TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE DEFEAT OF MINISTERS—WHAT NEXT?
DURING Wednesday and Thursday, the daily organs of public opinion faintly attempted to treat the majority of ONE as a victory gained by the Ministers. They acknowledged, however, that of
the 303 members who voted against the second reading of the Bill, not one might be expected to vote for the third reading ; whilst many of the 30:3 who voted for the second reading, merely throinzh fear of their constituents, were pledged to oppose the Bill in Com- mittee, and therefore, as the Ministers are resolved to uphold all the essential details of their measure, to swell considerable majo- rities against them in every future stage of the Bill. On their own showing, consequently, the daily papers ought, from the first, to have described this " victory" as a defeat. Some of them have acknowledged their error, and all are coming to the conclu- sion that the Bill is lost.
Our readers will do us the justice to remember, that we have never for a moment entertained a hope that so " effectual" a measure of Reform would be willingly adopted by the present
House of Commons. On the morning after Lord JOHN RUSSELL s introductory speech was delivered, we began our catalogue of
persons qualified to serve the Nation in Parliament ; being satisfied that, if Ministers did not desert their country and themselves, an early dissolution was inevitable. As we expected, there is now a
universal cry of "Dissolve ! dissolve and conquer!" The only pre- sent question is—when will the dissolution take place,—imme- diately, or after another and more palpable defeat of Ministers ? Is there the least chance that Ministers should be able to carry the Bill unhurt through another stage ? Plainly not ; for Sir
THOMAS ACLAND, the most of a Reformer amongst those who voted for the second reading avowedly through fear of their con- stituents, has declared that he must oppose the total disfranchise- ment even of a single rotten borough. The main principle of the Bill, therefore, would be sacrificed by such a modification of its details as would satisfy the most liberal of its present opponents. But even were this not self-evident—were it possible to imagine that
the Bill should pass through the Committee without any serious injury—is there not another place through which the Bill must pass
in order to become law? and is it not greatly to be feared, that, if Ministers should give the House of Commons an inch, they would thereby encourage the House of Lords to take an ell? Some crafty Tories, we are told, of the crooked-path school of Sir Ro-
BERT PEEL, express a hope that the Bill may pass the House of Commons, so as to preclude Ministers from dissolving Parliament
on the ground of their being in a minority, and then be returned from the House of Lords, " amended," that is, pared down to Sir ROBERT PEEL'S narrow comprehension of effectual Reform. In that case, say these crooked-path gentry, a vest majority of the House of Commons would vote for the " amended" Bill, which would become law ; the present House of Commons would (lie a natural death some years hence ; by that time the existing horrid
excitement of the people would have subsided ; and so the ques- tion of Reform would be set at rest for ever. This cunning project
we have thought worth mentioning, not because we fear that
Ministers may fall into the trap, but because it points to the dan- ger of sending the Reform Bill, even though unhurt, to the House Ministers may fall into the trap, but because it points to the dan- ger of sending the Reform Bill, even though unhurt, to the House
of Lords, if not supported by a great majority of the House of Commons. If the Bill should pass unhurt through the House of Commons, and be stopped or frittered away in the House of Lords, on what plea would Ministers resort to a dissolution of Parliament ? And does not every. one know — first, that their Lordships would eagerly snap at any pretext for injuring or crushing the Bills ? and, secondly, that they would surely coincide
with the King and an overwhelming majority of the House of Commons ? No greater misfortune to thecountry seems possible,
just now, than an effectual opposition of the House of Lords to the will of both King and People. It follows from these consi- derations, that Ministers might place themselves and the country in a very awkward position, by carrying the Bills through the House of Commons with majorities of one, or even of twenty. Why, then, should they proceed even to the next stage ? But, say some Reformers, who pique themselves on being as crafty as Sir ROBERT PEEL—" We don't expect or wish to carry
the Bills through the Commons : our object in proceeding to the Committee is to mark all the enemies of Reform, the shuffling county members and others, who have voted with us so far, but who, if returned again, will oppose us on every safe occasion." To this we answer—le jeu ne vaut pas in chandelle. Those enemies of Reform, who pretend to be its friends, are already known and marked : Sir CHARLES WETHERELL'S chance of being returned again is greater than their's. But now comes a more important consideration,—the cost, namely, of so small a gain as the further exposure of the shuffiers. The people are not much pleased with the "victorious" majority of one. They expected a general illumination on the second reading of the Bill. They consider the Ministerial victory to be a present defeat of the national cause. They are dissatisfied with the House of Commons; and another such "victory" would lead them, perhaps, to doubt of the entire sincerity of Ministers, and assuredly would convert their rising discontent into confirmed anger. Timid Reformers talk of the danger of a gene- ral election in the present excited state of the people's minds. True, the people are excited ; but they were never in a kinder humour than when this "victory" came to damp their cheerful enthusiasm. in their joy at the prospect of Reform, they had almost forgotten and had quite forgiven their grievances ; but already a change comes over their pleasant temper, and those who want mischief are beginning to indulge fresh hopes of convulsion. Let Ministers observe, that on Thursday night Mr. HUNT departed from the prudent course that he has hitherto pur- sue,' as to the Reform Bills, and began to find fault with the Ministerial plan ! He was loudly cheered by the Opposition ! Mr. Huser, though utterly disqualified by his ignorance from being a useful law-maker, is a clever man in his way ; and, as he knows that he must follow, is apt to observe, the current of the popular mind. He had reasons, depend on it, for declaring on Thursday, that he should prefer Ballot without the Bills to the Bills without Ballot. In fitet, the people are beginning to indulge angry feelings. 'Why should their temper be tried by more irritating, "victories ? " Supposing a dissolution sooner or later inevitable, why not appeal to the people at once—considering that, though they are now slightly irritated, the appeal would instantly restore them to good- humour ? If they are further provoked by repeated exhibitions of the names of those members who vote against Ministers, who shall say that the elections will be conducted with perfect freedom ? But there is no end of arguments in favour of an immediate dis- solution, supposing that Ministers be not absolutely certain of a la7:i.:re majority in the House of Commons in favour of every essential detail of the Bills.
The people must not-suppose, that, because Parliament was not dissolved on Wednesday, the Ministers hesitate to pursue a manly, straightforward, and we may add, the only safe course. We entreat. the friends of Reform to wait patiently, and to avoid all irritating topics, until the House of Commons shall have disposed of certain Money Bills, which must be passed in order to prevent a dissolution of the Government, and to render possible a disso- lution of the Parliament. Ministers, we for our own part believe, intend to avoid any further exposure of the House of Commons, by dissolving it as soon as possible. Tire cause of Reform will then be in the hands of the Nation. Of the ultimate success of that cause we have never doubted for a moment since we heard Lord JOHN RUSSELL's speech on the 1st of March : we are bound, there- fore, to say, that though we consider the majority of one a defeat of Ministers, the ultimate triumph of King, Ministers, and People appears to us to be assured. Indeed, as a General Election, and the consequent passing of '" the Bills, the whole Bills, and nothing but the Bills," through the House of Commons, with a vast nujority in their favour, must insure their passage un- harmed through the House of Lords,—and as the late defeat of Minister's justifies and renders imperati‘e an instant General Election, we consider that defeat a great victory for the Nation. Instead of despairing, Ve rejoice at what has occurred ; and, trusting always to the discernment and firmness of the Premier and the Chancellor, we are satisfied that the time is near when the people will exclaim—" Why did not we illuminate for that defeat of the Ministers ? "