18 MARCH 1843, Page 1


THE Corn question has been hung out to air in both Houses of Parliament this week, and on the same night ; an arrangement which has the advantage of cramming the papers next morning with reports all of a sort, and settling in the negative the wavering will of the general reader whether he shall wade into it or not—it being clearly impossible to reach the other bank across such a flood. Lord MONTEAGLE, however, who raised the debate in the House of Peers, did contrive to impart a new gloss to the question, by dressing it up as a motion to inquire into the operation of the sew Corn-law ; a legitimate proposition enough, unless we grant that it is premature. He made out a prima facie case, by showing that the evils imputed to the old law cling also to the new,—the fluctuation of price, the withholding of the foreign supply when most wanted, the letting it in just as the farmers bring the home supply to market, and other mischiefs which the old law was meant to prevent but confessedly produced, and which the new law was to remedy but also owns as its attendants. On the other hand, Lord WHAENCLIFFE adduced some reasons for postponing such an in- quiry; the most forcible being, that some of the mischief alleged was produced by the first operation of the law : for instance, it brought ruin to the corn-dealers, but that was done in practically showing that they can no longer tamper with the averages; and they only paid, however largely, the price of that experience. The other House was occupied with the renewal of Mr. WARD'S motion for inquiry into the peculiar burdens alleged to press upon the land. The inquiry was refused last year, and no new matter was now introduced t3 prove it to be more imperative this year. Nor has any event happened which especially calls for the investi- gation in 1843: the argument at which it was levelled has slum- bered in comparative silence. The only obvious plea for it is, that the allegation has been made at one time or another, and that it stands equally unretracted and unproved. Ministers and their supporters at once assume the conclusion that such burdens exist and refuse investigation of the fact ; and Mr. WARD has a right to say, Bring the allegation to proof, or do not make it. Sir ROBERT FEEL offers returns; but what is that, more than offering Mr. WARD materials fbr another speech ? What is wanted is, not data, but an authoritative digest of the data and an authoritative opinion upon them. One objection urged by the Premier was, that if the Committee were appointed, it must represent the House, and thus must have a majority from the Ministerial side : but Mr. WARD might have disarmed that objection by accepting the Committee so constituted, with the condition that the odd member should be a high-minded and intelligent man, and a representative of the dominant Peel policy—Mr. WILLIAM GLADSTONE for instance. Perhaps the most telling objection urged by the astute Premier, was the apparent mechanical unfitness of a Committee to institute a long inquiry granted to a person naturally assumed to be ready to vote for repeal of the Corn-law next week, without waiting for the report of his own Committee. The objection, however, is un- substantial: for Mr. WARD seeks the inquiry not for his own infor- mation or conviction, but for that of others; and if he can beat his antagonists in voting before he has accomplished the slow pro- cess of convincing them, he has a right to do it. The real thing that deprived the motion of all influence, and turned it almost into a mockery, was the fact that all knew the result before they began to argue it ; the division-list might have been made out when the notice was given, subject to deductions for absence. That fore- knowledge throws an effect of hollowness and futility on the whole palaver. But this, again, is not peculiar to Mr. WARD'S motion. The Lord Chancellor has called attention as it is termed, to the trial of WNAUGHTEN, and the verdict which many have been dis- posed to consider as extending immunity to murderers on an un- substantial pretext of insanity. Lord LYNDHURST completely made out the view which we maintained last week, that the law does not, in_that respect, need alteration—that it recognizes in bar of punish- ment precisely those kinds of insanity which eAcIp4e. the criminal [Larris EDITION.] from a competent knowledge of the crime that he is committing, but shut out all inapposite pleas of the sort. He also made it clear that the formal administration of the law cannot be mended : although, on the special point, the weight of opinion seems against the Judges who stopped the trial before the evidence was exhausted, there is no question that the Judges are as high as can be in integrity and ability. It remains that precautions should be adopted to prevent such lamentable occurrences ; and undoubtedly there are species of vigilance over individuals in which the law of this free country is. very deficient. Such is the direction of the immediate measures to be adopted by the Government. In a more extended view, some- thing beyond seems incumbent. Throughout this and simi- lar discussions we perceive no trace that the legislators take into consideration the effect of corrective discipline—the s.ate of the human mind, sane or insane, healthy or morbid in those who are not considered "mad," and the mode of working on those states of mind by discipline, whether as deterring by the apprehension of it, or actively coercing the mind in the opposite direction from crime. "The law" and "criminals" are much talked of, but human nature and the motives which affect it are left out of the account ; as if human nature were not, after all, the real subject of consideration, and not merely the set technical rules of society, and that small section of erring humanity detected and classified tres- passers. In this question, of all others, principles are thrust aside as irrelevant !

The debate on Privilege has been carried on, with much ability, by the leaders of the two great parties, and two of their shining lawyers, Sir WILLIAM FOLLETT and Sir 'fuomas WILDE. The general conclusion seems to be, that the privileges of the House of Commons are inestimable and not to be relinquished ; that they are seriously endangered by submitting to the judgment of the Law Courts, but that there are innumerable and insuperable difficulties in refusing that submission ; and finally, the House, rejecting Sir THOMAS WILDE'S exhortation absolutely to resist all encroachment, instructed its officers to plead in the action instituted by the attorney HOWARD. So, farewell to the absolute privileges of the Third Estate ! The question does not possess a very Jiving in- terest; its bearing, like its arguments, being chiefly historical. The high privileges of the Commons are not of that paramount im- portance that they were when the Barons or the Crown possessed overwhelming power, and concession was destruction. Should ex- treme junctures again arise, the powers necessary to them will again be seized. Meanwhile, the temper of the day runs in favour of defined and set law ; and to that temper, to the responsibilities of office, and to the inherent difficulties of the case, the Premier has yielded his high privilege predilections.