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equal to the disgrace of their situation—to be every night defeated on every question—to be wholly incapable of obtaining a single vote-even on the arrangement of the business—without the permission of their adversaries? No public men were ever yet so lowered—so meanly humbled in the eyes of all the world; and the Reformers may indeed rejoice in the humiliation of their enemies, without forgiving or forgetting the conduct of those pretended liberals, whose shuffling behaviour alone, or joined with the meaner spirit of the Tories, prevented such degraded antagonists from being forcibly expelled.
Of the Ministers - of such as Sir Edward Knatchbull, and indeed of Sir Robert Peel, and still more of Mr Goulburnlittle needs be said. We are far from rejecting their advances to the Reformers. We are very far from blaming them for coming round to our faith. We receive all converts, especially all men of respectability and talents, like Sir Robert Peel, with open arms. They may be admirable, useful, nay, perfectly honest coadjutors—and God forbid we should ever yield to any cry which should close for ever the door to all amicable co-operation upon ground which they may now desire to walk upon with the Liberal party. But when we are called on to abandon the Government of the country to them, on the faith of their conversion—to place in their hands the fate of Reform, and take it from those of the Reformers, merely because, in order to maintain themselves in office, they puton Reform colours—surely it is right and prudent to pause, and ask if such miraculous conversions can be sincere-especially in men like the Knatchbulls and the Goulburns. There is no getting over this. If they were sincere Reformers, how comes it to pass that they turned out the Reform Ministry—dissolved the Reform Parliament-and opposed, with all the influence which a feeble Government possessed, every Reform candidate at the late general election? This question has been asked again and again, and it has never yet been answered.
Is there, we would ask, any man of reflection who can survey the passing scene unmoved by the degradation into which the actors in it are so rapidly and so surely bringing all public character—the irreparable injury they are inflicting upon the cause of political virtue ? Nothing in the worst times of our monarchy-not even in the profligate times that succeeded the Restoration—is worse than what we have lately seen. No court in any of the worst governed and least pure kingdoms of the Continent has ever displayed such disregard of public principle—and to crown the whole, we have an administration which has, in all but one, of near a dozen divisions in the House of Commons, been defeated by majorities of a Parliament, to obtain which that of the Reform was dissolved.
But this subject is intimately connected with some notice, which, therefore, becomes necessary, of the state of other parties as well as the Ministry; and there cannot be any doubt, that it is far easier to show faults in the Government party, than to find another which is faultless.
First, as to the Opposition—composed, we are continually told, of so many hues and shades as makes it impossible to descry any one thing in which they agree, except in hostility to the Government. No sooner, say the latter, do you turn us out than the period of your dissensions arrives; and your majority falls to pieces from the seeds of destruction which its bosom carries. You are a mass of repugnant and self-destructive elements—a conglomeration of mutually repellent particles, a mob of creatures eternally fighting, biting, slandering, betraying one another ;-your motto, * every man for himself' -your practice, · beggar my neighbour, without enriching my
self.' Such is the language of the Conservatives; and possibly there is some ground for it, among the inferior portions of the great party in question. But that the description applies to the whole, or any large bulk of it, we take leave to deny. There are two hundred and eighty men, perhaps more, in that body, as honest, straightforward, singlehearted reformers as ever were assembled within four walls. They are real friends of the people; they are the stay of the country; the hope of all good men; the pride of the liberal cause, whose friends they faithfully represent, and whose steady and constant progress they are firmly resolved to ensure. They care for no intrigues about place or power, and they will do their duty, whoever may be in power,—if the determined friends of improvement, supporting them—if the mock friends, watching and controlling them—if the enemies, opposing them. Such men are above acting on selfish and narrow views; they have no personal feelings to indulge; they regard the country and the cause, and they will sink all less differences in order to compass great ends. That they will require a Ministry of true and tried Reformers, we do not in any way question.' If none such can be formed, the great body of men to whom we look will withhold its confidence, and only regard measures. But if any Ministry can be formed upon right popular principles, and composed of men known to the people, and tried in the people's service, to that Ministry they will assuredly lend a general support. It is very possible that there may difficulties be found in making such a cabinet; and that from the necessity
of the case, the reign of the Conservative party may be continued for a little while. Support they will have none that any minister of an honourable character can be satisfied with. They will have only a small, precarious, uncertain majority. No business will be done with any steadiness ; no security will be afforded for any government measure being carried ; no confidence will be enjoyed by it, either at home or abroad. It will drag on a feeble, puny, and degraded existence, until such time as its adversaries can acquire, from experience, a sense of the necessities of concord in power as well as union in opposition ; and from that moment the Tory Ministry will be at an end.
Thus much we have said of the Ministry and the Opposition -the two great parties in the State-and we believe with perfect impartiality towards both. There has, however, a third party arisen, which, by the name of the Section, is a good deal talked of, and contains in its ranks some highly estimable men. Of these we would speak with all kindness and with all respect --for we have no right to doubt that their motives are pure; and the services they have heretofore rendered to the State give us the right to believe in their integrity as statesmen. such feeling can prevent us from fearlessly giving our opinion upon the nature of all such parties.
We do not deny that times may occur when the violent extremities of two leading parties in the state, and the excess to which each is pushing its doctrines, may call upon reasonable and moderate men to separate themselves from both—and form a third party. But there must, in order to make this course either necessary or safe, be a very marked difference in opinion between the middle party, and each of the extremes—for it is a course suspicious in all ordinary times, and full of danger to public virtue. If the difference is accidental, temporary, inconsiderable, we may be assured that it is only made a pretext for separation; and that the natural and the honest place of the dissidents is not between the two combatants, but, on certain terms, and under certain protests, in the ranks of one. The mere forming of such a third party, for the sake of keeping apart from the other two, and having a junto to yourselves, is, of all proceedings, the worst which any statesman can adopt. Only consider the very foundation on which such a junto must stand ; and you will perceive that want of principle is the very bond of its union—that is to say-as far as men of strong understanding are concerned. Separatism is the object in view ; and all they do must be directed towards maintaining a distinction with the other parties, whether there be any difference or not. Now, how often can persons in
public affairs honestly say that they differ with both the Ministers and the Opposition? How few questions are there which have more than two sides—an aye and a no—a right and a wrong? In the ordinary course of affairs, therefore, the middle men must needs be in the wrong, and they must be so knowingly and wilfully. Their object, in each case that arises, is to find out a ground of disagreeing with both parties—no matter how strong, how clear their own real opinions may be—no matter how decidedly they may feel that the Minister is right, and should be supported, or wrong, and should be opposed. The Sectionary must differ with him—he must refuse to go along with him, else he becomes a Ministerial man-he is no longer a Sectionary—he loses his separate existence—he is absorbed in the Treasury body. So, if he agrees ever so much in his conscientious opinion, with the Opposition — if his conviction goes to the whole length of their proposal—the wary Sectionary must hold off–he dares not fully assent and entirely support—for this would be to destroy his separate existence, and confound him with the great liberal party, to the annihilation of the section. Thus the fear of destruction is always before his eyes ; he acts under constant pressure of the dread of political death ; it is as much as his life is worthhis sectionary life-to act as his real opinions would dictate. He must act against his real principles for his very life : he acts under the constant necessity of outraging his conscience to preserve his existence.
Accordingly we may observe, how fatal to all manly, independent, straightforward conduct, such middle party attachments have always proved to their victims. The name such persons used to bear was sufficiently descriptive of their policy. They were called • Trimmers ; persons few in number
, who, taking advantage of the nearly equal balance of the great parties, trim the scales, and make themselves of an importance infinitely greater than naturally belongs to their weight. This is indeed the main inducement to form such middle parties. The temptation is irresistible, if a dozen or two of politicians can rise into the importance of a great body, and influence decisions as certainly as if they were two or three hundred strong. The same motive which leads to form such a party, to recruit its number. Two classes of politicians chiefly resort to it. First, feeble-minded men, who never dare to hold any opinion fully and strongly, and to its extent, but would always seek shelter in a half or middle course, from the dread of extremes, which may often be the only consistent, and correct, and safe
line to preserve; and, secondly, place-wanting men-jobbersseekers of preferment—aspirers to coronets—who like to fight in a small body, because they are likely (as Gibbon said) to share more largely in the division of the spoil ; in a word, who like to bring their votes where they may bear the highest price. Such are the recruits who naturally supply the ranks of the Trimmers, or, as they are now termed, the Section, but without adding to their reputation. We believe no persons can be further removed from any likeness to such followers, than their respected and able leaders.
No. CXXIV. will be published in July.