NEWS OF THE WEEK.
THE Queen's Speech at the opening of Parliament, on Tuesday last, is not unlike such a note as Boswell used to take of a night talk at the Literary Club. There is the same mixture of weighty and trivial subjects—the same abrupt flying off from one theme to another, and the same unaccountable resumption of the first after two or three others have effaced its impression—the same neglect of logical sequence or systematic arrangement.
Twice over was Parliament assured that our foreign relations continue pacific. Of the Colonies, the Cape of Good Hope and New Zealand alone are alluded to : the former, to promise .papers explanatory of the Caffre war; the latter, to invite the Legislature to frame a new constitution, in lieu of that which a few years ago'was granted and cancelled before its working could be tried. Disturbances in the North of Ireland are regretfully acknow- ledged ; but 'the intimation that the powers of the existing law: have been promptly exerted seems to imply that no others are to be asked for. Satisfaction is expressed that the pro- ductiveness of the reduced taxes continues to increase; but it is also announced that the Estimates for the year are to be aug- mented. Large measures of Law Reform are promised; and Par- liament is invited to undertake a revision of the Reform Act, with a view to' give more complete effect to the principles upon which it is founded.
Extreme eagerness to begin the work of the session vigorously was manifested. As soon as the House of Commons reassembled for husinees; before the Address was moved, notice was given of a number of Govermtent bills—on Parliamentary Reform, the Militia, International Copyright, Chancery Reform, St. Alban's Disfranchisement. Alas ! how few of these are doomed to out- live the session, in the shape of perfected laws !
As to the debates on the Address, exPeoted with so much half- anxious curiosity, the instant joining of battle between the party forces, the defeats and victories, " ante ora patrum," in the pre- sence of the. Woolsack and Mr. Speaker—it all came to nothing. The Addresses of the two Houses, echoes of the Speech, like the echoing strain of chorus to the heroine of an opera, were moved and secondid with the customary eulogistic amplification, by four gentlemen in the customary state of delighted diffidence, mo- dified according to character; no amendment obtruded its uncour- teous hreach of " unanimity " • and the whole passed off like a drawingroom ceremony. Political parties waived the opportunity of storming the Treasury-bench, with a readiness that implied the absence of all desire to storm the Treasury-bench; a post aban- doned to Lord John Russell, or Mr. Feargus O'Connor, like a damp or broken seat in an omnibus left to those who have not the good luck or the biains to find a better. There was more of the anticipated onslaught from the Protectionists ; but barely enough said by the ostensible leaders, Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli, to keep their ground,—the mildest allusion to a fixed duty on corn, but whether for protection or revenue Lord Derby' did not define—who could P he asked. No advantage was taken of that terribly open and weak point on the Ministerial side, the Caffre war ; but only sufficient formal criticism from Lord Derby to bring, off himself, and even his opponents, with decency. The Ministerial sense of the forbearance was marked by Lora Grey ; who, charmed to be let off so easily, burst forth in an effusion of compliments. In fine, there was no more difference between " the two great parties in ihe State" than there may be between the two—or more—great parties in a Cabinet ; not so much as there. has been,_in a Cabinet within the last hundred years. If party leaders made any demonstration, it was only sufficient to mark their place.
The real question that was in all men's minds, the solution of the Palmerston affair, was raised in the shape of a simple interpel- [LATEST EDTTIO2L1 lation by a Marylebone ally of the late Foreign Secretary; and the whole affair came out—except what was kept back—an un- known quantity. Lord John Russell made his statement, Lord Palmerston made his; and there is no substantial difference on the facts of the case. Neither was there any substantial difference be- tween the two as to the merits of President Bonaparte's coup d'état,—no more than there is on that subject between the Pre- mier and Lord Derby. Lord Palmerston thought that there must be a collision between the President and the Assembly, and he was glad that, of the two, the President had conquered. Lord John Russell thought that the history. of France might teach the French people also to prefer the abolition of "Parliamentary govern- ment." Lord Derby was glad on his own conviction. The sum of all that they said seems to amount to this—that they cannot think the French fit for representative institutions : and they applaud the' intelligent nation for dropping the attempt at a system to which it is not equal ; for we English, by the grace of the Russell-Derby dispensation, are not as other peoples are. The only difference therefore is, that Lord Palmerston likes the arrangement as an artist might ; Lord Derby applauds it as the mouthpiece of Toryism; and Lord John Russell delivers his judgment through the Muse of History. It appears, indeed, that
rd Palmerston, applauding Louis Napoleon, and accepting the decision of the plebiscitum, must definitively have aban- doned his old policy of perpetually meddling abroad on the plea of cherishing constitutional government : but that change appears to have been deemed as little important by his colleagues as it will now be by the public at large. The real secret of his dismissal is the perfectly independent and separate style in which he carried on the business of his department—dealing with important foreign mat,. ters before consulting his colleagues, and obtaining. the Royal sig- nature as a form without putting his Sovereign in possession of important facts. In June 1850, during the Greek debates, Lord John Russell, before Parliament and the world, adopted all that Lord Palmerston had done ; yet it now comes out, by the publication of an extraordinary extract from a letter written by the Queen in August 1850, that Lord Palmerston must then have been in the habit of carrying on the business of his department as we have described, and that the Premier, just after adopting his colleague's acts solemnly and publicly, was obliged to invoke the Royal authority to' keep the sub- ordinate in check ! This disclosure has inflicted serious damage on the political reputation of both Ministers : honest people cannot understand the sincerity of a Premier who could have a public and a private opinion so diametrically opposed, nor the constitu- tional pride of a statesman who could for party convenience re-. tain in office a colleague so insubordinate. Neither can the public understand the self-respect of that nobleman who could remain in office eighteen months under so humbling a rebuke. The disclo- sure reveals the degree to which the standard of political morality has been lowered in high places. The way in which the assembled Commons made light of it is the reverse of consoling or reassuring. On the public it has had a very painful effect.
The solemn unanimity with which the practised " statesmen," as they are called, and old Parliament men, lectured " the press" on its outspoken language with regard to France, although in itself a triviality, has created a feeling scarcely less unpleasant. The lecture has two parts. One is the judgment on Louis Napoleon, in which statesmen and press are totally at variance : the states- men esteem Louis Napoleon ; the press cannot conceal its disgust at the criminal maneuvering and effrontery of that individuaL The other point is the policy of exasperating a neighbour with a large army while we avow the defenceless state of the country ; and the press is scolded for mingling panic with incitement to at- tack. There is no pea*. The press has thought itself working in its proper function as . Qrgan of public opinion, to proclaim indignation at the crimes 'dent Bonaparte although gilded for the moment with a royal success : the statesmen do not feel the impulse thus to vindicate humanity. The defenceless state of our coasts and country is better known in France than in Eng- land; it was pointed out to us by French writers; and we should not get over the difficulty, as the official ostriches hope, merely by
abstinence from saying that it exists. If there is any panic, it is among those who, alternating in office for years past, are respon-
sible for the unprepared state of the country ; who are now to be called to account in presence of their own detected default and of the whole people; and -who, of tried and time-honoured inefficiency,
are now to be damned with the opportunity of taking the lead in a more strenuous action. They may well feel panic : they unite within them the feelings of the defaulter and the false pretender; and it is no wonder if they would put off the day of trial—refuse to see it—hate to talk of it.