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(INCLUDING A DIGEST OF THE PARLIAMENTARY PAPERS ISSUED DURING THE SESSION.)
THE PARLIAMENTARY REMEMBRANCER.
EVERY year is distinguished by some matter arising in it, which overtops in special character the multitude of objects that crowd around. During the present year, there have been brought into unexampled prominence events which concern the independence of States, and the safety and sound action of Free Institutions. In Europe and America alike, there have been contests carried on which must ever be memorable in history. The end of neither contest has yet come. As each has proceeded, the stages of each have been brought before the reader's attention in these pages. This was peculiarly fitting to be done, in a work the object of which was avowed, at the beginning, to be, and has always been, to record truthfully what happens, calling attention, as the facts are recorded, to the way in which Free Institutions, and the solid Constitutional Principles on which these must always rest, are or may be touched by what has been done, or is proposed to be done, by those who represent the Nation, whether they be those who constitute, or those who are responsible to, the Parliament of the British Empire.
The coming year must, from the necessity of the case, be even fuller than the past year has been of events of grave importance to the existence and safe hopes of free institutions, in Britain as elsewhere. For what exact date Parliament will be summoned, remains at present unfixed. The first number of the fifth Volume of the Parliamentary Remembrancer will be issued on the first Saturday following the opening of the Session.
The DIGEST OF PARLIAMENTARY PAPERS contains, (1) The Navy, p. 191; (2) The Army, p. 193; (3) Home
More detailed references to the subjects of the above-named Notes, as well as references to the Notes on the
The QUEEN, in person, delivered the SPEECH OF THE CROWN, from the Throne.
Select Vestries Bill.-Read first time [pro formá].
"What mean ye by this service?" was the question that every child was taught, among an ancient people, to ask, at their great annual ceremonial. And the father of every family was bidden to take care, that the meaning of the service, handed down from generation to generation, should be made to be understood by every one, while yet he was a child. Forms are good only so long as their full significance is understood, and kept constantly in mind. There is no Form that was ever in use in the world's history, that is more full of meaning than the one that marks this step of the opening of the British Parliament. If its meaning has been sometimes forgotten (see Parl. Rem. Vol. II. pp. 1, 90), the fact does but show, the more urgently, that the question, "What is the meaning of this service?" is one that ought never to be let go unasked. And assuredly, at this moment, the reply of the Jewish father applies to England in a sense and with a strength that it has never applied before; for there is no other land, among what are commonly called the civilized nations of the earth, that is able to repeat now, with any truth, a form which carries with it the affirmation that, though the Egyptian may have been smitten upon this side and upon that, This House has been passed over. England, alone, is still able to begin, in peace, the action of the annual assembly of her representatives, with a Form which "is the ancient order," and which embodies, in truth, the fundamental idea of the duty which Parliament is appointed to fulfil. (See Parl. Rem. Vol. I. p. 1; Vol. II. pp. 1, 90; Vol. III. p. 1.) "The Session is not begun till a Bill be read. It is the Ancient Order," said the Speaker of the House of Commons, nearly two hundred years ago. What other country in the world is there, at this moment, that is working its way with Institutions that have been in action through the last two hundred years? It is a very noteworthy fact, that, in a work that was printed by order of the House of Commons in the seventeenth century, and which ought to be now much better known than it seems to be, the three States of Europe that are particularly cited as examples of national independence and of the full action of Parliaments, are Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary. Have the representatives of any one of these assembled annually, of late years, according to "the ancient order"? Two of them have become, practically, extinct. The last, Hungary, happily yet lives, to testify to the world the vitality that there is in Institutions that are funda mental, though despotism may try every means to quench the sparks of freedom. On this, more will be said below (see "Foreign Affairs"). But if two of these States are dead, and the third has only maintained its life through trials and struggles that none but a race of the noblest and truest men could have undergone, it becomes Englishmen to bear ever steadily before them the great truth, that men must take care to keep themselves worthy of Institutions, if those Institutions are to endure. England has no absolute patent of immortality, any more than other nations have had. If England is to remain a free and independent Nation, Englishmen must take more pains than they have lately done to understand the true spirit of the Institutions which they have inherited, and must be more constant to do their duty in the daily working of those Institutions. It is not by claptrap oratory, on occasional general topics, that any man shows his patriotism. He can only truly show this, by taking his part in the constant action of the various local Institutions that are scattered through the country, and on the constant and right action of which it is, and not on any Laws that Parliaments can make,-that the real welfare of the country, and its intelligence and self-reliance and spirit of independence, must always depend. It is on these Institutions, and on the maintenance of the spirit which upholds their worthiness, that the real knowledge of affairs, as well as the patriotism and self-respect, of the individual members of the State, who elect Members of Parliament, must always depend. And it is on his intimate knowledge of the mode of action of these, that the intelligent conduct of every Member of Parliament, in the case of every Bill that is brought before Parliament, must, in truth, entirely depend. No Member of Parliament can really fulfil his duty, or is entitled to the confidence of his constituents or the Public, who is not thoroughly familiar with the affairs and the action of his own Parish and his own County, and does not deem the affairs of each of these to be as much a matter commanding his attention and active interest as are the more ambitious proceedings of Parliament.
At the present moment, despotism is triumphant throughout the greater part of Europe. Though Garibaldi has, unthanked, made the King of Sardinia a present of two kingdoms, and thus a United Italy flits before the eye, Italy herself remains, in effect, subject to the nod of France. No man can foresee her morrow. At home, it has already been announced by our English Government, that the system which has been ceaselessly followed, for many years, of undermining the Institutions on which the life of the Nation depends, will be pursued, in the present Session, with more pertinacity than ever. This will be seen from some of the Bills that are named below.
And if these attacks are threatened, now, on those Institutions the maintenance of which in self-reliant action is essential to the living spirit and independence of the Nation, and with the constant action or decline of which the existence or decay of the self-respect and intelligence of the people must be indissolubly bound up, it is necessary also to have it prominently brought before attention, that the Forms and Proceedings of Parliament itself are also now threatened, under pretence of "forwarding the progress of Public Business." The considerations arising out of this proposition, will be more fully noticed when the subject itself comes forward (see below: Thursday). At present, it is enough to quote again the words of Lord John Russell, before he became a Minister:-"The Forms of Parliament and of the Constitution, oppose, in themselves, a great barrier to the strides of arbitrary power. The violation of those Forms ought to serve as a signal that an enemy is in sight."
An Address to the Crown, in acknowledgment of the Speech from the Throne, was, after debate, but without opposition, agreed to.
Foreign Affairs.-The "trust" was stated, in the Speech from the Throne, "that the moderation of the Powers of Europe will prevent any interruption of the general Peace." It was further stated, specifi