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demonstrated by historical evidence, taken from the annals of the House of Commons. The safety of the proposed Reform forms the next topic of discussion; and the objections to it, made by one party, as unnecessary, and by another, as inadequate, are satisfactorily answered. The second part of the plan relates to the adoption of effectual measures for the disfranchisement of delinquent boroughs, which is defended on the grounds of constitutional laws, as well as of political expediency and precedent. The means for effecting this are stated; and the transfer of forfeited franchises to populous communities, of 15,000 or upwards, is preferred, as being the most convenient means of widening the basis of representation. The third head comprehends an account of the representation of Scotland, with suggestions for its improvement. An arrangement is proposed, by which the espenses of elections in England, both in counties and towns, would be materially lessened. On the expediency of shortening the duration of parliaments, the writer expresses some doubls; but, when the expenses of elections are reduced, and the elective franchise more widely dissused, he considers that the repeal of the Septennial Act would be fraught with salutary effects. He replies very pointedly to Mr. Canning's question, “At what period of history was the House of Commons in the state to which the Reformers wish to restore it?” and finishes his able dissertation with the following remarks :-—" If no conciliatory measures on this subject be adopled, there is great reason to apprehend that the country will be reduced to the necessity of choosing between different forms of despotism. For it is certain, that the habit of maintaining the forms of the constitution, by a Jong system of coercion and terror, must convert it into an absolute monarchy. It is equally evident, from history and experience, that revolutions effected by violence, and attended by a total change in the fundamental laws of a commonwealth, have a natural tendency to throw power into the hands of their leaders, which however disguised, must, in truth, be unlimited and dictatorial. The restraints of law and usage necessarily cease. The face tions among the partisans of the revolution, and the animosity of those whom it has degraded or despoiled, can seldom be curbed by a gentler hand than that of absolute power; and there is no situation of human affairs, in which there are stronger temptations to those arbitrary measures, of which the habit alike unfits rulers and nations from performing their parts in the system of liberty."
The defects and anomalies in the Scottish system of representation form the subject of the last article under the head of Reform in Parliament. It was written some time previous to the introduction of the Scotch Reform Bill, lately passed. The plan of elections in the counties and towns, under the old law, is first detailed; and it is then examined with reference to its effects on the electors, the representatives, and the people. The objections usually offered by the anti-reform party to any innovation upon the established system are shown to be untenable. They are comprised in the subjoined enumeration : -"That a change would violate the articles of the Union ; that the thing works well, in spite of all theoretical defects; that the scheme of representation is not to be viewed by itsell, but must be taken along with the general representation of the country, which, upon the whole, is fair enough ; and the Scotch, though not protected by their own members, are by others : that popular elections would lead to those scenes of tumult and violence by which the peace of England is sometimes disturbed; that the vested rights of existing electors would be invaded by any alteration ; and that the people are satisfied with the state of things as they are.” The remedy for existing evils and abuses, in the opinion of the Reviewer, should consist in an extension of the franchise in counties, and in the adoption of a qualification which should have the effect of admitting the intelligence of the middle ranks of society, and of the upper part of the lower rank.” A scheme rather different in its nature is proposed for the royal burghs and large towns. On the advantages which would result from these reforms the writer expresses opinions of the most décided character; and exhorts the people of Scotland to be united and energetic in a constitutional struggle for their rights.
The reader will find in the foregoing articles on Parliamentary Reform a full and impartial exposition of the opinions of the Edinburgh Review on that great question. There is much, no doubt, that admits of a diversity of sentiment; and many enlightened Reformers will conceive that the contributors to that journal have not until very recently advocated such a change in the representative system as the urgency of the circumstances demanded. But it is not true, as their opponents have alleged, that they ever denied the necessity of a great and substantial alteration in the plan of election. Their objeclions were not to the principle of Reform, but depended chiefly on its extent, on the time, and on the state of public feeling. It is not matter of censure, that they adapted their views to the expression of the popular will, and to that marked revolution in the condition of all classes which rendered a larger measure of concession necessary in 1832 than might have been prudent or practicable twenty years ago. They now support a more exlensive Reform than they did in 1804, because they have watched the progress of public opinion, and have found, from the increasing union, intelligence, and consequence of the people, that the policy of the government must be moulded to the necessities and altered character of the age. This is a species of inconsistency of which no man need be ashamed. Had another class of politicians, who boast of their constitutional principles, accommodated themselves with equal flexibility to the advancing spirit of the times, the work of regenerating and restoring the British Constitution would not have been left lo a Whig Ministry,
It is clearly shown, in the following extract from an article, written during the Wellington Administration, that the Reviewers foresaw the struggle in which the nation was to be engaged, and the only means by which it could be kept within the bounds of legitimate resistance :
“A large part of the nation is certainly desirous of a reform in the representative system. How large that part may be, and how strong its desires on the subject may be, it is difficult to say. It is only at intervals that the clamour on the subject is loud and vehement. But it seems to us that, during the remissions, the feeling gathers strength, and that every successive burst is more violent than that which preceded it. The public allention may be for a time diverted to the Catholic claims or the Mercantile code, but it is probable that, al no very distant period, perhaps in the lifetime of present generation, all other questions will merge in that which is, in a certain degree, connected with them all.
“ Already we seem to ourselves to perceive the signs of unquiet times, the vague presentiment of something great and strange which pervades the community; the restless and turbid hopes of those who have every thing to gain, the dimly-hinted forebodings of those who have every thing to lose. Many indications might be mentioned, in themselves indeed as insigni
ficant as straw; but even the direction of a straw, to borrow the illustration of Bacon, will show from what quarter the hurricane is setting in.
* A great statesman might, by judicious and timely reformations, by reconciling the two great branches of the natural aristocracy, the capitalists and the landowners, by so widening the base of the government as to interest in its defence the whole of the middling class, that brave, honest, and sound-hearted class, which is as anxious for the maintenance of order, and the security of property, as it is hostile to corruption and oppression, suceved in averting a struggle to which no rational friend of liberty or of law can look forward without great apprehensions. There are those who will be contented with nothing but demolition; and there are those who shrink from all repair. There are innovators who long for a President and a National Convention ; and there are bigots, who, while cilies larger and richer than the capitals of many great kingdoms are calling out for representatives to watch over their interests, select some hackneyed jobber in boroughs, some peer of the narrowest and smallest mind, as ihe fittest deposilary of a forfeited franchise. Between these extremes there lies a more excellent way. Time is bringing round another crisis analogous to that which occurred in the seventeenth century. We stand in a situation similar to that in which our ancestors stood under the reign of James the First. It will soon again be necessary to reform that we may preserve; to save the fundamental principles of the constitution by alterations in the subordinate parts. It will then be possible, as it was possible two hundred years ago, to protect vested rights, to secure every useful institution-every institution endeared by antiquity and noble associations; and, at the same time, lo introduce into the system improvements harmonising with the original plao. Il remains to be seen hether two hundred years have made us wiser.
“We know of no great revolution which might not have been prevented by compromise early and graciously made. Firmness is a great virtue in public affairs; but it has its proper sphere. Conspiracies and insurrections in which small minorities are engaged, the outbreakings of popular violence unconnected with any extensive project or any durable principle, are best repressed by vigour and decision. To shrink from them is to make them formidable. But no wise ruler will confound the pervading taint with the slight local irritation. No wise ruler will treat the deeply seated discontents of a great party as he treats the conduct of a mob which destroys mills and power-looms. The neglect of this distinction has been fatal even lo governments strong in the power of the sword. The present lime is indeed a time of peace and order. But it is at such a time that fools are most thoughtless, and wise men most thoughtful. That the discontents which have agitated the country during the late and the present reign, and which, though not always noisy, are never wholly dormant, will again break forth with aggravated symptoms, is almost as certain as that the tides and seasons will follow their appointed course. But in all movements of the human mind which tend to great revolutions, there is a crisis at which moderate concession may amend, conciliate, and preserve. Happy will it be for England if, at thai crisis, her interests be confided to men for whom history has not recorded the long series of human crimes and follies in vain.
That a journal which has given its honest and unpurchased advocacy to every great measure of political amelioration and religious freedom, should
Edinburgh Review, vol. xlviii. p. 168.
be solicitous to see enormous abuses of the church establishment of England and Ireland removed by legislative authority, was naturally to be expected. The efforts of the Reviewers were early directed to the means by which the church might be best reformed; but in this, as in all the other changes in our institutions to which they have extended their support, their object has been lo amend, not to subyert; to strengthen the edifice by timely and well-considered improvements, not to aim a blow at its existence by rash and violent innovation. The nature and extent of the reformations which they have advocated as being conducive to the stability of the church, will be understood from a brief outline of the contents of the two articles on the subject inserted in this work.
T'he first is on the “ Prodigality and Corruptions of the English and Irish Church Establishments,” and appropriately commences with a brief sketch of the hereditary revenue of the crown, and subsequently of parliamentary grants for the augmentation of ecclesiastical emoluments. Amongst these, the First Fruits and Queen Anne's Bounty Fund occupy a conspicuous place. Of the abuses connected with the distribution of these sources of revenue an instructive account is given ; and some extraordinary facts are related concerning the evasion of the payment of First Fruits by the clergy in Ireland, which exhibit, in a most striking point of view, the rapacity of the hierarchy of that country, and the shameful prodigalily by which the expenditure of church property has been signalised. The revolting abominations of the system, as it exists there in all its native deformity, are powerfully described. The Reviewer justly remarks, “ that the question, whether this establishment should or should not be reformed, is one on which every man, whose opinion carries with it the least influence, should make up his mind; and as to the answer, we, who see constantly before us the effects of a church establishment constructed on rational principles, can feel no sort of doubt. If it be merely intended by the Irish establishment to show how rich and flourishing the few may be where the many are wasting in ignorance and misery,—if it be intended to show, that 850 men may be happy and idle, while millions are labouring for subsistence in vain, the policy pursued towards it may be allowed to be rational and consistent. If the object be to attach the Irish people to the Protestant creed, the idea of stationing among a savage peasantry a number of beneficed clergymen, whose wealth supplies them with every temptation to desert their duty, and of making them raise their incomes by a tax which involves them in perpetual strise with that peasantry, is perfectly grotesque in absurdity. Whatever may be the supposed effects of a richly-endowed church in maintaining a particular creed, it is evident that it is not the machine for the conversion of a people.” For the redress of this grievance a plan is proposed for abolishing the tithes, and substituting for them a more equitable and less oppressive mode of paying the clergy.
The second article is on the “ Necessity of a thorough Reform in the Church of England." The advantages which society derives from a regularly endowed and resident clergy are admitted, in theory; but the practice is shown to be lamentably deficient. The corruptions which have rendered the establishment so generally unpopular, and even alienated many of its most conscientious members, are forcibly stated, and those reforms indicated which, the writer conceives, would strengthen it without endangering its destruction. The connection of the Church with the Crown and the Aristocracy is assigned as the principal cause of the distrust and growing aversion with which it is regarded by the great majority of the people, -an aversion that has been materially augmented by the infamous system of Church patronage, which gives overgrown wealth to the pampered few, and reduces the industrious majority to the humiliating situation of abject dependants upon the rich, while all are placed beyond the salutary influence of popular control. The exclusive and intolerant spirit by which the National Church has been too frequently characterised, and which is so offensively displayed, in the present day, by many of its clerical supporters, is adduced, by the writer of the article, as another reason why its followers have diminished, and the number of dissenters increased. The defects in its government and external constitution he conceives to be indicative of the misgovernment that prevailed in the times when they were formed. In illustration of this, he adverts to the manner in which ihe bishops are appointed, and to their complete independence of the popular voice ;-to the injustice of pluralities and dispensations, and to the want of a suitable plan of education fitted for those who wish to become professionally connecled with the Church. He exposes the weak and futile objections of its indiscreet champions, who think that the venerable pile should remain untouched by the reforming hand of the legislature; and it is to the “exercise of its moral and virtuous discretion he looks forward with hope for the purisication of the Church of England from all those spots and stains which the stale, for its own purposes, has thrown upon it, no less than from those which had their origin in its own negligence and ignorance.”
The Edinburgh Review has conferred invaluable services on the cause of freedom by its zealous and unwavering support of the liberty of the press. When attacked, in seasons of political excitement, by the government and its law officers, who wished to control the movements of that mighty engine by legal persecution, it found in the conductors of that journal faithful and steady friends. At another period, when a society was formed under the avowed pretence of checking the licentiousness of the press, but with the secret intention of prosecuting every publication opposed to the principles and measures of the existing ministry, ihey unmasked the designs, and deprecated the tendency of that dangerous combination. In fact, upon every occasion, when allempls were made to restrain free discussion on the acts of public men, by subjecting their assailants to the Libel Laws, the influence of the Review was employed on the side of truth and justice.
of the numerous articles on that great subject, one of the most valuable has been inserted in this work. It contains a luminous exposition of the most imporlant provisions of the law of England, as now carried into practice, in relation to the press, with an exposure of the mischievous consequences resulting from its operation, and an enquiry into the best means of remedying its defects, and making it more favourable to justice, and to the rights of the people, Alter explaining the theory of the law of libel, as defined by the most approved writers on jurisprudence, and detailing the three methods of proceeding by which a person guilty of the offence may be put upon trial, the Reviewer enters upon the enquiry whether evidence, as to the truth of the libellous malter, should be excluded. He demonstrates, by a variety of convincing arguments, that the law, in its present form,“ is injurious to the interests of liberty and of good government; destroys the best protection which private character can have, and promotes the licentiousness of the press in the only quarter in which it is to be dreaded, -its inroads upon the comfort of individuals.” To render it more consistent, more congenial