15 APRIL 1837, Page 1


THE exhausted subject of Irish Municipal Reform was the pretext for two weary debates in the House of Commons on Monday and Tuesday. Long enough before midnight on Monday, Heaven knows, the question was ready, but the Ministers were unprepared, for a division. There were some stragglers in the country, who would be in time the next night, and the gaps in the line of Government men would then be filled up. It did not enter into the calculation of the Whig Whippers-in that there were absentee Tories, as well as defaulters on their own side, who might be brought into the field. They found, however, that the delay was useless : the Ministerial motion for adjournment, on Monday, was carried by 286 to 232; but on Tuesday, with a more numerous attendance, the third reading of the bill was voted by only 302 to 247,—the majority on the first night being 34, on the second 55. Lord FRANCIS EGERTON'S motion, vir- tually for abolishing the Irish Corporations, having been defeated by a majority of 80, a loud cackle was now set up by the To- ries on the diminished numbers for the bill ; whereupon the Downing Street journalists set themselves to prove, that if all who voted against Lerd FRANCIS EGERTON had supported the third reading, and if the Tory attendance had not been more numerous on Tuesday than on the former divisions, why then the Ministerial majority would not have fallen off. It was a great satisfaction to be able to set the public right on this important and intricate point ; and we must say, that by dint of a succes- sion of leading articles, our Ministerial contemporaries made the matter perfectly clear. Perhaps on the next " field-night," the Tory rank and file may not equal the muster of Tuesday, and then the Whigs will cackle, as in south their wont is, and the Tories will summon Cocker and calculations to show that the decline or increase in the strength of a party is not indicated by Parliamentary divisions. Thus the see-saw goes on. In the mean while, the public manifest but little interest in the Irish Muni- cipal or any other measure, which is brought forward to be re- jected, or torn into rags, by the Lords ; and Members of Parlia- ment may be excused if they share in the common apathy. The course which the Peers intend to take with this bill, may be inferred from the mode of its reception on Thurs- day in their Lordships' House. Lord MELBOURNE having fixed the second reading for the 25th instant, the Duke of WELLING- TON gave him to understand, that to legislate on the subject of Irish Corporations, until he had the Irish Tithes and Poor Bills before him, was not to be expected; because in the part of the King's Speech which related to Ireland, all the three measures had been mentioned in the same paragraph. The logical Duke seemed to think that the question was decided by the rending of the aforesaid paragraph; And that in future, of the three bills nei. flier could be held to be greater or less than the other, or come after or before the other. If this rule is to prevail in legislation, there will be but four bills brought into Parliament in one session —to embrace respectively the affairs of England, Ireland, Scot- land, and the Colonies. The proposition of the Duke of WEL.. LINGTON excites derision, but it should provoke indignation also. The National Representatives have passed a great mea- sure, after laborious and full discussion : the King's Minister presents that measure to the Lords; and they, instead of pre- paring and promising to take it into consideration, say that until the Commons pass certain other bills, which the Com- mons may never think fit to pass, the bill in question shall be laid upon the shelf. Such in effect is the declaration of the Duke of WELLINGTON to an assembly in which he is all-power- ful. Now, suppose the House of Commons to act by the Govern- ment in a similar way : suppose the Representatives of the People to tell the King's Minister, that until he laid all the chief measures of the session on the table, they would not consider ene of them, but would refuse the Supplies, and put a stop to all Government business—what would assuredly follow ? Why, a dissolution—an appeal to the People : and the salutary fear of the consequences of such an appeal, where the Government and the constituencies are on the same side—as once happened in the time of PITT—prevents the Commons from following such factious courses. But where is the remedy against the Peers? Who can call them to account ? To what tribunal are they amenable? Oh, the working of our glorious constitution !is it not practi- cally excellent, as well as theoretically perfect ? Thanks, however, to the frank old soldier, for reminding us that we have " still a House of Lords " to deal with ; a fact which the curious policy of the MELBOURNE Ministry has kept out of sight during the whole of the allotted days of pear-ripen- mg% Moreover, the Duke of WELLINGTON'S method of dealing with bills in a heap, may hereafter be taken as an example by the people whom he now lords over and insults. The time may come when the accumulation of wrongs shall be no longer tolerable5 and the Duke and his coadjutors will be forced to gulp down in one large legislative bolus a score or two of measures, any one of which would prove an emetic. Mr. HUME'S County-rates Bill came to an untimely end on Wednesday evening ; when the House of Commons refused, by a vote of 177 to 84, to read it a second time. 'We were prepare& for this consummation. Mr. Hums called upon County Magis- trates, sitting as leirislators, to write themselves down as Dog- berries or worse. He strove to make men put on responsibility, whose pride and pleasure is the stretch of petty authority without fear of consequences. He required abandonment of the power to tax and to job, from those to whom and to whose fathers the practice was and is second nature. He might as well have attempted to charm the deaf adder. Even the Members who professed allegiance to the principle of "representation cos extensive with taxation," declared their opposition to " the de- tails" of Mr. HumE's bill,—that is, to the application of his principle. This was also the course taken by Mr. Fox Mayne and Mr. EDWARD JOHN STANLEY, who just gave the measure support enough to free Ministers from the charge of a direct breach of their promise to Mr. HUME, whom they had engaged to aid on this occasion. In point of fact, although some of the Minis- terial subalterns voted, and Mr. SPRING RICE is said to have paired off, in favour of Mr. Hume, he was deserted by theGovern- ment, and left at the mercy of the Squirearchy and the Tories. We confess that we have lio hope of a more successful issue to Mr. HUME'S praiseworthy endeavours at reform in this department of abuse, until the suffrage is widely extended, ankthe composition of the House of Commons materially altered and improved. Ministers bold fast to the penny stamp on newspapers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer professed to rejoice in the increased circulation of papers ; the increase arising, as he boasts, from his own measure for reducieg the stamp-duty. Well then, Mr. RICE, if you are pleased with having done so much good, why stop— why desist from doing more in the same line ? Are you afraid of the revenue ? No; because a penny postage is °tiered in lien of a penny stamp, and increased consumption would augment the excise-duty on paper. What then is the excuse ? Mr. RICE is touched with a feeling of compassion for the poor : to charge a postage for newspapers, would, he says, be taxing the poor for the benefit of the rich. Oh, Mr. RICE, remember the story of Judas! Upon whom does the stamp-duty fall, if not upon the poor, the price of whose penny paper it must more than double ? As it is, the poor man who buys a paper in London does pay the enhanced price caused by the penny stamp-duty, for no advantage to him- self, or, indeed, to anybody. The poor man in the country—in Sheffield, Manchester, Glasgow, Dublin—who buys the paper published in his own neighbourhood, does the same. But if the poor Londoner use a provincial paper, or the poor provincialist a London one, paying only a penny postage, be will receive value in the most luxurious form which the intercommunication assumes, and pay no more than at present—nay, less, seeing that the price is enhanced by more than the amount of the tax. Mr. RICE will therefore perceive, it is as clear as the Shannon or any purer stream, that the poor man is now burdened with the stamp, and would be relieved by its abolition. The reduction of the duty has, it appears, greatly increased the amount of newspaper reading, properly so called. The number of papers published during the last six months was, compared with the equivalent period of the year before, as 21,300,000 to 14,874,000; and the increase was progressive. This increase, Mr. CHARLES BULLER said, was principally in the Sunday London and the weekly Country papers. Against it must be set off the suppression of such unstamped publications as came under the head of newspapers, and were not, like Mr. RoEnueles, political pamphlets, or merely records of puce( dins in the courts of justice and police. The new law has sup- pressed all the unstamped newspapers, a d by curtailed the enjoyments, and shut up one source of the information and improvement of the poor. We maintain that such has been its effect, because, making every allowance for the inflammatory trash which some unstamped papers: contained, and would supply again were the tax abolished, the balance of good we believe to have preponderated ; and we are assured that acheap newspaper might be made a more effective instrument of civilization and instruc- tion for the people than any which now exists. At present, they who have the will and the capacity to disseminate realty sound and useful political knowledge among the masses, have no means of getting at them.

Mr. IV ARLEY delivered a clever and amusing speech in support Of the motion. Mr. CHARLES BULLER was smart, but incon- sistent. He argued that the tax ought to be abolished, but that Ministers ought not to give it up, because last year they insisted upon retaining it, and they would be chargeable with levity now if they abandoned the wrong course for the right. Mr. BULLER is an ingenious casuist : he will perhaps settle with his friends the Ministers how long they ought to remain in their present purga- tory, doing penance for the erroneous judgment of last year. To our plain and shallow common sense it has occurred, that the more manly, dignified, and statesmanlike course, would have been to selinquish error and adopt the truth as soon as they discovered their mistake. Sir ROBERT PEEL cannot be honest for one even- ing; he never makes a speech without a shuffle, or a quirk, or a saving-clause in some part of it. Thus, on Thursday, after ex- pressing his decided opposition to Mr. ROEBUCK'S motion, he con- cluded with an intimation, that if certain documents promised by Mr. Ries should prove that benefit would be derived from abolish- ing the duty entirely, he should be ready to vote for abolition. He means to keep it as the source of a nice little bit of popularity for himself when he next becomes Minister.

Sir ROBERT is willing to have it understood that his advent to power is not far off. He knows as well as anybody, that the Tories require the prospect of place and its profits to stimulate them to exertion. They feel cold and cheerless in opposition ; but give them hope of crossing to the right side of the chair, and their courage revives. The W hig,s have been scattering voces ambiguas about "resignation" during the week, as if for the very purpose of supplying PEEL with provender for his hacks. What mean they ? W hat good purpose can they possibly propose to them- selves from hinting at an intention to abandon office ? We do not believe that they have any design of the sort ; and more- over, we do not believe that Sir Roamer PEEL and the leading Tories are yet ready to return to power. The attempt, under pre- sent circumstances and prospects, would be hazardous in the ex- treme. All the real difficulties which embarrass the Whigs would press upon the Tories with equal force; while lreland would he hostile ; the English middle classes working their down- fat; and the masses in. a highly inflammable state—displeased with the Wi.igs, but having a far longer and more bitter reckon- ing to settle with the Tories. Yet Sir ROBERT PEEL, with the view, as ee have supposed, to revive the hopes of his followers, and to regain perhaps the ground he has lost since the triumph

at Glasgow, vapoured on Tuesday about there being men in the country ready and able to save the state vessel from shipwreck, should its present officers abandon it in alarm. We have often

observed, that when the headlong zealots and greedy placehunters of the party have been venting their discontent at his pusillani- mous indecision, Sir ROBERT has taken an opportunity to swell and talk big : and that, we suspect, is the secret of his vapouring on Tuesday, lather than any real expectation of a speedy return to office.