3 AUGUST 1850, Page 13


CERTAINLY, the sooner Parliament hides itself in the stubble the better, for it is doing itself no credit where it is. It were far bet- ter following the dogs than Lord John Russell; far better busied with sport than trifling with the business of the nation. See how it treats the Irish Parliamentary Franchise Bill. The franchise of Ireland is dying out—the county of Mayo has a popu- lation of 390,000, but its constituency has dwindled to 234; Lord John proposes a measure which shall extend to counties the eight- pound occupancy qualification of boroughs ; the Lords raise that qualification to fifteen pounds; and in a spurt of merely "splitting the difference," Lord John now proposes to make it twelve pounds, —which -will add, he boasts, 170,000 voters to the constituency of Ireland. Yet they talk about Ireland's being "represented " in Parliament! We chuckle over the "universal suffrage, " which is limited to a fraction of the French ; but we call Mr. Higgins, who is sent into Parliament by 141 Irish voters, "the Member for Mayo."

The act directing that Members shall take certain oaths on ad- mission to their seats, prescribes the form of words to be used. The citizens of London elect a gentleman of the Jewish "per- suasion," as it is called—you might as well say of the Anglo- Saxon persuasion, or the Welsh conviction — who cannot take the oaths. Much interest is felt in making room for this gen- tleman, as a boon to religious liberty ; and Lord John Russell, im- mortalized by the measure most properly his the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, undertakes to introduce a bill. But Lord John procrastinates ; and, tired of his endless delays, the citizens send up their Member to demand admission. Much dis- cussion on the practicability of according it, and the Commons busy all the week debating how they may find a loophole by which to let in Baron Lionel de Rothschild,--gravely discussing how he might be instructed to evade their own solemn act;' while Lord John, procrastinator of the regular bill for admitting the Jew, takes active part in this debate. Such is the example set by the Commons as to the respect due to acts of Parliament. Observe, too, that the singularly discreditable debate turned upon an oath ; and here you had the People's House, the picked men of England, gravely deliberating how to twist the oath, to clip it, turn it, evade it, stretch it, or equivocate ; asking whether or not you might omit the words "on the true faith of a Chris- tian"; gravely urging that the phrase is surplusage, that the form of the oath may be left to the swearer ; proposing to let the Jew take the oath planned for Roman Catholics ; in short, elabo- rately, deliberately, and publicly, teaching the people how worth- less a thing is this oath—how little of a guarantee, 'how much of a mere impediment. In sooth, if oaths are things no better than they were held to be by the majority in these debates it is impos- sible to conceive why they should be retained at all; and if the debates are to have any practical fruit, it may be the sweeping away of " promissory " oaths, sometimes obstructive, never useful.