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ted, the defalcation either of weight or of numbers, that has arisen from this secession, is too trifling to be felt; and this change needs be dwelt upon no longer.
The ministers, on the other hand, are, beyond all comparison, the most contemptible in pretensions of any that have ever governed a great nation. With one or two exceptions, they are men of whom their own steadiest supporters are daily ashamed; and the same men who give them their votes, for fear of disturbing the peace of the community j by destroying one government before they know who shall succeed, leave their places in Parliament, to express in private, openly and strongly, their sense of the humiliation to which they are constantly reduced. How does it happen, that such a Ministry can stand against such an Opposition? We think nearly the whole difficulty will be- resolved, by attending to the delusions which have been practised upon the publick by a third class of persons, insignificant in numbers, and still more contemptible in weight, either by talent or station, who have stood forward as the champions of the people, and set themselves regularly to defame the regular Opposition, until they had well nigh succeeded in undermining their credit with the country. We allude to the faction of the Cobbets and Hunts, whom the Opposition too long allowed to triumph, by treating them with an ill-judged contempt. These men, whatever were their designs, whether to gratify a preposterous love of distinction, or for merely mercenary purposes, or from worse love of mischief, have long been persuading the people, that no publick man is. to be trusted—that all political leaders are engaged in a scramble for place—and that they alone are their friends. Of late years, they have only succeeded with the lowest and most ignorant parts of the community. But, by constant misrepresentation, weekly repeated by some, and daily and industriously echoed by the hirelings of the Government, they at one time were too successful in making many, who had no trust in them as political guides, believe all they said against the Whigs.' The force of undaunted, never-ceasing falsehood, in damaging the fairest reputations, is well known, especially if no pains are taken to expose it. '. To give any specimen of the arts thus used against the Whigs, would be quite endless. ' But the last which strikes us, is Mr Cobbet's hardy assertion, that they urged the ministers to suspend the Habeas Corpus act; and, with a few exceptions,'voted for the measure! We think that the Whigs acted unwisely in not taking more decisive steps to defend their characters, thus wantonly and unremittingly invaded ;—we think that their supporters in the department of the daily press, showed a most culpable slowness to expose the vile i 9
falsehoods propagated concerning them, probably from an Unworthy dread of being personally attacked by those who spared neither high nor low, the illustrious nor the obscure. But, at all events, time has come surely, if tardily, to their aid; and has, among other calumnies, completely refuted the often urged charge of a fondness for office. Never, certainly, was there a set of men whose whole conduct bears so little the marks of any such propensity. - •
Although the permanent influence of the men we have been describing has been confined to the lowest rabble, another class, far more respectable, very numerous, and, generally speaking, of honest principles, having suffered themselves to be led away by false theories of government, in which the Whig party never could concur, were disposed to view that body with suspicion, and to incline towards the tales propagated against its members. Major Cartwright, at one time, had great influence with this part of the community; and his unwearied zeal, and unabating perseverance in the cause of Reform, merited much consideration, however erroneous his views might be. This sect laid it down as an incontestable principle, that only one measure was of any value—Parliamentary Reform; —and that only one reform deserved the name—the introduction of Universal Suffrage and Annual Parliaments, to which, at Mr Bentham's suggestion, they have lately added, voting by ballot. This being their creed, they held every one who differed with them, even by the smallest shade, as utterly ignorant of the true nature of the constitution; and they generally questioned his honesty also. With regard to their own sincerity, we have nothing to say; but their great apostle has recently given us some reason to doubt the extent of their learning, by citing the title of Mr Prynne's book on Parliamentary Writs, Brevia Parliamentaria Rediviva, as signifying—' Short Parliaments Restored;'—an indication, too, that this pure class of politicians sometimes brag of an acquaintance with works which it is morally impossible they could ever have seen. *
* The worthy Major has since defended himself by saying, that he 'has been too much engaged in studying English liberty, to pay attention to Roman language.' The fact, however, is, that the barbarous Latin in question is only worth learning, because it assists the study of English liberty. And the Major assumes to himself an almost exclusive knowledge of our constitutional history, which no man, so ignorant as he now admits himself to be, can have well studied. The error was committed in a letter addressed to Lord Holland, in consequence of his accusing the Major of ' elaborate bhm
That Parliamentary Reform is a subject of singular import-. ance, no man will deny. But that it is the only subject worthy of engaging the attention of statesmen, no one will assert, but an enthusiast blinded by zeal for a favourite speculation. And that all other points should be neglected for this; that, until it be carried, the ministry of the day should be suffered to do as they list; that victories gained for the people, without reform, are even to be lamented, as diminishing the criminality of an unreformed Parliament, and the necessity for a change,—is a doctrine, of which the absurdity is so monstrous, as almost to prevent its mischief. Yet this doctrine has prevailed among many well-meaning, and even well-informed classes of the community, whose heated imaginations, engrossed by a favourite object, could rest upon no other view, and regarded all who differed or doubted as enemies. The kind of reform, too, which alone would satisfy them, was immediate, sweeping, radical, unsparing. No time must be given for trying the safety of projects confessedly new; all must be done at once by a single bill. No compromise must be endured with the faults of the present system; the whole must be swept away, and a new one substituted, by creation, in its place. They chose to say Annual [Parliament; and therefore no man must whisper a word of "Triennial. They said every male of 21 (Mr Hunt says, or Tather swears in an affidavit, 18) should vote: and therefore no honest man could presume to confine the franchise to inhabitants or householders. It was in vain to ask for the foundation of all this dogmatical theory, or to demand why the period of one year was chosen, and the extension of suffrage to all males, rather than to all females, according to the most learned of the reformers, Mr Bentham. Attempts to trace the history of Parliament gave them no assistance; for though of old a year was the common duration, or rather a few days, and each session was a new Parliament, the circumstances •were so entirely different, that there was no possibility of applying the precedent; while instances were frequent, of two and three Parliaments sitting in a year;—and as to universal suffrage, there was no more evidence of all males ever having voted, than of all females. But these limits had been assumed; and the arbitrary doctrine, thus laid down, became the Shibboleth of the party. Greater dogmatism; more gra
ders' on constitutional questions. He complained bitterly of this charge, and gave the above marvellous confirmation of it. The burthen of his song was Lord Holland's ignorance of the authors, who treat of the constitution—such as Prynne!
tuitous assumptions; more intolerance towards other sects;— never marked the doctrines or the proceedings of any reli
fious party or establishment. And in this respect they resemled those bigots who have at different times filled the world with confusion. No terms short of entire submission would ever satisfy them; and they regarded with far more inveterate hostility him who came near their own faith, without exactly adopting it, than him who abjured them and their tenets altogether.
Many reasons concurred to render this class of per•sons extremely jealous of the Whig party. It formed a part of their fanciful doctrine of the Constitution, that, in a renovated ParLament, the Crown was to have no ministers, but only certain government orators, who might explain measures without a deliberative voice. The whole business of the State was to be conducted by the ministers, without any control in Parliament. unless when they merited impeachment; the public affairs were not, as now, to be transacted under the eye, and in the presence of the Great Council of the nation; its functions were to be confined within the narrowest limits of voting supplies, while the Crown was restored to its ancient prerogative of ruling unchecked till matter of impeachment should be found, or the season of actual resistance arrived.
Of course, the patrons of this very practical scheme of government, abhorred the idea of a regular party:—in their Utopia it could find no place. But the Whigs had other crimes to answer for, beside that of being a party. Some of them were conscientiously, and, upon long reflection, averse to all parliamentary reform whatever; none of them were advocates of Universal Suffrage; and the great majority of them, though sincerely attached to a moderate and rational system of reform, refused to regard that, or any one other question, as alone deserving of attention, and to sacrifice to its promotion all other measures. A few of the party had, in the course of time, so far altered their opinions upon the subject, not so far as to oppose reform, but only to consider it as less vitally important than they had once deemed it. Nothing more was wanting to raise against them, and their coadjutors and followers, the cry of desertion; they were viewed with distrust as false friends, or openly attacked as the worst enemies of the cause. Moderate reform, being held quite synonymous with mock reform, was even deprecated, in comparison with a continuance of the present system; and the only class of statesmen who could possibly hope to succeed in carrying any measures fox the improvement of our Parliamentary Constitution, were de-> instance, to a' full understanding upon all other views of policy: it is no argument against coalitions generally; and most certainly it affords no ground of invective against party in the abstract. • .
There is just as little reason for such invectives, furnished by the inevitable consequences of a successful opposition, namely, the accession to power of those engaged in it. This event was the avowed object of their operations; not for the sake of the emoluments and patronage connected with office, but for the sake of the principles which they professed, and which could only be carried into effect by the change of ministry. To rescue the country from the hands of men who were misgoverning and ruining it, and to place its affairs in the hands of men whose integrity was greater, and whose views of policy were sounder— this was the avowed object of the party. In pursuing this object, much good service may indeed have been rendered to the State incidentally—many useful measures forced upon the ministers— many pernicious attempts defeated—many bad schemes prevented from being even tried: All these successes would have been of great and lasting benefit to the country, even if the main object had failed, and the change of government had never been effected; and all these advantages to the State would have been the legitimate fruits of party in the strictest sense of the word. But a more extensive and permanent corrective to misrule was wanting; the country was to be saved from men whose principles were hurtful to its best interests, in order to be ruled by. those who coirid safely be trusted with them. Can any clamour, then, be more vulgar or senseless than theirs who abuse, as place-hunters, the men who have been raised to power by the triumph of their own principles? Can any thing be more absurd than to oppose a ministry, and seek its downfal, for the mere sake of destroying it, without putting any other in its place? The formation of a ministry on purer principles,. composed of more trustworthy men, is the only legitimate object of all constitutional opposition. Whoever takes office .on this ground, acts a truly patriotic part. He only can be charged with hunting after place, who assumes, for factious purposes, principles that do not belong to him; or abandons those which he had professed, when the avenues to office are within his view. Here, again, we must avail ourselves of the just and dignified expressions of Burke.
'Party,' he observes, 'is a body of men united, for promoting, by their joint endeavours, the national interest, upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed. For my part, I find it impossible to conceive, that any one believes in his own politics, or