TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE PRESENT MINISTRY—WHY SHOULD IT BE CHANGED?
NOT a few discussions respecting the permanency of the present Ministry have arisen out of the state of his Majesty's health. A change in the occupant of the Throne, it is supposed; must lead to a change of its servants ;—and perhaps it may, although the pre- cedent of the last demise is against it. Many, whose support " the Duke" has received for the last two years in all his measures, whe- ther ofsdisputable or unquestioned policy, begin, it is said, to doubt of his infallibility ; many, who have paid him a wavering allegiance, are disposed to range themselves on the side of his enemies ; and those who have always been ranged there, feel their vigour of op- position wonderfully strengthened, as the prospect of his failing in- fluence begins to clear away in the background of a picture which had hitherto owed its colouring to their wishes rather than their hopes. This process is extremely natural ; and it would hardly be worth adverting to, were it not for the reasons that have been employed to justify it. The Courier lately attempted to prove that the Administration of the Duke could never die, because he cared nothing about the principles of its members. The argument valeat quantum has been taken up by the antagonists of the Courier; and we are told that the opposition to the Duke must be success- ful, because it also is uninfluenced by principle. Want of prin- ciple is, it seems, a connecting band which can hold together the most heterogeneous materials ; the absence of a repelling force is equivalent to the most powerful attraction ; and under its negative influence we may look to the formation of an active and united Government out of the detritus of a dozen of apparently discordant and irreconcileable parties. We shall say a few words on this doctrine.
The present Opposition, laying aside minor distinctions, is made up of three divisions,—the Economists, or Reformers, or New Whigs (we hardly know how to name them), at the head of which is Sir JAMES GRAHAM, and among the Ultras of which are Mr. HUME and Mr. O'CONNELL ; the Whigs Proper, who rally under the banners of the member for Knaresborough ; and the Old Tories, who look up to Mr. SADLER as their chief. The nega- tive forces which, it is alleged, may lead to a cordial union between these three parties, are the Test Repeal and the Catholic Eman- cipation Acts. Now, nothing, we conceive, can be more idle than to hold up the distinctions that obtained, previous to the passing of these acts, between Dissenters or Catholics and Churchmen, as constituting the essential points of difference between the stick- lers for Church and State, and the Reformers, whether Moderate or Radical, that have long called for the purification of both. The principle of the Tories has ever been, in modern times as in an- cient, change nothing—of the Radicals, change all—of the Whigs; change some things. Between the Radicals and the Whigs, a union is quite possible. The former are prepared to accompany the latter as far as they will go ; their only complaint is, that they will not go far enough. But it is impossible for men who are de- termined to walk forward, to keep company with men who are determined to stand still ; the junction of such would only be a beginning of separation. So far is the removal of the disabilities of the Dissenters and Catholics from favouring such a union, it tends to render it more difficult. The Tories gave up these dis- abilities on compulsion—and to whom ? To the very men whom ire are now told they may properly join, and join because of those very acts of violence ! For acts of violence on the most sacred prejudices of Toryism, they unquestionably were, as surely as the Whigs and Radicals were, parties to their perpetration. But the case is strengthened when we look to the fact, that these are not the only acts contemplated by the Whigs ; they are but two of a series. So that the Tories having been deprived of their purse (which is, indeed, the removal of one ground of dispute between the robber and the robbed), are expected and exhorted to shake hands with the honest gentlemen who have lightened their pockets, at the very moment that they are meditating a similar attack on their fobs ! In any conjunction, therefore, of Whigs and Tories for the purpose of ousting Ministers, the Whigs must give up their principles, or the Tories must give up theirs. We do not affirm they will not; we are talking of the union of honest men for public purposes, not of selfish knaves for private purposes— of combination, not conspiracy. But even viewed in this light, a conjunction of the discordant parts of the Opposition is impro- bable. In fact, the Ministry constitute a sort of tertium quid, with which any of them may more readily coalesce than with one another. If the professions of the Whigs or of the Tories are to he departed from, it is most rational to conclude that they will be departed from for the purpose of strengthening, and not for the purpose of pulling down the Ministry.
We have spoken of the improbability of the Whigs and Tories combining for any purpose ; but the purpose for which their combi- nation is desiderated by the enemies of the Ministry, mightily aug- ments the improbability. The Tories dislike the Ministry, for the inroads, as they term them, which they have made upon the con- stitution: the Whigs, who concurred in these inroads, must feel attached to them for the same cause that provoked the hatred of the Tories. Suppose the latter to give up their principles for the gratification of their revenge, could the Whigs give up their cha racter, with no desire of revenge to palliate the sacrifice? Would it not be most monstrous for men pretending to one spark of honesty to convert the wisest and best measures that the present or any Ministry of England ever carried, into weapons of deadly attack against them ?—to make the very virtues of the Cabinet the causes of its downfal?—virtues of which all the while they pro- fessed themselves the ardent admirers.
There is another question, connected with that which we have been discussing. Is it desirable that the Ministry should be changed ? We have not the slightest wish that any Ministry should keep office to the exclusion of a better ; but we feel very strong objections to the change of men, if it bring no change of measures. What do the candidates for the anticipated vacancy of the Premiership hold out as an inducement to public accept- ance ?—Just nothing at all. Their merits, 'like their supposed principles of union, are purely negative. All they undertake for is, that they will carry on the public business as it is carried on at present. They claim our sufferance (approbation is out of the question), by telling b us that they will leave things as they are. It is impossible, on their own showing, to deny that things are right as they are ; and if so, why change their managers ? We don't think that all things are right as they are : we think that both constitutional and social reform are much wanted ; and if the Op- position would come forward and declare boldly their intention, on obtaining place, to make these Ministerial questions, we should be disposed to give them every encouragement. It is quite ob- vious that some means must soon be fallen upon for giving to the intellect of the country a greater influence in the Government than it at present possesses. It is impossible that a state of things which excludes every man from power who has not an immense fortune, or a host of titled supporters, can long remain in an enlightened age. It is not the contradic- tions and irregularities of our representative system that constitute its worst features, but its mode of working, which shuts out not only the whole of the lower, but all the middling ranks of society from the slightest chance of a share in it. The internal condition of Parliament stands no less in want of amendment than do the forms of its election. It may be said of it, in the words of the poet, slightly changed, mole slat sua; but the machine is motion- less rather than stable. The overwhelming number of the de- mands on their attention leave to our legislators but one task which they can hope to get through; • and that is, the task of postpone- ment. Unless we alter the system, twenty-four months per annum will soon be insufficient for the debates, to say nothing of the busi- ness of the two Houses. Ministers are not blind to the difficulties that arise out of the complexity of Parliamentary forms, and the daily increase of Parliamentary labour. Mr. PEEL was, indeed, complaining of them no further gone than Thursday evening. It is reasonable to suppose that he will endeavour after a remedy. To reform in the constitution of Parliament, the present Ministers have always declared themselves adverse ; and yet, for all that, recollecting the bold and determined way in which the Catholic Bill was carried, we should be disposed to say, that if ever such a reform be carried by a Ministry, the Duke of WELLINGTON'S is the Ministry by which it is most likely to be carried. We are averse from strong Ministries, in the ordinary sense,—that is, strong in their union with the corruptions of Parliament; but the Duke has hitherto shown himself strong in his opposition to them. In this way his strength is the shield of our weakness. On the whole, we would judge the present Ministers as we would judge an individual—they have done great and substantial good ; their virtues by many degrees outweigh their failings. Their foreign policy has been censured. Their conduct in respect to Greece we have ourselves blamed : we rejoice that an unex- pected chance has delivered us from its consequences : we hope that the Cabinet will use the refusal of LEOPOLD as not abusing it. In respect to Portugal, also, we think their neutrality has been somewhat like the Irishman's. But the general principle of non- interference in the policy of foreign states is so far from deserving blame, that it has been at all times maintained by the most patri- otic men in the country. We have heard the manners of Ministers blamed—for to such small objections their opponents have been driven. They say that the Duke is overbearing, and Mr. PEEL is supercilious. To the immediate dependants of either we must leave the settlement of this important question ; neither our readers nor ourselves are very deeply interested in it. If Ministers give us good laws and light taxes, they may scold the country gentlemen every night if they please. We have, it must be recollected, been discussing the propriety of a change of Ministers, not the probabilities of their being changed. We can estimate the value of an argument, but we possess no rule for calculating the chances of sovereign caprice. As we never scruple to blame Ministers when we see occasion, we can venture, without bringing our motives into question, to praise them with equal freedom when they appear to deserve praise. The Duke is not exactly all that we could wish in a Prime Minis- ter—still we think he ought to be tolerated until a more wise and more worthy man shall appear to claim his place.