NEWS OF THE WEEK.
IN the last working week of the session, amid the dregs of legis- lation, the Bishops Retirement Bill has acquired the importance of a great measure. It is not that the debates have produced any remarkable novelty. We have a repetition of exactly the same arguments which were stated with as much point, though less developed, in the House of Lords. Some of the arguments there urged, snch as the difficulty of arranging the apostolical succession, have not been improved in the Lower Chamber ; but others have been more expanded, and have been presented with considerable force. The objection that a resignation conditional upon a pension amounted to simony, has indeed been beaten out to ultra--refinement. Mr. Roebuck's discovery of " corruption " in the " contract" was an exaggeration. Mr. Gladstone's argu- ment, that arrangements could be made for the appointment of Suffragan Bishops or Coadjutors, only presented the alternative of an old makeshift in lieu of the simple arrangement proposed in the Government bill. Sir James Graham went back to the annals of Sir Robert Peel's time, and drew forth from the records of Parliament in that day a bill intended to provide for the case of the Bishop of Bath and Wells, appointing commissioners to inquire into the actual infirmity of the Bishop, and if that should be established, subseqUently placing the see as it were in com- mission. But this, like the statute of Coadjutor Bishops, is only a makeshift, which, considered by itself; was scarcely so well re- commended as the bill actually before the House. The argu- ments against the measure, therefore, were neither novel nor convincing ; but there was one which ought to be absolutely admitted. It was, that a measure for the first time authorizing the resignation of Bishops as a matter of routine, should at least be well and deliberately considded by the representatives of the English people, and that, therefore, the Horse of Commons ought to be allowed a longer time and a cooler season than the last week of the session.
Another question was suffered, by the reciprocal indifference of both sides, to drift before the House. The Opposition referred to the case of Bishop Pearce, whe negotiated a resignation soon after George the Third came to the throne. Pearce was Bishop of Rochester ; the bishopric of London fell vacant ; Pearce coveted it, and he actually resigned Rochester to George tho Third, kissing hands in proof of the compact, upon the under- standing that he was to be appointed to the see of Lon- don. As soon as Pearce had resigned, several others put in claims which would have defeated the object of the manoeuvre, and the Ministry of the day gave up the attempt. It is no doubt a bad and warning precedent. The Opposition of that day opposed the resignation as a facility for the disposal of bishop- rics by the party in- power ; and a similar jealousy manifestly actuated the Opposition of the present day. A- oertain degree of malls animus on that side contributed to the strength of go- vernment on the other.
But in fact, the question was not decided upon the merits, er upon policy ; it was decided by the statistics of the Members me- mailing in town. Mr.. Gladstone hit that nail on the held. There are some forty or fifty persons holding office under Govern- ment who constitute the official phalanx : in the early part of the session their voting is of no great importance, but when grouse and other agremens have drawn off the independent Mem- bers, then the official phalanx remains and preponderates. We have no hesitation in saying that it was a dereliction of duty on the part of the Government thus to submit a measure materially altering the constitution of the Church Establishment, in the ab- sence of the great bulk of the House of Commons ; and Mr. Gladstone was quite correct in protesting against that species of legislation by official decree. In substance, we believe that the measure is an act of administrative reform, placing the superior officers of the Church upon a practical equality with those of the Army, the Law, or any other branch of administration. But these are arguments which should have been submitted to the House of Commons, and not to a fragment of the House, in which Ministers by the force of the season accidentally possess a dis- proportionate weight. The best apology which Ministers can make is, that they remain in town to perform their duties, and that they only obtain this extraordinary power by a dere- ilction of duty on the part of the majority. To the Members such a retort would have much force, but it is not consoling for the public.
Although the business of the week has chiefly consisted in finishing up familiar work, with the discussion of the customary legislative cheese in the form of the Consolidated Fund Appro- priation Bill, there have been some novelties, and some import- ant indications of progress. In the Upper House, for example, the Lord Chancellor has produced nine bills, consolidating a con- siderable number of the statutes relating to criminal offences, from high treason to larceny. In the Lower House, Mr. Vernon Smith has made a statement on the condition of Indian finance. Some Members had intended to treat this statement as an " In- dian budget," and to take the opportunity of bringing forward Indian " grievances " ; and one such attempt was made, but without result. The President of the Board of Control inti- mated, that if all these grievances were brought forward he should be prevented from bringing forward his statement. The money, in fact, is not voted here, and it is not desirable to make Parliament usurp functions that may ultimately be developed in India itself. Among some improvements of the Standing Orders, is one which will prevent Members from proposing a vote of Indian money not introduced by the recommenda- tion of the Crown : this will cut off a class of appeals to the British Parliament which are seldom useful and never satisfac- torily treated. Two rather important points in our foreign relations have been dragged out in Parliament; Lord Malmesbury has called attention to the hostile attitude which we preserve towards Brazil—a Go- vernment disposed to us by natural sympathies, and anxious to be in-the most friendly relations with us ; whereas we • place it under a species of alienation and coercion, in order to force cer- tain, measures for the better prevention of slave-trading. Now the Brazilian Government has most loyally earned out its efforts against the slave-trade, though not with perfect success ; and be- cause its success is no better than our own, our Government treats it as an enemy.
Meanwhile, our late enemy Russia is permitted to dismantle the fortresses of Ismail and Reni, notwithstanding the treaty which ought to have bound Russia to return those strongholds to Turkey. It does not appear that we are to use any coercion towards Russia. " Parcere superbis, it debellare subjectos."—i that is the modern reading of the maxim. It looks clever, but - is not so safe as it looks.
Mr. Roebuck has fulfilled his promise in moving the expulsion of James Sadleir, the Member for Tipperary, whose share in the fraudulent conspiracies of John is notorious. Sadleir is a fugi- tive, and Mr. Roebuck considered the notoriety of the case suffi cient ground of action. The Attorney-General for. Ireland, hOw--: ever, showed that the most useful precedents the House has possessed some distinct record of proof or confession; and that it will acquire such evidence in Sadleir's ease after a sufficient lapse of time. On this showing the matter was suffered to stand over until next session ; Lord Palmerston giving the assurance that there shall be no Chiltern Hundreds evasion.