Gambar halaman

ment, we cannot quite allow that the publication of the debates is the main preventive to the despotism of Parliament and the check upon its misgovernment, looking back, as we must, to the times not very remote, when those debates were not published, and the influence of Parliament in the country was far less than at present. Nevertheless, it must be conceded, that the tendencies of the system are such as the principles above cited assume; and that enough of the doctrines laid down is well founded, to warrant the conclusion, that the utmost vigilance is required in marking the proceedings both of public men and bodies of men, clothed with high authority, whether in the shape of actual power, or only in that of weight and influence; and that the safe side on which to err is, that of excessive distrust, chosen by the conductors of this work, although it frequently leads to very grievous mistakes, and is the occasion of flagrant injustice, both towards individuals and towards parties.

It is not, of course, our intention to pursue the order of the various dissertations which fill two hundred pages of double columns; but we shall advert to those which appear to us the most remarkable in point of merit and importance.

The first is upon the great questions connected with Ireland; and it is extremely able, as far as regards the composition, and bighly useful in giving references to the most material parts of the evidence collected by the Committees of both Houses, during the Sessions 1824 and 1825. The defence of the Association is unanswerable, upon the three great heads of charge & gainst it; the use of inflammatory language, the levy of money, and the interference with the administration of justice. We extract the following sound, and, though strong, yet wellfounded observations, upon the first of the three.

By inflammatory language is, of course, meant, language calculated to excite hostility. Now, whether hostility, and the language of hostility, be blameable or not, depends upon the occasion, and the manner. Both the occasion and the manner were in this case very peculiar.

• Here is a country of which it has been said by a Lord ChancelJorLord Redesdale—who will not be suspected of aspiring to that cbaracter which another Lord Chancellor says, he has lived too long to have much respect for, the character of a reformer :-Here is a country, we say, in which a Lord Chancellor says, that there is one law for the rich, and another for the poor. Here is a people, who, having but the smallest pittance beyond what is barely sufficient to şustain life, are compelled to give up nearly the whole of that pittance to build churches and pay clergymen for about one-fourteenth part of their number : in return for which, that fourteenth part take every opportunity of expressing their hatred and contempt for those


who furnish them with money for these purposes, and their firm determination to extort as much more money from them, for other purposes of all sorts, as they can. Now then comes the Catholic As." sociation, and, addressing itself to the thirteen-fourteenths, tells them, that all this misery and degradation is not the work of nature, but of men ; powerful men, who produce it for their own advantage, who for their own advantage will continue it as long as they have power, and who therefore, as a first step to effecting any improvement, must be deprived of power. This may be called exasperating animosities; in a certain sense, it is exasperating animosities : to tell the many in what way the few have treated them, certainly has no tendency to make them love the few; and if the Catholic Association are to be tried by this standard, their cause, we fear, must be given up; as must also that of all other reformers, ancient or modern. If it be always a crime to excite animosities, it must be always a crime to expose abuses. If the exposure is to be deferred until it can be made in such language as will excite sentiments of affection and good-will towards the authors of the abuses, it would be as reasonable, and inore honest, to say, that it is not to be made at all.

. The language of the weaker party is ever inflammatory; that of the stronger, never : because it is the stronger who is the judge. A man may rail as much as he pleases at the party which is undermost, and the language which he makes use of will not be very nicely scanned: he may inflame the passions of the powerful ; he may incite those to tyrannize, who have it in their power to tyrannize ; and “ every thing is as it should be.” But let him address himself to the weak; let him attempt to stir them up, not to tyrannize, for that is not in their power, but to use their efforts to take from the strong their power of tyrannizing--and the state is going to wreck : sedition, insurrection are abroad; and one would imagine that heaven and earth were coming together.

" It is a mockery to tell a man that he is wronged, and to bid him at the same time feel no hostility against those who have wronged him. The proper exhortation is, not to let his feelings of hostility overcome his reason, and drive him to acts of useless and wicked violence: not to wreak his vengeance upon the hay.stacks and barns of those who have acted so ill a part towards him, nor to set fire to their houses, and burn them and their families alive ; but to direct all his energies to one great object, the ridding them of their mischievous power. Now, all this the Catholic Association did. It not only exhorted the people to be peaceable, but many of its enemies acknowledge, that it actually made them so.

- When a man has resolved to do a thing, and has it in his power, any reason will in general suffice. If the Association had not paci. fied the Irish, that would have been a reason for putting it down ; but it did pacify the Irish ; and this also was a reason for putting it down. It was discovered, that, as it had power to quell disturb, ances, it probably had power to raise them : and as it was probable

that it had the power, it could not but appear certain that it had the will. Upon this principle, we should be justified in throwing a man into prison, for helping a drowning person out of a river. If he had power to drag him out, he has power to push him in: so dangerous a man must not be suffered to go at large : no time must be lost in depriving him of the means of doing mischief!' pp. 610, 611.

The arguments for Emancipation are equally clear and satisfactory; but in order to differ, and, as it should seem, for the mere sake of differing with its advocates, a great abatement is attempted to be made from its advantages, by showing that they have been much overrated, and that they would not be felt by the body of the people. This is a very great mistake, both of the subject, and of the course taken by those who have treated it. No one pretends that this measure alone would remedy the countless ills under which so many bad laws and so long a course of misrule have almost overwhelmed that unhappy people. Nor is it any discovery of the writers whose work we are examining, that more, far more than Emancipation, is wanting for their redress. But all who best understand the state of the country, and all who most deeply weigh the merits of the question without any local knowledge, are agreed in thinking that this measure must be given, whatever reforms are in contemplation—that its immediate effect will be conciliation, and the restoration, rather we ought to say creation, of something like confidence in the Irish people towards England and the Government; and, above all, that it will tend to extinguish the sentiments of sectarian animosity, if not to weaken and finally efface the sectarian distinctions, so fatal to all improvement, so repellant of every advance towards a wise system of laws, or a better course of administration. It is asked, • Why we should deem it impossible to apply remedies to the

evils that most practically affect the bulk of the people, leaving the Catholic disabilities as they are ?' We answer, for one reason, beside many others, but one which is quite irrefragable, and cannot be altered without changing the whole constitution of the community-Six millions of people think and believe that they have an interest in the removal of these disabilities, and we cannot deny that they have a right to it. Until you can convert them from this persuasion, it is in vain to argue that substitutes will do as well, or better. But a great object of this disquisition (and indeed of almost every other in the volume) is to show, that nobody is in the right; and that all parties are equally wide of the mark upon all subjects, except the party or sect furnishing these Essays. How happens it, we are asked, that the Catholic disabilities are treated in both

Houses of Parliament as the grand evil ? The answer suggested is, that on this, as on every other subject there discussed, the great abuses almost always escape notice; and this is ascribed to the composition of those bodies, which affords a key to this, as it • does to so many of their other peculiarities. '- The truth is, that there is scarcely an individual in either House whose interest it is that the great abuses should be reformed. The members of both Houses belong, almost all of them, to those 6 classes for the benefit of which all great abuses exist; and

not being accountable to, nor in any other way under the in• Auence of, that much larger class, who suffer by the abuses, “they have abundant motives to uphold, and no sufficient mo“tive to redress them.'-" This interest being common to both

parties in the two Houses of Parliament, the great abuses are, ' in Parliamentary discussions, by a sort of tacit consent, kept out of view.'.

Now, believing that there is very great corruption in some parts, and culpable negligence in other parts of the Parliament, and that many abuses are tolerated which might be removed, we, for this reason, lainent to see works like this before us written in a spirit of such absurd exaggeration ; because this spirit retards, instead of furthering, the correction of the abuses, and confirms the bad habits of Parliamentary men, instead of curing them. It is any thing rather than the likely way of encouraging the detection of abuse and the friends of reformation, to assert that all are equally interested in, and therefore equally friendly to, every real evil, -and only disposed to attack petty abuses, after they have magnified them for the fraudulent purpose of at once exalting their own merits and allowing the great evils to escape. Enormous taxation is no imaginary, evil; extravagant waste of the public money is no imaginary evil; useless places and mere sinecures are real injuries to the wealth, and, if we might venture an allusion to what is sparingly touched upon in the pages of this volume, the liberties of the country; corruption in great departments of the State; oppressions exercised by governors abroad; official delinquencies leading to individual suffering at home :—these are not matters of light import, either as to the immediate cases, or the consequences of their impunity; attacks on the independence of the judicial character; delays and expense in the administration of justice--are evils of the highest magnitude, and most constant and pervading operation; the unwise and vexatious restrictions upon industry and the employment of capital, are most practical and wide-spreading mischiefs; the inequality and severity of the criminal law, is an evil which immediately affects the

whole security of society, and the moral character of the people; the fluctuations of the currency, the laws respecting licensing public houses, those relating to the trade in beer and spirits, the raising of money by way of lottery-are all evils of which it is hard to say whether they most nearly affect the comforts or the morals of the great mass of the people. We have not gone half through the list; we have enumerated a part only of the abuses to which the attention of Parliament has been constantly directed, by those who watch the conduct of the party in power; who have never ceased to force those subjects upon the attention of both Houses, until, upon many of them, they have obtained redress for the country. And yet we are told, that all great abuses are, by a sort of tacit consent, kept out 6 of view,' because both parties have a common interest' in maintaining them! We say nothing of the questions upon which men still differ - Peace and War, and our Belligerent Policy-Parliamentary Reform- the Laws touching the Liberty of the Press-the Poor Laws and Tithes in England—the abuses of the Irish Church Establishment. We pass over the topics connected with Negro Slavery, the Education of the Poor, and other matters which have never been made party questions : But we may safely ask those who have the hardihood to charge all public men with breach of duty and of good faith-with skreening real abuses, and only pretending to touch what they know are no serious evils—what one practical mis.. chief they can point out more important than the bulk of those towards which the labours of the liberal party in both Houses are directed, and a part of which only we have had room to enumerate? The country know and feel that such charges are groundless; and the urging them can do no harm to those who are the objects of the attack. But it does great harm to the cause in which they, and we, and the conductors of the work before us, we feel confident, are warmly interested ; because it gives confidence to our common adversaries, the enemies of all improvement and all reform, while it incalculably lessens the effect of whatever is valuable and judicious in the pages under review, *

of ty of which

are party in both of those

* A mistatement occurs at p. 616_too palpable to mislead any one - but sufficiently indicative of the spirit in which some parts of this work are written. Of Mr Brownlow's avowal that he had changed his opinion, it is said, “Where the interests of rival parties have succeeded

in rendering almost infamous the highest act of virtue perhaps which a public man can perform, we hail with joy the dawn of a better morality in the public recantation of Mr Brownlow. The manner in which that

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »