TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE BILL IN DANGER 1 MirrisrEas. do not propose any alteration in " the Bill ;" for though they announce that some errors in the schedules A and B will be corrected, these changes are a departure, not from the Bill to something else, but from something else to the Bill. So far all is right. Next, Ministers declare, that though they will not propose, Next, Ministers declare, that though they will not propose, they will consent to one alteration,—an alteration, however, strictly in accordance with the main principle of the Bill, by which they are still " resolved to stand or fall." For, say they, " the pro- posed diminution of the number of members is not a principle of Reform ; and if the House insist on retaining the higher number, we shall insist on the additional members being returned by large bodies of independent constituents, and not by rotten boroughs ; thus permitting the House, or rather the Anti-Reformers, to give, if it should so please them, a more extensive application to the grand principle of our measure." The Reformers agree with the Ministers in this view of the subject ; and indeed it is plain, that the proposed alteration would change the proportion of numbers greatly in favour of members returned by large and independent constituencies, against the members returned by one-member boroughs and two- member close or closish boroughs. This said-to-be possible change, therefore, must, abstractedly, be approved by every sincere friend of the grand principle on which the Bill is founded. Moreover, those who would object to any alteration of the Bill, whether for good or evil—those who are for "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill"—may rest assured, that the altera- tion talked about will not take place. The Ministers do not pro- pose it, and say that they will not : it can be proposed only by the Anti-Reformers ; and these, we may be sure, will not avail them- selves of the opportunity, given them by Ministers, to extend the grand principle of Reform. On the whole, therefore, the altera- tion talked about resolves itself into mere talk.
But now comes an important consideration. Admitting the change talked about to be both desirable and impossible, was it wise in the Ministers to talk about any change, good, bad, or in- different ? To raise—absolutely to generate —a discussion of which the whole burden is ALTERATION in "the Bill ? " Every Reformer, not being a Minister, answers—never was greater weakness ; and the Anti-Reformers prove the justice of that opi- nion, by shouts of joy, and exclamations that Ministers have de- stroyed their own work. Let us mark the actual, the inevitable, and the probable consequences of Lord JoHN RUSSELL'S mere talk on Tuesday night. First,—The enemies of Reform are elated and its friends alarmed, " The Bill" is lost for the present, since the Bill before Parliament is now described as "a new bill." TALLEYRAND would have told Lord GREY, that, in politics, a phrase often stands for a hundred reasons, as it saves both prince and peasant the trouble of think- ing. The phrase, "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill," first used by ourselves, is no longer at the service of Minis- ters. It is now—" Which bill ?—the Old Bill, with 596 members? or the New Bill, with 658 members ?" We Reformers—a motley race—have lost our watch-word and our bond of union and our union was the main-stay of Ministers. We have lost confidence in our leaders, too—our very leaders, who take from us our best arm, "the Bill !" Further, the King is no longer "Reform BILL !" The point of the pun is gone ; and the prestige of the King's name is damaged, if not destroyed ; for people ask now—are these Mi- nisters incurably weak, or have they been ordered to conciliate the Rouse of Commons, which for their own parts they wanted only to Reform ? It would be impossible, and if possible wrong, to con- ceal the fact—that the King's affection for the Bill is now generally doubted. No one contradicts the Boroughmongers now, when they say, that, come what may, the King will not dissolve Parlia- ment. All this mischief is done, and next to irretrievable.
Secondly,—It is inevitable, that as, on Monday, the House of Commons is to be occupied, not in disposing of the schedule A, as every body had been led to expect, but in listening to some more talk of alteration from Lord JOHN RUSSELL, the door will be opened to all kinds of new suggestions, and that the Anti-Re- formers will so far adopt the new Bill as to insist on debating its principle as well as its details. When will discussion terminate and voting begin ? The Country is sick of these debates • and if they should last much longer, the speeches even of the Ministers Will not be read. Does Lord GREY wish the zeal of the people to subside ? Is he so strong in both Houses, as to think meanly of the support of the people out of doors ? Why, after his miserable Budget and really shameful proceedings as to the Civil List, he could not have kept office a day but by the confiding, vigorous, most earnest assistance of the Press and the People, whose zeal for Reform and for THE BILL made them shut their eyes to all the blunders, and worse than blunders, of the present Cabinet.
Lastly,—It is but too probable that, even though the Ministers should recover their late excellent position in the House of Com- mons, and take "the Bill" uninjured into the House of Lords, their Lordships will think themselves justified in trying their skill at improving a plan, which its own authors are the foremost to ex- hibit as a crude, hasty performance, and on which the Commons have been cutting and carving to the last hour. The Ministers pro- fess to be "quite sure of the Lords." Are they sure of them- selves ? The untoward event of this week confirms our view of the ma- jority of one. That "defeat of the Ministers" might have been converted into a victory by the dissolution of Parliament, which it would have justified. At present, what course is free from dan- ger? The Lords are encouraged to throw the Bill out, or to mar it, if it should pass the Commons by only small majorities. And what then ? In that case, it would be a plain departure from the practice and spirit of the constitution to dissolve Parliament. At least, we never heard of getting a new House of Commons in order to pass a measure through the House of Lords. We never expected that large majorities of the House of Com- mons would pass the Bill unhurt ; much less could we even hope it now, when the Ministers' talk of alteration has so greatly weakened their position, and given strength, confi- dence, and impudence to the Anti-Reformers. Seeing Ministers on the brink of a precipice, down which they will probably tumble headlong, unless the People come to their assistance, we are now clearly of opinion, that the best thing that can happen for the King, the Ministers, and the Nation, will be a majority of one or more against the schedule A. We are not sure of the House of Lords, or, the Bill not being thrown out, of the King ; but if the Bill were thrown out by the House of Commons, we should be quite sure of a dissolution—and then all would go right.