Imágenes de página



beautiful as it is, and disposed as we think we have shown ourselves to look hopefully upon it, it is impossible to shut our eyes on two dark stains that appear on the bright horizon, and seem already to tarnish the glories with which they are so sadly contrasted. One is of longer standing, and perhaps of deeper dye.-But both are most painful deformities on the face of so fair a prospect; and may be mentioned with less scruple and greater hope, from the consideration, that those who have now the power of effacing them can scarcely be charged with the guilt of their production, and have given strong indications of dispositions that must lead them to wish for their removal. We need scarcely give the key to these observations by naming the names of Poland and of Norway. Nor do we propose, on the present occasion, to do much more than to name them. Of the latter, we shall probably contrive to speak fully on a future occasion. Of the former, many of our readers may think we have, on former occasions, said at least enough. Our zeal in that cause, we know, has been made matter of wonder, and even of derision, among certain persons who value themselves on the character of practical politicians and men of the world; and we have had the satisfaction of listening to various witty sneers on the mixed simplicity and extravagance of supposing, that the kingdom of the Poles was to be re-established by a dissertation in an English journal. It would perhaps be enough to state, that, independent of any view to an immediate or practical result in other regions, it is of some consequence to keep the observation of England alive, and its feelings awake, upon a subject of this importance: But we must beg leave to add, that such dissertations are humbly conceived to be among the legitimate means by which the English public both instructs and expresses itself; and that the opinion of the English public is still allowed to have weight with its government; which again cannot well be supposed to be altogether without influence in the councils of its allies.

Whatever becomes of Poland, it is most material, we think, that the people of this country should judge



soundly, and feel rightly, on a matter that touches on principles of such general application. But every thing that has passed since the publication of our former remarks, combines to justify what we then stated; and to encourage us to make louder and more energetic appeals to the justice and prudence and magnanimity of the parties concerned in this transaction. The words and the deeds of Alexander that have, since that period, passed into the page of history - the principles he has solemnly professed, and the acts by which he has sealed that profession-entitle us to expect from him a strain of justice and generosity, which vulgar politicians may call romantic if they please, but which all men of high principles and enlarged understandings will feel to be not more heroic than judicious. While Poland remains oppressed and discontented, the peace of Europe will always be at the mercy of any ambitious or intriguing power that may think fit to rouse its vast and warlike population with the vain promise of independence; while it is perfectly manifest that those, by whom alone that promise could be effectually kept, would gain prodigiously, both in security and in substantial influence, by its faithful performance. It is not, however, for the mere name of independence, nor for the lost glories of an ancient and honourable existence, that the people of Poland are thus eager to array themselves in any desperate strife of which this may be proclaimed as the prize. We have shown in our last number, the substantial and intolerable evils which this extinction of their national dignity this sore and unmerited wound to their na tional pride, has necessarily occasioned: And thinking, as we do, that a people without the feelings of national pride and public duty must be a people without energy and without enjoyments, we apprehend it to be at any rate indisputable, in the present instance, that the circumstances which have dissolved their political being, have struck also at the root of their individual happiness and prosperity; and that it is not merely the unjust destruction of an ancient kingdom that we lament, but the


condemnation of fifteen millions of human beings to unprofitable and unparalleled misery.

But though these are the considerations by which the feelings of private individuals are most naturally affected, it should never be forgotten, that all the principles on which the great fabric of national independence confessedly rests in Europe, are involved in the decision of this question; and that no one nation can be secure in its separate existence, if all the rest do not concur in disavowing the maxims which were acted upon in the partition of Poland. It is not only mournful to see the scattered and bleeding members of that unhappy state still palpitating and agonizing on the spot where it lately stood erect in youthful vigour and beauty; but it is unsafe to breathe the noxious vapours which this melancholy spectacle exhales. The wholesome neighbourhood is poisoned by their diffusion; and every independence within their range, sickens and is endangered by the contagion.



(FEBRUARY, 1811.)

Speech of the Right Hon. William Windham, in the House of Commons, May 26. 1809, on Mr. Curwen's Bill, "for better securing the Independence and Purity of Parliament, by preventing the procuring or obtaining of Seats by corrupt Practices." 8vo. pp. 43. London: 1810.

MR. WINDHAM, the most high-minded and incorruptible of living men, can see no harm in selling seats in parliament openly to the highest bidder, or for excluding public trusts generally from the money market; and is of opinion that political influence arising from property should be disposed of like other property. It will be readily supposed that we do not assent to any part of this doctrine; and indeed we must beg leave to say, that to us it is no sort of argument for the sale of seats, to contend that such a transference is no worse than the possession of the property transferred; and to remind us, that he who objects to men selling their influence, must be against their having it to sell. We are decidedly against their having it-to sell! and, as to what is here considered as the necessary influence of property over elections, we should think there could be no great difficulty in drawing the line between the legitimate, harmless, and even beneficial use of property, even as connected with elections; and its direct employment for the purchase of parliamentary influence. Almost all men-indeed, we think, all men-admit, that some line. is to be drawn;-that the political influence of property

* The passing of the Reform Bill has antiquated much of the discussion in this article, as originally written; and a considerable portion of it is now, for this reason, omitted. But it also contains answers to the systematic apologists of corruption, and opponents of reform principles-which are applicable to all times, and all conditions of society; and of which recent events and discussions seem to show that the present generation may still need to be reminded.



should be confined to that which is essential to its use and enjoyment;-and that penalties should be inflicted, when it is directly applied to the purchase of votes; though that is perhaps the only case in which the law can interfere vindictively, without introducing far greater evils than those which it seeks to remedy.

To those who are already familiar with the facts and the reasonings that bear upon this great question, these brief suggestions will probably be sufficient; but there are many to whom the subject will require a little more explanation; and for whose use, at all events, the argument must be a little more opened up and expanded.

If men were perfectly wise and virtuous, they would stand in no need either of Government or of Representatives; and, therefore, if they do need them, it is quite certain that their choice will not be influenced by considerations of duty or wisdom alone. We may assume it as an axiom, therefore, however the purists may be scandalized, that, even in political elections, some other feelings will necessarily have play; and that passions, and prejudices, and personal interests will always interfere, to a greater or less extent, with the higher dictates of patriotism and philanthropy. Of these sinister motives, individual interest, of course, is the strongest and most steady; and wealth being its most common and appropriate object, it is natural to expect that the possession of property should bestow some political influence. The question, therefore, is, whether this influence can ever be safe or tolerable-or whether it be possible to mark the limits at which it becomes so pernicious as to justify legislative coercion. Now, we are so far from thinking, with Mr. Windham, that there is no room for any distinction in this matter, that we are inclined on the whole, to be of opinion, that what we would term the natural and inevitable influence of property in elections, is not only safe, but salutary; while its artificial and corrupt influence is among the most pernicious and reprehensible of all political abuses.

The natural influence of property is that which results spontaneously from its ordinary use and expenditure,

« AnteriorContinuar »