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296

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.

66

XXXVI.

ONE

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.

297

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 car, 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 rightthis 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."

298

WHAT SHALL THE END BE?

XXXVII.

FOU

OURTEEN long years of suffering and starvation rolled drearily away, and a final onset was to be made on the 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

an answer.

XXXVIII.

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

THE REFORMERS IRRESISTIBLE.

299

into deeper wretchedness and gloom. Sydney Smith, but a few years ago, said, "There is, no doubt, more misery and acute suffering among the mass of the people of England, than there is in any kingdom of the world. There are thousands houseless, breadless, friendless, without shelter, raiment or hope; millions uneducated, only half fed, driven to crime and every species of vice which ignorance and destitution bring in their train, to an extent utterly unknown to the less enlightened, the less free, the less favored, and the less powerful kingdoms of Europe." What would that great and humane writer say now?

The million I know have been crushed into helplessness; but their cause has been taken up by a new and more formidable body of Reformers than England has ever before had to deal with. They are not to be trifled with. They have undertaken the emancipation of the oppressed. The barriers of power are melting to their touch. The ponderous gates of the prisonhouse of humanity will swing open at their approach. They will call forth and concentrate all the slumbering energies of the timid and the doubting. They constitute a force, around which swing all the discordant elements, and separate parties that have been working for the same thing in not the same way. Their words are charmed words, combining and har monizing multitudes. Their action and their language authenticate their commission. The people feel it, and in them behold the pillar of fire that is guiding them to liberty.

XXXIX.

L'

IBERTY has seen its darkest day in England. The dying year closed over the ashes of Palmerston, the strongest foe of the people, and witnessed the accession of Russell, the feeblest friend of the Aristocracy. From his ministry nothing can be hoped by the privileged class in Church or State. Feudalism cannot lean on him. If he should put forth his last and strongest effort in her cause, he would do her more harm than good.

LIBERTY IN OTHER NATIONS.

300

She wants no nerveless advocate now. She is too decrepid to go alone she is too timid to risk herself to do anything.

There has been a prolonged lull in the political world of England. No striking signs indicated an approaching storm. There was no desire for hastening the conflict. The Aristocracy was glad enough to have everything remain as it was; no news was good news. Nothing was everything. Masterly inactivity had become feudal statesmanship.

The Reformers saw that their hour was coming. Events in other nations were helping them on. The toiling millions had given their cause over to the great Liberal leaders; helpless in their destitution, hoping little, but praying all the time to the God of the poor.

But ominous sounds were heard from other nations. There came rolling up from the purple shores of the Mediterranean the shout of political redemption from twenty-five million Italians. The last Bourbon footfall had died away in the Halls of the Doges; the shivered fragments of the Pontifical Sceptre lay scattered among the tombs of the Cæsars.

The wild shouts of twenty-five million freed serfs-exulting in their freedom, standing on their broken fetters-came rolling down from the ice-plains of Russia.

The wand of Liberty's Enchantress had been waved over our Western world, and the sword of the last rebel against the Great Republic lay broken among the broken chains of his slave. Two nations born in a day.

XL.

THES

HESE were the world-reverberating sounds that broke upon the shores of Britain, and shook the foundations of her feudal castle.

Meanwhile the voice of Peel-the last great champion of Aristocracy still lingered in the ears of its doomed worshipers; while the clarion voice of Cobden-the prophet and high

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