsied by internal distractions; his Ministers, despised by his Royal Allies for inability to aid them; and their professions of neutrality scorned by those nations struggling for liberty, who see English Councils still directed by members of the Congress of Vienna.

majority of its friends are not reformers; and its necessity is demonstrated by arguments which are wholly unconnected with any change in the frame of Parliament. But it is also a consequence from the principles of representation which we have been endeavouring to establish. The English Catholics are a large and respectable body of men, who do not possess the elective franchise. The class is unrepresented, and possesses no political security for its common interest, which is the enjoyment of religious liberty. The Irish Catholics, indeed, possess the elective franchise; but they are inadequately represented, because they cannot chuse members who, being of the same faith with themselves, have a like interest in defending the free exercise of their religious worship. The Catholics probably form a fifth part of the inhabitants of the British islands. That so great a body should be left without representatives, or restricted from chusing those who are best qualified to guard their highest interest, is not a casual or trivial irregularity, but a great practical evil, and a gross departure from all our ancient principles of representation.

The only matter which remains for consideration, is, whether any change should be made in the Duration of Parliaments. It is here placed last, because it seems to be the Reform which ought to be last in the order of time. As long as every other part of the elective system continues, it is doubtful whether more frequent elections would not rather increase, than diminish, both the power of wealth and the influence of the Crown. It is true that, on the eve of a general election, a septennial Parliament has commonly shown more deference for the opinions of their constituents, than on other occasions. But, on the other hand, the more frequent occurrence of a ruinous expense, would deter prudent and respectable men from offering themselves; and might thus throw a greater number of seats into the hands of adyenturers, or of the Court. When the expense of elections, however, is reduced, and the basis of representation widened, we are clearly of opinion that it will be also proper to shorten the duration of Parliament.

The principle of short Parliaments was solemnly declared at the Revolution. On the 29th of January 1689, seven days after the Convention was assembled, the following Resolution was adopted by the House of Commons. Resolved, That a Committee be appointed to bring in general heads of such things as are absolutely necessary to be considered, for the better securing our Religion, Laws, and Liberties.' Of this Committee Mr Somers was one. On the 2d of February, Sir George and for pre

Treby, from the Committee thus appointed, reported the general heads on which they had agreed. The 11th article of these general heads was as follows. That the too long continuance of the same Parliament be prevented.” On the 4th of February it was ordered, That it be referred to the Committee to distinguish such general heads as are introductive of new laws, from those that are declaratory of ancient rights.' On the 7th of the same month, the Committee made their Second Report; and, after going through the declaratory part, which constitutes the Bill of Rights as it now stands, proposed the following, among other clauses, relating to the introduction of new laws. And towards the making a more firm and perfect settlement of the said Religion, Laws, and Liberties, and for remedying several defects and inconveniences; It is proposed and advised by *

Commons, that there be provision, by new laws, made in such manner, and with such limitations, as by the wisdom and justice of Parliament shall be considered and ordained in the particulars; and in particular, and to the purposes following, viz. for preventing venting the too long continuance of the same Parliament.' The articles which required new laws being thus distinguished, It was resolved on the following day, on the motion of Mr Somers, "That it be an instruction to the said Committee, to connect, to the vote of the Lords, such part of the heads passed this House yesterday as are declaratory of ancient rights; leaving out such parts as are introductory of new laws.' The declaratory articles were accordingly formed into the Declaration of Rights; and in that state were, by both Houses, presented to the Prince and Princess of Orange, and accepted by them, with the Crown of England. But the articles introductive of new laws, though necessarily omitted in a Declaration of Rights, had been adopted without a division by the House of Commons; who thus, at the very moment of the Revolution, determined, that a firm and perfect settlement of the Religion, Laws, and Liberties,' required provision by a new law, ' for preventing the too long continuance of the same Parliament.'

But though the principle of New Parliaments was thus solemnly recognised at the Revolution, the time of introducing the new law, the means by which its object was to be attained, and the precise term to be fixed for the Duration of Parliament, were reserved for subsequent deliberation. Attempts were made to give effect to the principle in 1692 and 1693, by a Triennial

* This blank is left for the Lords,' in case of the concurrence of that House. VOL. XXXIV. NO. 68.

I i

Richard Baynes's Catalogue of an extensive Collection of Ancient and Modern Books. 38.

BIOGRAPHY. Impartial Memoirs of the Public and Private Life of her Majesty Queen Caroline, from her earliest infancy. By J. Nightingale. Part I. 28. 6d.

The Life of Queen Anne Bullen, with Notes, forming No. 7. of Smeaton's Tracts. 58. 6d.

Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Religious Connexions of John Owen, D. D. Vice Chancellor of Oxford, and Dean of Christ Church, during the Commonwealth. By the Rev. Wm. Orme. 8vo. 125. boards.

Biographical Illustrations of Worcester. By John Chalmers, Esq. 8vo. 15s. boards.

Memoirs of the Life of Andrew Hofer ; containing an Account of the Transactions in the Tyrol, during the year 1809, taken from the German. By Charles Henry Hall. 8vo. 78. 6d. boards.

Memoirs of the late Rev. James Scott, one of the Ministers of Perth, containing Extracts from his Diary. By the Rev. W. A. Thomson, one of the Ministers of that City.

Trial of the Queen, Nos. 1. to 23. 8vo. Is. each.

The Life of the late George Hill, D.D. Principal of St Mary's College, St Andrews. By George Cook, D.D. with Portrait. 8vo. 10s. 6d.

CLASSICS.

Exercises for, Greek Verse ; consisting of extremely literal Translations from the Anthologia, &c. By the Rev. Edmund Squire. 78. boards.

Aristarchus Anti-Bloomfieldianus; or, a Reply to the Notice of the New Greek Thesaurus, inserted in the 44th Number of the Quarterly Review. By E. H. Barker. To which are added, the Jena Reviews of Mr Bloomfield's Edition of Callimachus and ÆschyliPersæ, translated from the German. 8vo. 45. 6d.

Translation of Homer's Iliad. By William Cowper. 6s. boards.

Carmina Homerica, Iliad and Odyssea by Knight. 4to. 11. 58. boards.

DRAMA.

Edda ; or, the Hermit of Warkworth ; a Melo-drama. By Edw. Ball. 2s.

A Dramatic Synopsis; containing an Essay on the Political and Moral Use of Theatres. 5s.

The Persian Heroine ; or, Downfall of
Tyranny. By Bonnell Thornton, Esq. 2s.
Exchange no Robbery. 3s. 6d.

Prometheus Unbound; a lyrical drama, in four acts, with other Poems. By Percy Bysshe Shelley. 8vo. 9s.

EDUCATION. The New System of Musical Education, as announced and ex.

statute called the Septennial Act, * of which the preamble asserts, that the last provision of the Triennial Act if it should continue, may probably at this juncture, when a restless and Popish faction are designing and endeavouring to renew the rebellion within this kingdom, and an invasion from abroad, be destructive to the peace and security of the government.' This allegation is now ascertained to have been perfectly true. There is the most complete historical evidence that all the Tories of the kingdom were then engaged in a conspiracy to effect a counter revolution; to wrest from the people all the securities which they had obtained for liberty; to brand them as rebels, and to stigmatise their rulers as usurpers; and to reestablish the principles of slavery; by the restoration of a family, whose claim to power was founded on their pretended authority. It is beyond all doubt, that a general election at that period would have endangered all these objects. In these circumstances the Septennial Act was passed, because it was necessary to secure Liberty. But it was undoubtedly one of the highest exertions of the legislative authority. It was a deviation from the course of the Constitution too extensive in its effects, and too dangerous in its example, to be warranted by motives of political expediency. It could be justified only by the necessity of preserving liberty. The Revolution itself, was a breach of the laws; and it was as. great a deviation from the principles of the Monarchy, as the Septennial Act could be from the Constitution of the House of Commons :--and the latter can only be justified by the same ground of necessity, with that glorious Revolution of which it probably contributed to preserve-(would to God we could say to perpetuate) the inestimable blessings.

It has been said by some, that as the danger was temporary, the law ought to have been passed only for a time, and that it should have been delayed till the approach of a general election should ascertain, whether a change in the temper of the people had not rendered it unnecessary. But it was necessary, at the instant, to confound the hopes of conspirators, who were then supported and animated by the prospect of a general election; and if any period had been fixed for its duration, it might have weakened its effect, as a declaration of the determined resolution of Parliament to stand or fall with the Revolution.

It is now certain, that the conspiracy of the Tories against the House of Hanover, continued till the last years of the reign of George II. The Whigs, who had preserved the fruits of the Revolution, and upheld the tottering Throne of the Hanoverian Family during half a century, were, in this state of things, un

1 Geo. I. st. 2. C. 38.

« AnteriorContinuar »