NEWS OF THE WEEK.
Loan PALMERSTON has summoned his faithful adherents to stand by him at the opening of Parliament on the 3d of February ; and his great ally the Times foreshadows the story of "next session" : Quiet noblemen and gentlemen moving and seconding the addresses, all unconscious of the future which they are opening ; Parliamentary Committees, bluebooks, interpellations of Palmerston in one House and Clarendon in another, with Ministerial replies, and departmental explanations, shutting out information ; suspicions that we are not going quite Atilt abroad, not doing what we desire at home—that even our Navy, for example, is but a congeries of resultless eiperiments ; the stage-play of the session
leaving us exactly where we were when we began. This would be to suppose that the Government will be entirely successful in getting thrqugh the session without much trouble ; and it is possible that by the usual contrivances, by explanations which tell nothing, by "riding off on brilliant platitudes," Ministers may evade much practical responsibility on the standing subjects.
The Queen's Speech will be rather more eventful than usual ; and the discourses of Ministers in illustration must be somewhat more interesting, since they have information to give. They have, for instance, to report the second edition of the Paris Conference, with the actual result of the settlement on the Bolgrad and other points. They have to report the proposed arrangement of the Prussian marriage, with its financial accompaniment. They have at the same time to explain the King of Prussia's proceedings with respect to Neuchatel, and the part that our Government has taken in that affair. The English public awaits, without impatience, the report that the American Senate has ratified the treaty on the Central American question. The name of Persia, seldom heard in English debates, will awaken some echoes. But most of all needing explanation is the new war with China—the war of the Lorcha. Some positive information, some actual news, is expeoted from Ministers on these subjects; and the earliest statements in both Houses will therefore be somewhat more interesting than usual.
Everybody is anticipating a "busy session " ; and the list of measures which will demand speedy attention is roughly compiled by the public itself. "The country" has determined that the Income-tax shall be greatly reduced, and if possible amended. This may be accompanied by some improvements, it is supposed, in the Ministerial arrangements of finance. The revisal of the expiring contract with the Bank of England will be submitted for the consideration of Parliament. We are to have reduced military estimates—reduced, that is, in comparison with the war scale, bat far from being reduced, we presume, in comparison with the old scale of peace establishments : for we are to have great military improvements ; and although the number has been reduced, the Army is to be maintained in a state of thorough efficiency—ready, Lord Panmure says, to be landed on the Continent "in ten days." The public has determined to have some explanation about the [WITH &TIMM:WT.]
ticket-of-leave system, if not some practical measure substituting a more effectual detention of condemned criminals for the plan of discharge after short terms of imprisonment. Mr. Charles Pearson has laid before the public, on the invitation of the Lord Mayor, a general scheme of secondary punishments, industrial, reformatory, and self-supporting : many other persons arc prepared to assist in rendering the system of penal servitude a reality. The cry for "transportation" will of course be renewed —the experiment of the Falkland Islands will be recommended. The whole question Will be reopened ; and the practical failure of the Transportation Committee of last session will, if no other considerations would, effectually preclude Ministers from burying the subject in a Committee and entombing it in a bluebook.
The Mixed Education Committee in Manehesthr has definitively ordered that a bill shall be brought into the House of Commons by Sir John Pakington and Mr. Cobden; and Lord John Russell is wending his way towards England.
Law-reform presses to be advanced, and there arc some special chapters that were handed over from last session. The case of the Ecclesiastical Courts is very urgent. The Law Amendment Sooiety reports against the schemes already before Parliament for establishing a new Testamentary Jurisdiction, and proposes instead a Court of Probate formed of throe Judges from the existing Courts. Consolidation of the Statutes is demanded, if only for the purpose of bringing our whole law together that it may he improved by correction—that is, by something even humbler yet more essential than "amendment." The confusion caused by the conflicting concurrent jurisdiction of Chancery and Bankruptcy in cases like that of the Royal British Bank, the misconception of the law relating to documents of title which has occasioned the meeting of London traders this week, and many other practical complications, have invoked a public interest in a class of reforms hitherto left to lawyers and scientific. inquirers.
A host of practical improvements more or less local will successively claim the attention of the two Houses. Conspicuous among these is the London drainage, with the demand of four millions sterling for carrying it out, and the supplemental suggestion of an extension to the German Ocean. Then come demands for buildings for the Public Offices, the new Charing Bridge, the purchase of Hampstead Heath, &c. These are a few of the subjects which Parliament is expected to take up, and to finish off in the session of 1857. The public has often been disappointed; but at present it is noting the fact that there is no European war, no great party difficulty, no overwhelming care, to prevent Ministers from mastering the reasonable demands of public business.
The electric telegraph brings important news from the East. The Persian expedition has got to work, and has executed a part of its task, in taking the fort of Bushire and the island of liarrack,—the first instalment. What is next to be done on that side of Persia, this deponent, the electric telegraph, saith not.
On the other side, say official organs, Colonel Cliamberlayne did not proceed to occupy Affghanistan for the support of the Dost against Persia, but only against a refractory tribe ; and they report that he has actually fallen back. Yet Colonel Chemberlayne may still be available to support the old chief against the Shah if necessary ; and we infer moreover that official people have that contingency in view, since in: India there is a very observable moving of regiments Northward. The conflagration at Canton continues to spread. Yoh had retaliated on the factories, probably with much destruction of property ; and the British were about to rejoin with the bombardment of Canton itself.
The French assassin Verger has been condemned to death ; but although judge and jury duly carried out the intention of Govern• meat in expediting his trial, he has made an appeal on technical points to the Court of Cessation; and it does appear possible that the devices employed for the purpose of expediting the execution of sentence may have the effect of delaying it, unless, which is improbable, the Government were to take upon itself the repon
sibility of setting aside all form. Verger had resolved to use his defence as a medium for proclaiming to the world the abuses, corruptions, and depravities of the Roman Catholic clergy. This was anticipated, and a judge was selected for his " fumness "his ability to keep down the prisoner. The trial degenerated into a struggle between judge and accused. The advocate officially appointed for the defence may be said to have assisted the worst spirit on both sides by the feebleness of his intervention. The outrages of Verger excited the auditory ; but their excitement took the turn of disgust, and the court of justice became a theatre of uproar, in which the judge was hallooed on by the spectators. Verger insolently summoned a long list of witnesses : they were almost all refused to him,—one of the technical points which deprives his trial of solemnity, and affords a ground for appeal. The assassin may be removed ; the accuser of the clergy may be silenced for ever ; but the moral effect of the whole procedure will be mischievous in a high degree.
The debates in the Piedmontose Chamber of Deputies, at the opening of the session, were at once a test of the reality of Parliamentary aotion in that country and the cause of information to the public. Signor Brofferio, a member who advocates the Republican policy, and tries to force it upon the Government, put various questions, for the purpose of showing that the moderate polioy embodied in Count Cavour's note to the Paris Conference had failed, and must disappoint the Italian people. "Nine long months," said the orator, had that note been before the world, without results : "twenty-five long years," said Count Mamiani, had the policy of Mazzini been before the world, without results. The attack of Brofferio furnished an opportunity for enabling the Ministers of the King of Sardinia to state over again the principles on which they are acting, the position which they have established among the Governments of Europe, and the progress which they are making in naturalizing constitutional government on the Italian soil.
The overt act in Spain is the summoning of the Cortes ; in the election of which, says that satirist the telegraph, "the Government will allow a reasonable degree of liberty." We infer that Narvaez, O'Donnell, Concha, and the imprisoned Prim, feel their inventive faculties rather fatigued, and that they will net dislike the Parliamentary ground, for a change.
Railway projects are at present making some progress, at least in opinion. The line to unite the Danube and the Hellespont—a most important section of the highways in the East—has advanced so far towards being a reality, that an active negotiator has returned to this country with the Sultan's concession in his pocket. TWQ millions sterling have already been subscribed in Turkey towards the capital required. By the Central American arrangements, to which the United States and England as well as Honduras were parties, with the sanction of France, obstacles to improved railway communication through the natural valley intersecting the Andes have been removed, and we may see a line uniting the Atlantic and the Pacific, for the rapid transit of passengers, treasure and light goods. The iron network has already been marked out at its extremities in India. The Euphrates Valley line promises to unite India through North-Western Asia with the European system. These are but projects ; yet the discussions of the week show that the public mind has fastened upon them as practical objects, and the Sultan, as we have stated, has contributed his quota towards realizing them.
Meetings have again been held by the unemployed builders in London, while the shoemakers of London and other places have followed up the movement commenced at Northampton. In both cases there has been some sobering down towards immediately practical objects. The boot and shoemakers abstain from decreeing a, fixed percentage as the enhancement of the selling price ; but it is clear that the consumer will have to submit to a considerable rise, especially in those qualities of the finished article which are the most moderate in price concurrently with being the soundest in make,,--that is, the kinds in which less is paid for fashion than leather, and in which cheapness is not attained by badness of material. The unemployed builders still talk of employment on the waste lands ; but in the mean time they have agreed systematically to press the demand fbr a loaf, each man in his own parish.
After the great criminal trials, the proceedings of our Law Courts have excited unusual interest, from the importance of the topics brought before them. The excessive litigation in the case of the Royal British Bank is a gigantic abuse which continues even now to grow. But the most interesting event in the legal world has been the decision of Lord Chief Justice Campbell on the ease of Alicia Race, the child of a soldier who was killed at the attack on Petropaulovaki. The contest lay between the Roman Catholic mother of the child and the manager of a Protestant school; the mother claiming to take the daughter from that school in which she had placed her ; the school authorities, backed by the Royal Patriotic Fund, pleading the known Protestant faith and wishes of the father. By the public in general the case has been treated as one in which the mother was acting as the tool of some Popish propagandist who was endeavouring to obtain possession of the child for purposes of conversion. It may be so ; but Lord Campbell, referring to many decisions respecting children, applied them to the general Point of legal or moral qualification for the custody and disposal of a child, and, on the broad ground of parental authority, he ordered the girl to be instantly surrendered to her mother,