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of Magistrates, or concurrence of inhabitants, or reference to the comfort and convenience of the neighbourhood. Now may not the peaceable, the industrious inhabitant of Manchester say, "I have a right to quiet in my house; I have a right to carry on my manufactory, on which not my existence only and that of my children, but that of my workmen and their numerous families depends. I have a right to be protected in the exercise of this my lawful calling. I have a right to be protected, not against violence and plunder only, against fire and sword, but against the terror of these calamities, and against the risk of these inflictions; against the intimidation or seduction of my workmen; against the distraction of that attention and the interruption of that industry, without which neither they nor I can gain our livelihood. I call upon the laws to afford me that protection; and if the laws in this country cannot afford it, depend upon it, I and my manufactures must emigrate to some country where they can." Here is a conflict of rights, between which, what is the decision? Which of the two claims is to give way? Can any reasonable being doubt? Can any honest man hesitate? Let private justice or public expediency decide, and can the decision by possibility be other, than that the peaceable and industrious shall be protected, the turbulent and mischievous put down?
But what similarity is there between tumults such as these, and an orderly meeting, recognised by the law, for all legitimate purposes of discussion or petition? God forbid, that there should not be modes of assembly by which every class of this great nation may be brought together to deliberate on any matters connected with their interest and their freedom. It is, however, an inversion of the natural order of things, it is a disturbance of the settled course of society, to represent discussion as every thing, and the ordinary occupations of life as nothing. To protect the peaceable in their ordinary occupations, is as much the province of the laws, as to provide opportunities of discussion for every purpose to which it is necessarily and properly applicable. The laws do both; but it is no part of the contrivance of the laws that immense multitudes should wantonly be brought together, month after month and day after day, where the very bringing together of a multitude
is of itself the source of terror and of danger.
It is no part of the provision of the laws, nor is it in the spirit of them, that such multitudes should be brought together at the will of unauthorised and irresponsible individuals, changing the scene of meeting as may suit their caprice or convenience, and fixing it where they have neither property, nor domicile, nor connexion. The spirit of the law goes directly the other way. It is, if I may so express myself, eminently a spirit of corporation. Counties, parishes, townships, guilds, professions, trades, and callings, form so many local and political subdivisions, into which the people of England are distributed by the law; and the pervading principle of the whole is that of vicinage or neighbourhood; by which each man is held to act under the view and inspection of his neighbours; to lend his aid to them, to borrow theirs ; to share their councils, their duties, and their burdens; and to bear with them his share of responsibility for the acts of any of the members of the community of which he forms a part.
Observe, I am not speaking here of the reviled and discredited statute law only, but of that venerable common law to which our Reformers are so fond of appealing on all occasions, as well as of the statute law by which it is modified, explained, or enforced. Guided by the spirit of the one, no less than by the letter of the other, what man is there in this country who cannot point out the portion of society to which it belongs? If injury is sustained, upon whom is the injured person expressly entitled to come for redress? Upon the hundred, or the division in which he has sustained the injury. On what principle? On the principle, that as the individual is amenable to the division of the community to which he specially belongs, so neighbours are answerable for each other. Just laws, to be sure, and admirable equity, if a stranger is to collect a mob which is to set half Manchester on fire; and the burnt half is to come upon the other half for indemnity, while the stranger goes off unquestioned, by the stage!
That such was the nature, such the tendency, nay, that such, in all human probability, might have been the result of such meetings, as that of the 16th of August, who can deny? Who that weighs all the particulars of that
The Warder. No VI.
day's transactions, comparing them with the rumours and the threats that preceded them, will dispute that such might have been the result of that very day's meeting, if that meeting, so very legally assembled, had not, by the happy decision of the magistrates, been so very illegally dispersed?
It is, therefore, not in consonance, but in contradiction to the spirit of the law, that such meetings have been holden. The law prescribes a corporate character. The callers of these meetings have always studiously avoided it. No summons of freeholders-none of freemen-none of the inhabitants of particular places or parishes no acknowledgment of local Just so at or political classification. the beginning of the French revolution: the first work of the Reformers was to loosen every established political relation, every legal holding of man to man, to destroy every corporation, to dissolve every subsisting class of society, and to reduce the nation into individuals, in order, afterwards, to congregate them into mobs.
recognized modes of collecting the
Let no person, therefore, run away with the notion, that these things were done without design. To bring together the inhabitants of a particular division, or men sharing a common franchise, is to bring together an assembly, of which the component parts act with some respect and awe of each other: ancient habits, which the Reformers would call prejudices, preconceived attachments, which they would call corruption, that mutual respect which makes the eye of a neighbour a security for each man's good conduct, but which the Reformers would stigmatize as a confederacy among the few for dominion over their fellows-all these things make men difficult to be moved on the sudden to any extravagant and violent enterprize. But bring together a multitude of individuals having no permanent relation to each other, no common tie, but what arises from their concurrence as members of that meeting-a tie dissolved as soon as the meeting is at an end;-in such an aggregation of individuals there is no such mutual respect, no such check upon the proceedings of each man from the awe of his neighbour's disapprobation; and if ever a multitudinous assembly can be wrought up to purposes of mischief, it will be an assembly so composed.
How monstrous is it to confound such meetings with the genuine and
Gentlemen, all power is, or ought to be, accompanied by responsibility. Tyranny is irresponsible power. This definition is equally true, whether the power be lodged in one or many; whether in a despot, exempted by the form of government from the control of law; or in a mob, whose numbers put them beyond the reach of law. Idle, therefore, and absurd, to talk of freedom where a mob domineers! Idle, therefore, and absurd, to talk of liberty, when you hold your property, perhaps your life, not indeed at the nod of a despot, but at the will of an inflamed, an infuriated populace! If, therefore, during the reign of terror at Manchester or at Spafields, there were persons in this country who had a right to complain of tyranny, it was they who loved the Constitution, who loved the Monarchy, but who dared not utter their opinions or their wishes until their houses were barricadoed, and their children sent to a place of safety. That was tyranny! and, so far as the mobs were under the control of a leader, that was despotism. And it was against that tyranny, that despotism, that Parliament at length raised its arm.
All power, I say, is vicious, that is not accompanied by proportionate resPersonal responsibility ponsibility. prevents the abuse of individual power; responsibility of character is the security against the abuse of collective power, when exercised by bodies of men whose existence is permanent
Manchester or at Birmingham, that he therefore speaks the sense of the town which he disquiets and endangers; or still more preposterously, that because he has disquieted and endangered half a dozen neighbourhoods in their turn, he is, therefore, the organ of them all, and, through them, of the whole British people.
and defined. But strip such bodies of these qualities, you degrade them into multitudes, and then what security have you against any thing that they may do or resolve; knowing that the moment the meeting is at an end, there is no human being responsible for their proceedings? The meeting at Manchester, the meeting at Birmingham, the meeting at Spa- Such are the stupid fallacies which fields or Smithfield, what pledge could the law of the last session has extinthey give to the nation of the sound-guished! and such is the object and ness or sincerity of their designs? effect of the measures which British The local character of Manchester, liberty is not to survive! the local character of Birmingham, was not pledged to any of the proceed ings to which their names were appended. A certain number of ambulatory tribunes of the people, selfelected to that high function, assumed the name and authority of whatever place they thought proper to select for a place of meeting; their rostrum was pitched, sometimes here, sometimes there, according to the fancy of the mob, or the patience of the Magistrates; but the proposition, the proposer was in all places nearly alike; and when, by a sort of political ventriloquism, the same voice had been made to issue from half a dozen different corners of the country, it was impudently assumed to be a concord of sweet sounds, composing the united voice of the people of England.
Now, Gentlemen, let us estimate the mighty mischief that has been done to liberty by putting down meetings such as I have described. Let us ask, what lawful authority has been curtailed; let us ask, what respectable community has been injured; let us ask, what form of municipal institutions has been abrogated by a law which fixes the migratory complaint to the spot whence it professes to originate, and desires to hear of the grievance from those by whom that grievance is felt; which leaves to Manchester as Manchester, to Birmingham as Birmingham, to London as London, all the free scope of utterance which they have at any time enjoyed for making known their wants, their feelings, their wishes, their remonstrances; which leaves to each of these divisions, its separate authority, to the union of all or of many of them the aggregate authority of such a consent and co-operation; but which denies to an itinerant hawker of grievances, the power of stamping their names upon his wares; of pretending, because he may raise an outery at
To remedy the dreadful wound thus inflicted upon British liberty, to restore to the people what the people have not lost, to give a new impulse to that spirit of freedom, which nothing has been done to embarrass or restrain, we are invited to alter the constitution of that assembly through which the people share in the Legislature; in short, to make a Radical Reform in the House of Commons.
It has always struck me as extraordinary, that there should be persons prepared to entertain the question of a change in so important a member of the constitution, without considering in what way that change must affect the situation of the other members, and the action of the constitution itself.
I have, on former occasions, stated here, and I have stated elsewhere, questions on this subject; to which, as yet, I have never received an answer. "You who wish to reform the House of Commons, do you mean to restore that branch of the Legislature to the same state in which it stood at some former period? or do you mean to re-construct it on new principles ?"
Perhaps a moderate Reformer or Whig will answer, that he means only to restore the House of Commons to what it was at some former period. I then beg to ask, and to that question also I have never yet received an answer, "At what period of our history was the House of Commons in the state to which you wish to restore it ?"
The House of Commons must, for the purpose of this argument, be considered in two views: first, with respect to its agency as a third part in the constitution; secondly, with respect to its composition, in relation to its constituents. As to its agency as a part of the constitution, I venture to say, without hazard, as I believe, of contradiction, that there is no period
in the history of this country in which the House of Commons will be found to have occupied so large a share of the functions of Government, as at present. Whatever else may be said of the House of Commons, this one point, at least, is indisputable, that from the earliest infancy of the constitution, the power of the House of Commons has been growing till it has almost, like the rod of Aaron, absorbed its fellows. I am not saying whether this is or is not as it ought to be. I merely mean to say why I think that it cannot be intended to complain of the want of power, and of a due share in the government as the defect of the modern House of Commons.
I admit, however, very willingly, that the greater share of power it exercises, the more jealous we ought to be of its composition; and I presume, therefore, that it is in this respect, and in relation to its constituents, that the state of the House of Commons is contended to want revision. Well, then, at what period of our history was the composition of the House of Commons materially different from what it is at present? Is there any period of our history in which the rights of election were not as various, and in which the influence of property was not as direct, in which recommendations of candidates were not as efficient, and some boroughs as close, as they are now? I ask for information, but that information, plain and simple as it is, and necessary, one should think, to a clear understanding, much more to a grave decision of the point at issue, I never, though soliciting it with all humility, have ever yet been able to obtain from any Reformer, Radical, or Whig.
The Radical Reformer, indeed, to do him justice, is not bound to furnish me with an answer to this question, because with his view of the matter, precedents (except one which I shall mention presently) have nothing to do. The Radical Reformer would, probably, give to my first question an answer very different from that which I have supposed his moderate brother to give. He will tell me fairly, that he means not simply to bring the House of Commons back either to the share of power which it formerly enjoyed, or to the modes of election by which it was formerly returned, but to make it, what, according to him, it ought to be, a direct
effectual representative of the people; representing them not as a delegate commissioned to take care of their interests, but as a deputy appointed to speak their will. Now to this view of the matter I have no other objection than this-that the British Constitution is a limited Monarchy; that a limited Monarchy is, in the nature of things, a mixed Government; but that such a House of Commons as the Radical Reformer requires, would, in effect, constitute a pure Democracy, which, it appears to me, would be inconsistent with any Monarchy, and unsusceptible of any limitation.
I may have great respect for the person who theoretically prefers a Republic to a Monarchy. But, even supposing me to agree with him in this preference, I should have a previous question to discuss, by which he, perhaps, may not feel himself embarrassed; which is this, whether I, born as I am (and as I think it is my good fortune to be) under a Monarchy, am quite at liberty to consider myself as having a clear stage for political experiments; whether I should be authorized, if I were convinced of the expediency of such a change, to withdraw Monarchy altogether from the British Constitution, and to substitute an unqualified Democracy in its stead; or whether, whatever changes I may be desirous of introducing, I am not bound to consider the Constitution which I find as at least circumscribing the range and in some measure prescribing the nature of the improvement.
For my own part, I am undoubtedly prepared to uphold the ancient Monarchy of the country, by arguments drawn from what I think the blessings which we have enjoyed under it; and by arguments of another sort, if arguments of another sort shall ever be brought against it-But all that I am now contending for is, that whatever reformation is proposed, should be considered with some reference to the established constitution of the country. That point being conceded to me, I have no difficulty in saying, that I cannot conceive a constitution of which one-third part shall be an assembly delegated by the people, not to consult for the good of the nation, but to speak day by day, the people's will, which must not, in a few days sitting, sweep away every other branch of the constitution that might attempt
to oppose or control it. I cannot conceive how, in fair reasoning, any other branch of the constitution should pretend to stand against it. If Government be a matter of will, all that we have to do is to collect the will of the nation, and, having collected it by an adequate organ, that will is paramount and supreme. By what shadow of argument could the House of Lords be maintained in equal authority and jurisdiction with the House of Commons, when once that House of Commons. should become a mere deputation, speaking the people's will, and that will the rule of the Government? In one way or other the House of Lords must act, if it be to remain a concurrent branch of the Legislature. Either it must uniformly affirm the the measures which come from the Commons, or it must occasionally take the liberty to reject them. If it uniformly affirm, it is without the pretence of authority. But to presume to reject an act of the deputies of the whole nation!-by what assumption of right could three or four hundred great proprietors set themselves against the national will? Grant the Reformers, then, what they ask, on the principles on which they ask it, and it is utterly impossible that, after such a Reform, the constitution should long consist of more than one body, and that one body a popular assembly.
Why, Gentlemen, is this theory? or is it a theory of mine? If there be among those who hear me any man who has been (as in the generous enthusiasm of youth any man may blamelessly have been) bitten by the doctrines of reform, I implore him, before he goes forward in his progress to embrace those doctrines in their radical extent, to turn to the history of the transactions in this country in the year 1648, and to examine the bear ings of those transactions on this very question of Radical Reform. He will find, Gentlemen, that the House of Commons of that day passed the following resolution :
"Resolved, that the people are under God, the original of all just powers!"
Well, can any sentiment be more just and reasonable? Is it not the foundation of all the liberties of mankind? Be it so. Let us proceed. The House of Commons followed up this resolution by a second, which runs in something like these terms:
Resolved, That the Commons of England assembled in Parliament, being chosen by and representing the people, have the supreme authority of this nation."
In this resolution the leap is taken. Will the Radical Reformers say that it is taken unfairly-with such a tempting precedent before them? But the inference did not stop there. The House of Commons proceeded to resolve, without one dissenting voice:
"That whatsoever is enacted and declared law by the Commons of England assembled in Parliament, hath the force of law, and all the people of this nation are included thereby, although the consent and concurrence of the King and House of Peers be not had thereunto.'
Such was the theoretical inference of the House of Commons in 1648, the logical dependence of which upon the foregoing proposition, I say, I should be glad to see logically disproved. The practical inferences were not tardy in their arrival, after the theory. In a few weeks the House of Lords was voted useless; and in a few more we all know what became of the Crown.
Such, I say, were the radical doctrines of 1648, and such the consequences to which they naturally led. If we are induced to admit the same premises now, who is it, I should be glad to know, that is to guarantee us against similar conclusions?
These, then, are the reasons why I look with jealousy at Parliamentary Reform. I look at it with still more jealousy, because in one of the two classes of men who co-operate in support of that question, I never yet found any two individuals who held the same doctrines; I never yet heard any intelligible theory of Reform, except that of the Radical Reformers. Theirs, indeed, it is easy enough to understand. But as for theirs I certainly am not yet fully prepared. I, for my part, will not consent to take one step without knowing on what principle I am invited to take it, and (which is perhaps of more consequence) without declaring on what principle I will not consent that any step, however harmless, shall be taken.
What more harmless than to disfranchise a corrupt borough in Cornwall, which has exercised its franchise amiss, and brought shame on itself, and on the system of which it is a