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THE REFORM BILL AND THE TORY PARTY.
The withdrawal of the Reform notice of no less than seventy out of Bill is a pretty instance of poetical the ninety amendments which it was justice, and a curious illustration of proposed to carry in committee. But party politics. It is said that Lord an obstacle more deadly to the sucJohn Russell is extremely mortified cess of the measure than the sneers at the frustration of his unhappy of Tories or the machinations of Bill, and we can well believe it ; for Whigs, was that which the Governbesides losing the chance of identi- ment itself raised in the Treaty with fying his name with a further mea- France and the consequent Budget. sure of Reform, he has incurred, for On the first night of the session it the third time in his life, the dis- was announced that on the 20th of grace of turning out a Government, February Lord John Russell would and failing to fulfil the pledges on bring in his Reform Bill. Evidentthe strength of which he was sup- ly it was concluded that the Gov. ported. He overthrew the first Ad- ernment was earnest for Reform. ministration of Sir Robert Peel by Reform was the question of the day. voting the appropriation of the sur- Ministers were to stand or fall by plus revenues of the Irish Church to Reform. Who so eager as they to the purposes of general education; keep faith with the country?
It and when he entered upon office, he soon oozed out that they had a found it convenient to forget that in card on which they placed greater resolution after resolution he had in reliance, and which they intended sisted on the necessity of such a to play first. The Budget was to measure. He expelled the second be produced a fortnight before the Administration of Sir Robert Peel by Reform Bill, and many weeks before opposing the Irish Coercion Bill, the the usual time. The enthusiasm to spirit of which he had himself to be created by the Budget and the adopt when he attained the Premier- French Treaty, was to cover the mulship. And now, for the third time, titude of offences that were likely to we find him overturning a Torý spring out of a Reform Bill in which Government for not doing what he nobody had any confidence. Then himself is unable to perform. Lord came the incident of Mr Gladstone's Derby's Cabinet produced a Reform loss of voice. Observe the conseBill which is universally admitted to quence. The Budget was postponed be the best measure of the kind as four days—from the 6th to the 10th of yet submitted to Parliament. Lord February; and the Reform Bill was John Russell declined even to con- postponed ten days—from the 20th sider the principle of it, and even- February to the 1st of March. When tually drove the Tories from the Trea- Mr Gladstone had made his financial sury bench on the special ground statement, it was urged by Mr Disthat they were not sufficiently ardent raeli, that for measures so important in the cause of Reform. He and his as those proposed by the Chancellor party came into office for the express of the Exchequer, the country and purpose of reconstructing the consti- the House of Commons should have tution, and the moment they are time to deliberate, and that in the seated on the well-padded bench at interval we could proceed to the conthe right hand of the Speaker, they sideration of the Reform Bill. Lord discover that they have undertaken John Russell replied, “ Well, that is impossibilities, and that their pro- not the course I am going to pursue. mises are not to be redeemed. Nor However anxious I may be to bring can they blame the Opposition for in that Bill, it will be my duty not to this ignominious failure. They have submit it to the consideration of the to blame only themselves and their House until we have gone through friends. The chief opposition to the at least all the principal measures in. Reform Bill came from the support- dicated by the Budget.” So that alers of the Government, who gave though the Government came into
office for the express purpose of ex, that precious boon to their poli
tending the franchise, and although tical antagonists. The Tory party, - they had an opportunity of laying however, have no desire to witness
their proposals before the House of the final extinction of the Whigs. of Commons at a comparatively early We believe in the good effects of a period of the session, they delibe- moderate opposition, and that it rately preferred the Budget to Reform, would be ruinous to the country, howand treated as of secondary moment ever it might temporarily benefit the pledges by which they had been our political friends, if the Whig wafted into power. The very men side of the House of Commons who had staked their all upon Re- should be chiefly Radical—if Mr form, when the time came for the Bright should be the great god, and fulfilment of their pledges, treated Mr Edwin James the legal luminary them as subsidiary to a Budget which of our opponents—and if the watchis all but universally regarded as the words of the party should be Housemost mischievous sham that has ever hold Suffrage, Ballot, Electoral been offered to the country. Lord Districts, and “Down with the John Russell might well feel morti- House of Lords.” The Whigs unfied as he saw the toils gathering derstood the feeling of the Tories around him, and knew that by his perfectly well, and did all in their own act he had rendered himself in- power to place upon them the capable of fulfilling the solemn en- burden of rejecting the obnoxious gagement which secured place for Bill
. The latter, however, were not himself and his friends.
to be misled. They insisted upon It is hard that such an event should the Whigs fighting their own battle, be recorded three times of a states and it must be admitted that the man, who, besides, has the unenvi- Whigs fought with uncommon zeal, able reputation of upsetting every though their tactics somewhat recoach of which he is not the chariot- sembled those of the Parthians, who eer ; but the country has been so levelled their most deadly arrows at relieved by the withdrawal of the those behind them. Their opposiReform Bill, that in the present in- tion was so powerful that Lord John stance no one has been willing to Russell was compelled to yield to press him very severely for his broken their representations, and to withvows. As a party, indeed, the Oppo draw his little monster of a Bill, with sition could have little to fear from which the Liberal side of the House the passing of the Reform Bill. It has been so disgusted, that the more would not have much interfered with knowing politicians confidently prethe constituencies in which Conser- dict the impossibility of passing such vative feeling is dominant. The a measure for at least a couple of years principal effect of it would have been to come. In making this calculation not to transfer power from one side they look chiefly to the census which of the House to the other, but to takes place next year, although the transfer a goodly number of seats returns cannot be made up before from Whigs to Radicals. The Whig 1862. So much has been made of party would have been destroyed for statistics in the measure introduced ever; the Radicals would take their by Lord John Russell, that we are, place as the natural opponents of the by a logical necessity, compelled to Tories; and in all probability the ask for the most accurate tables ; country would so speedily be dis and it would be at once ungracious gusted with their extravagant the- and unreasonable for the Radicals to ories and their clumsy administra- refuse a little delay, when the tables tion, that the Tory party would which are to convince everybody are return triumphant" to office. If so near at hand. In any case, howthe Tory party were place-hunters, ever, it will be next to impossible to this would be a consummation most pass a Reform Bill in the ensuing devoutly to be wished for. The session of Parliament, inasmuch as second Reform Bill, instead of, like the legislature will have more than the first, giving a long lease of enough to do in the reconstruction office to the Whigs, would give of our financial system, which has been so rudely disturbed by the wild if B, why not C? if C, why not D experiments of the present year. If and the whole alphabet ? We comthe bill, necessitated by what we menced our course of constitutional may call the provisional Budget of legislation in the present century by 1860, consumed so much time as to the Test and Corporation Acts, which compel the postponement of the great removed disabilities froin Dissenters. constitutional question on which the By emancipating the Catholics we Cabinet staked its existence and its proclaimed still further that our free honour, the bills required by the constitution ought not to be based renovating finance of 1861-by a on a doctrine of exclusiveness. Then Budget that must be prospective as came the Reform Bill, which gave to well as retrospective—will assuredly every man in a £10 house the right take up not less time, nor exhaust of voting for a parliamentary repreless of the public interest. More- sentative. We did not stop here, over, if we look to foreign affairs, we but ere long declared that it was unshall find some reason to anticipate necessary for members of Parliament the possibility of the Reform Bill to be of the Christian faith, or to have being postponed for even longer than any qualification from property. We two years. The Continent is in a have now been asked to give the very troubled state. Allis uncertainty, franchise to the occupiers of houses and war is the universal expecta- at a rental of £6; and there is no tion. Even England is compelled reason in the world, except the practo consider the probability of being tical absurdity in which we should dragged into the vortex. But if war very soon find ourselves, why, having comes—and when we are expending done so much, we should not go still £30,000,000 a-year on our sea and further, and give the suffrage to every land forces, besides raising a loan of householder. In point of fact, whe£12,000,000 for fortifications, it may ther the legislature grants this boon almost be said that war has already to the lower classes or not, it is come-we may calculate that for at pretty evident that in the natural least three years England will be course of things they must have it completely absorbed in the question sooner or later. It was only last of fleets and armies, and in the direc- year that, from the speculations of tion of an active foreign policy; and M. Chevalier and Mr Cobden on the our Parliament will have neither the fall in the value of gold, we deduced time nor the inclination for a Reform the obvious inference that a £10 Bill. Parliament has never been house must at no distant period be able to do two things at once-to do within the means of every man who great things in the prosecution of has a roof over his head. A rent of domestic legislation, while pushing £10 a-year means no more than with ardour a foreign policy worthy 3s. 10d. a-week, and there are not of our power; to amputate its own many tenements in London which legs by way of constitutional reform, fail to command such a price. The and at the same time to give a good electors of Marylebone and Finsbury kick to the enemy with whom we who send Mr Edwin James and Mr are at war. We may therefore ex- Duncombe to Parliament cannot be pect that the country will have deteriorated by a lowering of the ample time to consider the principles electoral qualification. A reduction on which a Reform Bill ought to be of the qualification to £6 will make based.
the very smallest addition possible Consideration is absolutely neces- to the number of the electors, almost sary, for we have so tinkered the all the householders being already constitution that we are in a fair included in the registration. So way to change it altogether. Observe manifestly is this the case, that the the downward course of our legisla- efforts of such men as Mr Edwin tion, and the impossibility of logically James and Mr Thomas Duncombe stopping until we are landed in the are directed not to the lowering of practical absurdity of universal suf- the household qualification, which frage and mobocracy. If A is ad- their constituents do not demand, but mitted to the suffrage, why not B? to the admission of the class of lodgers
to the privileges of the franchise. dallying with reform we are treadWhat has happened in London will ing a very dangerous path ; and in sooner or later happen in every town the breathing-time which is given in the kingdom. Rents will rise, or, to us, we would seriously ask the what is the same thing, money will Tory leaders, committed as they are fall, so that every householder in the to an extension of the franchise, land will have the benefit of the fran- whether it is not possible to feel chise. Then it will be time for the our way to a final solution of the lodgers to fight for their privileges. question, and to some means of guardAt first their qualification may be set ing the constitution from utter dedown at a good round figure, which struction. The prerogatives of the will be reduced by agitation until at Crown have been gradually dimilast it becomes so small as to include nished; the powers of the House of every lodger, and to be equivalent Lords have been curtailed to little to universal suffrage. So far, how- more than those of a Court of Reever, universal suffrage would be view, and in the present session it restrained by the formalities of regis- has been even proposed to take from tration. But it would speedily be them the right of reviewing financial discovered that a system of annual measures; and while the House of registration is a hardship to the Commons has become almost absogreat majority of electors-namely, lute in the State, we are entertained those who frequently shift their with the suggestion that it should be lodgings. By degrees we should filled with the delegates of a single come to keep the registers constantly class, and that the lowest in the open, and such confusion would en- country. How are we to avert such sue, such brawling and such loss of a calamity? As yet the only intellitime, that in self-defence the popu- gible remedies have been proposed lace would abolish registration, or, by that party which has most immerendering it a farce, fall back on the diate reason to dread the degradaAmerican model, and vote wholesale, tion of our constituencies. Lord by ticket, by ballot, and by bullet. John Russell proposed a scheme by Of course, we all regard such a state which minorities should be repreof things' with unmingled horror; sented, and Mr John Stuart Mill but is it not the logical result to proposed a method by which the which we are tending ? Lord John evils of universal suffrage might be Russell's Bill, so far from being a nullified. There was also a third final settlement of the question, would scheme, suggested by Mr Hare, in but pave the way, first for household, accordance with which our whole then for universal suffrage ; and it is electoral system would be disturbed, because they clearly see this that and our present geographical system our legislature felt the necessity of of voting would be displaced by one pausing in the downward course, and that would admit of a small band in calmly measuring the difficulties of Edinburgh uniting with small bands the situation.
and little flocks in various other The question is nothing less than cities, to elect a representative who this, How is the constitution to be would have no chance of receiving saved ? For the constitution is gone the confidence of any single constituif the balance on which it depends ency. Practically, all the electors of is overset. Most clearly it is over- the United Kingdom would put their set, if the dominant power in the votes into a single urn. He who State is given to the working classes, might have the greatest number of which outnumber all the others put votes, wherever these votes came together. Where are we to stop? from, would be at the head of the On what principle are we to stop? poll; he who might have the next Are we to concede so much to-day greatest number would stand next; and so much to-morrow, and give up and so we might go on with the little by little, until we lose all? Is whole 656 members, the calculation it the principle of Conservatives to being, that in this way men who conserve what cannot be conserved ? find themselves in a small minority It must be confessed that in this in separate towns, would find them
selves a respectable and influential mob. The mob would, by the help party by clubbing with men of like of a little organisation, learn to mansentiment in other towns. In fact, age the third representative as well any two thousand electors might as the other two. Still, the measure unite together so as to form a sepa- is something, if it is not everything; rate constituency entitled to a repre- and it is especially valuable as the sentative. This method of voting recognition by Lord John Russell of would so completely revolutionise a principle,-a principle which we our electoral system, that we have cannot think that Mr Disraeli disnot heard of any practical statesman posed of when he stated, in dispargiving it his sanction.
agement of Lord John's plan, that tion it here merely to show how there is no method of giving a voice thoughts are tending, and how im- to the minority known to the conperious are the difficulties which we stitution except that of making the have to face.
minority a majority. When we are The solution proposed by Lord revolutionising the constitution by John Russell is much more practi- force of numbers, a statesman may cable; and although it is far from be pardoned for devising a new mebeing satisfactory, yet we are un- thod of voting, which may counterwilling to reject it peremptorily. His act the effects of our hazardous_reobject was to get the opinion of a forms. But in point of fact Mr Disrespectable minority represented. If raeli's objection, in so far as we have the working classes are to be admit- been able to apprehend it, is a phrase ted to the exercise of the franchise, rather than an argument. The 500 it is clear that they will outnumber electors of some small nomination the other electors, who will practi- borough are called a majority, and cally have no voice in the choice are therefore entitled to a member ; of a representative, and might as the 5000 Conservative electors, in well not vote at all. In order some more populous constituency in to meet this disadvantage, Lord which they are swamped by numbers, John Russell proposed to dimin- are a minority, and are entitled to ish the number of votes at the nothing. It is surely hard to say disposal of each elector. In a town that these 5000 are entitled to norepresented by three members, each thing until they can outnumber the elector would have, under the exist- mob, and turn their minority into a ing arrangement, a vote for each majority. If Lord John Russell's member, and the dominant class in scheme does not fully meet the nethe township might elect all three. cessities of the case, it at all events It was therefore proposed to give to shows a consideration of it, for which each elector a vote for only two of we are anxious to give him all the the representatives, so that other credit which is consistent with the electors, who held opinions different fact of his having quietly dropped from those of the majority, might, all reference to it in the Reform Bill if they were influential and strong of the present session. enough, unite to secure the election Lastly, we come to the suggestion of the third member. The merit of of Mr John Stuart Mill, a man who this proposal is, that it does to a cannot be accused of deficient symcertain extent what it professes to pathy with the lower classes. Mr do. It would no doubt secure, in a John Mill is the ablest and most good number of cases, the election of philosophical of the Radical politia member acceptable to an influen- ciins, but he stands aghast at the tial section of the constituency, who, idea of handing over the government under a system where mere numbers of the country to a Parliament elected prevail, would otherwise have no by universal suffrage. When univoice in the selection of a candidate. versal suffrage comes, depend upon Its demerit is that it is not enough, it we shall not be able to devise any that it would be a very partial re- checks against it; and whatever medy for the evils introduced into checks we can impose upon it must our constitution by handing over the be established now, in anticipation, election of our representatives to the or never. We have admitted so