صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

other societies. If Christians do not earnestly and unitedly arouse themselves to meet this increasing evil, it must speedily end in the most appalling national profligacy, and the curse of God upon the land. There were nineteen persons convicted of forgery during last year; but not one of them suffered death. It is consoling to perceive to what an extent the efforts of enlightened and benevolent persons have thus practically succeeded, even while the law still nominally retains much of its Draconic form. Let the friends of religion and humanity take courage from such a fact, to redouble their efforts in every right and virtuous cause; with the cheering hope that, by the blessing of God, their exertions or those of their successors when they are laid low, will finally prevail.

Sir Henry Halford lately delivered a lecture at the College of Physicians; at which were present the Lord Chancellor, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, and numerous other learned, scientific, and distinguished persons; on the influence of diseases of the body upon the mind, and the consequent duty of medical attendants in some difficult circumstances, particularly as to the propriety of informing a patient of his danger when near the verge of death. Few persons, he said, were reluctant to part with life when the hour of dissolution approached. Some indeed cling to it with agony, but generally for the sake of others, not their own. In many instances of pain and sickness, life, he remarked, was protracted longer than, humanly speaking, was desirable for the sufferer or others in these cases the heathens said, that the door was open; but a Christian felt it his duty to be submissive, and to suffer as well as to do the will of God. With regard to informing patients of their danger, "the first duty, he considered, of a physician, protract life by all practicable means," and in many instances the shock of such announcement would of itself be fatal. He considered it better to state the matter to friends, leaving it to them to break it, as they saw fit to the patient. When there was no friend, the physician he thought ought to perform that solemn office. In the case of his late Majesty, he

66 was to

had apprised him that his disorder, was alarming; which having once done, he kept up his spirits as far as possible by the most favourable interpretation of symptoms-Such is the opinion of this muchrespected physician, and the opinion which very generally prevails throughout the medical profession. But, on the other hand, this very practice is often strongly censured, on the ground that the patient is thus lulled to repose, instead of being awakened to the solemnities of his condition and becoming anxious for his eternal welfare. There is frequently a visible and painful struggle between the physician and the clergyman, or religious friend, on this serious question; and we think it would not be unedifying to our readers, if some of our correspondents, who have had large experience on the subject, would point out what they consider the true path of Christian duty under such difficult and delicate circumstances. Is it "the first duty" of a physician, or of any man, to endeavour to "protract life by all practicable means," in such a sense that no means are unlawful for that end? We confess that such a proposition would require great modification before we could think it a safe or scriptural guide for conduct.

A parliamentary return of the assessments of some of the largest houses in England gives the following particulars. There are in and near London ninetythree assessed at from 600l. to 950l. per annum; twelve at 10007.; six at 1200l.; Lord Cavendish's in Piccadilly at 1300.; the Athenæum at 14001.; the MansionHouse, and United Service Club, at 1500.; the East-India House at 2500l.; the Bank, at 25951.; and the Marquis of Stafford's in the Green Park, at 3900. The house duty on this last assessment is 4167. and the others in proportion. There is not one bishop's residence in the list, except the Bishop of Durham's, in Hanover Square, at 6007. In the country the highest assessments are, Mr. Reilly's at Bath, 10501.; Mr. Barber's at Bath, 9007.; Mr. Naylor's at Cheltenham, 8501.; and a few others about the same rate, while Woburn Abbey is but 6007.; and the Archbishop of Canterbury's at Addington 5301.


On the first of March Lord John Russell brought forward, with the unanimous concurrence of the king and the cabinet, the government measure for parliamentary reform. We can add nothing to what is known to all our readers of the opposing sentiments to which it has given rise; of the hopes and fears which have been expressed respecting it; of the extraordinary debate of seven long and arduous

nights in which it was fully discussed in all its bearings; of the many public meetings which have been almost simultaneously held, and the numerous petitions presented in favour of it; or the still stronger feeling of disapprobation and dismay, less loud inthe public ear, but not less deep orserious, of those classes, either whose immediate interests are affected by it, or who forbode in it, on grounds the most conscientious,


a commencement of evils, civil, political, and religious, of which no can calculate the extent or termination. It is in reference to the arguments of this last class of persons-among whom are not a few of the clergy, and many of the most respectable and influential members of the community--men who have no direct interest in or love for venality and "borough-mongering;" men who only wish for what is really in the end best for the public welfare, and the interests of religion-that as Christian Observers we should feel it our duty chiefly to consider this momentous question. We must honestly avow, that we feel no sympathy for those who have made a trade of political corruption; we can witness without a sigh the whole system swept away of bribery, perjury, nomineeship, seat buying and selling, and driving abject servile tenants and dependants to the hustings, like sheep to the slaughter, to give their vote as commanded, on pain of the forfeiture of their lease or miserable hovel. As little can we see of injustice or inexpediency in the general measure of parliamentary reform, which every man now acknowledges was necessary; as the rights of the election had in lapse of time run their channels almost dry, so as to flow in petty partial rivulets, while the great mass of wealth, population, and intelligence was left parched and thirsting for a share of the privileges of the constitution. It is notorious also that we had become virtually a sort of oligarchical government; a handful of persons connected with boroughs having in their hands the keys of the state, so as sometimes to open or close them against King, Lords, and Commons, as it best suited their own interests. In the utter extinction of all these things; and in the termination of such disgraceful and unblushing parliamentary proceedings as have from year to year pained and disgusted every Christian mind-as, for example, in the late case of East Retford, and the virtual transfer of its franchise, when convicted of gross bribery, to the Duke of Newcastle, instead of to some populous and wealthy unrepresented townwe see nothing that is unjust, inexpedient, or unconstitutional; nothing but what every man, who values truth, and fairness, and religion, and human happiness, above selfishness and party-spirit, must hail and rejoice at.

But this is not the point of view in which the question strikes us as most important: there are ulterior and prospective considerations, which to our minds are of great moment, and which, we are persuaded, are viewed with great anxiety by no small number of those persons before alluded to; who utterly disapprove of whatever is unjust or immoral in the workings of our political system, but who nevertheless entertain serious apprehensions as to the ultimate result of

the pending measures; who, to speak plainly, think that the Crown, the Peerage, and the Established Church, are at stake, and that the movement will not stop till we are involved in one ruinous scene of democracy and anarchy.

It would occupy more columns than we can devote in the present Number, to einbark fully on this serious question; but we are anxious to meet it with the solemn consideration which it deserves: and we purpose addressing ourselves to it in a future Number; when, also, we may be able to discuss it with more distinct reference to the results of the great measure at issue, whether it be adopted, rejected, or modified. In the mean time, that our readers may not think we wish to shrink from our share of responsibility, we are quite ready to avow, that, after much anxious reflection, and it may be with many difficulties and some prejudices to conquer, we have come to the conclusion that the intended reform will prove, on the whole, salutary; that, if an evil, it is only a less evil to avoid a greater; and that, instead of really weakening whatever is valuable in any of the great interests and institutions before referred to, it will tend to strengthen them. We are quite sensible how much we risk with some of our most valued friends by this declaration: but, having conscientiously arrived at it, we think it due to truth and justice, to the discharge of our own conscience, and most respectful to our readers, to express our conviction; the grounds of which we shall be ready to offer in detail in a future Number. It had long been the conviction of every reflecting mind, that some great change must take place before long in the national representation; that the only safe-guard against a popular revolution, and probable subversion of all that is established and venerable among us, was to give to the preponderating mass of wealth and intelligence of the country a larger share than it now possesses of political power; so as to secure those mighty interests which every judicious and well-disposed mind is anxious to see strengthened. It is a matter of unhappy notoriety, that the various classes of society are not amicably bound together; that a majority of the nation have cast aside their heredi tary reverence for Parliament; that the higher ranks of society have been placed in the most invidious light; that the Peerage, the Prelacy, the Aristocracy, and the Church have been subjected to popular obloquy; and that the bulk of the middle classes, of property and intelligence, who were the natural bulwark between the two extremes of society, have very widely coalesced with the discontented faction. It is this large and powerful class of persons whom the present Bill proposes to admit to the privileges of the constitution; it being intended to introduce to the privilege of voting half a million of householders pos

sessing a stake in the country, and whose obvious interest it is to raise, not to lower, the character of the national representation; to guard against, not to encourage, wild and revolutionary measures; and preserve, not to subvert, the institutions of justice, morality, and religion; to bind the rich and the poor together; to encourage national education, the building of churches, and the allocation of a faithful active clergyman in every village and neighbourhood, by whom the Church may be rescued from its present state of unpopularity and spiritual inefficiency. This large class of persons have long viewed with extreme disapprobation the venal and interested plans of parties in parliament; the profligacy of unmerited pensions and sinecures; the prejudiced and selfish opposition to mea sures of undoubted public benefit measures equally just, politic, and humanesuch, for instance, as the abolition of our barbarous feudal game laws, which fill our jails, crowd our hulks, and often lead to the gibbet; and the extinction of that disgrace of Great Britain, that curse of the human race, West-India slavery. We might mention other things, both in church and state, which have given great national offence; and which, in the present state of the public mind, with a free press, unlimited licence of popular discussion, the wide publication of the parliamentary proceedings, the ominous example of Continental revolutions, and with enough of mob representations and potwallopping to send a few Radicals to parliament, and with far too little of suffrage allowed to the middle classes to counteract the evil, could not but be pregnant with the most disastrous consequences.

We do not indeed dismiss all our fears: we are not sure that the pressure of society will not bear hard upon much that is good, as well as upon what is evil: but one point appears to us quite clear, that the proposed measure will repress, rather than augment, the mischief; and that, while abuses are endangered, what is really solid and valuable will be more strongly established than it could be in the present unsettled and anomalous condition of the nation. The largeness of the measure is, to our minds, rather its recommendation than otherwise; for if any change, any reform, is to be admitted, we believe that it is best and wisest to settle the whole matter at once, and with one struggle. Constant party bickerings in Parliament, renewed every session, about the disfranchisement of this or that corrupt borough, and the claims of this or that large town, with all the attendant exhibitions of bribery and profligacy, would have wearied and disgusted the public, till perhaps some sudden revolution had overturned the whole fabric. Under the intended system we shall, at least, have the infusion of new arterialblood in the stagnant veins; which, we would fondly hope, will

not beat the less warmly or patriotically for the addition. For the present we must quit the topic; but it is too important to be dismissed with this scanty notice, especially in its important bearings upon higher questions than those of mere civil policy. There are many and great objects to which a reformed parliament ought to direct its attention: need we specify such as national education, for every parish in the kingdom; the building of new churches, and giving the public a pious, zealous, and fairly remunerated resident parochial clergy; the abolition of pauperism; the restoration of the Lord's-day to its lost honours, and the people to its lost benefits; unrestricted commercial intercourse, for the general benefit, instead of a miserable system of selfish monopoly; the reformation of the criminal law; the obliteration of our absurd and demoralizing game code; the abrogation of many evil practices-such as duelling, impressment, privateering; a better regulation of the colonies, and especially the termination of that dreadful system of slavery; which disgraces some of them: and a more wise and salutary system of international policy. Other important points occur to us, but we must defer these for the present. We have expressed our hopes, that, upon the whole, good will accrue from the measure; and that the nation will be better represented, more closely united, and regain that general satisfaction with our public institutions which has of late years been impeded by the unequal system of our representation. We discern, indeed, portentous clouds; but these are more likely to be dispersed by a wise and liberal policy, than by a narrow, inequitable, and irritating system. This is the light in which the subject strikes us, after mature consideration of the difficulties on all sides; and we only add our earnest prayers to the Giver of every good and perfect gift, that we may not be mistaken.

The proposed measure for England and Wales embraces the following particulars : -The complete disfranchisement of sixty boroughs, the population of which, according to the census of 1821, did not amount to 2000 souls ;-The extinction of the right of sending more than one member to forty-seven boroughs, whose population at the above date was not 4000;The extension of the elective franchise, in towns, to every resident householder paying ten pounds rent, whether proprietor or occupier; non-residents to lose their franchise; residents, non-entitled to vote, to retain their right during life, though not qualified as above. In counties, the fortyshilling freeholders not to be disturbed; but copyhold property of the value of ten pounds per annum, and leasehold of fifty pounds per annum, on twenty-one years lease, also to confer the right to vote upon the occupiers.

[blocks in formation]

Twenty towns, one Twenty-seven largest English counties, two members each, and one member to Isle of Wight 55 Additional members for Scotland 5 Ireland 3 Wales

[ocr errors]

and decrease the members of the house 62. The arrangements for Scotland and Ireland are in a similar spirit, allowing for the different circumstances of the countries. The polls are to be taken in two days, and no voter required to travel beyond fifteen miles.

The second reading was carried by 302 members to 301; a small majority in so unprecedentedly large a house; but even one is many, when it is considered how many of this very house were chosen under the influence of the late administration, how many sit for the places to be disfranchised, and how many have a powerful interest in opposing the measure.

On the Friday previous to the second reading of the Reform Bill, an extraordinary specimen of party manoeuvreing was brought to bear against ministers, by which they were defeated by a majority of fortysix. It may be worth while to spend a few lines in noticing the singular coalition so successfully managed on this occasion, and which would go far of itself to prove the need of parliamentary reform. It may shew the sort of machinery which has been used on many other occasions to crush the public interests, either for party political purposes, or for the sordid interests of a commercial monopoly. The facts are briefly these: The north of Europe produces timber of the most valuable and durable quality; Canada, of the worst. To protect the bad article against the good, with a view to promote partial interests, the Baltic timber had been loaded with oneIous duties, while the American had been admitted with a slight impost; the consequence of which has been, that our builders have been forced of late years very generally to employ the inferior kind: so that, instead of our houses being con. structed as formerly, to last for centuries, those erected of late years, unless where the proprietors chose to pay the heavy and unwisely-imposed extra tax, have been constructed of the refuse article, and are notoriously perishing of dry-rot almost as rapidly as they were built. The evil was serious, and the public loudly demanded a remedy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in consequence proposed a scale of duties which more nearly equalized the tax, but still favouring the Canadas; but the oppo

sition to this measure being very strong, he agreed to let the Canada duty remain as it was, only proposing to reduce the Baltic duty. The sole question, therefore, before the House of Commons was, whether the duty on Baltic timber should be diminished. The Chancellor of Exchequer said he could afford to give up part of this heavy impost, and thus afford the public a valuable article on cheap terms. His proposition was entirely one of grace, and, standing upon its own merits, would doubtless have been hailed as a seasonable remission of an impolitic and heavy tax. But the public welfare is a very inadequate counterpoise to private interest and partyspirit. It was determined to get up an opposition to the measure, on the broadbottom plan of combining all who had a pecuniary interest in opposing it, with those who merely wished to embarrass ministers on general grounds, and, above all, to defeat the Reform Bill. The shipowners opposed it, because they considered that if the British public could get good timber cheaply from the Baltic, they would not pay expensive freights to fetch bad from America. The West-India party opposed it, and most pertinaciously and powerfully, though silently, because they saw, that if successful, it foreboded no good to the colonial monopolists of slave-grown sugar, as the next question would be, why perpetuate the horrors of slavery by larger protecting duties against the bloodless commerce of our own East-Indian possessions? why tax the British public to an enormous amount, and deprive the poor of an article of consumption in high request, just to keep up the flogging of women, and all the other atrocities which fill West-Indian purses? It was not politic to say this aloud; but it was excellent generalship to defeat the principle, lest, if the public interest came to be consulted in the matter of Memel logs, the precedent might extend to the tax-propped system of slavery. With these and other interested parties the political opponents of ministers determined to unite themselves, with a view to ulterior objects, especially the Reform Bill; and, as if more completely to shew the character of the opposition, and that it was political rather than public-spirited, the person selected to head it was Mr. Attwood, the colleague of Sir Charles Wetherell in the Duke of Newcastle's borough of Boroughbridge, a place which, under the most moderate system of reform, would be one of the first to be disfranchised. The whole, therefore, of the "borough interest," and of the opponents of parliamentary reform, without any reference to the real question at issue, or of the merits of sound and rotten timber, voted against ministers, with a view to impede the reform question; some, moreover, with an express intention of preventing every measure grounded upon the principles of political

economy, or those principles of "free trade which forbid that ninety-nine hundredths of the public should purchase bad and dear articles for the sake of the private interests of a few monopolists.


It is somewhat out of our way to go deeply into these matters; but we have thought it not useless to disentangle the above case, with a view to shew its bearing upon general principles. Whenever the public interest is opposed to private emolument, the latter can almost always make a party, and often defeat the best measures. We do not apply this remark to the particular case of the timber duties; for it may be that Lord Althorpe's propositions were not well weighed, and we are not competent to give an opinion upon the details of them; but we speak of principles, and of that interested play of parties which was brought to bear upon the question, and which it is most desirable to see abolished. Let our readers remember its workings in the instance of the slave trade. What but private interest, powerfully mining its tortuous way silently and under ground, so long impeded the abolition of that execrable traffic? What but a similar cause has hitherto prevented the extinction of slavery? Every successive cabinet has been in thraldom to the West-Indian party: there has been a compact as notorious and stringent as if legally signed and sealed; We, the West-India interest, will support ministers on general questions: be their measures good or bad, they shall have our vote; we will uphold rotten boroughs, or do whatever else they ask of us, if only they do not disfranchise the cart-whip, or take away our monopoly, or set at liberty our captives; but let them stir one honest step in these matters, and our wealth and influence shall turn the scale against them." It may in general be taken for granted, that when a loud outcry is made that a measure will ruin such or such "an interest," the alarm is wholly selfish; it is a struggle of private cupidity against the public welfare. If there had been an old law that no magazine or newspaper should leave London otherwise than by ship, to be conveyed to the port nearest the point of destination; and it were at length proposed that magazines and newspapers should go, as at present, by coach or post, or in whatever way the parties saw fit; what an outery would be made that "the shipping interest" would be ruined! those who raised the outcry keeping out of sight how much the public would gain, and how little any person would have a right to complain that he was not allowed any longer an unjust preference which he had enjoyed too long. Or, reverse the supposition, and imagine, that,in order to benefit "the shipping interest," it were now proposed that such a regulation as that just mentioned were to be laid on; and that our readers, instead of procuring their magazine on the

first day of the month for eighteen-pence, were thus obliged to wait a fortnight and pay half-a-crown, for the" protection" of the shipping interest; would not the proposition be monstrous? And yet, reduced to its elements, it is only what we hear every day advocated, even by well-meaning men, urged on by those who have selfish "interests" in view. We know not how to argue these questions but upon plain Christian principles. We would deal with them upon the broad palpable basis of justice. We would retrace what is wrong, and return to what is right. If in the detail difficulties arise, let them be fairly and liberally met; let mercy be mingled with justice; but it is not justice that the public should build with rotten timber, or drink bad wine, or pay unmerited or profligate pensions, for the sake of private“interests;" but where even what is wrong has been suffered to grow up, it may require some skill and delicacy to pull it down, without burying ourselves or others in its ruins. We would not spring amine even under the West Indies; it is not either right or necessary to do so; for means may be found to abolish slavery without hazard or injustice. We would also, in all cases of public benefit,view with all possible tenderness whatever can be urged as a just claim for time and consideration; but party intriguing against sound principle is utterly opposed to Christian simplicity, policy, and duty, and is to be shunned by every man who seeks the blessing and guidance of God in his actions.

We recommend the clergy, both in England and Ireland, to be aware of the efforts which are likely to be made for assessing the first-fruits of livings at their actual valuation, instead of the customary lenient modus. To a large majority of clergymen, the first year of taking possession of a benefice is a period of serious expense. Ready money is wanted for dues, fees, moving, outfitting, repairs, furnishing, charities, and the maintenance and education perhaps of a young family, while little or nothing is forthcoming from the glebe and tithes: so that if the incumbent should not live for some years, he is, perhaps, in many instances a loser by exchanging his curacy for a benefice. The operation of the first-fruits, as a fund to raise the average value of livings, is trifling: half a century would elapse before it was substantially felt, while a whole first-year's income would, to individuals, be an onerous tax. The parliamentary returns called for, of the value of Irish benefices, may have some ulterior object beyond the professed one of assessing the first-fruits; but, as respects this professed object, if firstfruits are to be valued at their actual worth, we think it would be but reasonable that they should not be exacted till an incumbent hadenjoyedabenefice for several years; and that all livings under three hundred pounds per annum should be exempted,

« السابقةمتابعة »