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teratlon requires. Parliament, therefore, it seems plain, is the most legitimate and most adequate source of reform. Its power alone is undoubted; all general grievances are natural and proper objects of its cognizance; and while it possesses most perfectly the means of inquiry, it can best ascertain the suitable remedy, and present it in the most acceptable form.
What that remedy ought to be, we have stated, in general terms, frequently, in the course of these observations. It is the recal of the self-perpetuating system, and the admission of the Burgesses to the right of choosing their Magistrates by a popular election. What modifications ought to be made with respect either to the franchise or eligibility, we shall not here examine, as it would lead us into a discussion of too much detail. Existing statutes, however, throw a great deal of light on some parts of the subject; and none of the arrangements will be attended with much difficulty, if investigation be commenced with an honest desire to give the people redress.
There is one circumstance connected with this subject, on which we cannot help remarking. As we before stated, the Crown, on the application of Montrose, granted to that Burgh, not only a considerable reform in its constitution, but appointed a poll for the election of the new Council and Magistrates. Very soon afterwards, the magistracy of Aberdeen failed; but though a poll election was petitioned for, almost unanimously, by its citizens, it was refused, and a warrant granted to the members of the former Council. On the lawfulness of this warrant we have already expressed some doubts, and may state very shortly the general grounds of objection. It has been seen, that the Burgesses at large elected their magistracy, till the statute of James introduced the alteration, that the old Council, that is, the Council whose term was expiring, should elect the new. The ultimate right of the Burgesses, however, remained entire, although they had no power of electing their office-bearers, so long as there existed a Council to appoint their successors, in terms of the statute. But, when the magistracy determined without election, and there was neither a new Council chosen, nor an old one to cnuse, then, the condition of the statute being no longer applicable, the right of the Burgesses revived, as ithad previously existed. They had all along formed the proper constituent members of the corporation; and, notwithstanding that the choice of their Magistrates was suspended by the enactment, that the retiring magistracy should appoint their successors, it seems plain, that such a suspension could not endure beyond the condition on which it depended. When the Council that had been elected for a year, or other definite term, suf•r fcred the time to elapse, without making a valid election, their powers ceased; and, though their recent honours might be remembered by the inhabitants, they were no longer invested - ith authority, nor by law distinguishable from the rest of their fel I. wcitizens. A burgh, in such circumstances, were the point now to be argued for the first time, might possibly be found entitled to meet of its own accord, and exert the inherent right of electing its Magistrates, to the exercise of which there was no obstruction: Or, if any authority were wanted, for the purpose of enabling the citizens to assemble and conduct the election, the Court of Session would perhaps be found perfectly competent to grant the requisite warrants. The Burghs, however, had always been in use to address the Crown upon these emergencies, and to obtain the warrant from the King in Council. Into the nature of the warrants granted previous to the Revolution, it seems unnecessary to inquire; as, during that period, the exercise of prerogative respecting the Royal Burghs was so arbitrary, that their grievances are enumerated among those represented in 1689 by the Convention of Estates of Scotland. The view of the Legislature on the subject, however, was sufficiently shown, by a general poll election being then ordained for the purpose of renewing a legal magistracy throughout the kingdom, and subverting those Councils that had been arbitrarily imposed upon them. The example thus set by the Estates seems to have been generally followed since that period; for out of thirty cases that have been collected since the Union, we understand there are only four in which the poll has been refused, and the election committed to the former Councillors. Even these do not appear to have been contested, but to have been granted without discussion, in terms of an unopposed petition. The example of Montrose had been the last; and it was generally and reasonably believed, that the poll was the only constitutional means of renewing a magistracy that had failed. Indeed, to any one who considered the subject generally, it appeared that the warrant might have been addressed to any set of Burgesses, named at pleasure, as well as to the old Councillors; since the Burgh and the rights of its members remained entire, and nothing was wanting but an authority to meet for the purpose of election. But to grant a warrant to individuals, seemed to be a direct usurpation on the privileges of the citizens, by compelling them to accept of a magistracy, nominated neither by themselves, according to their antient constitution, nor by a former Council, according to the statute.
We have entered into this explanation, not in the view of at jail anticipating a discussion which will probably soon occupy the courts of law; but because we cannot withhold the expression of our surprise and regret, that the Crown should have been advised to adopt such measures with respect to Aberdeen. It is not merely that the warrant is questionable in itself,—it is not the unbecoming vacillation it betrays,—it is not the denial to Aberdeen of a boon which, upon lighter occasion, had been so recently granted to Montrose,—it is not the inconsistency of counsels that we most strongly condemn, or the error of which the one measure, by necessity, convicts the other;—but it is, that Government, having a clear and a popular path before it, should nevertheless, in its later and more deliberate resolution, have followed a course, of something more than doubtful legality, plainly inconsistent with the welfare of the community, and the rights and freedom of citizens, destructive of the hopes which had been excited of useful reform, and directly opposed to the voice and feelings of the country. A different result was confidently expected; and the disappointment has been generally attributed, with what justice we shall not determine, to a desire of suppressing this reform in its commencement, and of putting down every attempt, however reasonable or necessary, to give to the people the least additional weight, in the choice even of their local Magistrates, or the administration of their own town. Though dissatisfied, however, the people of Scotland are not discouraged; they seem resolute to pursue their object with unanimity and steadiness; and are now instructed, that they must look solely to the justice and wisdom of Parliament for that redress, which they did not imagine there could have been a wish in any quarter to refuse to them,—and to which, they are satisfied that their claim, when rightly examined, is altogether irresistible.
We are aware that there are many other questions nearly related to the present subject, and of much more general concernment, to which we have scarcely adverted: But we thought it better to wave these for the present, for the purpose of stating the subject of a popular complaint, as it is felt by the people themselves, and of explaining the grounds on which they require to be restored to the exercise of their rights. There is one• abuse, however, connected with the administration of the Burghs, in comparison to which the present, and many other grievances, may be almost termed insignificant—we mean Parliamentary Representation, which the people of Scotland can hardly be said to enjoy; the member of Parliament being returned by a Town Council and Magistrates,—generally about twenty persons,—and the Burgesses, though often amounting to several thousands, being absolutely and entirely excluded from any direct or indirect participation in the election. Every Burgh in Scotland, without exception, is a close Burgh, and that, too, of the most indefensible description. In England, a close Burgh, in general, exists only when the members of the Burgh have been reduced to a very inconsiderable number, or when one person, having acquired the whole property, is enabled to fill the Burgh with his own creatures. In this, though unquestionably a great abuse, men are in some degree induced to acquiesce, because it is only an exception from the system, and because they are less offended with decay, where it is partial, and arises from the progressive operation of natural causes. But in Scotland, every part of the system is bad, without a single deviation to what is right. What makes it the more intolerable too, is, that the Town Council, who are only the servants and office-bearers of the Corporation, have most absurdly obtained the powers of the Corporation, and the exclusive possession of the rights that should reside in its members at large. It is the Burgesses who constitute the Burgh; yet they have no voice in the election of the member who is professedly their representative. Here is not only a state of things which calls for reformation, but furnishes the most obvious, the easiest, and most unexceptionable means of accomplishing it. Parliamentary reform, it is quite true, when conducted upon the real principles of the Representative System, should have less regard to Burghs, contemplated as the artificial creatures of the law, than to Towns, as containing certain proportions of the wealth and population of the country. To attempt reform, however, upon those enlarged principles, has appeared to many a difficult and hazardous experiment; and ancient institutions will always be respected even where they have nothing but their antiquity to recommend them. In admitting the Burgesses, however, to elect their own representatives, nothing is risked, nor can any part of the existing constitution be said to be altered or infringed. No new body of men is introduced as electors—no strange or unknown qualification is proposed. The reform will be achieved, by giving to the Burgesses rights which they once possessed, and which were most unjustly wrested from them; and by enabling them to resume, in their own persons, those powers which have been very unreasonably transferred to their Magistrates. An improvement so simple as this,—so congenial to the constitution,—so consistent with establishment,—so free from innovation,—would be attended with incalculable benefits to this land; not only by ensuring it a more worthy and independent representation, but by creating in its inhabitants all the feelings and energies of a free people—and by conferring on them that rank in the empire, and that share in the government, of which they are now in a great measure deprived, and to which they are eminently entitled, from their industry, education, intelligence and spirit.—We have touched, however, upon a theme too extensive and momentous to be now discussed, but which no Scotsman should allow himself for an instant to forget.
Art. XII. A Journey to Rome and Naples, performed in 1817; giving an Account of the present Slate of Society in Italy, and containing Observations on the Fine Arts. By Henry Sass, Student of the Royal Academy of Arts. 8vo. pp. 400. London. Longman & Co. 1818.
* Phis title-page appears not to be the composition of the author,—who presents himself to us in a very favourable light throughout the whole of his volume. Neither does it seem to be written by any one who has read the book; for nothing can be more inaccurate than the description which it gives of its contents. The narrative of Mr Sass's Italian tour is indeed prefaced by some detached 'Observations on the Fine Arts,' so very general, that they might as well have been inserted in any other book; and which, consequently, do not keep the promise implied in the title, that we should meet with such observations in the course of the journal. But any thing which could be mistaken for ' An Account of the present State of Society in Italy,' we certainly have not been able to discover within the four corners of the tome. This promise is the more attractive, and this disappointment the greater, that every one is aware how difficult it would be to give an account of the present state of a society, into which hardly any foreigner can find admittance. The Italians, from poverty among one class, and from penury, and national habits, and political prejudices among others, are known to shun all intercourse of mutual hospitality with the innumerable foreigners who have of late years passed through their fine country, or for a while settled among them. If they have associated at all with strangers, it has only been by accidentally frequenting their crowded evening parties: But if Mr Sass really enjoyed any opportunities of observing the state of Italian society by habits of intimacy in Italian houses, we will venture to say, first, that he is the only traveller who has recently had this good fortune; and, next, that his book contains not a single trace of his having profited by it: for it gives no ope