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sentative legislature must be that which reunited in itself the greatest proportion of the effective aristocracy of the country, or contained the greatest proportion of the individuals who actually swayed the opinions of the people, by means of their birth, wealth, talents, or popular qualities. In this way, it was“ attempted to be shown, that the nation was ultimately governed by the same individuals who, in their separate capacities, could have directed the sentiments of a very large majority; and that this was the only way in which the opinions and wishes of the people could be practically represented. Now, upon this footing alone, as it is evident that rank, fortune, and official situation, are among the most powerful of the means by which men are enabled individually to influence the opinions and conduct of those around them, so it follows that those qualifications should have their due share in returning members of the Legislature, and that the government could not otherwise be either stable or respectable. The real power of every country is vested in what we have called its effective aristocracy; and that country is the happiest, in which the aristocracy is most numerous and most diversified as to the sources of its influence; that government the most suitable, secure and beneficial, which is exercised most directly by the mediation of this aristocracy. In a country where rank, wealth and office, constitute the chief sources of influence over individuals, it is proper that rank, wealth and office, should make the greatest number of its legislators.
There is another elementary view of this subject, which may serve still further to clear our notions with regard to it. The great use of a parliament, in a constitutional point of view, is to preserve the freedom of the people, and it does appears to us that it performs this function chiefly by the frequency, freedom, and publicity of its debates and discussions; by means of which, the attention of the people is called perpetually to their public rights and interests, their intelligence is sharpened, and their spirit exercised and excited. It is on the spirit and the intelli. gence of the people themselves, that their liberties must always ultimately depend. The only substantial and operative check to the usurpations of rulers, is in their apprehension of the resise : tance of the people, and their conviction that they will detect the first movements towards oppression, and combine to repel and resent them. Now, if there be a parliament, however chosen, and however constituted, which contains a sufficient number, and a sufficient variety of persons, to make it certain that every class, and every party in the country, will there have an advocate and expounder of its views and sentiments; and if that parliament meet often, and have practically full freedom of speech, and make
its discussions public, it does not appear to us, that freedom-can ever be extinguished, or the rights of the people very materially invaded. The arguments used by the Legislature will be canvassed and agitated in every corner of the country ;-their freedom of speech will secure freedom of speech and of thinking throughout the whole community. The understandings of the people will be habitually directed towards their political rights and interests; and a vigilant and jealous observation will be practised by a thousand eyes, and inculcated by ten thousand tongues, whenever the proceedings of government give alarm to their patrons and watchmen in the Legislature. Other checks and devices may be of advantage, indeed, to render the controul and pressure of this great principle of popular resistance on the ma.chine of government, more equable and manageable, and to make it operate earlier and smoother in regulating and repressing those movements by which liberty might be endangered ; but the essence of the problem, is to secure to this regulator sufficient power and efficacy,—to keep alive that spirit and that intelligence in the people on which their resistance must be founded ;--and a parliament, possessing the qualifications which we have just specified, seems, of itself, quite adequate to this effect. : Now, without pretending to justify the irregularities which certainly subsist in our system of representation, and without arguing on the probable effects of these irregularities, we would merely ask whether it can be denied, in point of fact, that our parliament, as it is now- constituted, does actually possess the requisites which we have just specified, and does actually perform the functions on which its substantial value depends ? In spite of placemen and pensioners, and purchasers of boroughs, and nominees of Lords, the House of Commons unquestionably contains a sufficient number and variety of persons to represent all the different opinions, and maintain all the different views of policy, which exist in the country at large. There is no sentiment so democratical--no accusation so uncourtly- no interest so local, but it finds there a voice to support and assist it. Their discussions are sufficiently free and frequent; they are made sufficiently public; and excite a sufficient share of general attention and interest. While this is the case, we are in no danger of: losing our liberties. We should be sorry to think that they depended on the good behaviour of that house, or of any other assembly. They depend on the spirit and intelligence of the body of the people ; and Parliament discharges its main function, when it contributes, by the freedom and authority and publicity of its discussions, to excite this spirit, and to exercise that intelligence. : *.. VOL. XC NO. 20.'
So far; therefore, from thinking with Mr Cobbett, that any al. teration would be falutary, which would have the effect of making the House of Commons as dull as a Quaker's meeting, and of putting an end to long fpeeches and angry debates, we are of opinion that the chief benefit of the institution would be lost, if fuch a reformation could be effected. Alterations might no doubt be made, which would make the system of election more consistent and theoretically perfect ; and we are far from insinu. ating that more fubitantial advantages might not accrue from such a reformation. But these advantages, we are perfectly con. vinced, would be extremely inconsiderable, compared with those which we at prefent enjoy; and certainly would not be worth purchasing at the price of any great difcontent, or hazard to the general system. The truth is, that by the means which are actually employed, an assembly is obtained which perforins all the great conftitutional functions which can be performed by a parliament;- which has in it as much Tefpeétability and influence as to ensure its authority-as much variety, talent and ambition, as to secure a full discussion upon every point of popular interest-and as much freedom and publicity in its debates as to afford materials and example to free discussion throughout the nation. It may admit of question, wbrether an affembly, much better qualified to perform this important function, could be obtained by a different form of election. To give every man a vote, probably would make but little difference. The multitude would still follow their natural leaders; and would act under the influence of those who, for the most part, now ac? for them. The system of universal fuffrage has not ennobled the legislatures of America ; though there is among them infinitely lefs of an effective aristocracy to bias their votes, than there must always be in such a country as England ; nor do we think that it would materially alter or improve the compofition of our Parliament, if it were adopted among us. There are some subordinate advantages derived to the people, by making them the electors of their lawgivers; and we should be well pleased therefore to see that privilege extended ; but it goes fo little to the effence of our conftitutional freedom, that we cannot help thinking that our parliaments would be as useful and valuable as they ever were, although they were mostly.compofed of persons chosen by lot, or by rotation, from the individuals of a certain fortune and education in each of the counties.
With these general impressions, it will easily be understood, that we cannot consistently affent, either to Mr Cobbett's repreTentations of the valt advantages to be derived from parliamentary reform, or to his conclusions as to the worthlessness of our con. Ititution under its actual adininiftration. On a subject of such
importance, importance, however, we do not wish to rest on such general im. pressions; and as we are of opinion that a good deal of misconsception exifts as to the true nature and operation of this famous conftitution, we shall avail ourselves of this opportunity to make a few observations with regard to it. • Every community may be considered, with relation to its polia tical rights and interests, as divided into three great natural classes or orders;- first, those who are actually in possession or admini-stration of the governnient, including the Sovereign, and all subordinate functionaries or office-bearers ; secondly, those who, without office or exertion of their own, are born to the inheritance of a certain property, and accompanying rank and influr ence ;-and, lastly, the great body of the people, and especially those among them who, by talent, industry, or popular qualities, are aiming at the acquisition of office or influence. These are the three natural partitions of all societies which have existed in a separate form for any considerable length of time. They are naturally in a state of political rivalry; and the character of the government will depend upon the preponderance which is assume. ed by any of them.
In almost all the modern European governments, this rivalry terminated in a sort of compromise ; and a constitution was ad. opted, which allotted to each of these three orders a certain fixed share of political power and authority. In England, it is well known, it led to the balanced government of King, Lords and Commons; a balance which has changed its original mode of operation, but which still subsists in effect, and maintains the freedom and perinạnence of our constitution by its subsistence. It is to the nature of the change which has taken place in its mcde of operation, that our attention should now be particularly directed.
At first, these three orders had separate functions and privi. leges, which they cxercised separately and successively,--frequently with very little concert,—and sometimes with considerable hostility. While the royal establishment was supported by the royal demesnes and the exercise of the prerogative; while war was carried on by the military service of the King's tenants in capite, and the business of legislation for the whole kingdom did not occupy three or four weeks in the year, this absolute partition of the business and privileges of the three orders, was in some measure practicable; and the constitution was in reality very near what it has ever since been represented in theory. In process of time, however, when the business of government became more complicated and operose, the greatest inconvenience must have been experienced from this entire separation of the
three estates of which it was composed; and some expedients must have been devised for giving them a greater sympathy and mutual contact in their proceedings. It never could have been but most injurious to the state and the country at large, that the House of Lords, for example, should throw out, by a great majority, an important bill, which the House of Commons had passed by a great majority, or that the King should reject, with indignation, a law which had received the decided approbation of both Houses of Parliament. It would appear most desireable, therefore, that these vindictive and curative checks, which could never operate without giving a certain shock to the whole machine, and impairing, for the time, its strength and apparent security, should be converted into preventive checks, that might produce the same effects, without any commotion or disturbance. It would naturally come to pass, therefore, that an attempt would be made to apply the whole of that resistance which any legislative measure was likely to meet with, in the first instance, if possible, to avoid the 'shock, by anticipating its operation; and to bring all the forces to bear upon every proposition from the beginning, to the operation of which it would otherwise be exposed in succession. Thus, if a measure to which the Lords were adverse was proposed in the Commons, it would be desireable that the reasons and the influence which produced their hostility should be directed against it in that House; and if a measure, from which the Sovereign was resolved to withhold his acquiescence was proposed in either House, it would, in like manner, be desireable that this repugnance should be disclosed in the course of their deliberations, and matters prevented, if possible, from coming to extremities by the interposition of the roval veto on a measure zealously patronized by the Parliament. • It must have been felt, therefore, as infinitely desirable, and necessary indeed for the tranquillity of the country, that some means should be devised for bringing the parties together before things had got this length, and of employing the different tendencies of the royal, aristocratical and popular influences, rather to modify the measures of government in their concoction, than to counteract and oppose each other afterwards, by each successively undoing what had been completed by its associates. But the necessity of such a congress would scarcely be felt, before it would become evident that it must take place in the House of Commons. The popular influence could not possibly obtain a place in either of the other branches of the government; while it must at all times have been difficult to prevent their influence from affecting the elections of the Commons. Whenever an induce ment was held out, therefore, for them to extend that influence, and for the country at large to connive at it, there is no doubt