Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

blessings which they have in store vigorous step till their doors are forced for the working-classes, it is some- open by a Chartist mob, their houses thing very different from what they in flames by Chartist torches, or their either promised or professed. beer-barrels emptied by Chartist

But, says Lord John Russell, we mouths ? Doubtless, when a Radical could not proceed against the leaders finds a Chartist swallowing copious of the Convention, because we had libations out of his butts, the obstruclittle hope of obtaining a conviction tions of error are quickly swept away before juries, however clearly the from his own mind; when he sees bis bench might lay down that the ac- property pillaged by Chartist hands, cused had been guilty of sedition or he gets a clear insight into the dishigh treason; and, therefore, we deemed tinction betwixt meum and tuum; and it better to let the evil go on growing when the darkness is illuminated by till it reached such a height as to strike the flames of his burning property, a panic into the middle classes, and the shades of political delusion are secure their co-operation in the execute rapidly dispelled. But are we to rest tion of the law. We admit the valin in the miserable and degrading condity of this excuse--probably it was clusion, that these deplorable catasexpedient, and even necessary in the trophes must ensue before the middle present state of the country, and mis- classes can be roused to a sense either led as the public mind has been by of their duties or their danger? Is political falsehood, incessantly rung the book of experience entirely lost into their ears for a quarter of a cen- upon them; and is there no way of tury, to-adopt such a course, how ad- making them discharge their duties as verse soever to every principle of jus- jurymen, or support the Government tice. But what inference is to be drawn as politicians, but by bringing the as to the soundness or tendency of the horrors of civil war home to their political principles which have so long doors ? Is that the result of ten years' been poured into the middle classes, apprenticeship to self-government ? when the avowed effect of them by the Is that the consequence of the extenLiberal Government is to render the sion of the suffrage, and the diffusion administration of justice impracticable, of political information to all classes and proclaim a long impunity to of society? If these are the consecrimes involving a nation's ruin? quences of political amelioration, if What, has it already come to this, these are the first fruits of Reform, that treason must be pampered in we can only say that they exceed in America till its plains are reddened by bitterness any which the Tories ever the light of its burning villages, and predicted; and that the libel pronounced that sedition must be winked at in

upon the aniddle classes by Lord John England till the minds of the middle Russell as his excuse for not stifling classes are illuminated by the flames sedition in its cradle, exceeds

any

that of Birmingham, or the conflagration was ever launched against them by of Bristol? Is this the vast and in- their bitterest political opponent. calculable progress of human intelli- But the truth is, that this memorable gence? Is this the manner in which declaration of Lord John Russell sugthe middle classes have been educated gests matter for deeper and more seriunder the Whig tuition of thirty, and ous reflections. Under the old Conthe Whig Administration of ten years, stitution of England, no such difficulty for the great work of self government? of administering justice as he so forIs this the specimen to which we are cibly points out, was experienced. to look for an example of the manner Juries then fearlessly and honestly in which the great duties of the State discharged themselves of their oaths ; are to be discharged by the operative judges deliberately tried cases without ranks ? Must we always wait till the dread that the law would be cities are burned, and streets given up thwarted by those intrusted with the to pillage, before any defensive mea- evidence; Government acted vigoroussures are adopted by the new gover- ly without an apprehension that their nors of the State? Do coming events weapons would be broken when wieldnever cast their shadows before to the ed by their arm ; sedition was predominant shopocracy of the empire; vented from ripening into treason, and and will the new governors of the treason from involving provinces in the State never adopt any defensive or pains of rebellion. What is it, then; that has wrought so fearful a change the oppression of a centralized despoin the temper and judgment of the tism? Is the unpaid juryman in the people, as their admitted disinclination end to be every where supplanted by to administer justice or act with deci- the stipendiary judge ; the churchsion necessarily implies ? Is it that warden by the poor-law commissionthe public mind has become so de.. er; the parish constable by the paid bauched and corrupted by the inces- policeman ; the yeomanry by an armsant promulgation of Liberal princi- ed gendarmerie; the militia by a powples, that, till a fatal catastrophe arises, erful regular army ?-And is all this to the bonds of society are loosene the take place, not only without the oppoobligation of oaths forgotten, and the sition, but with the cordial support of sense of justice in the middle classes ex- every friend to humanity and his tinguished ? Is it that the exercise of country, from the dear-bought but mepolitical power is destructive to the lancholy conviction forced on them by sense of political duties; that, in experience, that the days of tempered proportion as men are intrusted with freedom, and the real administration self-government, they become insen- of public affairs by the people, are sible to its obligations ; that, as po- past? These are vital and momenlitical discussion is more largely en- tous questions. They are questions trusted to the working classes, pub- on which many a thoughtful mind is lic sympathy will be more largely now ruminating, and which successive bestowed upon the violators of the events will in all probability erelong law and the disturbers of public present in still clearer colours to the tranquillity; and that the boasted national mind. We mention them dreams of political regenerators are without any wish to weaken at this at length to terminate in a demonstra. moment the hands of Government, tion on the greatest scale, that the old but from a deep sense of their vast position of Hobbes is well-founded, and and growing importance, and the that the original state of nature was conviction that it is not by vainly that of general war against life and lamenting the past, which is now irproperty ? Or are we to rest in the recoverable, but attending to the preless alarming but not less melancholy sent and altered features of society conclusion, that the days of British which it has induced, that the great freedom, and the due administration end of government, security to life and of justice by its unbought citizens, property, is in this country hereafter are numbered ; that the vehement dis- to be obtained. cussion of public affairs, and the ex. Mr Buller lately said in the House citement of political passion which now of Commons, that the Government of takes place, are inconsistent with the the country was now, for the first due discharge of their judicial functions time, brought in contact with the eduby the middle classes ; that terror, cated masses, and that they would now intimidation, and violence, have ren- find what it was to contend with the dered the verdicts of juries precarious working-classes, whom the system of and suspected, and that the boasted Bell and Lancaster had elevated to a and long-tried institution of juries knowledge of their rights. Lord John itself, is a security only against the Russell, in the same debate, (August attacks of the monarch in front, but 2, 1839,) said, that the state of society none against the assaults of the popu- which pervaded the operative classes lace in rear? Are we doomed to see in almost all the manufacturing disthe institutions of Alfred melt away tricts in the empire, was deplorable in under the dissolving liberalism of the the extreme; that they had obtained nineteenth century ; is popular inti- education, without any provision bemidation, political passion, or personal ing made for either their moral or fear, to bring into discredit, in all but religious instruction; and that they times of manifest danger, the ancient are now banded together in a confeinstitution

trial by jury ; and is deracy which must be numbered, not necessity to force even upon the wisest by its hundreds of thousands, but by heads, and warmest hearts, and stoutest its millions, the object of which is, by patriots of the realm, the deliberate force, intimidation, and violence, to conviction, that the ancient popular obtain a total change in the Constituadministration of government in Eng- tion of the country. Both statements, land, must give place to the powers and so far as they go, are correct; the wide spread of mere intellectual edu. ing, and on every hustings in the cation, and the total absence of moral kingdom — and the statements were or religious tuition, are undoubtedly repeated till the very air rang with the two of the elements in the composition sounds that their whole sufferings of the perils with which the social sys- were owing to the Tories and the botem of Great Britain is now so widely 'roughmongers; that the Reform Bill overspread. Add to these “ the enor- would at once relieve the whole dismous lying” by which Mr Bulwer tresses of the country; that taxes tells us the Reform Bill was carried would be reduced, wages high, provithe political delusion, exaggeration, sions abundant; and that, instead of and error, so copiously poured into Government acting as heretofore, the nation by the whole Whig jour- merely for the interest of the few and nalists, orators, and writers, for the the oppression of the many, it would be last thirty years-joined to the exces- directed solely to the interests of the sive expectations wilfully excited in many, and the restraining of the few; the mind of the country, for selfish that the reign of corruption would be purposes, by the authors of the Reform

at an end, and that justice, patriotism, Bill, which is the real cause of the and disinterestedness, were to pervade distracted and discontented state of so every part of the administration. large a portion of the working-classes When, therefore, instead of the fulfilthroughout the manufacturing dis- ment of these exaggerated expectatricts.

tions, the people, seven years after the What is the prevailing cry of the Reform Bill was passed, found every Chartists and Universal Suffrage men? thing going on much the same as beIt is, that they have not obtained the fore, with this difference only, that fruits of Reform; that they have been political abuses are far more frequent misled and deceived by their Whig than ever; that commissions, prolific leaders; that all the real and practical of advantage only to the Whig emgrievances of which they formerly com- ployés, which in the end lead to noplained, are still in existence; that thing, abound in all quarters; that the wages are as low, provisions as high, revenue is sinking while the expentaxes as heavy as ever ; that the sway diture is continually increasing ; and of the middle classes has proved more that the blessings of moral and political oppressive than even that of the old

economy have been brought home to boroughmongers; and that the New the working-classes in the shape of the Poor-Law has deprived them of their New Poor-Law Bill; it is noways surrights of birthrightinheritance in a way prising that universal discontent has which would never have been attempted been awakened amongst the highly exby the ancient guardians of the realm. cited operative classes; and that, in What they call for, therefore, is Uni- utter despair at the total failure of the versal Suffrage, Annual Parliaments, a grand nostrum which was to have paid Legislature ; in other words, the worked out their salvation, they have total command of the property, educa- listened to leaders who tell them that tion, and intelligence of the kingdom. nothing remains but to take the admiWhat they would do with these powers nistration of public affairs into their when acquired, is now sufficiently own hands, and throw overboard at evident. They would pillage all the once the whole property, respectabiproperty of the kingdom, and dividelity, and education of the kingdom. the whole possessions of the wealthy They had no difficulty in finding leaders classes among themselves. Now, to who would head this new and formi. what is this monstrous cupidity and dable plebeian movement; the exinsatiable desire for power, with a view ample of the success of former agito pillage, to be ascribed ? Clearly to tation was too instructive to be thrown the exaggerated expectations and un- away. They saw that the Whigs had bounded promises held forth by the contrived to keep themselves in office Whigs during the Reform agitation, for seven years by Reform agitation ; and to the strenuous efforts which they and they saw no reason why, by the have ever since made to prevent any aid of a similar movement from an extension of the religious institutions inferior class, the assistance of the of the country. They told them Chartist mania, and the terrors of the during the Reform mania, at every torch and the dagger, they might not public dinner, at every public meet. also, in their turn, get possession of the

reins of Government, and become divulging the secret designs of the masters of the country, and all its pro- Chartists, to arrive at a just conclu. perty, for seven years to come. sion as to their total unfitness for any of

While, however, no one can doubt the functions of Government, and of that the causes which have now been the enormous peril with which any enumerated, are those to which the concession of power to-them, however present alarming social condition of small, will be attended. The same the country is owing, the question re. conclusion arises, in an equally forci. mains, How this population is to be ble manner, from a consideration of dealt with? In what way the existing their ordinary habits, and the princidangers are to be averted, and the for. ples by which their private conduct is mer healthy condition of the public regulated. What are the qualities of mind re-established ? These are mo- mind and character which fit men for mentous questions, affecting not mere. the discharge of public or political ly the future fate of the country, but duties, and the prevalence of which in the property and patrimonial interests a nation renders them ripe for a share of every individual in the kingdom. in the administration of the realm ?

The first thing which must strike Economy, order, and foresight in the every impartial mind in considering management of their private affairs ; the present state of the country, is, regularity and prudence in private that the working-classes have now life; the bettering of their circumproved themselves unworthy of that stances, and the elevation of their extension of the Suffrage for which habits, by the continued practice of they contend; and that, whatever industry, frugality, and foresight. doubts might formerly have existed What, then, are the habits of the on the subject in the minds of well- middle classes, to whom, in so great a meaning and enthusiastic, but simple proportion, political power has been and ill-informed, men, it is now esta- handed over by the Reform Bill ? blished beyond all doubt, that Univer- That there are many extravagant, sal Suffrage in reality means nothing fraudulent, and profligate characters else but universal pillage. This, we among them, may safely be admitted ; always said, was the case. From first and that a majority of the ten-pound to last we have resolutely maintained, electors in almost all the great cities that what the working-classes under- in the empire, are possessed of little stand by political power, is just the or no property, and belong to a class means of putting their hands in their unfit to be intrusted with political neighbours' pockets; and that it was power, may be considered as now com.. the belief that the Reform Bill would pletely proved by experience. But, negive them that power, which was the vertheless, there unquestionably exists main cause of the enthusiasm in its among the middle classes more prufavour, and the disgust of the failure dence, foresight, and economy; more of these hopes, the principal reason patient industry and unobtrusive virtue; of the present clamour for an exten- more strenuousexertion,and heroic selfsion of the Suffrage. The Chartists, denial, than in any other class in the doubtless, deny this, as all men will community. We shall find no paraldo till they can admit it with impu- lel to it either in the ranks above or nity, and as the French Revolutionists beneath them in society. The former, did till they had acquired, by Universal by the possession of hereditary fortune Suffrage, the power of breaking into or influence, are in great part relieved and pillaging every chateau in the from the necessity of constant labour, kingdom. But how do their acts cor- or the duties of prospective foresight. respond with these professions ? They The latter are so much habituated to had the mastery at Birmingham for attend only to present objects, and to an hour and a half, and immediate- receive impressions only from what ly two houses were burned and thirty strikes the senses, that they have never gutted. If they had the command of acquired these habits at all. It was the empire for a month and a half, upon the known and admitted

prevathey would confiscate, and share lence of these qualities among the among themselves, all the property it better portion of the middle classes, contains.

and the assertion that such habits were But it is not necessary to have re- universal among that body of men, course to this memorable instance, that the main argument in favour of the extension of the suffrage in their manufacturing, districts and great favour was founded. And unques- towns, and what proof have they tionably, if they all possessed the fore- afforded by their sobriety, frugality, sight and self-denial which is every and foresight, that they possess the day manifested by a considerable part habits and qualities essential to a due of their number, political power could appreciation or administration of pubnot be entrusted to safer or better lic affairs ? Is their conduct charachands. No Government will ever be terised by temperance, sobriety, and endangered in which the majority of regularity of demeanour? Are they the representative constituency are prudent, cautious, and foreseeing in holders of policies of life insurance, their habits? Do they generally reproportioned to the circumstances of sist temptation, and forego present their respective families. The main enjoyment for the sake of ultimate tenance of such insurances implies advantage to themselves or their famia sacrifice of enjoyment to duty; lies? Is capital accumulating in their of the present to the future ; of sel- hands? Are the numbers of them fish to social affection, which forms who are thrown upon the parish from the best possible preparation for the destitution diminishing ?' And have due exercise of political functions. they evinced, by the prudence with

Are then the habits of the working which they regulate their own passions, classes, above all, of the manufacturing and coerce their own excesses, that operatives in great cities, such as to they are adequate to the duties of selfafford

any well-grounded expectation government? Above all, is the brutal that they are better qualified than the and debasing habit of intoxication middle classes for the duty of electing diminishing ? Are ale-houses, and legislators ? Observe the conduct of gin-shops, and spirit-cellars, every the better description of the middle where decreasing in numbers; and ranks, and say, whether the conduct does the increase of booksellers' shops of the manufacturing artisan at all in the manufacturing towns, prove that resembles it, or is not rather a contrast the artisans are withdrawing from the to it. Look at the professional men- habits of sensual indulgence, to bestow the lawyers, physicians, clergymen, their extra gains upon mental cultivamerchants, shopkeepers, and manu- tion and moral improvement? Is the facturers. What efforts do they make attendance in any church, whether to raise themselves in the world ? Established or Voluntary, increasing What industry do they exert, what amongst them; and does the rapid frugality do they exercise ? Their growth and permanent supportofplaces whole life is one, not merely of con- of worship, prove that their desire for tinual exertion, but of incessant fore- spiritual improvement keeps pace with sight, and anxious consideration of their spiritual destitution ? Is the the future. Their hard-earned gains morality of the sexes improving? Are are for the most part invested either cases of bastardy, desertion of chilin profitable speculations, or devoted dren by parents, or of wives by husto life insurances, intended to serve bands, declining in number; and is the as a provision for their families after fatal gangrene of illicit indulgence they themselves shall be no more. giving way before the resolute efforts Existence to them is an incessant of a prudent and reflecting people ? scene of toilsome exertion and of vir- Questions of this sort force themselves. tuous self-denial. Frugality and fore- upon the mind when the workingsight pervade every part of their classes of the manufacturing towns establishment ; their whole life is a unite in a loud and menacing demand sacrifice of the present to the future. for political power; and, we naturally It is in their industry and frugality ask ourselves, what proof have these that the foundation is laid for almost people given by their conduct in their all the wealth and prosperity of socie. own sphere of life, and the managety. It is in their multitude and opu- ment of their own affairs, that they lence that Great Britain finds both are worthy to be raised to more elethe sources of its greatness, and its vated duties, and qualified to direct proud pre-eminence over every other the affairs of others country of the globe.

The answers to these questions are Now, what are the habits of the decisive against the claims now adoperative classes, especially in the vanced for Universal Suffrage. Doubt

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »