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MACAULAY AGAINST THE PEOPLE.
fers not a claim that is not right-and yet only forty-nine out of three hundred and thirty-six were found to vote even that the petitioners might be heard in their own defence. They asked simple justice, and were hurled back from the threshold of their own House, by those who styled themselves their representatives. The great bugbear in the petition was universal suffrage; Whigs and Tories together shouted down the doctrine, declaring they would never entertain it. And what was the overwhelming argument, noble and wise legislators used against free suffrage? "The people were unfit to hold the power." Will the people believe they are not as fit to use it, as the selfish landlords who use it against the interests of the country? You cannot convince men that they do not know what they need as well as their oppressors. Strange that a free vote should not be as safe as a bought one, and yet we know that a large portion of the members obtain their seats by bribes.
Macaulay, once the champion of liberty-the defender of the Long Parliament-the eulogizer of Hampden and the Puritans the condemner of Charles, whose head rolled on the scaffold for his tyranny-this man became a mouth-piece for Tories and Whigs against the people, declaring he never would vote to give free suffrage to them. Why not, Mr. Macaulay— do not you enjoy it? Mr. Macaulay is learned in history, and always drawing instructive lessons from the past. But did he ever read of 3,500,000 people calmly, intelligently, uttering their grievances to their assembled rulers-boldly, yet respectfully presenting the charter of their rights, and appealing to the God of truth and the soul of man for their justice, and baffled at last? Has he studied the philosophy of history, and the spirit of the age so superficially as to believe such a charter, backed by so many millions of men, can be dissipated by a few passages of oratory, on the unfitness of the people to vote for their own rulers? Is the French revolution entirely forgotten-the petition that 3,000,000 of people once before sent across the Atlantic, based on the same grand principle, that
WHY THE PEOPLE MUST NOT VOTE.
taxation and representation should go together. Has he forgotten the noble band of Irish Volunteers, demanding and getting their rights. Has he ever known such a tide rolled back, and the united people hushed into trembling silence by a speech.
THE sinking of the Bourbon throne and the French aristocracy in the bloody abyss of revolution; the waving of the star-spangled banner over thirteen free States, till the shout of freedom swelled over the Alleghanies; the independent legislature of Ireland, extending its protection over the suffering people, are facts in history Mr. Macaulay would have done well to recall before he thought, in this age of the world, to send 3,500,000 people, chidden and abashed like whipped school-boys, back to their homes.
But he said "there would be no security to property should the petitioners' prayer be granted." Strange language this for a wise man. And what security did he expect from wronged and insulted men, denied justice as well as mercy? Did he forget the midnight sky made red by the burning of secure property," amid the terrors of Birmingham riots? Birmingham has been in a blaze; fields have shone in the light of their burning harvests; Guildhall has felt the incendiary's torch, and the Tower of London tumbled in one blazing ruinall of it this "secure property." "Government, too, would be in danger," said Macaulay: how much more so by granting the people justice, than by driving them to despair and madness by oppression and starvation?
It was once thought Macaulay was unshackled from the feudal and bigot spirit that blinds so many of the aristocracy, who will believe, against the evidence of their senses, that the people can be kept in awe by symbols and formulas. I remember once to have read a speech of his on the passage of the Reform Bill, in which occurred this bold and startling para
THE FATE OF BIGOTS.
graph: "The arguments of these gentlemen, be they modified how they may, out of all their variations, could be reduced to this plain and simple dilemma: When the people are noisy it is unsafe to grant reform; when they are quiet it is unnecessary. But the time has come when Reformers must legislate late because bigots would not legislate early; when Reformers are compelled to legislate in excitement, because bigots would not do so in a more auspicious moment. Bigots would not walk with sufficient speed; nay, they could not be prevailed upon to move at all, and now Reformers must run for it. By fair means or foul, through Parliament, or over Parliament, the question of reform must and will be carried." This is truthevery word truth, and worthy the utterance of a prophet of freedom. But why did not Mr. Macaulay use this language afterwards on the presentation of the People's Charter. Such a declaration of principle England never heard before, appealing, as it did, to the consciences of men, the Word of God, and the history of freedom for its truth.
In every particular where Macaulay showed an argument for the passage of the Reform Bill, the Reformers showed the same argument applicable to the People's Charter, and increased a hundred-fold. By refusing to move then, he was only making it certain that he and his successors "would have to run for it;" and in his own language, we yet say that through Parliament, or over Parliament," the people's Charter must and will be carried.
NE glance back to 1832. Earl Grey seeing that all was lost if the Reform Bill was not carried, resigned. This only increased the danger of impending revolution. King William was troubled; all England was troubled; discontent stalked through the realm. Earl Grey was recalled, and Parliament re-assembled. New peers were about to be created,
PASSAGE OF THE REFORM BILL.
to get a majority in the House of Lords. But reform or ruin was the only choice left them. It was too late to prate of the danger to old-established forms from the encroachment of the people. It must come, and the noble lords must vote for it. All the arguments they had used were valid as ever. The declaration that all was lost if they yielded to this invasion of their ancient prerogatives was true enough. Yet the bill must be passed. The mandate had gone forth from a power above the throne. The terrific murmur of the people, as they came thronging by thousands and tens of thousands to the doors of Parliament, stifled even the voice of covetousness; paleness sat upon every countenance-the last speech was made. "Through Parliament or over Parliament it must be carried," had just died away on the ear, and "shall the question be put." The darkness of night was around the ancient pile wherein sat the rulers of the people. Underneath the open sky the dense expectant mass were swaying to and fro with ominous sounds. The tired artisan had forgot his rest, his rights were dearer than his sleep-the question was put-the bill passed. It was sent to the king, and willingly or unwillingly he must sign it. It became a law, and the shout of a victorious people shook the island.
This struggle and success was to England what the victory of Cromwell and the long Parliament was to the world. Step by step did the popular will gain ground till it controlled both the throne and Parliament. The timorous lords were right— this was only one of a succession of triumphs that awaited the cause of human freedom.
The bill, modified and emasculated it is true, passed, and England for a while breathed free again. But the code of human rights was fairly in the hands of the people, and they were reading it from one end of the land to the other.
Carlyle well says: "What are the rights and what are the mights of the discontented working-classes of England, is the question at this epoch. It is a struggle which will end in making the right clear and the might clear."
WHAT SHALL THE END BE?
OURTEEN long years of suffering and starvation rolled
Corn Laws by a starving people goaded to despair by outrage and wrong. The same battle was to be fought between Aristocracy and Democracy; and Democracy was to win. Another and a greater statesman than even Earl Grey held the fortunes of the British Empire in his hands.
It is painful to behold the dreadful writhings of feudalism in the strong grasp of the awakened people. It reminds us of the Russian mother who was followed at night by famished wolves. Unable to save all, she first threw out her youngest child to appease their hunger, and hurried on. The howl died away for a moment as they scattered the limbs of the infant among them. But with their hunger only half appeased, they again bounded on the track. Another and still another child was thrown to them, till the last was gone, and the mother, fleeing over the trackless waste, alone escaped. So do the Aristocracy, when pressed on by the famishing people, throw out one by one their darling children to still the clamor that is thundering behind them-but it is all partial relief. The starving people are still pressing hard after, and will not be tranquil till all is given up. The long steady course of the wolf, on the track of his prey, is not so tireless as the pursuit of man after his stolen rights.
Thus far we have shown that Democracy has advanced in England-not only in its demands but its conquests. The past is plain. Nothing has checked its progress. It is onward with a strength that prostrates all opposition, and WHAT SHALL THE END BE? The question is not destined to remain long without
WENTY more long years of suffering and sorrow have now rolled drearily away since the overthrow of the Corn Laws, and the masses of the British people have been steadily sinking