NEWS OF THE WEEK.
NOTWITHSTANDING the "imposing attitude" which Ministers assumed upon the introduction of the. Irish Suppression Bill, and their vaunted determination to resign rather than permit any ma- terial alteration to be made in its provisions,—notwithstanding the immense majorities by which the first and second readings have been carried,—public opinion has made some impression upon them after all ; or rather, the unequivocal evidence which not a few of the members have received of the displeasure of their constituents in consequence of their recent votes, has at length compelled Ministers -to-Make some important alterations in the most ob- jectionable clauses of their bill, all these alterations having a tendency to smooth down its despotic features. We should not, indeed, be much surprised if it should be so mutilated before it escapes from the hands of the Committee, as to lose that appearance of unprecedented severity which formed its principal merit in the eyes of its authors. The bill, in short, instead of being laid aside as a weapon too dangerous to be handled, may yet serve as a very useful precedent to a per- plexed Ministry, whenever a restless people are to be dragooned into submission to unpopular laws. The modifications, which Lord ALTHORP and Mr. STANLEY have professed their willingness to admit into the bill, relate especially to the' court-martial clause—the most arbitrary and ob- jectionable one in the whole measure. In the first place, no officer who is below the rank of a captain, is to be allowed to sit in the courts-martial. It will be recollected, that by the bill as it was originally introduced, and passed by the Lords in less than a week, any commissioned officer twenty-one years old, and qualified for such a duty by two years' service, was eligible to be a member of these courts. Secondly, when the court consists of more than seven members, then seven must agree in the verdict; when it consists of seven members, five must agree ; but a court of only five must be unanimous. In the original, a mere majority was to have the power of deciding. Another alteration which Ministers have proposed, is to exempt from trial by courts-martial all those charged with political offences, even although alleged to have been committed in a proclaimed dis- trict. That this most important modification has rendered the bill comparatively worthless in the eyes of the Orange Tory party, we have no doubt; and many more surprising things happen every day, than a union of that party with the Irish and Radical mem- bers for the purpose of throwing it out.
But however that may be, we may rest assured that the Government would have broken down in the Committee upon the court-martial clause as it stood originally. The Ministerial ma- jority hung back; and, to use Lord ALTHORP'S expression, made such "strong representations" to him, that to yield or resign was the only point to be decided. The majority probably felt themselves in very much the same predicament as the Ministry. The strong representation which had likewise been made to many of them on their support of Government in this measure, and on other ques- tions—the ugly references to electioneering promises and speeches —and the well-grounded dread of being required to resign their seats immediately, or of being ignominiously thrust from them at the next election—all conspired to make them restive, and refuse to go to Coventry by the muddy road through which Lord ALTHORP would have had the cruelty to lead them.
It was on going into Committee that the modifications above stated were announced to the House. The bill itself, as it came
down from the Lords,—the arbitrary, despotic, severe, and cruel bill, as Lord MORPETH termed it,—was read a second time on Monday by a majority of 279, the numbers being 363 to 84. The
debate on the second reading was dull and heavy. Mr. CHARLES GRANT spoke feebly in support of it, and Mr. CHARLES BULLEFt sturdily and argumentatively against it. The Committee was more lively. Mr. O'CONNELL declared his intention of fighting the bill clause by clause ; and if he acts up to his determination, there is no saying how lonc, Irish affairs will continue to engross the attention and weary the patience of the people of England.
Last night, the second clause, which empowers any two or more Justices of the Peace to inflict a summary punish- ment on all persons who disobey their orders to disperse from an illegal meeting, was so modified as to do away with this sum- mary jurisdiction, and to leave the persons charged with offences to the ordinary Jury tribunal.
Among the remaining blots of the bill, destined to undergo • purification and amendment, may reasonably be included the clause by which even the smoke from a peasant's cabin-chimney
might be Converted into an insurrectionary signal ; also that 'by which imprisonment in private dungeons instead of the King's gaols was authorized; and the omission of a provision confining • the operation of the act to Ireland—for we believe it was not meant to enable the Irish authorities to exercise dominion over the persons of the Kings subjects in England.
Now it should never be lost sight of, that all these monstrous provisions and bldriders were carried through the House of Lords with scarcely a syllable of comment or a pretence of opposition.
Yet in the House of Lords are to be found, we are told, the great Equity lawyers, the calm and dispassionate Judges, whose pecu- liar province it is to perfect every measure which passes through their hands. It is fortunate, indeed, that our dearest interests are not solely confided to their keeping. It is fortunate, moreover, that Lord ALTHORP and Mr. STANLEY have met with determined opposition ; and that not alone from O'CONNELL and the Re- peelers, whom some persons have had the assurance to lecture for their resistance to such a bill as this,—a bill in which at least a dozen most material alterations have been or will be made. Talk of blind confidence in the Ministry after this! What sort of an enactment would now be on our Statute-book if that confidence had been universal ?
The Ministerial propensity to blunder appears to be incurable. The Irish Church Reform Bill, which was to have been urged
through the House with politic vigour, is thrown aback. It was read a first time on Monday last ; and Thursday- was appointed for the second reading, in spite of the protestations and bewailings of - Sir ROBERT Pm. and the Conservatives, — who gave Lord Ammar-on that occasion an intimation, if he can only understand
it, that while they will lend him every assistance in rendering the Ministry hateful to the nation, they will throw all the obstacles they can lay hold of in his way when he seeks to reform abuses and to mitigate oppression. Sir ROBERT PEEL not only protested, and begged a delay till Monday next, but he even divided the House upon it ; when the Conservatives were found to muster 46, in opposition to 187. When Thursday came, it was discovered that this same Church ReformBill, being a money bill, should have originated in a Committee of the whole House; and that its fur- ther consideration must be postponed, unless some way of get- ting over the difficulty is discovered by a Select Committee, who are appointed to search for precedents on the subject. Tile greater part of Thursday night was wasted in the discussion of this
point. PEEL, GOULBURN, WYNN, and INGLIS are in the mean time openly chuckling over Lord ALTHORP'S want of official tact and forethought ; while O'CoiNNELL and the Repealers, with a show
of sorrow on their countenances for the postponement of the " healing measure," are laughing heartily in their sleeves at the Ministerial discomfiture. The active and industrious members of all parties, in common with their constituents at large, sigh for the days when Ministers of State shall be really men of business.
The bribed electors of Liverpool and Stafford are threatened with exposure at least : there is good ground to hope that disfran- chisement also will follow. Committees have been appointed to inquire into the proceedings at the late elections in both places ; and if the House does its duty, a check at least will be put upon the most profligate system of corruption which has ever been acted upon even in this country. In Stafford, it appears, that out of 526 voters who composed the majority, 524 were bought. The man who paid them the money, will, it is said, be brought up in. evidence against them.
The grave rebukes, expressions of offended dignity, and pious pro- testations of purity, with which the members of the EpiSeopalBench are in the habit of answering the cases of negligence and avarice in the high places of the Church, which Lord KING brings for- ward some two or three days in each week, do not sedia to produce the least effect upon that persevering noblemafa. ' The field of abuse which lies open before him seems to be almost unbounded; and be labours in it with the most obstinate zeal. He made an attack, on Tuesday, upon the scandalous abuses connected with the administration of Queen Anne's Bounty, which was too surely aimed to be rebutted. The Bishop of LONDON endeavoured to Larry the blow ; but failed, for he could not deny the truth of ord KING'S statement of facts, or disprove the inferences, not by any means complimentary to Church dignitaries, which he drew from them.
Lord BROUGHAM, on Thursday, made some statements relative to the progress of education in England. It appears that the number of schools and scholars has increased since 1820 very rapidly. There are still, however, no fewer than fifteen hundred parishes in England where the poor have no means of instruction. Lord BROUGHAM also mentioned that the great mass of our population in the manufacturing districts were lamentably igno- rant ; a fact which will be confirmed by all who have resided among them. Much, therefore, remains to be done before we shall became entitled to boast of the means of instruction afforded to the poorer classes of our countrymen. To say nothing of Scot- land or the United States, there are several of the Continental nations who surpass us in this respect. Thpre will be no danger of overdoing the matter in England for many years to come.
Mr. EDWARD BULWER has obtained leave to bring in two bills relative to the drama,—one to secure a certain sum to he author of a play, every time that it is acted ; the other, to regulate the establishment and licensing of theatres in and near the metropolis. Mr. GEORGE LAMB seconded both motions; so that we presume they will be carried with the approbation of Govern- ment. Mr. ALEXANDER BARING was decidedly for retaining the censorship, from the dread of our theatrical exhibitions becoming as indecent as those of Paris. Mr. BARING did not mention at what theatres in Paris his modesty had been so dreadfully shocked —not one of the respectable theatres, we imagine.
A great number of petitions have been presented relative to the better observance of the Sabbath. As Lord BROUGHAM remarked when presenting one of these petitions on Monday last, it is a difficult subject to legislate upon, and should be approached warily. The disposition which exists in many quarters to curtail the enjoyments of the poor should be checked. It may be ques- tioned whether legislators do not overstep their province, when they attempt to introduce regulations for the private conduct of men. As long as public order is preserved, there seems to be no reason for further interference. Now, disorderly persons are lia- ble to be punished for their breach of decorum on a Sunday, by the law as it stands at present. It is difficult to conceive what more can be done without a most arbitrary interference with personal liberty. Besides, whatever law may be passed for the better ob- servance of the Sunday, it will operate only on the pursuits, be they good or bad, of the poor. The rich will easily contrive to evade it.
Several large constituencies in different parts of the country have adopted a mode of testifying their disapprobation of the con- duct of their representatives in Parliament, which deserves to be noted. They forward their petitions to be presented by some well- known Independent member, and pass over their own repre- sentatives. He must be a- very insensible person who does not feel such a reproof strongly. This mode of indirect censure has seldom been acted on, except in extreme cases, till very lately. Formerly the petitions were forwarded almost as a matter of course to the member for the place from which they came, whatever his politics might be. But the times are altered in this respect. The people are no longer satisfied with a virtual representation of their opinions.