TOPICS OF THE DAY.
How gladly Members rush forth from the close atmosphere of either House, tainted not more with noxious gases than with the noxious moral influences of every long session—the vauntings, the disappointments, and the hypocrisies—to an atmosphere wel- come as much because it is a change as because it is healthy To the hacknied Member the closed session is always more or less of a failure, and the hopes that will survive are transferred to " next session." It has become quite a habit. Three years ago, with an old weak Whig Ministry, the story was still the same. "If any one," we then said, " will take the trouble to run over this deferred stock of measures, he will see that most of them stood, by name, for this session, which was once called ' next ses- sion': Sanitary Reform, Poor-law Reform, Supplemental Parlia- mentary Reform, Chancery Reform—all these have been as much wanted this year as they will be next. Last year they were set down for next session: and this year we have been made to learn the meaning of those two words. The measures are deferred, not because they are in themselves unripe, not because conviction is uncompleted, not because there was too little information or no materials—some of them, like the Poor-law reforms and the Sani- tary reforms, are professedly ready ; but because the legislators were too weak to achieve those measures."' At that time the excuse was, that the Government was "too weak": we now have a Ministry which has collected to itself not only "all the talents," but all the strengths available in Parlia- ment—and the excuse is "the war." A strong Ministry plus a war, it appears, is no better for internal wants than a weak Ministry. The standing list has been but slightly modified. We do not deny that something has been done here and there; but Law Re- form halts in its gait, because Crown lawyers are too busy with their private practice; and Sanitary Reform has been organized only to be petrified. Now Parliament ought to deal with that standing list of postponed measures. Members should first of all determine, whether we ought to have the measures there set down, or ought not ; if not, let them be erased from the list.
Rushing into rustic similes as well as recreations, Ministers may turn round upon us town-keeping folks and teach us, that Parlia- ment does but obey a law of nature, in blooming annually with the early spring to die by autumn, and bloom again and die continually, with the same round of phenomena—with the same promise, and the same decay, upon the same ground. If the Member, however, will extend his wise view over a some- what larger space of nature and of time, he will see more than a succession of daisies and buttercups : tribes of flowers disappear, and are succeeded by newer and finer tribes ; hills rise or are car- ried away, vallies are filled up or are chiselled out by the streams; lakes are formed, or contracted into rivers ; barriers are torn away, and islands are built up; the globe itself has altered its face since the time when it presented ground upon which no Member of Par- liament could walk erect or lift his face to hereditary skies. If he turn from nature to art, he will see not only laughing Ceres re- assuming larger portions of the plain, but the railway and the tele- graph form features in the landscape—the new creations of modern science lend their lengthened outlines to the view. The towns of the Member's young days are now cities, hamlets are towns, and busy towns arise where the field was before silent. The Member, easily careering in cushioned carriage behind the iron dragon, views, from the suburbs of the Metropolis to the last "silk" or " new town" near watering-place or wells, the same busy, beelike scene, that the travelled Trojan admired on his way as an emigrant to lay the foundations of Latin Rome. The people the Member meets are not less altered in costume, manner, or speech, whether compared with ancient Roman or old John Bull. The unenfranchised man often talks as well on the hundred poli- tical and economical subjects of the time, as the elector could upon the two or three subjects that mastered the attention of our fathers, if not better. Everywhere may be seen new structures, improved methods, invented instruments—growth and advancement. Is Parliament to be the chief example of backwardness, outgrown and outstripped by its own country ? What is " the war" excuse really worth ? Does nature stand still because there is death ? If these are stronger times, they da but demand stronger men—and give them stronger opportunities. No; the recess will be diverted from its purpose if it furnish only the repose and the excuse of idleness. If Members annually read themselves the same lesson, setting before themselves the duties they ought to perform and do neglect, without learning the moral, they are far gone in debility; and they had better try a recovery before it is too late. The whole is made up of its parts
the House of the Members; and while the individual Members are too lazy, dishonest, or imbecile to do the work, they will never be able to "make a House," though forty do muster or four hun- dred. They want a tonic regimen to make " next session" worth reaching, and the recess ought to be used for giving them bodily and political health. Whether they follow the dogs on foot or on horseback—whether they make the grand tour of Turkey or of gypt, of India or America—the duty to their country, from which the prorogation does not release them, should teach them to seek stren th, in order that they may simplify their purpose, do their work,gand let the list of achievements bear some more healthy Proportion to the list of aspirations.
* Spectator for 1861, page 767.