THE DEPARTED MEMBERS AND THE NEW-COMERS, AS AFFECTING THE DEBATES.
THE personnel of the House of Commons has undergone suffi- cient changes to have considerable effect on the debates, whether as heard or as reported in the journals ' • more effect, perhaps, on the speaking than on the action of the House. As in other results of the present election, it is not easy to de- tect any one principle which has led to the substitution of new for old Members ; scarcely the representative principle itself. It will mot be pretended that Mr. W. J. Fox represents manufacturing Oldham better than Mr. John Fielden did ; that Lord Ashley is a more appropriate representative for Bath than Mr. Roebuck,— both, indeed, being somewhat unnaturally chosen to personate that broken-down place of fashionable resort. It is only by a re- finement of the faintest description that you can discover any more proper typification of Nottingham in Mr. Feargus O'Connor than in Mr. Gisborne, of the Tower Hamlets in Mr. George Thompson than in Colonel Fox. Perhaps Sir James Buller East does come nearer to the corn-average opinion of Winchester than Mr. Bickham Escott in his second mannerMr. Cowan may be more like an Edinburgh citizen of the ordinary run than Mr. Macaulay ever was ; but it does not follow that either constituency gains by the literal closeness of such personation.
There are, indeed, fallacies of a serious kind in the " one of
ourselves" ground of preference. Parliament enjoys the dou- ble function of legislation and a share in government; and it vir- tually nominates those Ministers of the Crown who act for the country with the nations of the earth. Now when we select men to perform important functions, our object generally is, not to choose the most commonplace, not to bind our choice down to average understanding, at the mean betwixt genius and stupidity, but to select the man who is the very best fitted for the function in intellect and attainments. The shareholders of a commercial company do not choose for directors the men of the most " or- dinary' capacity, but the best they can command. And very properly. The highest intellect and qualities that any circle of men can produce form a more just representation of the moral and intellectual power of that circle than any single unit chosen from among the common run ; just as the first figure in an arith- metical sum more nearly represents the value of that sum than any cipher taken from among the middle places. The general officer is a better representative of a whole army than a single corn- mon soldier would be. A fortiori, when a considerable section of the social community wants to be adequately represented, it makes its choice of an individual according to the highest standard which it can command. Edinburgh, for example, which we take to be a highly intelligent community—a community of Cowans —found a more just and adequate representative of its collective intellect and moral power in Mr. Macaulay than in Mr. Cowan. _ Jr* abort, to say that.the House of Commons shall consist of six
hundred and fifty-eight specimens of common Englishmen, is a reductio ad absurdum which exposes the fallacy of this notion of literal representation. The beau ideal House of Commons would represent all the genuine interests of the country, all its moral and intellectual force—not, indeed, as displayed in specialties of arts or sciences, but as evinced in national action. In that sense, the first man in each branch of public activity should find his place in the House of Commons. The ablest expositor of the spirit of Whig principles should be there, and therefore Mr. Macaulay should not be excluded. Apart from the exigencies and opportunities of official connexions, which we have discussed above, the absence of Mr. Macaulay would be a serious omission.
Again, when any corrupt influence threatened the welfare of the people, what man so vigilantly noted the first assault, who so manfully resisted, who spoke out so clearly and unmistakeably, as Mr. Roebuck ? It was he that tore off the veil from the " election compromises " which defrauded the people of their representation in the House ; he who spoke out the full decla- ration of the opinion, that popular education, to be practicable, must be purely secular, thus marking out the ground which others are beginning to occupy in increasing numbers ; he who applied the harsh but needful test of plain speaking to the cant and rapacity which would otherwise have overwhelmed the House with V- sturdy-beggary of the Irish party. On many critical occasions Roebuck has been the forlorn hope, under cover of whose fearless advance others have stepped forward to an easy victory. He sometimes made mistakes ; he would sometimes storm a mare's nest, sometimes expound a truth in a manner need- lessly repulsive. But no single Member more usefully, consistent- ly, and diligently fulfilled a distinct vocation. It is a reflection on the constituencies of England if Mr. Roebuck is not included among the representatives of the country. Fitzroy Kelly, the powerful pleader, the Solicitor-General of Liberal Conservatism, the law reformer, cannot long remain out. Others will be less seriously missed in debate ; and yet it is not agreeable to assume that one may have seen the last of John Fielden with his heavy philantimpics, or Thomas Gisborne with his pococurante antitheses, Hoblanuse with his old Whig eloquences, Bickham Escott with his Conservative backhanders, or Spooner with his well-meant though sometimes indiscreet Leal ; men who all had something to say worth hearing, now and then.
Some old acquaintances come back again : witness the not un- welcome return of familiar speakers who have been rusticating— of Gladstone, now appropriately deputed by his University to lend a helping hand to Inglis in his difficult march after the times ; of Perronet Thompson, whose pregnant epigrams willonee more grace the debates ; of Sergeant Talfourd, one of the amiable Members for Literature, now rather at a low number in the House ; and of Lord Ashley, who ought to have been in the House as well as Mr. Roebuck, not in his stead.
Feargus O'Connor belongs less to the class of returning Mem- bers than to the new introductions ; for his position as an English Chartist has been acquired since his former appearance in the House. As his colleague, appears Mr. Walter the younger, of the Times ; supposed to inherit certain views on Poor-law matters, to entertain other views not hereditary but rather of the Young England colour, and to possess great talents—a sort of Conserva- tive Democrat, able to contribute largely to the life and vigour of debate. Four League orators join Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright,—. Mr. J. B. Smith, of Manchester, whose speech of the thorough
go-ahead" class, at Stirling, has procured, not prevented, his re. turn ; Mr. James Wilson, of the Economist; Mr. W. J. Fox, an animated rhetorician ; and Mr. George Thompson, who disarms a too ready suspicion by the declaration that he is not going to be a talking Member ! Another gentleman endowed with the copia fandi is Mr. Charles Pearson. All these seem likely to impart a more Democratic tone to the debates ; perhaps also to stretch the wide floods of eloquence which already oppress the newspaper field, to a still more intolerable breadth. The number of Railway spokesmen is multiplied : though Mr. Charles Russell has lost his seat for Reading, the list now coml.. prises, besides the King of Railways George Hudson, the name of Cubitt, Peto Locke, Stephenson, Chaplin, Glyn, Jackson, Walmsley, Ricardo, Lacy, Cobbold, and Waddington. They will get up the steam of railway legislation at a headlong rate, and the steam-call will be shrill in the House.
Some of the new men suggest more uncertain speculation as to what turn their tongues may take. Will " Sidonia " talk He- brew-Caucasian like Disraeli ? Will Mr. Urquhart formally move in order to the beheading of Lord Palmerston, or make speeches elaborately proving that to be true which remains incredible; or will he after all turn out to have a sane side and be a useful Member? Will Mr. Roundell Palmer and Mr. Hildyard,. who come in as young Conservative if not Protectionist barristers, fulfil the immense promises made for them ? Who shall say ? who shall say even how long men so able as they are described to be will be classified as they now are ? There will be novelties in the debates,—more, perhaps, than any of us expect.