TOPICS OF THE DAY.
WHAT ARE MINISTERS TO DO?
IF the Lords refuse to pass the Reform Bill, will Earl GREY go Out? Ile has declared that he would stand or fall by the Bill—did this involve a determination to abandon it, and the country by whom it is supported, to the obstinacy, or folly, or fears or the Upper House ? The question to be solved is not Whether office be necessary to Earl GREY, but whether, under existing circum- stances, Earl GREY be necessary to office. This is our only con- cern. We shall best arrive at its solution by considering the con- sequences of a dissolution of his Ministry. An Anti-Reform Cabinet might be formed. The Commons might be put down ; the _King, the Minister, and the Peers, might govern the empire. In other words, an absolute monarchy might be established. If the People did not resist—well: if they did—a civil war would be the issue. It is evident that an Anti-Reform Ministry must put down the Commons ; they could not hold power for a week with the present House, and the present is the most tolerant that an Anti- Reform Ministry will ever have to deal with. It is equally evident
that resistance could hardly fail to follow. One consequence, therefore, of_Earl GREY'S resignation, would be a civil war, which nothing but his . immediate restoration to power could avert. To resign to an Anti-Reform Ministry, would thus be a dangerous tampering with the peace of the country.
• There is .another view of the case. An Anti-Reform Administra- tion being obviously impracticable, another Reform Ministry aright be formed. The Tories, moved by their native and indestructible attachment to place, might contrive a loop-hole through which to escape from their ConStitutional pledges; or Sir ROBERT PEEL, as he did on the Catholic Bill, might boldly hoist the banner of .expediency, and still professing, as he then did, that his senti- ments were unchanged, yield in offiee to the external pressure which he affected to despise when out of office. We might thus get the Bill, yea "the whole Bill," from the Anti-Reformers ; we believe we should. Some people may think, that in such a case, the resignation of Earl GREY would matter little—the national desire would be gratified as well were he out as were he in. A little consideration will show the fallacy of this opinion. True, a Tory Ministry might be compelled to grant the Bill; but their whole power. and influence would be exerted to render the grant as use- less as possible. Now, sve do not court an abstraction, but a tan-
gible good; we seek not to compress a cloud, but to clasp a god- dess. The extension of the qualification, the disfranchisement of small, the enfranchiseinent of large townS—these are no more than -the machinery of freedom, which must be wisely and zealously worked before we can enjoy the fruits of freedom. If those who have the direction of the machinery. be ignorant, or care- less, or slothful—much more, if they be perverse—the fruits will be small and • of small value. To enable us, in a word, to reap the solid advantasses which the Reform Bill is calculated to bestow, fully and speedily, the Bill must be carried into effect by men Whose hearts are with Reform, not by men whose hearts are turned away from it. In either of the cases, then, Which we have put—and there is no third case—we say Earl GREY ought not to resign, whatever be the sentiments of the Lords ; nay, we go farther, he must not resign—in the name of the People wefor- _bid it.
We have been arguing on the hypothesis that the Lords
will reject the Bill. On arguing point the authorities differ. The Duke of' CUMBERLAND shows, it is said, a list in which there ap- pears a large majority against it : an humbler, but more laborious calculator, shows a list in which there appears a sufficient majority in its favour. The only inference we would draw from these state- ments is, that there is no small difficulty in ascertaining what the ,Lords will do. This forms the best, and indeed the only reason, wiry Earl GREY, in the exercise of his .public duty, has not advised such an addition to the House of Lords as would give the Reform Bill as decided a preponderance there as it has everywhere else. As long as he is ignorant of their Lordships' intentions, he may be excused from resorting to the constitutional means of restoring harmony between the three branches of the Legislature. There is much unfounded argument and great lack of knowledge dis- - played by the Tories in respect of this means. They speak of the Lords as existing, in their legislative capacity, for themselves only; they represent a creation of new Peers as if it were an outrage upon their privileges or detraction from the dignity of their monopolized honours. The Lords are, in a constitutional sense, as much representatives as the Commons are ; differing in the form of their election, and in the character of their elector, but really and truly trustees, as much as the members of London, though not equally amenable to discipline. The People have chosen an elective house of representatives, which expresses their sentiments ; the King must choose an hereditary house of representatives, which shall equally respond to their sentiments and his. The one act is no more a violation of priVilege than the other. Sir THOMAS ACLAND.S privileges were as much involved in the election of Lord JOHN RUSSELL to- be member for Devon- shire, as were the privileges of Lord LONDONDERRY in the eleva- tion of Colonel FITZCLARENCE to be Earl of MUNSTER. What may he the exact amount of character which the present House of Lords have to spare, we do not know ; but of this ,we are sure, it will suffer no diminution by an infusion of Reform. On the contrary, it is only by such an infusion that the House can retain either respect or efficiency as a branch of - the. egislature. The number of new Peerages, supposing the Lords to reject the Bill, will be measured by the majority. Let it be two, let it be two hundred, it matters little : there is not a true Reformer in England who will not say, "be the creation correspondent." If the Peers expect that any sympathy for what is called their privileges influences one man without their own bar, . no honourable body were ever so completely mistaken. The People are not ignorant of the motives that have guided and will always guide Cabinets in the elevation of civilians. True, there may be no precedent for the manufacture of such a batch as some noble Lords would fain provoke—but why ? Because, un.: happily for the People, the House of Lords have hitherto ruled the Commons, and the King has sided with the Lords. Now, for the first time in our history, the King and the Commons are com- bined ; if the Upper House will withstand both, the Upper House must, perforce, be modified into common sense and discretion. / We conclude, then—the opposition of the Peers to the Bill will not defeat it. Let them think of this in the first place. Their op-w position will not alter the Ministry—it will only alter themselves- Let their thoughts be directed to this fact also. If there be a ma- jority against Reform on the second reading, the Parliament will be prorogued ; in a month, or less, the same House of Commons will reassemble; the same Bill will pass ; and it will be sent up, not to the same, but to a Reformed House of Lords, to be con- sidered and passed as it ought to. be. The Commissioners will by that time have finished their tasks ; and the new Parliament will meet precisely as it would have done had the Lords been as pru- dent in the first instance as they have hitherto shown themselves, —and as we still hope they will on this occasion show themselves, notwithstanding the foolery of their misguided and deceiving flatterers.