29 DECEMBER 1855, Page 4


Last week a soiree in the Leith Assembly Rooms, at which the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, the Provost of Leith, Dr. Harper, and other per- sons locally eminent, were present, was made the opportunity of asking the Member for Leith—Mr. Moncreiff, Lord Advocate of Scotland—to speak on the responsibility of the British Parliament. The Lord Advo- cate said he would not make a constitutional speech on Parliamentary privileges, but would rather look at the position of a representative in his relations to his constituency at the present day. "I have now been four years in Parliament, and I can assure you that it is a very remarkable and peculiar assemblage. It has many singular and cerious characteristics, which, I believe, no body of men that ever met have possessed in an equal degree. There is that one singular placid kind of at- mosphere which pervades the whole place' before which meanness and hy- pocrisy cannot stand. There is a sense, there is an instinct of honour in that place which withers at once anything like an attempt at double-dealing or falsehood. If there is a- touchstone, one cannot say where it is, but as sure as the false metal rings, as surely is the response heard at once in that House. It is a place where pretension, -hollowness, and the attempt to seem what you are not, or the pretension not to seem what you are, is more rapidly detected than in any other place. It is a place where, comparatively, ability is second to honesty ; and where a man who is honest and earnest in his purpose, and who has taken the trouble to • make himself master of the subject with which he deals, and who has a right to deal with the subject, is always certain of a hearing, when your more flashy, more able, possibly more clever man, who intrudes himself into matters with which he is either superficially acquainted or has nothing to do, let him speak with a tongue of untold eloquence, will not command an au- dience for a quarter of an hour. And therein lies a great deal of the wonderful influence of that assembly ; or rather, it is the true reflex—the true reflection and reverberation of the principles of free government in the country. . . . . While, undoubtedly, the House of Commons is a very extraordinary and remarkable place particularly in the qualities that I have now men- tioned, it is an assemblage probably of the ablest men that this country. pro- duces. But the every-day life there has some remarkable characteristics. You have, for instance, the Member who speaks to the reporters, not an un- common specimen of the claw at all. But he is generally a gentleman who singles out some subject about which nobody knows anything—perhaps the ill-treatment of the coolies in Madagascar, or the practical application of the North-west passage, or some abstruse matter upon the currency, or some motion for numberless returns about the tailoring department in the Crimea ; and, having the good fortune to get a night—a private Member's night—a Wedneeday night, it may be, or a Tuesday—and should his motion be put on the list, he gets up and makes a speech, and the speech is reported at great length ; while, in point of fact, probably there were not above eight or ten unhappy Members who had the pleasure of hearing at all, and the rest had gone to dinner, The effect of that is—and I am sorry to say it is not an un- usual effect—the effect of it is that all the remaining business on the list is postponed to this eloquent Member ; and that the real business of the House begins about twelve at night, after the earlier hours have been consumed in • listening to this eloquent, but most vain, unnecessary, and ineffective exhi- bition. That is one class of Members. Now there is another class which are equally remarkable—the Member that speaks upon everything. I only re- collect one one Member who spoke upon everything, and spoke upon everything well, and yet he was not an orator. I am not now speaking of the leaders of the House, because they are a class by themselves. They stand in a to- tally different category, and consequently none of these observations apply to them. I am speaking of the general mass of the House. But, as I was saying, there was only one man I ever saw there who spoke on everything, and spoke with knowledge of everything. That man, I am sorry to say, is no longer a member of that body. His name was J-oseph Hume—(Cheers)— a name that will go down to posterity, though not that either of a great statesman or a great orator, but one of the greatest Members of the House of

Commons that probably ever sat within its walls There is another kind of Member—the Member who is afraid of his constituency ; and there are a great many of them The real thing that causes the fear of the constituency is not fear of constituencies as a body, but fear of particular sections of the constituency—fear of what particular sections may say upon this vote or on that vote; and that enchains and entrammela the Member. He does not know how he may stand at his next election if he votes for this or votes for that. And you lase, I conceive, what the country are entitled to—the free and unrestrained exercise of the judgment of the representatives whom the constituencies have sent there. Now, I hope I may not be pre- sumptuous if I simply suggest the idea from the short experience I have had of that remarkable place, that that is perhaps the strongest which can be averred of a Reformed House of Commons."

The Lord Advocate contrasted the present state of our troops in the Cri- mea with their condition at this time last year. He defended the war policy at much length; and expressed his opinion that Parliament has not raised this country in the estimation of Europe by the way in which it has dealt with the question. An unworthy, an ungenerous use of the state of the troops in the Crimea, had been made by the Parliament and the press. There was a kind of political trading upon the misfortunes of the country. "While I should not in the slightest degree have thought that Parliament went the least out of its way in inquiring into the general system of the various de- partments, I think it was ungenerous to load the men who happened to be at the head of those departments with the blame of those catastrophes which, I think, any calm and dispassionate on-looker must have seen from the first were to a very great extent inevitable." He censured the press for its hasty conclusions. He did not wish to circumscribe its liberties, but he desired to see its influence rated at a just value. We should keep on the even tenour of our way undisturbed by its diurnal fluctuations in sentiment and opinion.

In the course of his speech the Lord Advocate praised Lord Aberdeen very warmly. "Lord Aberdeen is no longer the Minister under whom I serve. But I should do great violence to my own feelings if I did not say that I believe Lord Aberdeen to have been as honest and straightforward a Minister as ever served his country. I had in some matters a great deal of inter- course with him. As to the secrets of the Cabinet in regard to the war I knew nothing; but, knowing as I do that in all the dealings I had with Lord Aberdeen I found nothing but the most open, straightforward, and candid conduct, even when, perhaps, one might have supposed his opinions to have led him the other way, I am perfectly satisfied that, whatever went wrong with the administration of the war during his Government, as far as he was concerned, his only anxiety was to conduct it with vigour and effect." (Applause.)

In an address to the King of Sardinia from "the inhabitants of Edin- burgh "—to wit, some three or four hundred at a public meeting—were various expressions of theological vituperation, such as "the mimic thunders of the Vatican"' and the King was described as treating the opposition of Rome "with merited contempt." When the address from the Corporation of Edinburgh was presented to the King in London, the Lord Provost stated the general purport of the other address • and the precise terms, it seems, were only made known to the King afterwards. The tone of his acknowledgments to other addresses—his hearty accept- ance of approval from Protestants—is well known ; but to the address in question the King, through his Minister, after a preface of courteous acknowledgment, made this reply-

" I cannot conceal from you, that it is with extreme regret that his Ma- jesty has been informed of the expressions of contempt (expressions de mepris) by which your address stigmatizes the Court of Rome. The King, as well as his predecessors, has considered it a duty to maintain the civil power in his hands intact. He may have deplored profoundly the line of conduct which the Holy See has thought it its duty to adopt towards him of late years; but, descended as he is from a long line of Catholic princes, and sovereign of subjects almost entirely Roman Catholics, he cannot admit of words of reprobation thus severe, and, above all, injurious towards the head of that Church on earth. He cannot share in these contemptuous thoughts, which not only could not enter into his heart, but, above all, could never find place in a reply such as I have the honour to address to you.

"Your address further expresses the hope that his Majesty may extend to his subjects of all creeds the same privileges which have been conceded to the Vaudois. I am happy in being able to inform you that your wishes are already accomplished. King Charles Albert, in emancipating the Vaudois, desired to extend this measure, not only to the Protestants of all denomina- tions, but even to the Israelites, who in his states enjoy in common the same rights, civil and religious. "In thus indicating the well-known sentiments of the King, I have no doubt that I have scoured for him an additional title to your esteem; for' as a Roman Catholic sovereign, he has proved that, in his eyes, religion is the symbol of tolerance, of union, and of liberty, and that one of the principles which form the basis of his government is liberty of conscience.

"Accept, gentlemen, the assurance of my high consideration, Marquis V. E. D'Azzelmo." It should be added that the address which has elicited the above 'reply called forth at the time expressions of disapprobation from many who felt regret to see the name of the city of Edinburgh stamped upon a deem:tient characterized by so little prudence and good taste.

There were a number of wrecks on the East coast last week. A sloop was lost at Montrose, and all hands perished. A boat was swamped as it was entering the harbour, and the four people in it were drowned : they art sup- posed to have left a ship which foundered at sea.