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for a time, irrespectively of the merits of the case, on the principle of acting upon a well-known and recognised constitutional theory. The theory should have been, not that of checks produced by presumably opposite and contending forces, but that of due provision and security for full legislative deliberation. No doubt, any degree of continuous deliberation and discussion, as exercised by different assemblies or estates, would be perfectly futile and useless, unless it should carry along with it the practical power of a legislative volo or veto. Still, a wrong or illogical theory has an inevitable tendency to wrong practice.
It would be the necessary result of this doctrine, that whichever of the separate checking powers should, for the time, possess the greatest influence, it would make use of the doctrine as the justification or excuse of its own party, and of its selfish tenacity of ascendency. Nor is this applicable merely to the monarchical or aristocratic forms of check. We admit that in the democratic department of our legislature, the nation, not as the result of any very willing concessions on the part of the monarchs or the oligarchy, but as the reward of much earnest and patriotic struggling, has placed a power—which has been in some cases most effective-of checking and neutralizing the political wrong-doing both of the executive and the lords. The not-to-be-found purses and the closely buttoned-up pockets of an overburdened and overtaxed people have, not seldom, put designing statesmen into a fix, in which they have been brought to something like reason. But the practical power of exercising, effectually, and on all necessary occasions, this popular check, has not been, and is not a reality. The theory has only occasionally been found practicable. The plain reason of this is, that the House of Commons does not fully and fairly represent the people. The doctrine of checks, viewed as a philosophical political theory, must assume that the different checking powers, socalled, have really the power of check which the theory attributes. If this were not the case, the theory would, as it has been among us, especially of late, nothing better than “ a mockery, a delusion, and a snare.” If, for instance, the lords, aided by their special political friends, from their great wealth, social influence, and corrupt borough usurpation, should have been able to make the so-called House of Commons a secretlymoved puppet of its own, why, it is quite clear that, practically speaking, that House would, in so far, be but a check in name.
Now, after admitting the valuable cases of exception which have occurred in our history, in which the democratic check has been successfully applied, we think we shall not be substantially wrong in saying, that our system of legislation and government, practically considered, has been, and still wrongfully is, that of a political oligarchy, and that the people of England are, at this moment, cheated of their right to advancing political power and influence, by a great and unpatriotic scheme of aristocratic 'artifice.
This fact, as we consider it to be, is attempted to be veiled from the eyes of the nation by another and more modern constitutional theory or doctrine, which we will call that of the interfusion of political classes. Lord John Russell, in a debate of last session, in reply to some observations of that able and patriotic man, Mr. Bright, indicating his opinion of the existence of an undue power in the aristocracy, described the operation of this principle, and used it as a sort of argument intended to meet that of the honourable member. Though it struck us as being irrelevant for that purpose, yet there was, no doubt, much of historical truth in the remarks of the noble lord considered as descriptive of facts. The eldest sons of peers are commoners. The poorest boy may live to be Lord Chancellor, or Admiral of the Fleet. So far as these or similar circumstances have really counteracted or qualified the extent of aristocratic or oligarchic dominance, they must be admitted to have been valuable qualifying elements in the working of our constitution. The recollection of ancient deeds of gallantry and patriotism achieved by individuals of the nobility or of the aristocratic classes, has, from generation to generation, had a moral effect upon the mind of the people, which has been the true conservative element of the aristocracy, considered as a separate branch of the constitution. The precious rights and liberties asserted in Magna Charta were renewed and confirmed in consequence of the determined interference of the freedom-loving barons of the brave days of old.' The people never have forgotten this; and they will never suffer it to go out of their memory, or that of their children. Even John Hampden, and others not formally ennobled, may not unfairly be claimed as belonging to the social order of the aristocracy. Lord William Russell's name is a household word of pride and delight in all the homes of England. After having thus enthusiastically admitted the value and significance of these historical facts in favour of the aristocracy, we must be allowed to say, nevertheless, that we think that they have taken their full change out of all this sort of thing. Mere prestige, however justly acquired, will not do in these matter-of-fact times. We must have a system of reality.
Let us now briefly refer to some illustrations in confirmation of the fact of the undue aristocratic rule still existing in this country, and suggesting the general nature of the remedy.
It is not necessary for our argument, that we should contend that the governing oligarchy, of which we speak, is such,
directly; nor that it is permanently absolute in its power. We are, of course, quite aware that the operation of public opinion, as expressed at popular meetings and in the press, is, ultimately, all-conquering. Great political questions have advanced, and great measures in favour of civil and religious liberty have been passed, in spite of the real and sincere feelings of the aristocracy. Distinguished members of this class have even themselves been the able instruments or agents of carrying into effect the popular and national will. Giving them, on this account, full credit for as much of good and patriotic motive as was consistent with the retention of their ordinary relative ascendency, as a class, we think that, after all, they may be said to be, in effect, and generally, dominant. The aristocracy becomes, by degrees, more popularized and liberal, even in its own ideas and feelings. It is not a stolid, unchangeable, unimprovable class, for it forms
most important and useful portion of the subjects of a great and enlightened country. Still, relatively, it sustains its general political ascendency, not, we say, as of right, but—to use again Locke's expressive phrase—by artifice.'
Our first point in illustration and proof of the position is, that the Reform Act has been, to a great and unexpected extent, a failure. It has not accomplished the professed objects of its authors. We shall never forget that forcible part of Lord John Russell's speech, on the occasion of his memorable and patriotic introduction of that great and wise, though deficient, measure, in which he argues and demonstrates, that for the House of Commons to become what, according to the true theory of the constitution, it was intended to be, nomination, as distinct from free, uncorrupt, and bonâ fide election, ought no longer to be allowed. It was the whole of his case that such unconstitutional nomination did then exist, and that it must and should be destroyed. Without incumbering ourselves with needless statistical proofs—the thing is so patent-we say that nomination, that is, indirect and unconstitutional interference against the free, uncorrupt, and independent exercise of the electoral franchise, has not been destroyed. It exists, and all but triumphs. If we may be permitted to personify this vicious principle, we would say that, like a mocking demon, it holds up the Reform Act in the very eyes of the people, and grins, and laughs, and babbles of reform, and then says, 'Don't you wish you may get it?'
Now, we have no desire to speak otherwise than respectfully of the personal motives and intentions of individuals, while we are commenting on their public acts ; but we must honestly say that, looking at the manner in which the Whigs have treated all the recent propositions for an extended electoral franchise, and other projects for parliamentary reform, they have, we fear, politically speaking, broken faith with the nation. It has been the fashion, in certain Whig circles, to treat the Reform Act as a sort of avowed compromise between the aristocracy and the people. We deny it. The Reform Bill never passed. The Reform Act contains the insidious Chandos clause and the unwise saving clause in favour of the corrupt freemen of the boroughs. The Reform ministry opposed both of these-perhaps somewhat coyly-for they made Squire Western, of Essex, the seconder of the landlord trick, a peer! We are aware, and we regret, that several liberals, for whose motives we entertain all due respect, voted in favour of both these effectively damaging and ruinous clauses. Still, so far as the Ministers who were the authors of the Reform Bill are concerned, the bill, in these respects, passed, in the Commons at least, under protest. Surely, then, if now, after twenty long years, it be found that the operation of the Act, principally by virtue of the insidious clauses not originally in the bill, has been to perpetuate, in other forms, the much-decried practice of nomination, it would seem to be a very obvious and straightforward corollary, that it is not only not objectionable that the Whigs, as a party, should introduce new and thoroughly efficient measures of reform, but that to do this, is their fairly implied and immediately pressing public duty.
Then, again, as an illustration of our point, only just look at the construction, the personnel, of the present Whig cabinet. We feel the less delicacy in adverting to this, because it fortunately so happens that, in alluding to them as a body, we can speak in terms consistent with the sincere respect which we entertain for them individually. But, politically viewed, we cannot but think that they are too much of a clique. Without needlessly specifying names, we must say that they are too much like a political family party, and one consisting mainly, not merely of άριστοι, but of αριστήες. Such a construction of a cabinet must lead to undue nepotism and selfishness of patronage. The nation is beginning to wonder that the mere sense of personal pride and delicacy, on the part of personages so thorough-bred as noblemen and gentlemen, should not have had something like a controlling effect. Admitting that individuals appointed to offices of emolument and honour may not, of themselves, be incapable of their service, or unworthy of promotion, still, there are others, alike capable and worthy, who have sprung from, and belong, in a characteristic and understandable sense, to the people. The recent appointment of the Lord Chancellor ought, however, to be mentioned to the great honour of the Government. He was, originally, and, in spirit and feeling, always has been, one of the people. He has been a hard-working, learned lawyer, and, as a senator, an ardent and
eloquent friend and advocate of the ever-sacred, and now much emperilled, cause of civil and religious liberty. If an additional motive, beyond that arising out of these facts, for making this appointment, existed in the alliance which his lordship has formed with the daughter of the truly royal, and patriotic Duke of Sussex, the high distinction now bestowed will be, more than from any other cause, acceptable to a generous and grateful nation.
It was our intention to refer to several other facts, as illustrating our position, but we must reserve ourselves perhaps for another opportunity.
We should have alluded, in terms of kindly warning, to the pampered existence and enormous abuses of our semi-papal Established Church-the unworthy, and now evidently dangerous, exclusiveness of the two so-called National Universities—the unequal, anti-popular character, and the oppressive amount, of our gigantic system of aristocratic taxation--the almost insulting tone and temper of several of our ruling statesmen in their treatment of great public questions, and of the zealous, faithful, and disinterested friends of the popular cause, both in and out of the House-the ominous increase and extension of judicial and magisterial patronage, tending, if not to destroy, at least very much to endanger, the lofty and independent spirit of the barand last, though not least, to the scarcely gradual, but sly, development of a most insidious scheme of governmental centralization, interfering, officiously, obtrusively, and wrongfully, with our social and corporate rights and liberties, usurping, by the help of pseudo-liberals, power even over the education of the people, and assuming the management and control of some of our most homely affairs. We know, very well, what will be pleaded in reply to much of what we have just said ; as that the public have no right to breed poisonous infection and create and diffuse the pestilence of cholera; that dead men's bones must not be shovelled up into our back parlours; that the State having the right to hang has the right and duty to educate. To ali this we answer, in general, that the question arising in this class of cases, is not, as to whether the government and the legislature have a right, and even an obligation, to take appropriate preventive measures to secure the public health, and provide for other matters really coming within the legitimate province of civil government, but whether, under plausible utilitarian pretences, the State, by means of its multitudinous agents, scattered all over this free and happy land, is to become, in effect, the overseer and manager of our social and private affairs, from the cradle to the grave.
In no unkindly spirit, then, we warn the aristocracy, We VOL. XXVIII.