Imágenes de página

was known to the Lord Chancellor, and much esteemed by him; he had, indeed, been promoted by his lordship to the place of commissioner of bankrupt; to the members of the committee he was wholly unknown except by his co-operation ; none of us had ever heard his name mentioned until the member for Berks informed us of the similarity of his pursuits. Thus, then, fortune seemed to present a person eminently fitted for the service of the public; and it might have been supposed that Lord Sidmouth would eagerly avail himself of the opportunity to appoint at least one commissioner whom all men would allow to be well chosen.

What were the grounds of his rejection, I am yet to learn. Whether he had incurred the guilt of drawing forth my warm commendations, solely by his own merits; or abounding in all other requisites, he had no friend at court; or that his inquisitorial habits might give alarm to many favored personages; or that his claims stood in the way of illustrious birth united to obscure merit; or that the patronage of the home department, was at all hazards to be defended against every inroad of desert as well as of parliamentary recommendation- all we know is the fact, that neither Mr. Parry nor Mr. Koe are in the commission.

Among the honorary commissioners, we had been led to hope that Lord Lansdowne and the Bishop of London would appear. It is not easy to find two individuals more admirably qualified for the office, by the union of inflexible integrity with conciliatory temper, and of acute understanding with habits of application to affairs. But I own that in my eyes those distinguished persons were still further recommended by their avowed disposition in favor of the proposed inquiry; and I am therefore the more disheartened, when I find their places supplied by two right reverend prelates, one of whom displayed his irreconcileable hostility to the bill by even voting against its commitment; and the other, his disinclination towards it, by retiring before the division, in which the bench of bishops took so active a share. These are the only peers whose names I find in the list. Neither Lord Rosslyn, who brought forward the question with such signal ability, nor Lord Holland, nor Lord Carnarvon, who powerfully supported him, are included.?

But I feel myself compelled, however irksome the task, to take notice of another omission. No members of the education com

* The Bishops of Peterborough and St. Asaph.

? It is singularly unfortunate, that neither the speech of Lord Rosslyn, so replete with important information, as well as sound and enlightened views, on national education, nor that of Lord Holland, worthy of his illustrious kinsman, were reported.

mittee are stationed at the board, to superintend the execution of their own measure, to keep watch for the public, stimulating the doubtful zeal of some, and checking the declared hostility of others; in a word, to give the country a substantial security, that the abuses so loudly complained of shall in good earnest be investigated, and that the commission shall not be changed from an unsparing inquisition, into a thicker cloak than that under which the


have already been despoiled. It might have been expected that either Mr. Babington or myself, who had taken the principal part in the labors of the committee, would have been placed upon the watch for these purposes. Of Mr. Babington's claims to the office, every one who knows him will admit that I need say nothing. Unfortunately he has lately by his retirement from public life, added one qualification, which all who have marked the honesty and usefulness of his parliamentary conduct will allow, that the country has cause to lament. After titles to notice, so much higher than any that I can bring forward, had been disregarded, I could hardly feel surprised at my own offer of service being rejected, with silent contempt, by the eminent head of the home department. I was induced to tender myself, by the strong representations of my fellow laborers in the committee. As the office conferred neither emolument, nor patronage, nor power; as it only gave the privilege of hard labor, of which the habits of my life and my zeal for the cause, made it very clear that I should cheerfully take advantage; I imagined that the most implacable species of malice--the spite of peculators trembling for their unjust gains—could hardly impute any selfish views to the application : I therefore openly stated in my place that I was anxious to be an honorary member of the commission. I added, that even if my temporary retirement from parliament were deemed an indispensable condition of the appointment, I still desired to have the option upon those terms; being of opinion that I might render more valuable service to the country by devoting to the proposed in:quiry the whole time which I could spare from professional avocations.' But I do not find that great leisure is thought necessary for the business of the board. The speaker is at the head of it; and Sir W. Scott is another of its members. Than the former, no man can be a more fit presi. dent; but I am not quite disposed to look for very active investigation from the right honorable member for Oxford. He is understood to be decidedly hostile to the bill. His constituents are known to be in general, the warmest enemies of the whole inquiry. That he and Mr. Yorke are named instead of Mr. Babington and myself, I trust I may be permitted to regret with the most perfect respect for two gentlemen whose fair difference of opinion, widely as it separates us, I entirely honor.

That party considerations dictated this decision, I feel unwilling


to believe. In the case of Mr. Babington they could have no weight. In my own, I will venture to say they would be exceed ingly misplaced; for I appeal with confidence to every member of the committee, and to every person in government with whom I have had the honor of communicating, to defend me from the suspiicon of having in any one instance shown myself influenced by political feelings during the course of the inquiry. So determined was I to avoid every thing which might lead to such imputations, that I interfered at the Westmorland election to prevent any allusion from being made to the case of St. Bees school, and uniformly refused access to the evidence touching that extraordinary affair, to persons who might use it for the purposes of the

It has been suggested that I am omitted because the ministers were apprehensive of my carrying the inquiry farther than they wished it to go. Certainly I should have felt no desire to push it beyond the just limits. I should have only taken care that every abuse was searched to the very bottom, whoever might be engaged in it. One step short of this I should not have consented to stop; farther, there was no occasion to go.

It is necessary to add a remark or two upon the choice of the secretary. That important officer is directed by the act to be named by the commissioners themselves. The reason is obvious ; he ought to be a person possessing their confidence; known to them; selected by them. The law was purposely so framed, and the terms of it explícitly show the intent of the legislature. The secretary of state, however, is understood to have desired the stipendiary commissioners immediately after their nomination, and before the seal was affixed, to reserve themselves upon the appointment of a secretary. It is not to be doubted, that this suggestion was meant as a notice that the home department would recommend a proper person. Accordingly I am informed that Mr. Parry, the omission of whose name at the board had created considerable discussion, has since received intimation that an application by him for the office would be favorably received. If Lord Sidmouth recommends him, it will be a deviation from the act of parliament,' useful no doubt to the public, but only rendered so by his lordship having previously left him out of his proper place at the board. Had he been appointed a commissioner, the minister would have only exercised the patronage vested in him by law; an able ser

· The words are (sect. 4.) “ The said commissioners are hereby authorised to appoint and employ such secretary as they shall think meet, and to administer to the said secretary au vath for his true and faithful demeanour in all things relating to the due performance of any trust respecting the execution of this act, reposed in him by the said commissioners."

vant would have been secured in the department that most ree quired him; and the discretion vested by the act in the board would have been kept sacred from ministerial encroachment.'

I have now finished the most painful part of these observations; painful, because I have been compelled to criticise the selection of persons against whose general characters and respectability I have never heard a suspicion whispered, and to express a disapprobation of the choice, founded upon an invidious comparison of their deserts with those of other men. Let it not, however, be supposed that I expect no good to result from their labors; still less do I impute to them any backwardness to discharge the duty which they have sworn to fulfil. It is the inferior energy of some that I lament. It is the unfortunate prejudices of others which I dread, against which I feel anxious that they themselves should be warned, and of which a jealous public ought thus early to be apprised. Even constituted as it is, and with powers so defective, this board may render service to the state : but he is guilty of no failure in courtesy towards its members, who betrays a constitutional desire that their proceedings should attract the watchful eye of the community at large.

Of the ministers who first mutilated the act, and then intrusted the execution of it to its enemies, rather than its authors or supporters, no man can long hesitate what opinion he should form. Their conduct can only be accounted for upon the supposition that they do not wish to see a zealous and unsparing investigation of charitable abuses. That they should favor neglect or peculation for its own sake, is inconceivable; but they may be deterred from fearlessly joining in the exposure of it by the clamors of those who are interested in its concealment, or the alarms of men easily disquieted, willing to believe that there is safety in supporting whatever exists, ready to fancy that there is danger wherever

! It is remarkable that the police committee have complained, in their third report, of the same disposition in the home department to grasp at patronage not vested in it by law, “ This breach of an act of parliament, (says the report) on the part of the secretary of state, has produced the result which might have been anticipated. One of the persons so appointed by Lord Sidmouth, was a worthless, abandoned character, a Jew bail, who was imprisoned in the King's Bench, and not being able to perform his duty, was turned out of his situation; he is described by the chief clerk as a man who hired himself out as a fraudulent bail, and was never known at the office till he came to be sworn in. Your Committee beg leave to observe, that this interference of the secretary of state is not warranted by the law which regulates the police, and will no doubt, if persevered in, be attended with the worst effects. Of the four persons nominated by Lord Sidmouth, one declined his appointinent, another was turned out of the office, and the remaining two were confirmed in their situations, in defiance of the proper remonsurance of the inagistrates upon the subject,”

there is movement, and to forget that in the neighborhood of mischief repose is perilous. Certain it is, that the present ministers have at all times betrayed a reluctance to reformation of every sort; and that, whether from interest, or weak compliance, or fear of disquieting the alarmists, they have so acted as to afford abuses of all descriptions effectual shelter. Upon the present occasion they have not deviated from their accustomed course ; and the interposition of parliament will be required to force them out of it, as it has frequently done before. The season has happily passed away when the country could be frightened out of a necessary attention to the mismanagement of its affairs; and an opinion is daily gaining ground, that its safety might be secured, instead of endangered, by the steady yet temperate progress of well-considered, timely reformation.

It is devoutly to be hoped, that the clamors, and the still more dangerous intrigues of men directly interested in the continuance of abuse, may not be permitted to influence the house of commons during the approaching session. If any thing has been clearly proved in the foregoing pages, it is the absolute necessity of reviving the education committee, and extending its powers to all charities whatever. This measure alone can strengthen the hands of the commissioners, whom all good men must wish to support, whether they approve or blame the selection that has been made. It is no less necessary for pursuing the investigation of the important matters withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the board. An opposition to the renewal of that committee can only originate in a determined resolution to screen delinquents, to perpetuate neglect and malversation. I trust I may be permitted to affirm, without incurring the charge of presumption, that never did any committee better deserve the confidence of parliament and of the country, whether we regard the diligence or the impartiality with which it performed its duty. Gratitude to my colleagues, as well as justice to the public, require from me this acknowledgment.

It is true we had enemies, who from the first regarded our proceedings with a jealous eye; and whose numbers as well as animosity were increased by the progress of our inquiries. With those who openly met us we had no reason to dread the result of a conflict; but our most implacable adversaries chose a more formidable manner of attack. They hated us for one thing, and arraigned us for another ; or concealing themselves and their grounds of aversion, they worked upon the fears of others, and opposed us by deputy. Men who had no possessions of their own, affected a tender regard for the secrecy of title deeds, while they feared only the disclosure of conveyances, that would oblige them so surrender the property of the poor. Many who cared but little

« AnteriorContinuar »