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allowed to balk for six months the boundless appetite for power and place which the Tories are so fatally known by ? We need pursue this subject no further. Surely—and we speak sorrowfully, seriously, tenderly—Sir Francis Burdett has ceased to be what he once was, or he never could have suffered himself to be so made the dupe of one class of the community, and the pity of the rest.
It requires then no further illustration to prove of what unspeakable moment to the country the composition of its Government is, and what a direct and immediate interest the people have in the choice of their rulers. All the experience of pasi times is uniform upon this, that if the country wills improvement, it must bestir itself to have Ministers who will reform willingly and cheerfully, and not when compelled by main force.
What has now been said arose naturally out of the discussion upon the principles of our mixed government. But we now revert to the merits of the system itself, and to the question which so naturally suggests itself, whether or not its structure is susceptible of any material improvements ? That no change in its fundamental principles should be risked without a perfect certainty that great mischief exists which can in no other way be remedied, all will allow-nevertheless, it would be a most extraordinary thing if the system were so near absolute perfection as to be capable of no amendment for the last century and a half. Let us consider the evils now most complained of; and although it is certain that that plan of legislation is essentially bad, which makes a new general law on the occasion of a particular evil being discovered, because this kind of amendment is necessarily made with the eye directed to one view of the matter, and blind to every other; yet is it equally clear that we can only find what alterations are wanting in any system by the mischiefs which its bad working produces ; and if these are found to be permanent and not temporary, and if on mature deliberation, and with a sufficiently circumspect regard to all consequences, a remedy is suggested for them, we are bound to give it a fair trial, provided the
consideration of its efficacy for this purpose be not counterbalanced by any other evil which it may produce, or any other risk to which it may expose us. A single instance, we may therefore observe, of evil resulting from any system, nay, one or two cases in which it may have failed, will not justify an alteration of its established construction. But a constant, or even a frequent repetition of failure will justify, and indeed demand, a change.
The power of the Crown to choose its Ministers is clearly a necessary attribute of the monarchy. But is it now exercised under adequate checks? Some intriguing courtiers—some clamorous friend who has access to the royal ear—some politician who has a purpose to serve, and cares little if a new Ministry lasts no longer than his own gratification requires,—may abuse the royal confidence, and blindly bring on an experiment, all but desperate for both King and country, of changing the Ministry. By the strict letter of the law, the minister who accepts office is responsible for the charge which removed his predecessors. But suppose one Ministry displaced, and that no one agrees to take its place—suppose this suspension of Ministerial functions to continue for weeks—who is answerable for that ? Indeed, if the King have once dismissed his Ministers, as he is left without a government, hardly any practical responsibility could ever be incurred by the men who only entered into places made vacant long before they were consulted. No assembly would ever impeach them for a change which they knew nothing of till after it had been made; and yet that change is the origin of the whole mischief. But the case may be put of the dismissal, causing an interregnum of weeks, and yet followed by no permanent change, the former ministers resuming their places,—now who is answerable for all the dangers of this?
It is indeed held that Parliament can always demand the name of the King's advisers. But this has never been done ; and if done, how could the King's answer be given in evidence against any individual ? It seems very reasonable that the Crown should be bound in all cases to have the advice in writing of whoever recommends a change of Ministers, unless it be effected by the address of either House of Parliament. Of course, if any Ministry resigns, or its chief minister dies, that is in itself an answer to all such enquiries.
The evils of such temporary changes of government as we have been considering, and such as the late desperate intrigues have produced, are far greater both in extent and duration than at first sight appears to the eye. They derange all the measures in progress at home; they shake men's confidence in the Monarchical system ; they bring us into contempt and distrust abroad; they sow the seeds of revolution, by unhinging the public opinion respecting our institutions. Can any thing be conceived better fitted to make men question the benefits of a monarchical constitution, than to see their whole concerns plunged in confusion because some political intriguer, some private friend, some hanger-on at court, has persuaded one individual in twenty-two millions to try a rash experiment, supposed to be for his own ease, and really calculated for the personal gain of his secret adviser ? Who can doubt that such feats of regal activity are calculated to make men count the cost of royalty-not in pounds, shillings, and pence, for that is its least expense,—but in human happiness destroyed, and human improvement delayed? That our beloved sovereign, towards whom so deep a sense of gratitude is but strict justice, and can hardly be called loyalty, has been imposed upon, nobody affects to doubt. Nor can any one question the kind of creature that has deluded him, who saw the outrageous transports into which the success of the plot threw all the intriguers during the first days of their triumph ; above all, to mark the eyes of certain expectants glistening at the prospect of jobs, and pensions, and gewgaws unmerited, to them and theirs; and of a death-blow given for ever to the reforms which are the right, and the luxury, and the glory of the people. But that people will not again suffer such a blight to assail their dearest hopes; it will set vigorously about such improvements of our system as may give us a security against the evil spirits of the court seizing upon the patronage of the Government as soon as Parliament is prorogued, and revelling in the public spoil until the dawn of the approaching session, like the crowing of the cock, sends them once more away to skulk in their congenial shades.
If any one thinks that the view here taken of the late change of Ministry is too strong, let him reflect on the wholly unprecedented circumstances which distinguished that strange event. Between his Majesty and his confidential servants there existed no difference of opinion upon any subject of policy foreign or domestic. This is now explicitly admitted by the Tories themselves. Among the Ministers reigned the most perfect harmony on all questions; and personally the members of “no Cabinet ever were on more cordial terms one with another. This, too, is admitted. And the King's Speech describes their whole policy as perfectly unexceptionable, and uniformly successful. Lord Althorp became a peer; Parliament was not sitting ; and therefore, and for no other reason whatever, as is now allowed by all, the King changed his Government, called to his councils the most opposite class of statesmen he could find, gave his confidence to the men whom the country most distrusted and disliked, and would not even wait a few days before he cleared out his house. That he had been wish. ing to change the Ministry for some time is very possible ; but, when his royal father, said to be one of the ablest professional men of his day, wanted to make such changes, he always waited his opportunity, and seized on some measure, oron some pretext, in some moment when there was a cry against his servants, to deliver the mover into the people's hands, and appoint more popular successors; men whom he liked not certainly because of their popularity, but in spite of it. It was thus, that, when Mr Fox died, in
VOL LXI. NO. CXXIII.
September, 1806, his Majesty waited till a no-popery cry could be raised, and only turned out the Whigs six months after they had lost their mighty chief. The secret advisers of the present King have done much, certainly, to dispirit and to alienate by their late proceeding; but nothing to show that they are gifted with his royal parent's kingcraft. They seem to think that a King should turn off his ministers much as a gentleman does his livery servants.
It would be another and a very practical remedy for the evil in question, if the Crown were prevented from changing the Ministers-say above two or three, to fix a limit-unless during the session of Parliament. This might be convoked at any time, in case such a change were required. Nor could it be represented that such a restriction materially interferes with the Royal prerogative. The law requiring an assembling of Parliament on calling out the militia, furnishes a precedent; it is not merely an analogy—the principle is the same.
Again, the Lords have shown, by the painful experience of four years, that they are resolved to separate themselves from the rest of their fellow-countrymen, to desire all that they hate, and to refuse whatever they most desire. Many remedies have been proposed for this great and lamentable evil. To create more peers is one. This
proposal, however, is full of difficulty. To abolish the House of Lords may be bad, and would, no doubt, wholly change our form of government; and accordingly it is an expedient too desperate to be thought of; but at least it would be effectual. To create sixty or seventy peers would barely obtain a majority for liberal measures, and it would destroy the House of Lords; for as soon as the country and the House of Commons differed from this party so formed in the House of Lords, another creation must in like manner be made, and then the House would plainly be destroyed.
The creation of peers for life is thought by many to be liable to serious objections, and chiefly to this, that it would make that House too absolutely dependent on the Crown, or rather on the Minister for the day, by removing the main check upon creating peers, and packing the House.
An elective House of Lords has been proposed, or that a certain number of persons, all being noble, should be chosen to be the Upper House, and that the rest should not sit, but of course be eligible to serve in the Lower House. That peers should have the power of resigning, either for life or for a whole Parliament, their privilege of peerage, and so becoming eligible to serve in the Commons, no one can doubt would be a great improvement in our parliamentary constitution, and tend to keep the two orders in harmony with each other. An elective House of Lords, seems to afford no remedy for the evil, but just the reverse. If the election were in the hands of the Lords themselves, then a house would be chosen with perhaps not one liberal member in it; and if the people were to choose, who shall discover what part of the electoral body should vote ? An Upper House, chosen by persons having a much higher qualification than gives a vote for members of Parliament, has been mentioned repeatedly. But suppose all persons of L.500 a-year and upwards were to choose those peers,—first, where are they to exercise their franchise, and how is it to be distributed ? and next, would not a House be returned much more aristocratic and illiberal than even the present ?
There seems but one remedy for the evil, and it is deducible from the nature of the thing. What we all complain of is, that the Peers, by a very narrow majority, can frustrate all the designs of the people or their representatives for the public good.
No one denies that the Peers, representing the rank of the state, and much of the property, ought to be consulted ; still less is it denied that their deliberations are calculated to improve the measures of the Commons. Could not these advantages be obtained without the evils that now attend them ? Or, at least, could not these evils be reduced in bulk and prominence, and be made to wait upon the benefits ? Suppose that after any great measure was rejected by the Lords, the Commons had a right to require a free conference with the other House ; that all members of each chamber should attend; that all should debate, and all vote together; and that the absolute majority should decide the fate of the measure and make any amendments on it ;—there seems no reason to doubt that every reasonable end would be gained by such an arrangement. If the Commons are 658, and the Lords 400; if 550 of the one, and 350 of the other House attended, the 900 men who met would form a very fair tribunal before which to try any plan. There might be 250 peers against, and 100 for it; and then, unless 351 of the Commons voted for the measure, as well as 100 of the peers, there would still be a majority against it, and the measure might be lost, although there was a majority of near 100 for it in the Commons. No one can pretend that this would, in any degree, destroy the power of the Lords; but it would prevent that power from ruling the country without control or mitigation; and it would also reconcile men's minds to its exercise, by placing it under some check. There can be little doubt that the Lords would gain more in one way than they lost in another,—would gain more in esteem and the removal of prejudice, than they lost in direct force—by so wholesome a change. The bare circumstance of their sitting together in one chamber would greatly promote a cordial union of both ranks, in a country, above all, where, from the equality of privileges, and the habits of society, it