« ElőzőTovább »
IGNORANCE OF THE COUNTRY.
chose another family more congenial to our free principles ?— And yet to those two events, contrary to experience, and unguided by precedents, we owe all our domestic happiness, and civil and religious freedom-and having got rid of corrupt priests and despotic kings, by our sense and our courage, are we now to be intimidated by the awful danger of extinguishing boroughmongers, and shaking from our necks the ignominious yoke which their baseness has imposed upon it? Go on, they say, as you have done for these hundred years last past. I answer, it is impossible-five hundred people now write and read where one hundred wrote and read fifty years ago. The iniquities and enormities of the borough system are now known to the meanest of the people. You have a different sort of men to deal with-you must change, because the beings whom you govern are changed. After all, and to be short, I must say, that it has always appeared to me to be the most absolute nonsense, that we cannot be a great, or a rich and happy nation, without suffering ourselves to be bought and sold every five years, like a pack of negro-slaves. I hope I am not a very rash man, but I would launch boldly into this experiment without any fear of consequences, and I believe there is not a man here present who would not cheerfully embark with me. As to the enemies of the bill, who pretend to be reformers, I know them, I believe, better than you do, and I earnestly caution you against them. You will have no more of reform than they are compelled to grantyou will have no reform at all, if they can avoid it-you will be hurried into a war to turn your attention from reform. They do not understand you- they will not believe in the improvement you have made-they think the English of the present day are as the English of the times of Queen Anne or George the First. They know no more of the present state of their own country, than of the state of the Esquimaux Indians. Gentlemen, I view the ignorance of the present state of the country with the most serious concern, and I believe they will one day or another waken into conviction with horror and dismay. I will ɔmit no means of rousing them to a sense of their danger; for this object I cheerfully sign the petition proposed by Dr. Kinglake, which I consider to be the wisest and most moderate of the two.
THE BOROUGH SYSTEM.
SPEECH ON THE REFORM BILL.
STICK to the Bill-it is your Magna Charta, and your Runnymede. King John made a present to the barons. King William has made a similar present to you. Never mind, common qualities good in common times. If a man does not vote for the Bill, he is unclean the plague-spot is upon him-push him into the Lazaretto of the last century, with Wetherell and Sadler-purify the air before you approach him-bathe your hands in chloride of lime, if you have been contaminated by his touch.
So far from its being a merely theoretical improvement, I put it to any man, who is himself embarked in a profession, or has sons in the same situation, if the unfair influence of boroughmongers has not perpetually thwarted him in his lawful career of ambition, and professional emolument? "I have been in three general engagements at sea," said an old sailor, "have been twice wounded: I commanded the boats when the French frigate, the ASTROLAbe, was cut out so gallantly." "Then you are made a post-captain ?” "No; I was very near it, but-Lieutenant Thomson cut me out, as I cut out the French frigate; his father is townclerk of the borough, for which Lord F- is member, and there my chance was finished." In the same manner, all over England, you will find great scholars rotting on curacies-brave captains starving in garretsprofound lawyers decayed and mouldering in the Inns of Court, because the parsons, warriors, and advocates, of boroughmongers, must be crammed to saturation, before there is a morsel of bread for the man who does not sell his votes, and put his country up at auction; and though this is of every-day occurrence, the borough system, we are told, is no practical evil.
Who can bear to walk through a slaughterhouse? blood, garbage, stomachs, entrails, legs, tails, kidneys, horrors-I often walk a mile about to avoid it. What a scene of disgust and horror is an election -the base and infamous traffic of principles
-a candithe perjury and evasion of agents—the detestable rapacity of voters-the ten days' dominion, of mammon, and Belial. The Bill lessens it— begins the destruction of such practices-affords some chance, and some means of turning public opinion against bribery, and of ren dering it infamous.
date of high character reduced to such means
VELLUM AND PLUMPKIN.
But the thing I cannot, and will not bear, is this; what right has this lord or that marquis to buy ten seats in Parliament, in the shape of boroughs, and then to make laws to govern me? And how are these masses of power re-distributed? The eldest son of my lord is just come from Eton-he knows a good deal about Æneas, and Dido, Apollo, and Daphne-and that is all and to this boy, his father gives a six-hundredth part of the power of making laws, as he would give him a horse, or a double-barrelled gun. Then Vellum, the steward, is put in—an admirable man; he has raised the estates, watched the progress of the family road, and canal bills-and Vellum shall help to rule over the people of Israel. A neighbouring country gentleman, Mr. Plumpkin, hunts with my lord-opens him a gate or two, while the hounds are running-dines with my lord—agrees with my lord- wishes he could rival the Southdown sheep of my lord—and upon Plumpkin is conferred a portion of the government. Then there is a distant relation of the same name, in the county militia, with white teeth, who calls up the carriage at the opera, and is always wishing O'Connell was hanged, drawn, and quartered; then a barrister, who has written an article in the Quarterly, and is very likely to speak and refute M'Culloch; and these five people, in whose nomination I have no more agency than I have in the nomination of the tollkeepers of the Bosphorus, are to make laws for me and my family -to put their hands in my purse, and to sway the future destinies of this country; and when the neighbors step in, and beg permission to say a few words before these persons are chosen, there is a universal cry of ruin, confusion, and destruction; we have become a great people under Vellum and Plumpkin-under Vellum and Plumpkin our ships have covered the ocean-under Vellum and Plumpkin our armies have secured the strength of the hills-to turn out Vellum and Plumpkin is not reform, but revolution.
Was there ever such a ministry? Was there ever before a real ministry of the people? Look at the condition of the country when it was placed in their hands: the state of the house when the incoming tenant took possession: windows broken, chimneys on fire, mobs round the house threatening to pull it down, roof tumbling, rain pouring in. It was courage to occupy it; it was a miracle to save it; it will be the glory of glories to enlarge and
BROUGHAM AND THE COURT OF CHANCERY.
expand it, and to make it the eternal palace of wise and temperate freedom.
Proper examples have been made among the unhappy and misguided disciples of Swing: a rope has been carried round O'Connell's legs, and a ring inserted in Cobbett's nose. Then the game laws! Was ever conduct so shabby as that of the two or three governments which preceded that of Lord Grey? The cruelties and enormities of this code had been thoroughly exposed; and a general conviction existed of the necessity of a change. Bills were brought in by various gentlemen, containing some trifling alteration in this abominable code, and even these were sacrificed to the tricks and manœuvres of some noble Nimrod, who availed himself of the emptiness of the town in July, and flung out the Bill. Government never stirred a step. The fullness of the prisons, the wretchedness and demoralization of the poor, never came across them. The humane and considerate Peel never once offered to extend his ægis over them. It had nothing to do with the state of party; and some of their double-barrelled voters might be offended. In the meantime, for every ten pheasants which fluttered in the wood, one English peasant was rotting in jail. No sooner is Lord Althorp chancellor of the exchequer, than he turns out of the house a trumpery and (perhaps) an insidious bill for the improvement of the game laws; and in an instant offers the assistance of government for the abolition of the whole code.
Then look at the gigantic Brougham, sworn in at twelve o'clock, and before six, has a bill on the table abolishing the abuses of a court which has been the curse of the people of England for centuries. For twenty-five long years did Lord Eldon sit in that court, surrounded with misery and sorrow, which he never held up a finger to alleviate. The widow and the orphan cried to him as vainly as the town-crier cries when he offers a small reward for a full purse; the bankrupt of the court became the lunatic of the court; estates mouldered away, and mansions fell down; but the fees came in, and all was well. But in an instant the iron mace of Brougham shivered to atoms this house of fraud and of delay; and this is the man who will help to govern you; who bottoms his reputation on doing good to you; who knows, that to reform abuses is the safest basis of fame and the surest instrument of who uses the highest gifts of reason, and the most
splendid efforts of genius, to rectify those abuses, which all the genius and talent of the profession have hitherto been employed to justify, and to protect. Look to Brougham, and turn you to that side where he waves his long and lean finger, and mark well that face which nature has marked so forcibly which dissolves pensions-turns jobbers into honest men-scares away the plunderer of the public-and is a terror to him who doeth evil to the people. But, above all, look to the northern Earl,† victim, before this honest and manly reign, of the spitefulness of the court. You may now, for the first time, learn to trust in the professions of a minister; you are directed by a man who prefers character to place, and who has given such unequivocal proofs of honesty and patriotism, that his image ought to be amongst your household gods, and his name to be lisped by your children; two thousand years hence it will be a legend like the fable of Perseus and Andromeda; Britannia chained to a mountain-two hundred rotten animals menacing her destruction, till a tall Earl, armed with schedule A., and followed by his page Russell, drives them into the deep, and delivers over Britannia in safety to crowds of ten-pound renters, who deafen the air with their acclamations. Forthwith, Latin verses upon this-school exercises-boys whipped, and all the usual absurdities of education. Don't part with an administration composed of Lord Grey and Lord Brougham; and not only these, but look at them all—the mild wisdom of Lansdowne-the genius and extensive knowledge of Holland, in whose bold and honest life there is no varying nor shadow of change-the unexpected and exemplary activity of Lord Melbourne- and the rising parliamentary talents of Stanley. You are ignorant of your best interests, if every vote you can bestow is not given to such a ministry as this.
You will soon find an alteration of behaviour in the upper orders when elections become real. You will find that you are raised to the importance to which you ought to be raised. The merciless ejector, the rural tyrant, will be restrained within the limits of decency and humanity, and will improve their own characters at the same time that they better your condition.
* Lord Lyndhurst is an exception; I firmly believe he had no wish to per petuate the abuses of the Court of Chancery. - Author's Note
+ Lord Grey.