Art. IX.-1. What will be done with the Lords ? 8vo. pp. 32. London:

Ridgway. 1831. 2. The People's Manual; or Notices respecting the Majority of 199

Peers, who at Six o'Clock on the Morning of the 8th of October, 1831,

rejected the Reform Bill. 8vo. pp. 32. London : Ridgway. 1831. 3. List of all the Members composing the House of Peers, on Saturday

Morning, October 8, 1831; shewing the Manner in which they voted on the Reform Bill, as well as those who were absent from the Division ; together with other Lists illustrative of that Proceeding, and involving the future State of the Measure. 8vo. pp. 28. London:

Ridgway. 1831. The short period of the prorogation has now very nearly elapsed, and Parliament will meet again in a few days for the dispatch of business. Short as that interval has been, enough has appeared during its progress, to convince the anti-reform peers, that their obstinacy and folly in rejecting the Bill, have gained for them absolutely nothing in the way of additional strength, and have at the same time put to hazard, not only the peace, but the existing constitution of the country. Meetings have been held in every part of the kingdom, which must have completely dispelled the visionary idea, recently so fondly cherished by the Tories, that there was a re-action going on amongst the people, which would eventually render them altogether indifferent to that important

But this is not all. Sentiments were very generally expressed at those assemblies, which some few years ago would have been considered as equivalent almost to high treason ;-—the union of the church and state has been very freely canvassed, and many sensible persons seem to have formed an opinion, that such a union was no longer necessary either to the church or state, but was positively injurious to both ; and this opinion has been received, wherever it was promulgated, with unanimous approbation. We venture to say, that if the bishops had abstained, as they ought to have done, from voting on the Bill, this question would not have been raised so soon, or, if so raised, it would not have met with the prompt and enthusiastic applause with which it has been universally cheered. The expanding demands of the peoplewhich always will become larger in proportion as their fair solicitations are unjustly and tenaciously resisted—do not stop here. Not contented with the separation of the church from the state, many persons have begun to question the propriety of the prelates of a Christian congregation, being invested with the character of legislators and judges in a civil capacity, under the impression that those ministers ought to be confined to the performance of their spiritual duties exclusively, and that those duties, if properly attended to, are abundantly sufficient to occupy all their time. There are those who say, that the indifference to real


religion, and the hypocritical affectation of morality, which prevail so generally in this country, are plainly to be traced to the apathy and inactivity of the clergy; and, that for these defects in the clerical body, the church is indebted to the absence from their dioceses during a great portion of the year, of the prelates, who actually derive their title of bishops from the duty of constant superintendence, which they were consecrated and appointed to exercise with respect to the ministers placed under their controul. They are called Episcopi, from two Greek words which signify to look over,” to inspect, to act as overseers; and rational men are at a loss to know, how the bishops of the English church can duly perform that essential part of their office, inasmuch as their time is principally occupied in Parliament, when in town, and in political intrigue when in the country. The wish, therefore, begins to be very generally entertained, that the prelates should be removed altogether out of the House of Lords, and the more speedily the better, since if that were done, it would be hardly necessary to create a new batch of peers, in order to carry the Reform Bill.

Other questions are also in progress of maturation, which would not possibly have been thought of for some years to come, if the Bill had not been so violently rejected. For instance, it has been very confidently stated, thato" the peers could not do without the people, but that the people could do very well without the peers. In other words, our merchant ships would be passing and repassing over every sea, our lands would continue to be cultivated, our steam engines to emit their clouds of vapour, our spinning jennies and power looms to heap up new articles for the home and foreign markets, our foundries to resouud with labour; if, by some untoward accident, the House of Lords ceased to exist on the 8th of October last, or any other day whatever. Lord Kenyon might think it very strange perhaps, but we verily believe, that if he, and all his order should lose their legislative character to-morrow, the sun would rise and set, rain would fall, the snow and ice would still continue to come at their appointed season, marriages would take place, children would be born and would die, and men

about their ordinary business, just as surely as if only a sparrow had fallen, or nothing at all had happened. This again is a notion that would not, as yet at least, have risen to the surface of the stream of political agitation, if the Bill had not been rejected, without being admitted even to a second reading.

The consequences of that ill-omened vote spread still farther. On the 8th of October there were not, we believe, in this country, more than two extensive political associations, organized for the purpose of obtaining for the people, something more than the influence of the elective franchise in public affairs. We believe that there is hardly a county town, or a town of any consideration throughout this kingdom, which has not, at this moment, its political union, either

would go

definitively regulated, or in process of formation. It gives us pleasure to observe, that the observations which we made in our last number, upon the state of the law with respect to associations of this description, have turned the attention of the public to this important point ; and have induced the “National Union” in London, to withdraw the plan which at their first meeting they had promulgated, for the creation of branch unions throughout the country, in connection with the London assembly. Such branch associations would be clearly illegal, and we are glad that the idea has been abandoned. In the first place, it would not be prudent, nor indeed grateful towards the present government, to do any act which would commit them in hostility with the people, for it is the inevitable duty of the officers of the crown, to take care that the laws be obeyed. In the second place, these unions ought to be planted upon a basis, which would afford them solid strength and security, in case that (which heaven forbid !) the present cabinet should, by force of circumstances, be changed, and be succeeded by one that might be disposed to enforce the existing laws in the most rigid manner, or even procure new restrictions to be enacted, against the liberties of the country. If political unions be useful institutions under the government of Lord Grey, they would be absolutely essential under the administration of the Duke of Wellington, and they ought therefore to be prepared to stand firmly in the front either of friend or foe.

The Birmingham Union was also betrayed, by the inadvertence of some of its officers, into the proposition of a plan of organization, which was clearly an infraction of the written law, as well as of the unwritten, though well understood practice of the constitution. They suggested the division of the town into districts, within which the members of the union should form themselves into separate bodies, elect their own officers, and establish a gradation of rank, ascending from the mass of the union to the council, which was to control the whole. The object of this plan was, undoubtedly, to establish a force for the preservation of the public peace, in order to suppress with facility, riots, such as those which have disgraced the city of Bristol. The object was, in itself, blameless, but the mode adopted in order to attain it, was a direct infringement on the prerogative of the crown. For as the king is the first magistrate of the state, and the principal conservator of the public peace, to him alone belongs the authority for preserving it, and all authority not derived from him, for that purpose, is apocryphal, and need not be obeyed. In addition to this, the 39th of Geo. III. c. 79, as we fully explained in our last number, expressly denounces as illegal, every society which is composed of different branches, acting distinctly from each other, or of which any part shall have any separate president, secretary, delegate, or any other officer elected for it. It is manifest, that the Birmingham plan, for placing divisional companies of ten members, under the orders of a “titbing man,” elected by themselves, for placing the “ tithing men" under

men,” the or

the orders of a “constable of a hundred,” elected by the " tithing

constables of a hundred,” under the orders of a "marshal-man,” and the “ marshal-men" under the orders of the council, which was to depute seven of its body, to be aldermen of their respective districts, if carried into effect, would have been a violation of the statute which we have just mentioned.

We are happy, therefore, to observe, that in consequence of the matter having been properly explained to the Birmingham council, they have given up the scheme which they had matured, and have wisely resolved to found all their proceedings upon the law of the land. It must be gratifying to the king's government to know, that this scheme had been given up, before it was possible that the recent proclamation against political associations, constituted as that association was intended to be, could have reached Birmingham. It is but justice to add, that this document, besides being nothing more than an exposition of the law and of the constitution, so far as relates to the Birmingham plan, is dictated evidently in the most paternal and friendly spirit towards the people at large, and that it indirectly recognizes and encourages the formation of societies, regulated in the manner which we have already laid down.

The North-western Metropolitan Union, which comprises the three parishes of St. Mary-le-Bone, St. Pancras, and Paddington, have adopted, with some few variations, the regulations which we suggested in our last number. We had provided, by those rules, against even the chance of a breach of the law, by the associations which might adopt them for their government. The union in question, therefore, and every other submitting to similar principles of control, have nothing to retract in their organization, and will have nothing to fear, so long as they adhere to those regulations. It is extremely satisfactory to us to find that, thus far, we have been instrumental in assisting the public cause.

And now that there is scarcely any place of importance in the kingdom without its political association, we may be asked whether it is our opinion that such bodies ought to be organized merely for temporary purposes, or whether they ought to assume a permanent form ? To this question we can have no hesitation in giving a decisive answer. It is our humble opinion, that as these unions have sprung out of the exigencies which have been produced by the rejection of the Reform Bill, they ought, in the first place, to direct all their energies towards the successful accomplishment of that important measure: until that Bill shall become law, the unions ought not to cease from the most active agitation. But we must confess, that, even if the Bill were converted into law before Christmas, we should not be prepared to counsel the dissolution of the unions at that period, as a matter of course. It appears to us, that the prolonged existence of such institutions can do no harm, provided they be properly regulated, and be used as schools for the political instruction of the great mass of the people. We would not have them constantly debating the politics

of the day, publishing their speeches in the newspapers, and presenting petitions to Parliament and addresses to the King. Such proceedings as these would be unnecessary, and injurious to the machinery of the state, unless some other great questions should arise, in the discussion of which it might become the duty of the people to take a decided part. Until some such necessity for fresh agitation should take place, we would wish the unions (after the passing of the Bill, be it observed) to be used as political schools, in which persons competent to the task might, by verbal or written discourses, diffuse sound political information among the members. At present the lower classes—ay, and the middle classes too—are left to gather their knowledge of events, and to frame their principles of action, from a variety of newspapers and small periodical publications, which are often conducted by ignorant, sometimes by mischievous and evil-designing men. There will be no corrective for these sources of error, until men of intelligence, education, and sober good sense, mingle among the uneducated classes, and teach them how they are to proceed in the exercise of their constitutional privileges. Thus guided, the people will become, as they ought to be, an enlightened and formidable body; and if ever questions of importance should arise for discussion and arrangement, such as the continuance of the House of Peers; of the union between church and state; the resumption by the state of church property; the payment of the national debt by some fair compromise; the abolition of the standing army; and an immense reduction of taxation; the people will have thus been prepared to consider such questions with the requisite degree of knowledge and calmness, and to lead them into a train of peaceable and effectual settlement, without being exposed to the hazard of those violent revolutions, which are attended with plunder and the profusion of blood.

From what we ourselves happen to know of the ignorance that prevails amongst the middle and lower classes upon the common question, of the respect that is due to the law of property, to mention no other subject, we should say, that the formation and continuance of local unions, upon the plan which we have mentioned, will be indispensable to the gradual and tranquil amelioration of our whole system of government. With them we may look forward with confidence to a bright and happy future: without them, we can see nothing before us but clouds and ill-omened darkness, big with the most perilous tempests. This is our sincere conviction,

It is said that several of the peers have been negociating with Earl Grey, not, indeed, for any essential alteration in the Bill, for to that they well know he will never agree, but for some loop-hole through which they might escape, in order at once to allow the Bill to pass, and to save an appearance of consistency. We know not how this may be, though we are inclined, to a certain extent,

« ElőzőTovább »