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the general disposition, which for a long while has existed, to question the purity of publick men generally. As superficial observers cannot comprehend the principle which unites individuals together in political cooperation, or conceive how a man may, to promote a just cause, overlook slighter differences of opinion, and act with those of whom he does not in every particular approve—so the same reasoners find it still more difficult to understand on what grounds persons, long inveterately hostile, can unite when circumstances are changed: And as party union is termed a combination for power or place, and party hostility a factious scramble—so a coalition of parties is deemed a profligate abandonment of publick principle for private advantage. The two most celebrated measures of this kind, in more modern times, have given rise to an infinity of such feelings in the public mind.
The last cause we shall here state, of the odium that has lately fallen upon party, is the conduct almost inevitably pursued by every opposition, upon its accession to power, and tha disappointment arising from thence, both to the publick and to individuals. How sparing soever an opposition may be of theii promises to the country, far more will always be expected of them than any man can perform. Whatever has been done amiss by the former ministry, they are called upon to rectify, and instantly—for delay is held equal to non-performance, At all events, they are not suffered to continue for one moment in the steps which they had blamed their predecessors for pur* suing; although it may be perfectly consistent in those who inveighed against a measure, to persevere in it, when once adopted, as the lesser evil; or, if resolved upon abandoning it, to do this cautiously and slowly. The heedless multitude however cry out, that the new men are just as bad as the old, and would always have acted like them, had they been in their place. And hence a new topic for those whose clamour is, that all publick men are alike. In the mean time, the impossibility of satisfying the private claims of those who follow the party for the sake of its patronage, fills the ranks of the discontented; and the loss of power having disarmed the popular indignation against the fallen ministry, publick censure is almost exclusively reserved for their successors. These, too, are for a long time regarded rather as an opposition, inexpertly converted into ministers, than as regular placemen; and the dislikes excited by whatever they do, or leave undone, tinge the publick opinion respecting opposition parties in general. These appear to us the principal sources of the unpopularity into which regular party has fallen, . We are very far indeed from denying, that there have been. in all times, abuses of the principle which justifies party union —or that most parties, in their turn, have had errors and crimes to answer for, which afford some colour to the charges indiscriminately made against them all. We may even admit, that, unless strictly watched, and controlled by the great check of publick opinion, party association is apt to degenerate and produce serious evils, by its perversion to purposes of a private nature. Nevertheless, we conceive, that the plan of acting in parties, has its foundation in the necessity of the case, and that it affords the only safe and practical means of carrying on the business of a free country—not, as ignorant men imagine, by a collusion between different juntos of men, but by a mode at once peaceful and effectual, of giving their full influence to different principles. Let us then attend to the ground upon which alone such associations are to be defended.
As long as men are ambitious, corrupt and servile, every sovereign will attempt to extend his power; he will easily find instruments wherewithal to carry on this bad fwork; if unresisted, his encroachments upon public liberty will go on with an accelerated swiftness, each step affording new facilities for making another stride, and furnishing additional confidence to attempt it. It requires no argument, then, to show the absolute necessity of strictly watching every administration at all times. But if any given set of ministers has adopted a system of government grossly erroneous, or corrupt, or unconstitutional, a necessity arises for taking every lawful means to displace them, and prevent further mischief. The question is, how can they be most effectually watched in the one case, and opposed in the other? Now, we must consider the means of supporting themselves, which all ministers have, and the power which is thus afforded them of eluding the vigilance and overcoming the resistance of insulated individuals. Every ministry is necessarily a league—a party—a party, too, regularly marshalled, and kept together in one solid body,—as much more compact than the best organized opposition, as a standing army is better disciplined than a corps of volunteers. The ministers have all the force and all the influence of the Government at their disposal. The fears of some, the hopes of others, range around them a vast host of persons whom they can dispose of at pleasure, without ever consulting their wishes. It is enough for those multitudes that the Government wills any thing; and straightway they feel themselves bound strenuously to promote it. Add to this, the strength derived from the good will, and often the cooperation, of a great and even respectable class, who give themselves little trouble to inquire into the merits of measures, but are re-»
solved to believe, that whatever the minister for the time being says or does, is right. When persons of little reflection or no candour cry out against an opposition as factious; inveigh against party spirit; and ask how any honest" man can give up the guidance of his conscience, and follow implicitly the steps of his political leaders,—how comes it that they forget the far more implicit obedience rendered to the minister of the day, by the whole host of Government dependants? They are indeed knit together by an inseparable bond—their common interest; theirs is an unscrupulous, an uninquiring, an unthinking compliance with all that their chief prescribes. If the charges of unconscientious agreement in opinion, or blind submission to other men, applies to any class, it clearly is to those whom the power of the Government commands, or its patronage influences. If the opposers of the Government must be accused of violence and rancour, its supporters are equally open to the charge of tyranny and persecution. Nor will it avail the enemies of all party, to say that they blame both sides, and would have no regular discipline in either. By the nature of the case, there must be a party, regularly disciplined and paid, for the minister of the day. As long as self-interest has any influence over men's minds at least, this party must, of necessity, exist at all times. The question therefore is not, whether we shall do without any such unions; but whether we shall suffer them all to be on one side, and shall not have recourse to something of the same system and combination for watching and for opposing the ministerial party, which that party always uses for retaining its power, and almost always for augmenting the power of the Crown, and increasing the burthens of the people.
Now, it seems very manifest, that, without some systematic cooperation, no ministry can be either watched or opposed effectually. The argument applies, in different degrees, both to the vigilance which all administrations require, and the oppo* sition which should be given to councils radically vicious; and as it is of course strongest in the latter case, we shall principally direct our attention to that. Compare, then, the chance of success which a ministry and an opposition, composed of insulated individuals, would have. All the adherents of the minister act in concert, and each sacrifices his own opinions and views, where they clash with the common object of defending their leader's place. If he proposes a measure which many of them disapprove, still they support him; because the loss of it would endanger his official existence. But if his opponents only attack him when they are all agreed upon the measure, they must, for the same reason, make the attack in the manner which all approve; that is to say, only those who agree in disapproving ot the measure can join the attack; and of those, only such. as concur in the way of expressing their dissent. It is not merely that one man may be influenced by one reason, and another by another, to join in the same vote:—this would lead to no material defalcation of strength. But there will be found very few votes in which all are precisely agreed; and if each man must follow his own judgment for conscience sake, even a small difference of sentiment must prevent a concurrence in the vote. Thus it will happen, that the whole body who disapprove of the measures of government as a system, and conscientiously deem a change necessary, are prevented from ever expressing that opinion at all. There might even be a clear majority against the government, and yet lio change could be effected.
Let the nature of the cooperation which party requires be only considered fairly, and it will appear in no respect to involve sacrifices beyond what the most scrupulous ought to make. A number of individuals agree in holding many strong opinions upon the most important subjects. Unless there exists this general communion of sentiments, the party ought not to be formed. They all agree in holding a change of system necessary for the salvation of the country:—for if they only unite to bring about a change of men, we admit the conflict to be a mere scramble for power. Agreeing generally, and on important points, each man has differences of opinion as to the details; but the corner stone of the whole fabric being the unanimous concurrence in thinking that a change of system is necessary, and the adoption of some one line of opposition being essentially to accomplish this end, it is no sacrifice of individual opinions, but only acting in conformity with the most important opinion to sacrifice the less important; and, to act otherwise, would in reality be a much greater sacrifice of individual opinion. In truth, this is the way in which every man carries on his private affairs; and it is precisely the principle on which all communities depend for their existence. The power of the majority to bind the whole rests upon no other foundation. Does any man deem it unconscientious to submit to a bad law after it is passed, though he resisted its introduction? Unless, in extreme cases, when all government is at an end, it is the duty of every man to yield obedience, and to cooperate in carrying into effect measures which, while under discussion, he had opposed, because a still greater evil would ensue from his continued opposition, namely, the dissolution of society. So, in a party, it is a man's duty to Cooperate with the whole body after his peculiar views have jbeen overruled, because otherwise a still greater evil would resuit, namely, the establishment for ever of the bad system which all agree ought to be changed. Extreme cases may arise here, as in the community at large; questions of paramount importance may interfere, upon which the differences of opinion are too great to be overcome; and a total or partial destruction of the union may be the result. But, in ordinary cases, the yielding in small matters for the sake of greater ones, is not only no abandonment of private opinion, but is the only way in which that opinion can be effectually pronounced and pursued.
It is thus essentially necessary to regard every measure, whether proposed by the government or their opponents, not merely on its own merits, but in connexion with the men who bring it forward, and the system of which it forms a part. Some questions, indeed, are of such paramount importance, and rest upon grounds so plain, that no compromise can be admitted in respect to them. But by far the greater number of those which come into discussion must be viewed in the relations just now mentioned. Suppose a measure, in itself good, is propounded by a set of ministers whose whole conduct is at variance with its principles, whose good faith in executing it cannot be trusted, and who may, independent of bad intentions, have no power to do its merits full justice—a man may most conscientiously resist the proposition; and he is liable to no charge of factious conduct, or of inconsistency, if he object to it in the hands of one class of statesmen, and afterwards approve of it in those of another and better description. It is rational and just to distinguish between different classes of ministers, and approve or disapprove of their systems; to grant the one our confidence, while we distrust the other. Let us only take a Jew instances, in order to demonstrate how senseless the clamour is which we see raised against party, upon the ground that measures only, and not men, should be the subject ot deliberation and of choice.
There are some powers so hostile to liberty, and some resources so tempting to human weakness, that no ministers whatever ought to be entrusted with them. Thus, a large standing army, an Income Tax, or the suspension of the constitution even for a short time, though far more dangerous under rulers of arbitrary principles, lovers of war, and despisers of economy, can never be safely resorted to, whoever may be entrusted with the management of public affairs. But many lesser resources may be conceived which a politician might reasonably and honestly be afraid of confiding to men whose avowed principles would lead to the abuse of the grant, and yet might not be pre-; pared to refuse to a more constitutional and economical govern-a ment. In like manner, a measure for completing the aboli.*