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after an attempt to earth himself in the old refuge of rabble passions, was dragged out, and, upon the clearest evidence of wilful and boastful villany, convicted. But this sentence was not upon a solitary ruffian. It struck the whole tribe at once. The fact that a blasphemer could be convicted, broke the spell both of the inactivity of the friends of order, and of the impunity of its enemies. From that hour every prosecution (I believe without a single exception) succeeded. The dungeon or banishment has relieved the country of the burthen of nearly all the original malefactors. But the breed is not extinguished. While the union of passion with ignorance is to be found in the heart, it will find room for discontent. In that mighty mine of the national spirit, there will be the material of explosions mixed with its nobler products; and it is to make these innoxious, by the letting in of light and air, that human science may be most wisely employed. Popular ignorance of the Truth is the natural stimulant, as it is the common security of the disturbers of civilized lise. The cavern shelters the robber, and sometimes the robber is tempted by the cavern. It may be, that all our human diligence will not be able to conquer the malignant influences that are made to desolate and destroy. But it is something to be able to remove the evil from our doors, to sit in the midst of our families without seeing the spirits of our children tainted by infidelity, to lay our heads on the pillow without dreading in every sound of the night, the footsteps of massacre.
If there must be a reserve of evil to show the future age the contrast, produced by religion and the laws, to that fearful period when the moral world was a waste, abandoned to the dominion and wanderings of savage nature ; it must be our honour to raise the great fence against this rabid appetite for blood; to appoint to the lion and the tiger its wilderness, beyond which it must not stray; and as our strength grows, push into the thicket and the swamp, and subdue their sterility, and drive their monsters farther within their place of desolation.
A feature of the highest importance in the objects of the “ Constitutional Association," is new, or has been but feebly shadowed out before. It is the 3d Resolution, “That they will encourage persons of integrity and talent in the literary world, to exert their abilities in confuting the sophistries, dissipating the illusions, and exposing the falsehoods, which are employed by wicked and designing men to mislead the people.” Under what forms this service may be summoned, is yet to be developed. But the establishment of the principle is invaluable. The feeling against the abuse of the press is universal. But the abuse is not to be checked by impotent alarm. The press is not to be put down by power. As well might we attempt to put down the
pestilence by imprisoning the air. The abuse is to be purified by the use. The same instrument, that “pastorale signum,” which the lips of sedition inspire with sounds of discord and bloodshed, must be taught the sounds of peace. It will echo the one as truly as the other. The activity of the public mind cannot be extirpated, but it is the part of wisdom to turn this weedy and pernicious exuberance into productiveness and beauty. The press must be taught to speak the truth, no less to the people ihan to the King Hitherto the instances have been few, in which it has spoken the truth to either. The literary resources of England are of incalculable variety, opulence, and vigour. The number and talent of her public writers, admirable as a class, and as such fully justifying her claim to a new Augustan age, may give but a faint impression of the means which she hides within her bosom for the day of soliciting her treasures. What she now shows, are perhaps but the indications, the jutting fragments of silver that are to lead the eye to the inexhaustible ore buried in the caverns of the intellectual Potosi.
[We publish the preceding merely as literary curiosities.]
Arr. VI. Speech of Lord John Russell in the House of Com
mons, on the 14th December, 1919, for transferring the Elective Franchise from Corrupt Boroughs to Unrepresented Great Towns. 8vo. London, 1920.
It is now two years since we promised to lay before the public such thoughts as had occurred to us “on those plans of Con“ stitutional Reform which might gradually unite the most rea" sonable friends of Liberty, and of which we should not despair " to see some part adopted under the guidance of a liberal and “ firm government.”a However uncertain the accomplishment of our hopes may now appear, the circumstances of the times will no longer allow us to delay the performance of this promis The establishment of new constitutions in foreign countries, increases the general importance of this subject : But the progress of discontent and agitation at home, renders its consideration a matter of immediate and paramount urgency.
It would be a fatal error to suppose that the destruction of despotisın is necessarily attended by the establishment of liberty. Revolutions do not bestow liberty. They only give a chance for it;-a great indeed and unspeakable blessing, worthy of being pursued at every hazard; but not to be confounded with the institution of a free government. It is easy to burn a bad house,
a Edinburgh Review, vol. xxxi. p. 199.
but sometimes difficult to build a good one in its stead : And the difference between destroying and constructing, is immeasurably greater in the case of government, than in that from which we have borrowed our illustration. It was long ago justly observed, by a writer of equal sense and wit, “ that it is impossible to settle any government by a model that shall hold, as men contrive ships, and buildings : for governments are made, like natural productions, by degrees, according as their materials are brought in by time, and those parts that are unagreeable to their nature, cast off.”a A living writer, distinguished by a like union of eminent faculties, remarks, that “ Constitutions are in fact productions that can neither be created nor transplanted. They are the growth of time, not the invention of ingenuity; and to frame a complete system of government, depending on habits of reverence and experience, is an attempt as absurd as to build a tree, or manufacture an opinion." These just and striking observations are not quoted to dishearten enslaved nations in the pursuit of liberty. We would not, if it depended upon us, repress their zeal; but we would, if it were possible, contribute somewhat to enlighten their judgment. We would earnestly exhort them, in their first attempts at legislation, to aim only at a sketch of those institutions, without which Liberty cannot exist,—to connect them, wherever it is possible, with the ancient fabric of their societies,—and to leave the outline to be gradually filled up by their successors. When experience has ascertained the effects of their first legislation, and when generally acknowledged inconveniences require to be remedied by new laws—without observing such principles, they are likely, in flying from an old despotism, to fall into the arms of some of those new tyraunies, which, under a thousand forms, lie in wait for all communities, but especially for those who are engaged in the enterprise of laying the first foundations of Liberty.
A difference of opinion may be entertained on the expediency of some civil institutions, and the importance of others; but that no nation can be free, without some Representation of the people, is one of the very few positions, in which all men who pretend to a love of liberty are agreed. Nothing then can be of more importance than the prevalence of right opinions on the mode of amending such a representation where it is thought defective, or of establishing it where it did not exist before. By such opinions only, can free states be saved from convulsion; and by them
a The Remains of Samuel Butler, vol. ii. p. 481.
b Letter to a Neapolitan from an Englishman, 1815, printed in 1818 ; but unpublished, though peculiarly worthy, at the present crisis, of being considered by those Neapolitans who aim at establishing their liberties on a solid foundation.
alone, can revolution in absolute monarchies be rendered productive of permanent freedom.
Deeply, however, as we are interested in the fortune of foreign nations struggling for liberty, the condition of our own country has, at the present moment, still stronger claims on our consideration. The extent of the evils which at present threaten us, is not denied by any party; and least of all, by the adherents of the present administration: They are the foremost to tell us that our situation is more perilous than it has been at any period since the Revolution. It is said, on the one hand, that the proprietory and educated classes are the oppressors of the people. It is asserted with equal exaggeration on the other, that the body of the people are become determined enemies not only of the English constitution, but of all property, law, and religion. The most dispassionate observers cannot deny, that the bonds which hold together the various orders of society, have for the last six years, been rapidly loosening; that many of the higher classes betray a dread of liberty, and many of the more numerous show an impatience of authority; and that it is the natural tendency of such a state of things, to terminate in a mortal combat between extreme and irreconcileable factions. Whatever supposition we may adopt respecting the origin of these evils, whether we ascribe them, with some, to the sins of the people, or with others to the faults of the government, or with a third party to the distresses of the times, co-operating with either or both of the foregoing causes; on all suppositions the evils themselves continue the same, and their probable termination remains equally uncertain and alarming. It is impossible to calculate either the time in which the causes of civil confusion grow to maturity, or the chances that, if that time be long, unforeseen circumstances may check their progress. But if they should now proceed to their natural close, we may continue to assert that there is much in the present structure and circumstances of our society to aggravate the common evils of political contention; and that, whoever may be the conqueror, the British Constitution must perish in the contest. What successive systems of liberty or tyranny may rise hereafter from its ruins, will depend on events which are beyond the reach of our control, and even of our conjectures.
It cannot be denied, that one of the two expedients for suppressing national discontent has been fully tried. A fair experiment has been made on the force of arms and of laws. Prosecutions and punishments have not been wanting. New penalties have been annexed to political offences. New restrictions have been imposed on the exercise of political rights. It may be safeJy stated, that coercion and restraint cannot be carried much further, without openly renouncing the forms of the constitution,
or adopting new institutions for administering the law. And even if such new institutions could be adopted, it would be difficult to find men educated under the British Constitution, who would be well qualified to take a part in those arbitrary and summary measures which form the whole policy of the admirers of what is called vigorous government. With the best inclinations in the world for their new task, most of them would prove mere novices in oppression, and very clumsy instruments of tyranny. The old and deep rooted feelings created by a system of law and liberty, like that of England, will occasion frequent misgivings in the minds of those who are called upon to execute new plans for restriction; while, on the other hand, resistance to such measares will never be considered in the same light, as if it were pointed against
our long tried and justly revered institutions. The British Constitution, in short, cannot maintain itself by jealousy and coercion : for, being formed to protect the rights of the people, it is not fortified against their hostility.
In point of fact, we take it to be undeniably certain, that the public discontent has increased with the progress of those measures of restraint which have been contrived to quell it. It might be contended, that they have aggravated the distemper: it is certain, at least, that they have proved utterly unavailing. What a frightful progress the general discontent has made, in the short time between 1817 and 1820 !a Are we then to persist in the exclusive use of restriction and coercion, after experience has proved them to be ineffectual, and when we have nearly reached their farthest limit? Are we supinely to wait the approaches of civil war? Is no other system of policy to be even tried ? Is conciliation so manifestly impracticable, that it is not worth even the most cautious experiment?
Wheu we see two factions arrayed in order of battle, and ready to take the field against each other, with every badge of irreconcileable difference, and implacable animosity, the one demanding the surrender of the Constitution, the other declaring against the most cautious reformation, we are apt at first to conclude, that every effort to negotiate a peace between such parties, must be
a We have made po remarks here on the fatal policy of the prosecution of the Queen, which, in the year 1820, has so powerfully contributed to the diffusion and increase of discontent. Had a Cabinet of Revolutionists deliberated on the best means of spreading dispositions favourable to their cause, to the lowliest villages—to the quietest provinces—to districts where the sound of our political divisions had never before penetrated ;-had they been desirous of securing a long impunity to libels, and an unrestrained license to popular meetings—had they been devising the most effectual expedients for at once intlaming and emboldening the populace of great cities--they could pot have imagined any measures more suitable to their purpose, than she proceedings of the first Session of the first Parliament of a new reign.