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THE VOTE OF CONFIDENCE IN MINISTERS.
THE late Debate on the Vote of Want of Confidence in Ministers, is not to be regarded merely as a party struggle between one class of statesmen and another. It is in truth an exposition of the action and effects of the autagonist principles which for fifteen years have distracted the state, and by the ascendency of one of which to supreme power during the last ten, all the elements of strength in the British empire have been wellnigh dissolved. These solemn and portentous events give a nobler character to the debates of party than they have ever yet assumed in this country; they become the exposition not of the strife of men, but of the contest of principles; and to them future ages will turn for contemporary evidence of the effects of those democratic principles, which in all ages have been loudly contended for by a large portion of mankind, and will probably never cease to agitate the world, so long as their pristine nature shall descend to the children of Adam.
This debate forms a fit opening for a new decade in the history of the nation. The lapse of such a period--a long space in the lifetime of an individual, no inconsiderable one in the annals of a nation-naturally recalls us to deliberate thought; it leads us to compare the past with the present state of our country, and to enquire what we have gained-what we have lost during the ten years that liberal principles have ruled the Cabinet; and to examine how many of the expectations of the advocates of change have been realized by time, and how many of the predictions of its opponents have been now placed beyond the reach of doubt by the results of experience. Such an examination will both best demonstrate the tendency of the course which the nation has adopted, and throw an important light upon the merits of the memorable debate which has just been concluded in Parliament.
It was uniformly held forth by the movement party, at the commencement of the Reform agitation, that the grand object which they had in view, essential to the country, was to restore
the confidence of the people in Parlia ment, and to revive that cordial spirit of obedience to the laws, which can only be obtained in a free country by their being enacted by a legislature whose sentiments are in unison with those of the great body of the people. The old Parliament, it was acknowledged, possessed the confidence of the aristocracy and the holders of large property, whose representatives were the members for the close and nomination boroughs. But then it was said these representatives had entirely forfeited the regard of the middle classes of the community, who found themselves possessed of great real importance, but no deliberative voice in the legislature. This state of things, it was strongly urged, could not lastif it continued, it would render the constitution the mere mockery of a representative government; and therefore the great object was to put the sentiments of the legislature in harmony with those of the great mass of the people. No danger, it was said, need be anticipated from such a change; the people will be perfectly satisfied by the great addition to their power which they will receive; and even if it should prove otherwise, the middle classes, now become the real rulers of the state, will unanimously rally round a government which represents their feelings and attends to their wishes; and the waves of extreme democracy will beat in vain against the ramparts of a constitution founded in the wishes, and supported by the interests, of the whole middle and higher classes of the community.
Such were the predictions on which the advocates for change based the new constitution, and succeeded in establishing their power. How have these anticipations been realized? Is there any one interest in the community which possesses confidence in Government, as they are at present constituted, and as they have been moulded by the principles of innovation? Does the existing Government possess the confidence even of the Parliament elected in Great Britain according to the franchise which they themselves bestowed, and the boundaries of con
stituencies which they had curiously framed, so as to render their power immortal? Does the Government really possess the confidence of any one class in the community? Have they the confidence of the landholders? have they the confidence of the merchants? have they the confidence of the operatives? have they the confidence of the Conservatives? have they the confidence of the Chartist Revolutists? have they the confidence of the Church of England? have they the confidence of those who are members of the Romish persuasion? In short, has any one class of the nation the slightest trust in them as sincerely attached to their interests, and willing to peril a social conflict to maintain them? And has the nation at large, as a whole, any reliance upon either their ability or their inclination to defend the country from foreign aggression, and uphold the interest and honour of the empire? It is in the answers to these questions that the solution of the real question at issue between the Conservatives and Revolutionists is to be found; and it is by pondering on them that the best commentary on the late debate in Parliament is to be got. And strange to say, while it will at once appear from the decisive evidence of the votes of their own Parliament, and the official admissions of their own Administration, that the revolutionary party neither possess the confidence of the nation, nor of any one interest, party, or persuasion in it; yet, by a strange but not unprecedented combination of circumstances, they have hitherto succeeded in maintaining themselves in power even on the basis of popular representation, while respected by no one class of the state; they continue to exercise all the functions of government just because they have been proved incapable of exercising any of them, and are now immovable in their seats, precisely because they are the objects of universal contempt.
The Liberal party will ridicule these propositions, and exclaim against the possibility of such a state of things existing in a democratic community. Before joining in the cry, let them ponder upon, and answer if they can, the following considerations:
If Ministers possess the confidence
course that confidence must be demonstrated in a country in which the elective franchise has been so widely extended, and carved out according to their own wishes, and the system of representation which they themselves have laid down for their own purposes in the returned members of Parliament. The present Parliament was assembled under circumstances of unparalleled good fortune to the Liberal party. Not only had the Legislature been recently elected according to a system devised by themselves, and supported by all the fervour and gratitude of a large newly enfranchised class, but they had had the unparalleled good fortune of having had the existing Parliament elected amidst the transports immediately consequent on the accession of a youthful Queen, with the whole weight of government at their command, and the cordial support of the reigning Monarch in every step of their career. What, then, was the result of such a Parliament, elected under such circumstances, when first seriously called upon to declare whether they had or had not confidence in the Movement Ministry?
Let the following Table, compiled with great accuracy by the Morning Herald, answer the question, which brings out both the actual majority of twenty one in their favour, and the elements of which it was composed :
of the British House of Commons, of Total for the motion,
The Ministry resigned in a body on the 5th of May last, in consequenceof having been left in a majority of only five upon the Jamaica question, upon the express admission of Lord John Russell in the House of Commons, and Lord Melbourne in the House of Lords, that they felt they did not possess the confidence of either House of Parliament. Here, then, is the best possible evidence that the Ministry do not, in their own opinion, possess the confidence of the nation, viz. their own deliberate words, that they were convinced they did not do so, and their own deliberate acts testifying the real248 ity of that conviction.
By the above statement it will be seen, that England, Wales, and Scotland, give a majority in favour of the motion of TEN.
Thus it appears, that out of the members of Great Britain, a majority of ten of the Parliament created by themselves, under circumstances of unparalleled good fortune, voted against the Movement Ministry. And this is the manner in which the regeneration of the empire has restored the confidence of the people in the Commons' House of Parliament, and the Ministry whom the Reform tempest wafted into power!
Of whom, then, was the majority of twenty-one, who voted for Ministers, composed? Entirely of themselves, or of O'Connell's Tail. If you deduct the eight-and-thirty placemen, who were voting for their own offices, there will remain a majority of seventeen for Sir J. Yarde Buller's motion. If, from the forty-two Catholic members for Ireland, returned by O'Connell, you make the same deduction, there remains a majority of twenty-four who declared that they had no confidence in the Ministry. Had, then, either of these classes who composed the majority, the Ministry themselves, or O'Connell's Popish Tail, any confidence whatever in the present Administration? Their own acts and words will furnish the best answer to the question.
Has, then, the Government the confidence of the Member for all Ireland and his Popish Tail? Let his own words form the answer. He has told us, not once, but hundreds of times, that they are "base, bloody, and brutal Whigs;" that their government is worse than even that of the Tories; that he only supports them because he contrives to squeeze instalments of concession out of their hands; that he well knows that England is irrevocably hostile to the interests of Ireland; and that on that account he will never to his dying day cease to agitate for the repeal of the Union. And, suiting the action to the word, he has already renewed the repeal agitation in Dublin, and is laying the foundation of an extended agitation on that subject, which he tells us will erelong dismember the empire as effectually as a similar effort carried through Catholic emancipation. Here, then, we have the best possible evidence that O'Connell and the Popish Tail have no confidence in Ministers, viz. his own words, that they are "base, bloody, and brutal"-expressions not peculiarly characteristic of confidence
and his own strenuous deeds, calculated to withdraw himself, his supporters, and country, for ever from their government.
And so much for the confidence which their own darling Reform House of Commons has in the Government as at present constituted, and the real motives by which the majority of twentyone who support them are, by their own admission, actuated. If, then, Parliament as a whole has no confidence in them, have any particular class or interest in the community that confidence;
or is there any one section of the community who really, and sincerely, think that their interests may be safely intrusted to their keeping?
Do the Conservatives trust them? This question hardly needs an answer. If it did, it would be decisively replied to in the minority of 308, including pairs, who voted against them in the Îate division. And it is the constant complaint of the Ministry and their few remaining partisans in the press, that they have for years been the subject of a relentless and systematic opposition from the Tories, unparalleled even in the long annals of British faction.
Have they the confidence of the House of Peers and the aristocracy? This question is easily answered. There is a majority of ninety-one, which has been more than once recorded against them in that assembly, notwithstanding the creation of no less than fifty-two peers in the short space of nine years, or more than double the number that ever were created in a similar period before by any Tory administration. Indeed, so far from pretending that they possess the confidence of the Upper House, it is the unceasing complaint of Ministers that they are exposed to the utmost difficulty in maintaining their ground there; and they expressly admitted that the carrying of Lord Roden's motion for an enquiry into the administration of justice in Ireland, was felt by them to be a direct vote of censure upon their own conduct.
Have Government the confidence of the landed proprietors? This, too, is at once answered by the decisive majority of one hundred and ninety in the last Session of Parliament, against the now hardly-disguised project of abolishing the Corn-Laws. This project, indeed, Lord Melbourne, in the Upper House, justly styled "the most insane that ever yet entered into the mind of man; but, notwithstanding this, a large proportion of the Cabinet members in the Lower House not only strenuously argued for it in Parliament, but vigorously agitate for their total repeal, by striving to move the gigantic masses in the great towns; and Mr Poulett Thompson, the member for Manchester, as a reward for his long and great services in that career of
NO. CCXCIII, VOL. XLVII.
Anti-Corn-Law agitation, has been recently rewarded by the GovernorGeneralship of North America. And if any further proof were required, it would be found in the fact that no less than ninety-four county members in England alone voted against Ministers, and only forty-four with them, on the late division; while even in Scotland, a majority of the county members who voted against the Administration was nineteen, and for them only twelve. Indeed, so far are Ministers from themselves asserting that they possess the confidence of the landed interest, that it is their constant complaint that they do not; and that, what between Tory parsons and Tory squires, it has become al most impossible to contest with ad. vantage a Tory seat in any county.
Does Government, then, possess the confidence of the old Whig aristocracy of that great party, so long celebrated in English history, to which Fox belonged, and which Burke adorned, and of which Lord Grey, when they came into office in 1830, was the acknowledged head? Here, also, a decisive answer is to be found in the words and actions of their own acknowledged leaders. Not only have the noblest and ablest of that party seceded from their ranks, with Lord Stanley, Sir James Graham, Lord Ripon, the Duke of Richmond, and a host of others, but a great part of whom are among their most determined and powerful opponents. And if any further evidence were wanting on this head, it has been furnished by the admission and acts of the son and representative of their own acknowledged leader; for Lord Howick emphatically stated in the House of Commons in the late debate, that he resigned his office in the Administration last May, because he saw clearly that Ministers were not strong enough to resist the downward progress of the Movement, and because he saw clearly that "the most respectable of their supporters were every week or month, by ones or twos," leaving their ranks, and slipping over to the benches of Opposition. After this admission from the son of the avowed leader of the old Whig party, it is unnecessary to say more as to Government as at present constituted having lost the interest and confidence of that party. Have Ministers the confidence of
the commercial classes? So far as commercial wealth or property is concerned, unquestionably they have not. It is notorious, that at least threefourths, probably four-fifths, of the manufacturing wealth and property of the country is not only hostile, but decidedly hostile, to their measures; and that if a majority of the representatives of the mercantile towns still support them, it is because in these constituencies the men who have no property overbalance those who have any. Fortunately, here also, facts altogether decisive of the question put the matter beyond a doubt. In London, the great commercial metropolis of the empire, the customs of which amount to the stupendous sum of twelve millions a-year, they were received, no further back than last November, in the annual dinner given at Guildhall by the Liberal functionaries of the city to the leading merchants and bankers of all parties, but chiefly, of course, to those of their own way of thinking, with such a pitiless storm of indignation, that, according to the admission of their own journals, the like of it was never before witnessed in English history. Liverpool, the second greatest commercial town in Great Britain, whose customs amount to £4,500,000 a year, has actually turned the corner, and returned two stanch Conservatives to Parliament; while in Glasgow, the most magnificent banquet ever witnessed in modern Europe was given by four thousand three hundred gentlemen of respectability to Sir Robert Peel-and a majority of the Reformed Town Council, elected by the Parliamentary constituency, is composed of Conservative gentlemen.
But, in fact, it is hardly possible to take up a newspaper from any part of the country, in which evidence will not be found of the utter want of confidence which even the liberal portion of the mercantile class-even their most strenuous liberal supporters, have in the capacity and judgment of Ministers. At all the meetings held by Mr Urquhart to discuss the commercial interests of the country, at Newcastle, at Glasgow, and Manchester, the strongest condemnation of the mercantile conduct of Government was pronounced by their own most decided political partizans. It did not require their pas
sive acquiescence in the blockade of Mexico and Buenos Ayres, so cruelly detrimental to British interests, or of their late disgraceful and inexplicable supineness in regard to the Chinese disaster, to convince the whole mercantile world, of whatever shade of political opinions, that their interests never were intrusted to such incapable hands. This is matter of universal notoriety throughout the empire-there is not a Liberal merchant in the united kingdom who does not know that it is the case, and hardly one that will not, in the confidence of private friendship, admit that it is so.
Have Ministers, then, the confidence of the operatives and the Chartists, since they have lost that of every other interest in the community? The insurrection at Newport-the flames of Birmingham-the hardly suppressed conflagration of Sheffield-the attempts at burning of the metropolis itself, are a sufficient answer to the question. In truth, if there is any one class in society more than another to whom the present Government are an object of utter abhorrence, it is the Chartists; and the strength of this feeling of abhorrence itself has been one great cause of the spread of Chartism. The language with which their orators and journals constantly assail the conduct of Ministers is such, that we never have, and never will, pollute our pages with it. It is not surprising, however much it is to be lamented, that they should have fallen into these expressions of language and conduct. In their case, the violence of party has been inflamed with the virulence of disappointment. Chartists say, that they have not only been disappointed by the Ministry, but deceived. They feel that they have been made the mere instruments for the ambitious designs of others, and that, when their passions and expectations had suited the purposes of the authors of the Movement, they were thrown aside as useless. Thence the rise and virulence of Chartism, and the awful fact, not only of millions of the community being united in support of an absolute democratic form of government, and of hundreds of thousands being leagued together in an infernal conspiracy for the destruction of life and property.
If the one extreme of society-that of the ignorant Chartists-is decidedly