« PreviousContinue »
never be employed but for purposes of evil. Omnipotent for mischief, these obligors of the fiend were powerless for good. Such will be the compact between the Ex-Ministers, if ever they should return to power, and the only party which can then support them. That they may be masters, they must be slaves. They will be able to stand only by abject submission and by boundless profusion-by giving up the People to be oppressed, first for the profit of the Great, and then for their amusement,by corn-laws, and game-laws, and pensions for Lord Robert, and places for Lord John.
They will return pledged to oppose every reform, to maintain a constant struggle against the spirit of the age, to defend abuses to which the nation is every day becoming
more quick-sighted. Even Mr Peel, if, unluckily, he should at last identify himself with their faction, must restrain his propensity to innovation. Mutterings have already been heard in high places against his tendencies to liberality; and all his schemes for the reformation of our code or our courts must be abandoned.
Then will come all those desperate and cruel expedients of which none but bad governments stand in need. The
is troublesome. There must be fresh laws against the press. Secret societies are formed. The Habeas Corpus act must be suspended. The people are distressed and tumultuous. They must be kept down by force. The army must be increased; and the taxes must be increased. Then the distress and tumult are increased : and then the army must be increased again! The country will be governed as a child is governed by an ill-tempered nurse,----first beaten till it cries, and then beaten because it cries !
Our firm conviction is, that if the seceders return to office, they will act thus; and that they will not have the power, even if they should have the inclination, to act otherwise. And what must the end of these things be? We answer, without hesitation, that, if this course be persisted in, if these counsels and these counsellors are maintained, the end must be, a revolution, a bloody and unsparing revolution-a revolution which will make the ears of those who hear of it tingle in the remotest countries, and in the remotest times. The middling orders in England are, we well know, attached to the institutions of their country, but not with a blindly partial attachment. They see the merits of the system ; but they also see its faults; and they have a strong and growing desire that these faults should be removed. If, while their wish for improvement is becoming stronger and stronger, the government is to become worse and worse, the consequences are obvious. Even now, it is impossible to disguise, that there is arising in the bosom of that class a Republican sect, as audacious, as paradoxical, as little inclined to respect antiquity, as enthusiastically attached to its ends, as unscrupulous in the choice of its means, as the French Jacobins themselves,—but far superior to the French Jacobins in acuteness and information—in caution, in patience, and in resolution. They are men whose minds have been put into training for violent exertion. All that is merely ornamental-all that gives the roundness, the smoothness, and the bloom, has been exsuded. Nothing is left but nerve, and muscle, and bone. Their love of liberty is no boyish fancy. It is not nourished by rhetoric, and it does not evaporate in rhetoric. They care nothing for Leonidas, and Epaminondas, and Brutus, and Cocles. They profess to derive their opinions from demonstration alone; and are never so little satisfied with them as when they see them exhibited in a romantic form. Metaphysical and political science engage their whole attention. Philosophical pride has done for them what spiritual pride did for the Puritans in a former age; it has generated in them an aversion for the fine arts, for elegant literature, and for the sentiments of chivalry. It has made them arrogant, intolerant, and impatient of all superiority. These qualities will, in spite of their real claims to respect, render them unpopular, as long as the people are satisfied with their rulers. But under an ignorant and tyrannical ministry, obstinately opposed to the most moderate and judicious innovations, their principles would spread as rapidly as those of the Puritans formerly spread, in spite of their offensive peculiarities. The public, disgusted with the blind adherence of its rulers to ancient abuses, would be reconciled to the most startling novelties. A strong democratic party would be formed in the educated class. In the lowest, and the most numerous order of the population, those who have any opinions at all are democrats already. In our manufacturing towns, the feeling is even now formidably strong; and it is not strange that it should be so: For it is on persons in this station that the abuses of our system press most heavily; while its advantages, on the other hand, are comparatively little felt by them. An abundant supply of the necessaries of life is, with them, almost the only consideration. The difference between an arbitrary and a limited monarchy vanishes, when compared with the difference between one meal a-day and three meals a-day.
It is poor consolation to a man who has had no breakfast, and expects no supper, that the King does not possess a dispensing power, and that troops cannot be raised in time of peace, without the consent of Parliament. With this class, our government, free as it is, is even now as unpopular as if it were despotic,—nay, much more so. In despotic states, the multitude is unaccustomed to general speculations on politics. Even when men suffer most severely, they look no further than the proximate cause. They demand the abolition of a particular duty, or tear an obnoxious individual to pieces. But they never think of attacking the whole system. If Constantinople were in the state in which Manchester and Leeds have lately been, there would be a cry against the Grand Vizier or the bakers. The head of the Vizier would be thrown to the mob, over the wall of the Seraglio-a score of bakers would be smothered in their own ovens; and everything would go on as before. Not a single rioter would think of curtailing the prerogatives of the Sultan, or of demanding a representative divan.
But people familiar with political inquiries carry their scrutiny farther; and, justly or unjustly, attribute the grievances under which they labour, to defects in the original constitution of the government. Thus it is with a large proportion of our spinners, our grinders, and our weavers. It is not too much to say, that in a season of distress, they are ripe for any revolution. This, indeed, is acknowledged by all the Tory writers of our time. But all this, they tell us, comes of education-it is all the fault of the Liberals. We will not take up the time of our readers with answering such observations. We will only remind our gentry and clergy, that the question at present is not about the cause of the evil, but about its cure ; and that, unless due precaution be used, let the fault be whose it may, the punishment will inevitably be their own.
The history of our country, since the peace of 1815, is almost entirely made up of the struggles of the lower orders against the government, and of the efforts of the government to keep them down. In 1816, immense assemblies were convened, secret societies were formed, and gross outrages were committed. In 1817, the Habeas Corpus Act was twice suspended. In 1819, the disturbances broke out afresh. Meetings were held, so formidable, from their numbers and their spirit, that the Ministry, and the Parliament, approved of the conduct of magistrates who had dispersed one of them by the sword. Fresh laws were passed against seditious writings and practices. Yet the following year commenced with a desperate and extended conspiracy for the assassination of the cabinet, and the subversion of the government. A few months after this event, the Queen landed. On that occasion, the majority of the middling orders joined with the mob. The effect of the union was irresistible. The Ministers and the Parliament stood aghast; the bill of pains and penalties was dropped; and a convulsion, which scemed
inevitable, was averted. But the events of that year ought to impress one lesson on the mind of every public man,—that an alliance between the disaffected multitude and a large portion of the middling orders, is one with which no government can venture to cope, without imminent danger to the constitution.
A government like that with which England would be cursed, if the present Ministry should fall before the present Opposition, would render such an alliance not only inevitable, but permanent. In less than ten years, it would goad every Reformer in the country into a Revolutionist. It would place at the head of the multitude, persons possessing all the education, all the judgment, and all the babits of co-operation, in which the multitude itself is deficient. That great body is physically the most powerful in the state. Like the Hebrew champion, it is yet held in captivity by its blindness. But if once the eyeless Giant shall find a guide to put his hand on the props of the State-if once he shall bow himself upon the pillars, woe to all those who have made him their laughing-stock, or chained him to grind at their mill!
We do, therefore, firmly believe, that, even if no external cause were to precipitate a fatal crisis, this country could not be governed for a single generation by such men as Lord Westmoreland and Lord Eldon, without extreme risk of revolution. But there are other symptoms in the body politic, not less alarming than those which we have described. In Ireland, there are several millions of Catholics, who do not love our government; and who detest, with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength, the party now in Opposition. The accession of that party to power, would be a death-blow to their hopes of obtaining their demands by constitutional means : and we may fairly expect, that all the events which followed the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam, will take place again, on a greater and more formidable scale. One thing, indeed, we have no right to expect, that a second Hoche will be as unfortunate as the former. A civil war in Ireland will lead almost necessarily to a war with France. Maritime hostilities with France, and the clash of neutral and belligerent pretensions, will then produce war with America. Then come expeditions to Canada and expeditions to Java. The Cape of Good Hope must be garrisoned. Lisbon must be defended. Let us suppose the best.
That best must be, a long conflict, a dearbought victory, a great addition to a debt already most burdensome, fresh taxes, and fresh discontents. All these are events which may not improbably happen under any governmentevents which the next month may bring forth-events, against which no minister, however able and honest, can with perfect certainty provide,—but which Ministers, whose policy should exasperate the people of Ireland, would almost unavoidably bring upon us.
A Cabinet formed by the Ex-Ministers could scarcely exist for a year, without incensing the lower classes of the English to frenzy, by giving them up to the selfish tyranny of its aristocratical supporters, without driving Ireland into rebellion, and without tempting France to war.
There is one hope, and one hope only for our country; and that hope is in a liberal Administration,-in an Administration which will follow with cautious, but with constantly advancing steps, the progress of the public mind; which, by promptitude to redress practical grievances, will enable itself to oppose with authority and effect, the propositions of turbulent theorists; which by kindness and fairness in all its dealings with the People, will entitle itself to their confidence and esteem.
The state of England, at the present moment, bears a close resemblance to that of France at the time when Turgot was called to the head of affairs. Abuses were numerous; public burdens heavy; a spirit of innovation was abroad among the people. The philosophical Minister attempted to secure the ancient institutions, by amending them. The mild reforms which he projected, had they been carried into execution, would have conciliated the people, and saved from the most tremendous of all commotions the Church, the Aristocracy, and the Throne. But a crowd of narrow-minded nobles, ignorant of their own interest, though solicitous for nothing else, the Newcastles and the Salisburys of France, began to tremble for their oppressive franchises. Their clamours overpowered the mild good sense of a King who wanted only firmness to be the best of Sovereigns. The Minister was discarded for councillors more obsequious to the privileged orders; and the aristocracy and clergy exulted in their success.
Then came a new period of profusion and misrule. And then, swiftly, like an armed man, came poverty and dismay. The acclamations of the nobles, and the Te Deums of the church, grew fainter and fainter. The very courtiers muttered disapprobation. The Ministers stammered out feeble and inconsistent counsels. But all other voices were soon drowned in one, which every moment waxed louder and more terrible,- in the fierce and tumultuous roar of a great people, conscious of irresistible strength, maddened by intolerable wrongs, and sick of deferred hopes! That cry, so long stifled, now rose from every corner of France, made itself heard in the presence-chamber of her King, in the saloons of her nobles, and in the refectories of her luxu