28 OCTOBER 1837, Page 13


THE Review of principle, as the London and Westminster may be termed, was quickly followed by the two great party organs of Tory and Whig expedients. The Quarterly and the Edin- burgh have appeared this week, each with a manifesto or pro- gramme of policy for the ensuing session. The clever paper la CROKER, in the Quarterly Review, is for the greater part devoted to an elaborate and rather unnecessary effort to prove that Whigs in power have been as lavish of the public trea- sure, and as unscrupulous in the creation and abuse of pa- tronage, as the Tories. Lord JOHN RUSSELL'S attack upon Tory Administrations and praise of himself and his colleagues for their superior public virtue, at the Stroud dinner, provoked the recri- mination. They who are neither Whig nor Tory will conclude from the array of facts and figures put forth by the Reviewer, that both factions have fleeced the country to the best of their ability ; that the measures on which they pride themselves have been mostly failures ; and that the wonder is how the nation has managed to thrive in spite of its masters. Furnishing a proof of the necessity of curbing both Whig and Tory Ministers, and a summary of the effects of aristocratic misrule, all this is not without value ; but the only portion of the article which possesses present interest, relates to what the author calls the "Prospects of the C.nititry,"—meaning thereby, the prospect the Tories have of turning out Lord MELBOURNE. In calculating the chances of the return of his friends to otlice, the Reviewer describes the STATE or PARTIES IN PARLIAMENT.

" Lord John Russell no more leads the House of Commons than the Queen's coachman drives her Majesty's state coach and its eight cream-coloured horses to Westminster. He occupies the seat, looks his part with becoming smart- ness, shakes the reins, and even occasionally appears to crack the whip ; but the horses are really guided by persons attending on either side, in less conspicuous but more important places. Lord John Russell does what Mr. O'Connell desires, as far as Sir Robert Peel will allow him ; and is even not unwilling to be assisted by Sir Robert A, whenever it can be done without offence to Mr. O'Connell. The plain truth is, that we have leaders incapable of leading, and govelnors utterly incompetent to govern, who occupy places which they cannot execute— who exist only Ly the balance of patties—whose greatest weakness is their own professed supporters, and whose main and substantial power is the suength of their avowed antagonists. " This state of affairs, new in the history of nations, cannot possibly be of long duration. It is the result of a kind of equilibrium which at this moment has been established by the gradual abatement of the Reform phrensy and the increasing force of Conservative principles; but it is quite clear that such ele- ments cannot remain stationary—the two principles of forward and halt—of movement and conservation—of democracy, in short, and monarchy—ale in hostile presence: a weak Ministry, which, though it talks big, and flatters and appears to favour the Movement party, is really desirous of temporizing, may prolong the critical equipoise, but eventually one or other of the two principles must become predominant, and, obtaining the real government, decide the future fate and constitution of the country. " There are some very curious political pbeenomena arising out of the present state of affairs. The first and most obvious is the near approach to equality in the nunibers of the parties in the House of Commons. The Ministers—not- withstanding their marvellous abate of her Majesty's name and their extrava- gant exercise of patronage—do not claim to be stronger than they were in the last session, when, it still be recollected, on their most important question they had ooly a majority of five. On the other hand, we du not suppose that the general gain of the Conservative party can substantially impait that natrow majority : but though not, perhaps, increased in numbers, it has been much strengthened in the character of its members, and by the encouragement of public opinion." If any one expected that Tories, in office, would do aught for Reform of their own accord, the mistake would be corrected by observing that the watchword is to be "halt," the principle "conservation."

It is admitted that the Conservatives cannot break down


" Some persons believe that Lord Melbourne cannot venture so much as to face a Parliament in which be has obtained so narrow a majority at so heavy a price; others, again, suppose that be will undoubtedly meet the Parliainent, but that his majority will speedily fail him. We are of neither of these opinions: the first we wholly reject,—Lord .Melliourne is neither weak enoagh nor wise enough to take that course ; and as to the Fecund, though we admit that the Ministerial majority is the weakest ever known, we still think that it will be found enough for Lord .Melbourne's immediate purposes, though it would be wholly insufficient for a Tory Ministry."

Why should a majority sufficient for Lord MELBOURNE be too small for Sir ROBERT PEEL? The W higs will answer, that the Liberal Members represent the great body of the people, and have a fulcrum out of doors which the Tories lack. But the Reviewer has another mode of explaining what he admits "may seem to some readers a paradox." Ile quotes, from Boswam., Dr. JOHNSON'S celebrated distinction between Whig and Tory— the prejudice of the Tory being for " establishment," of the Whig for " innovation," &c.; and then gives the following apology for the


" From this great and eternal distinction has arisen the state of affairs of which we are treating. It is to this principle that may be traced the hesitation and adverseness to change of all Tory Governments, and the rash, factious, and inflammatory proceedings of all Whig Oppositions. It was this minciple which made the House of Lords, unfortunately, reluctaut to transfer the fran- chise of Grampound, Penryn. and East Retford, to Leeds, Birmingham, and Mauchester ; and which emboldenea the Opposition of 1530 Cu foment the popular discontent and disturbance which Lord John Russell bas so indiscreetly brought back to observation. " On the same principle it is, that, provided Lord Melbourne can maintain his majority office or even of one, on any direct question between him and Sir Robert as caudidate Prime Ministers, he may be quite at his ease on all the real points of yovernment he will have Sir Robert l'eel and as many of Sir Robert's WO Conservative friends as may on any occasion be necessary to defend the Crown, to maintain public order, to support public credit, and to administer public justice. But, on the other hand, if Su Robert were First Minister, the Whip would revert to their old Opposition practices : they would oppose ard harass in Parliament—they would calumniate, and agitate, and in- flame out of Joon—they would talk of stopping the supplies, and placard exhortations logo for gold—they would find fault on every occasion, and endea- vour to thwart every proposition, and especially those which might bear on the dignity of the Crown, the security of public credit, the maintenance of public order, and the execution of public juatice. And against such an Oppositton, it was not in the most palmy days of Toryism possible to conduct the Govern- ment without a large and steady majority. Can any one believe that it could now be accomplished with less '1"

The prospect of obtaining "a large and steady majority" is distant; and the Reviewer warns his party against a


Why should we, or any other honest Conservative, endeavour to blind our- selves or our friends to the real posture of public affairs? why should we delude them into a desire of prematurely seizing the Government, which they could not hold; why should we urge or even countenance impatient attempts, which would probably defeat, and certainly postpone, the ultimate success of Conser- vative principles throughout the empire? " Sir Robert Peel has manfully declared that lie is ready, under a strong sense of public duty, to accept the Government whenever a vote of Parliament may summons him to that great responsibility ; but it seems to us of vital im- portance that such a vote should not be hastily, snatched—a casual and tempo- rary success—but should be the result of that spontaneous and gradual sm. provement of political opinion, which is the beat pledge for its stability and duration."

But, in the mean while, is Ireland to be delivered over to O'CONNELL ? Is the " power of the Crown to be confided to men whose principle it has always been to impair the power of the Crown?" To a certain extent this must be; and what can the Tories do to hinder it ? The Reviewer tells them that they - may do much, by taking up an" essentially Conservative posi- tion."


"We believe that, by taking up a defensive and essentially Conservative position in both Houses of Parliament, the Duke of NVellington, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Stanley, and their friends may, by the commanding dignity of their authority—their known superiority in the House of Lords—their almost equality in the House of Commons—the unquestioned support of England, and the con- fidence aud concurrence of the vast majority of the education and property of the whole empire—do much—and more than can be done by any other system— towards the great object of wise and good men in every political crisis, nc quid detrimenti respublica capiat. "We do not conceal from ourselves that we have bold, enterprising, reckless —we have almost desperate—antagonists; but we are satisfied that it is with such enemies that the Fabian system—eunetando restituens rem—is most efficacious. Heterogeneous—nay, discordant as are the elements of the Go- vernment majority, they will be kept together, by the spirit of party and the appetite for place, against any attempt to dislodge their leaders from office: but when not compressed by that danger, personal vanities, selfish objects, individual disappointments, will necessarily arise; and though they may be such as would be again merged in any great party struggle, they would at least render the Government less confident on other points, and more careful not to afford any opportunity or excuse for occasional conjunctions and temporary coalitions between either their 'loose fish' or their Inure respectable and moderate supporters, and the Conservative body. "The system of delegation and party pledges, predominant as it has become, is nut yet powerful enough to prevent altogether the movements of ambition, avarice, or even conscience, and the narrowness of the Ministerial majority, though it will produce many unworthy compliances with individual jobbing, will also produce occasional deferences to wise and moderate councils. Besides, it must be recollected, that though the whole niajority is pledged to the general support of the Whig Administration, arid will keep their pledge, they assert that they are not pledged to revolution, but the contrary—and they may occa- sionally Ire inclined to act accordingly. So that, on the whole, we incline to hope that there will be some check to that course of profligate abuse of epis- copal, judicial, and magisterial patronage, which has been lately pursued, par- ticularly in Iln:land. Certain it is, that no fatal administrative mischief can for the present be perpetrated, and that the remnant of our constitution is, for the moment, in as little peril as, under the recent decisions of the constituen- cies, it could well be."

There is another source of comfort for the Tories. The Re- viewer admits that the pamphlet on the Domestic Prospects of the Country affords evidence of the Ministerial resolve not "to push matters to hazardous extremities "—to come to a compromise on the Irish Corporation question, and to waive that of the Irish Church. The dignified conduct of the Conservatives in the next session is to "awe and arrest injurious innovations," and thus pre- pare the way for


" Impatience and imprudence may check it, [the growing principle of Con- servation, j but if permitted to work its own way in the common sense, the mural feeling, and the patriotism of the constituent body, it may, within no long period, so cenfirin the advancing improvement in the state of parties as to produce an Administration of strength, talent, and stability—an Administratiou which may he able to restore the dwindled character of the country abroad, and to relieve our internal and social interests from the state of uncertainty, insecu- rity, anxiety, nod alium in which we have for the last few years rather struggled than lived. England is already weary and disgusted with the restless weakness and perverse imbecility of the present Ministers; who stand, like the armorial shield of the Berties, between the emblem of Radical force on one hand, and of popish fraud on the other. Evidently ashanied, arid still more afraid of their companions, and trembling and hesitating between them, they yet have mot the common honesty, the common courage, or even the common sense, to get rid of both their tormentors by a straightforward policy. They trust for escape to the chapter of accidents, or, if that shall fail them, to the generous patriotism of Sir Robert Peel and Lord Stanley, to save them in the hour of need from their own supporters l" The policy of the Tories, then, is to bide their time, to avoid mere party conflicts, and assist Ministers in resisting every move- ment onward. They have become reconciled to the third condi- tion under which we showed* that a Conservative Government might exist—supported by Tories, though the pay and patronage must remain with the Whigs for some time longer. The insidious tactics, so successful in the last Parliament, are to be still in vogue. The trap is laid in open daylight—the bait is palpable : will the Whigs leap into the snare ?

• Sped:star. 12th August l537. page 757; art.' Conservative Ascendancy." If the Edinburgh Review is on this occasion a faithful organ of the Ministerial Whigs, there is reason to hope that the Tories will not be permitted to pursue their damaging policy unmolested. The paper on the Defects of the Reform Bill—in which some will be apt to recognize the pen of a celebrated Ex-Chancellor, (but in that case they will also recognize the symptoms of a remarkable progression since the October number of 1834,)—sets out with the frank assumption, that "a further amendment of the elective system" is a subject on which the Liberal party is nearly of one mind.


" We believe that there is little difference of opinion among those tele a7e generally termed the Reformers, or Liberal party, and none whatever among

those who, regardless of any party interests, look only to the progress of kis

provement in our institutions, upon a subject which must needs force itself on the attention of the Legislature at no distant day,—we mean the further

amendment of the elective system ; and, at the very least, the removal of the

setious imperfections which experience has discovered in the Reform Bill of 1832. If we consider for a moment the results of the late election, no doubt can remain as to the pernicious tendency of some parts of the Bill ; perhaps not much greater doubt as to the necessity of extending its principle, and coupling it with other measures fitted to secure fteedom to the people in the ex. ercise of the franchise.

" The rate-paying clauses have deprived vast numbers of their votes. The necessity of a yearly registration has disfranchised a still larger proportion. ob.

serve only how these parts of the machinery work. Persons of a certain station,

and who occupy themselves with political matters more or less, at all times have their attention directed to the steps required to be taken for entitling them to vote at an election, come when it may ; they have no occupation that makes

the attendance a loss to them ; or they can afford to pay agents fur doing what is required. But a poor man feels little interest in the matter, unless on the very eve of a contest ; and the steps which the Act requires him to take, bring upon him some little loss and much inconvenience. We are now chiefly speaking of' the registration ; and its effect is to throw the whole into other halide than those of the voter,—that is to say, to give certain pereons of large means, and who can afford to employ numerous agents, the control of that operation. There is the expense almost of annual election contests, which the enemies of Parliamenten Reform used always to maintain would fall heaviest upon the popular party, and increase the influence of the aristocracy ; and which the advocates of AL. nual Parliaments never doubted would produce this effect, unless the measures recommended by them embraced some effectual check to the evil. The cheek which they hoped would be effectual, WZIS the universal extension of the suf. frage ; but as most men seem now agreed that the people are not sufficiently in. structed * to render this a safe measure, and as it may reasonably be questioned whether it would wholly remove the mischief complained of, some other remedy must be sought, if we would not leave the representation entirely in the hands of a few wealthy families in the counties, and a few borough jobbers in all the smaller tuwns. It is in vain to say that Reform Associations can counteract the efforts of Ineu who find their interest and gratification in spending their money upon keeping up an election influence, lw watching the registration from year to year. These Associations will here and there succeed : in great towns, and even in a few contested counties, they may be depended on—at least while excitement prevails. But in ordinary towns, and in the vast majority of places, such voluntary exertion can never make head against the long purses of a few individuals, the train of agents, long in proportion to the purse that pays them. In seasons of tranquillity, all men—even in periods of a more stirring kind most men—are disposed to mind their private concerns, much more than those of the State. A few only are politicians by profession ; and of these the richer class will have most of their supporters registered, arid most of their adversaries kept back by frivolous objections. How should it be otherwise? or how else can we account fur the change that has taken place in the representation since 1832? We were of the number of those who, in 1835, supposed that the change which had taken place in two years was owing to the Tories being in office at the dissolution ; but now the Liberal party has dissolved, and with all the advantages of a new reign and a friendly Court, the returns have, we fear, been somewhat worse than before. Nothing can account for this hut the evil operation of two additional registrations."

It is amusing to find these admissions in a 'Whig publication, and edifying to observe how the rally-cry of the "Queen and Reform" is now made the occasion of a sneer at the ignorant electors who might listen to it.

The Reviewer rightly denies that corruption and intimidation alone gave the Tories the advantage at the last election. Still, much was effected by bribery and intimidation ; and he is, though reluctantly, compelled to resort for a remedy to


" It is needless to add, that those Reformers who mainly ascribe the change to influence, draw from it a new argument in favour of the Ballot. To this plan we are well known to have entertained an extreme repugnance. We still entertain this sentiment; and we remain of opinion that the expedient in ques- tion would greatly disappoint those who expect so much from it, especially as regards the counties. 117e have, however, almost come to think that it must have a trial, because the evil of the present system is so crying, that it be- comes inipossible to imagine any thing more desperate ; and no one has a right to refuse the remedy propounded, unless he has some cure of his own to recom- mend. But as the Ballot will not, especially in small places, prevent corrup- tion, and as intimidation, particularly in counties, but to a certain degree, in towns also, will continue to be exerted,—and as it does not profess to furnish a remedy for the defects in the registration, but, on the contrary, will rather make It the more necessary that its machinery should be amended,—the Legis- lature cannot be suffered to shrink from the Imperative duty of providing some more effectual means than the law at present gives of discovering and prevent- ing corruption, and of facilitating registration. Can we imagine any thing more scandalous than that it should be as notorious to all the world that seats in Par- liament are obtained by bribing the electors, as it used to be that they were pun, chased frotn Boroughmongers ; and yet that this corruption should defy the law, whilst it spreads its baneful influence over the community, to the deadly con- tamination of public morals, even supposing its political consequences were out of the question? How can Parliament answer to the country for allowing a day to pass without taking the steps which must precede any attempt at ap- plying an efficacious check to this frightful evil? An investigation must be undertaken, not in a few casee, but upon an colas ged scale, commensurate with the mischief. It must be a real and searching, as well as an extensive inquiry. The parties which divide, and which occupy the Parliament more than the country, must lay their account with the public eye being fixed watchfully upon • This is certainly the prevailing opinion now ; hut it may be donbted if any part of the people are more ignorant or more open to imposition than the present electors would seem to hate been considered by some of the candidates at the late contests, when they called upon them ' to support Reform because the Queen was for it," tns stead of asking them to support the Queen's Ministers because they were fcr Kamm ;heir proceedings in this important matter. The suspicion will very easily be raised, if any slowness, any reluctance, any disposition to quiet or to contpro. mise be perceived, that all are to blame alike. If any class of persons resists a proposition to inquire, or—what in its effects comes exactly to the same thing— any favour the easy abandonment of such a proposition, all men beyond the immediate Nifluence of party intrigue will at once pronounce that inquiry is only shunned because it is feared.'

Laws against bribery are of no use, if they are to remain a dead letter on the Statute-book : and to insure the execution of penal enactments against electoral corruption, it is proposed to appoint


" it is many years since we earnestly pressed upon the attention of our Southern neighbours the necessity of adopting an institution which has long been known in this country, and has produced-the happiest effects on the admi- nistration of justice—we mean the office of Pe BLIC PROSEC rron ; not indeed to supersede the Grand Jury, but to net with that much less useful, though we are not disposed to say superfluous body. If this would be an essential improve. meet in the general administration of the criminal law, it would be peculiarly beneficial in the branch to which we are now adverting. There, a common sense of delinquency, in which all parties have shared, thou,- a probably to dif- ferent extents, prevents prosecution by a kind of tacit compaOt. Threats are held out, possibly ser loos deter in inations forined, during the election, and especially at its close and in the moment of disappointment, to bring the nefarious means to light by which the victory has been obtained, and drag the wrongdoers to punishment. But with time comes reflection ; passion subsides, :mil prudence rises in its place ; money has been lost already, and more expense is begrudged ; parties not hostile, or friends themselves may be implicated ; means of investi- gation are wanting to private individuals ; informers are reluctant to come for- ward, however undaunted and however rewarded ; and somewhat of the odium attached to the informer settles upon those who employ him, (but only those private individuals who employ him to support in personal case,) not upon a public officer acting disinterestedly in the discharge of an official duty. The result is plainly this, that no evidence is obtained, no proceedings are instituted by individuals; and yet no one can doubt that a Public Prosecutor could, and the voice of the country and of Parliament would make him pursue the offenders, if his own sense of duty proved an inadequate stimulus. The appointment of such an officer then, for general purposes, but especially for this province, we hold to be the effectual remedy for the evil. There seems no reason to think that any very considerable alteration in the Bribery Laws would be required for enabling hint satisfactorily to discharge the duties of the office."

It is to be hoped that the Public Prosecutor, if appointed, will perform his duty more thoroughly in England than the same officer in Scotland, otherwise he will do little towards preventing the use of corrupt influence in elections. Another suggestion of the Whig Reviewer is to appoint a public officer to attend to the registration. This is our notion ; but when we first suggested it, we were told by one of the Ministerial newspapers that it could not be entertained, because, forsooth. the Government had already enough to do, and it savoured of Prussian centralization, which the journalist did not relish. Perhaps the proposition will meet with more favour now that it has been taken up by time Edinburgh Review.


"It seems equally certain that the care of registering voters should be in- trusted to another officer, though one of a different class—one appointed for life; removed, like a Judge, from party connexions or political pursuits ; inca- pable of a seat in either House of Parliament, and removable only by a joint ad- dress of the two Houses. It would be quite a sufficient security against his partiality in omitting to claim insertion for any qualified persons, or to urge ob- jections against any not qualified, first, that he would act by himself and his deputies, in the face of the country and responsible to Parliament ; and secondly, that the concurrent right would remain to others at least to present their own claims. Whether or not the right now enjoyed, and so grossly abused, of urging objections, should remain, is another question. If it is thought unsafe to leave this exclusively to the Registry Office, at least checks might be devised, by means of costs, to obviate the abuse now so justly complained of, and which so notoriously works to the disfranchisement of many and the grievous vexa- tion of niece."

As an exposition, the paper from which these quotations are made is imperfect and meagre, and the remedial process is insuf- ficiently developed; but it is much for an Edinburgh Reviewer ; and, as an indication that the necessity of doing something is felt in the high places of Whigdom, it is worthy of notice. Unless means shall be used to amend the Reform Act, the Reviewer maintains that the people will be worse off than they were under the old rotten borough system : and he exhorts the Liberals not to be deterred from attempting improvements by dread of the large Tory minority.


" We are nit to he disheartened by large minorities, after struggling so long against large majorities ; we shall appeal to the country if its representatives are slick in discharging their duty; but we address ourselves to those representa. tires in the first instance, and, above all, to those who framed and to those who carried the Reform Bill. Let them be assured of this, that unless such amend. meats be made in it as shall enable the people to obtain a real representation of their opinions and wishes—a body that will not thwart them or oppress them— they are worse than they were before it passed. For there is no longer a Rotten Borough Parliament, which had for the most part no constituents, and could not venture upon measures vehemently opposed within doors, if the resistance was backed by the people at large. A body which is just popular enough in its origin, just elected by sufficient numbers to snake it appear a free and full representation of the whole community, without in reality deserving that title, if it shall at any time, and by however narrow a majority, give way to undue influence, and join the Court or the Aristocracy against the People, will be found a far more dangerous tool in the hands; of power than the Borough Par- liament which it has supplanted." The question returns, will the Ministers honestly attempt to carry the improvements recommended by the Reviewer? Or is the recommendation made insincerely, merely to soothe the Radicals? This should be put to the proof at the very commencement of the session: and it will be, unless the Independent Members are con- tent to "rub on" in the same silly fashion as heretofore—ruining themselves to please the Whigs, and assisting the Tories to com- plete the ruin of both. If the Speech or the Address contain no distinct announcement of the remedial measures now called for by their own friends, an amendment, to supply the deficiency, should be moved. Doubtless it will be said that there is more conve- nience in avoiding topics on which parties differ, and that courtesy to the young Queen requires an unanimous Address from her first Parliament. The reply is, that in point of fact it is just as conve- nient to divide on the motion fur the Address as on any other; and that the old Whig practice was to move an amendment on the Address. There is precedent as well as reason for such a course. The plea of courtesy to the young Queen would be a mere pretence: her Majesty's dignity cannot be in any way compro- mised by a motion or a discussion far from implying disrespect or unkindness to her, but involving matters of deep interest to her sub- jects. On the contrary, it would be an auspicious commencement of her reign, if her Majesty were advised to discard unmeaning generalities and to speak in distinct and intelligible terms from the Throne to the Representatives of the People. At all events, it is the duty of Independent Members of Parliament to come to a clear understanding on the policy of the session. It might suit the Go- vernment to keep dancing before the eyes of well-meaning Mem- bers some will-o'-the-wisp, which should lead them, agape, in the Ministerial track till the time for prorogation arrived. It is of especial importance to use the earliest opportunity of ascertaining the designs of Ministers; because, if it should appear that there is no intention of forwarding any effectual remedies of the kind alluded to, it would be better at once to relinquish the vain and irritating pursuit, for the present, and employ our energies in a more useful direction.