Table of Contents
|Editor/Translator:||Keen, Paul, fl. 2003|
|Editor/Translator Alternative Name:||Paul Keen|
|First Published Date:||1818|
|Genre:||Social and Political Writings|
SATURDAY, APRIL 11, 1818
[p. 333] | [Page Image]
The Yellow Dwarf,
A WEEKLY MISCELLANY
"A stirring DWARF we do allowance give
Before a sleeping Lion."—SHAKSPEARE.
NUMBER 15. SATURDAY, APRIL 11, 1818. PRICE 4d.
POLITICS OF THE DAY.
WHETHER, THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IS SELFISH?—In the House of Commons, on Wednesday night, a Petition was presented from a Meeting at Royton in Lancashire, in which the Petitioners attributed their misery to "the selfish principles on which the House had long acted." This the 42 Members who formed a majority of those who were present, seemed to think an insult on themselves, and they rejected the petition; which perhaps was no great loss to the Petitioners or the country.
But to prevent for the future these occurrences, would it not be wise, that the House of Commons should draw up a form of adulation, with which they would wish to be approached by those whom they profess to represent, and in trust for whom they hold all their power?
It has been observed, that persons in general conceive it less insulting to have their wisdom questioned than their honesty. But it is not so with the House of Commons. Whether they think their wisdom is much less questionable than their integrity, or from whatever cause it may be, they are willing to suffer any reflection to be cast upon their sagacity, and upon their measures, but their motives must not be questioned. They do not object to be considered below men in wisdom, so they may be exalted above them in probity. This is unfortunate for the Petitioners for Parliamentary Reform, who complain that the Members of the House of Commons, by the constitution of its body, are exposed to temptations to corruption, which no mixed assembly could resist, and that they have yielded to them. It is not their folly which is complained of. Must we say to the House of Commons, "You have unwisely or inadvertently pursued a line of policy which has combined the greatest benefit to yourselves with great evil to the community; we cannot sufficiently admire your honesty and disinterestedness, but we lament that (from the best of motives) you have supported all administration? in all their measures, in return for places and pensions, which are bestowed on you and your dependents; we deplore the perversion of mind which induces you to persevere in resistance to all attempts to enable the people at large to exercise a control over you; we regret the blindness which makes you prefer the situation of absolute rulers over the people, to that of servants and trustees elected by them, and whom they might revoke at pleasure; it grieves us that we have observed a strange instance of infatuation in one of your Members, who voted for the creation of a sinecure which be afterwards occupied[note]; and we know not whether we should most admire the purity of your intentions, or the erroneousness of your judgments, in abstaining from the reduction of the salaries of the offices which you now hold, or of which you expect one day or other to become the possessors; in a word, we are astonished at your folly, in uniting with the Crown, which has the power to reward you, and in contemning the people, who hare no power to punish you."
The House, which loves a joke, as we have recently seen in the case of Mr. Canning's merriment upon the unfortunate Ogden, might like to be addressed in this stile, but the subject is too serious to be trifled with by the people at large; and if the nation is to have the power of complaint,—the valuable, the inestimable right of petitioning, as it has been called,—that right, for attempting to depreciate which, we have seen individuals prosecuted,—those who exercise it should at least be allowed to set forth what they conceive to be the causes of their sufferings. However, if they do not like to hear the real opinion of Petitioners, let them prescribe a certain form, a certain number of false professions of respect, and it will be for the people to say whether they will continue to petition on such terms.
It is worth white to examine the expression of which the House complained, because much misrepresentation of the cause of Reform has been founded on it, or is closely connected with it. The Reformers are supposed to represent the Members of the House of Commons as a peculiarly selfish body, and to expect that a set of men may be found whose moral constitutions are entirely different. The Reformers make no such representations,—they have no such expectations. They know that all large bodies of men must be selfish, because, though individuals may be found in whom a sympathy for the rest of the world, with or without a mixture of vanity, will predominate over an attention to their own interests, this can scarcely ever be found in every member of a mixed assemblage; and in proportion to their numbers, is it more improbable that it should exist in the breasts of all of them. Least of all is it expected, and never has it in experience been found, that men intrusted with power over others, from any principle of morality, hesitate to use it to their own advantage, as far as they prudently can. It is not from any change in these principles of our nature that we expect to derive benefit, in the event of a Reform in Parliament; it is because the frequent elections will make it impossible for them to pursue their sinister interests for any length of time in defiance of their electors, and because the number of those electors will make it impossible to bribe them. The constituents will have the same interest as the people at large, and that interest the Member will by prudence be constrained to pursue; because the chances of exposure, and shame, and punishment, attendant on a deviation from that course, will far outnumber the chances of impunity. Finally, the Ministers of the Crown, hopeless of tempting the majority, will cease to corrupt individuals, lest they should draw on themselves the odium, without securing the reward of crime; and under this system of Government, though all will be improved in morals by habit and example, we shall expert the selfish, so they have a grain of understanding, to pursue the
[p. 334] | [Page Image]same public course as the generous though the distinctions between their characters would always exist.
A circumstance which has not been, enough adverted to, by many who have opposed Reform, is, that a close body, as the House of Commons must be called, generates a depraved state of moral feeling: and it was this, perhaps, which the Royton Petitioners felt and expressed. We may add also, that it depraves even the understanding. The test of a moral action is the effect it produces upon the public good; and the unprejudiced persons by whom a man is generally surrounded in society, apply praise or censure in proportion to the benefit or mischief of which his actions are productive to the public, and through the public to themselves. But suppose a man to be surrounded, not by these who have an interest in common with the public, but by men whose interests are opposed to it, his actions will be brought to the test, not of the general welfare, but of their common convenience. When the breath of popular opinion is shut out,—when they are surrounded with stone walls and in oak lining, with double windows and thick curtains,—when they are protected from popular indignation by Close Boroughs and Septennial Parliament, with the produce of the taxes and the power over a vast empire thrown amongst them to scramble for, the moral feeling of the House of Commons becomes as different from that of any impartial assembly in the country, as the air within their room of meeting, after a long debate, with their 60 candles and 600 lungs, is from the breeze on Banstead Downs. The gentle current that whittles in through the ventilators is soon assimilated to the rest. Who can resist the murmurs of 600 men by whom he is constantly surrounded, or their still more pernicious cheers? Mr. Canning once boasted, that in the atmosphere of the House of Commons, a demagogue soon "hissed end expired." He might as well have boasted, that in n house of report for thieves, a preacher of honesty would soon be weary of his occupation. He would find, that in such an assembly praise and approbation were bestowed on very different qualities; and he would also find that a person who laid stress on the Ten Commandment would be as noxious to those who lived by breaking them, as a person who talked of popular interests and popular controul would be to those who prospered by violating the one and escaping from the other. Hence we hear in the House of Commons, not a blushing and equivocating, but an open and direct defence of sinecures and overpaid offices. We hear it avowed, that useless places must not be abolished without giving the Crown an equal quantity of money to distribute in another shape[note]; we bear the desire of possessing the public money under false pretences called "honourable ambition [note];" we hear a proposal for taking from the people a million of money rather than diminish, even for a time, the Church Sinecures which the Crown has at its disposal; we hear it inculcated, that public men who serve the public should be liberally rewarded, that is, paid for their services in a manner in which they would not be paid by individuals; we hear it maintained that a vast standing army should be kept up in the colonies for no person at all, and at home on the ground of discontent, which, if it exists, that standing army and the taxes required to support it have created and kept alive; —and all this without shame, and with abundance of self-applause and self-congratulation. But they are not on this account without a sort of honour of their own. They keep promises with one another, they act in bodies they deem it proper to adhere to their associates—(though this virtue seems to be growing into disrepute among them)—and probably in their private dealing are as honest as any other 658 persons promiscuously taken from the multitude.
Their understanding does not escape the contagion. There are nanny arguments which support the cause which they have to plead, which they cannot use, lest on another occasion it should be found inconsistent with the maintenance of corruption. They thus avoid general principles,—they scout them as theoretical, though of all men they most delight in vague generalities, so they be not principles. Thus have we seen them in a question of political economy—(on the Corn Bill for instance) —losing themselves in petty detail; thus have we seen them in questions of fact and numbers—(the Reports of the Secret Committee)—wandering amidst vague and general assertions. They have a set of sophisms which pass current in no other assembly. But most of all they delight to get rid of a proposal by a trick. or an evasion,—to prove that a motion is too early one day, and too late the next; because by these means they avoid as much as possible speaking to Reason, their arch-enemy. And this habit of carefully a voiding a bold and independent reasoning, for the purpose of deception, becomes at last involuntary, and they are themselves deceived; and perhaps there arc scarcely any productions of men of great natural acuteness, for there must be many such among them, from whom so little is to be learnt, as from the debates of the House of Commons.
It is only the vices which belong to such a situation which any Reformer ascribes to the House of Commons; but the existence of a body so constituted, and thus unconsciously depraved, must have any thing but a beneficial effect upon the morals and feeling of the nation at large. It is composed of the first men in the nation in wealth and accomplishments,—of some, in spite of their abuse of them, of considerable talents, and is a body which would not be despised, even if it were less powerful. Through it must men of wealth look to the chief objects of their ambition. With reference to that field of exertion, are they trained in the public schools and universities The leaders of the day,—the Pitts, the Cannings, the Castlereaghs, are held up as objects of imitation;—their morals, as the test of morality —their reasonings, as the test of reason. Their tutors wisely abstain from teaching them any thing of government or legislation as a science: they therefore come sufficiently ignorant to abhor theory, and to learn, practice in the school of St. Stephens. It has been held out as an advantage to the people, that an individual from among them may perhaps raise himself, by his talents, from the lowest station to the highest offices in the State: but when the conditions are set forth, it is known that his morals, and even his understanding, must be conformed to the standard of the House of Commons. A temptation is held forth to those who possess talents, to use them, not to advance the wisdom and happiness of mankind, but to keep them down to that level which is consistent with the interest of that league, into which they may be one day admitted. A Reform in the House of Commons, if it did any thing, would hold out a different example to the nation, a different means of advancement for men of talents; and we should expect to see somewhat less of the selfishness which the Royton Petitioners complain of, as well among the people at large as within the walls of the House.
Mr. C. W. Wynn was one of those who thought it so indecent that the Royton Petition should mention the selfishness of the House. He is a good specimen of a House of Commons intellect. When Lord Cochrane mentioned, at the beginning of the last Session, the manner in which Members were elected for some of the boroughs which Mr. Wynn defends, viz. by sending a bell-man round the town, to invite the inhabitant voters to come to a certain house, to receive 10l. a head; this same Mr. Wynn, after gathering breath for some days, burst forth against the profligacy of a Member mentioning this practice in which Lord Cochrane had been concerned. The House of Commons loudly cheered this the proper type of their virtue and wisdom. But neither Mr. Wynn nor any of those who
[p. 335] | [Page Image]cheered him, proposed to prevent this practice, which they were all as well acquainted with as with the way to their homes, by throwing open these boroughs to voters 100 numerous to be thus corrupted. Yet he expressed his horror at a discovery, than which nothing was more praiseworthy if it be fit that this practice be put an end to, nor more innocent if it should be allowed to exist. And it may be added, very little does it matter whether the poor wretches who vote in these boroughs are bribed by leases or favours from those whom they call their patrons, or by the more direct tender of guineas. But leaving this out of the question, with what pretence of decency or reason bawl out against the mention of a practice which they knew immediately how to put an end to?
Such is the substitute for reasoning which passes with the House of Commons! Yet in spite of their influence and example, the information and spirit of the people are such, that it will be necessary to do something more than resent the exposure of bribery, or cavil at the words of petitions.
"Thoughts on Public Trusts."—Edinburgh, 1805.
WE have thought fit to make some extracts from this work, which, though it has been long published, has been little known, because it contains some sound ideas on the subject of Government, expressed in clear and forcible language. The writer, we believe, was a Mr. Dawson, who afterwards published a work on the subject of the Corn Laws. His object was to prove, that in all those republics in which the supreme power is not reserved to assemblies of the people, as it was during the flourishing time of the Roman commonwealth, the temptation of the representative bodies to violate their trusts becomes irresistible. This discussion was too abstract to be popular; nor do we think that the author makes allowance enough for the effect of frequent elections, when the Representatives are elected by the majority of the people, and not by small corrupt juntoes, who pursue interests totally different from those of the nation at large. The following remarks upon one of the Constitutions of France, seem to agree with the idea which Hume had formed of the euthanasia, or easy natural death, of the British Constitution:—
" As the King in such a Government must bribe a majority in the National Assembly, to obtain their concurrence with his schemes, it is therefore his interest to increase the number of offices, and to allow the officers to increase their own emoluments. For, as places increase in number and value, being all in his gift, his influence in the Assembly must increase in projection. Such increase of places and perquisites will be equally beneficial to the Representatives, as they will obtain a larger share. Hence new offices, new perquisites, and new methods of embezzling, may be expected to be constantly increasing, until the influence of the King be so great, that he may depend upon the concurrence of the Assembly in any measure he may propose.
" The waste of money by such peculation and extravagant management, will make it necessary to levy many heavy and oppressive taxes. The Assembly, in this case, to secure themselves against a discontented people, provoked by their robberies, will be induced to augment the army more and more, and to pass laws of the most oppressive nature, under pretence that such measures are necessary to curb seditious spirits, and to preserve peace and order in the society. The effect of which will be, that the King will have as much power over the persons of the people as he had before the Revolution, which power will tempt some bold ambitious King to annihilate the Assembly altogether.
" For, as the King's influence in that Council is obtained by allowing the Members a considerable share of the money taken from the people, and as much of it must be given to persons who are disagreeable to him, it is natural for him to wish to be relieved from the constraint of such costly coadjutors, that he may apply the whole revenue to his own use, and employ such Ministers and Officers only as he pleases. Nor could the Assembly, upon such an attempt of life King; expect support from any part of the nation, except their own friends.
" The army, with the numerous placemen and theft friends, would, for their own interest, support the King; and as the Assembly had, in such supposed case, betrayed its trust, it could not be expected that the people would risk their persons and property to support an establishment, in the effects of which they had bean so much disappointed,—whose experience had shewn them their extreme folly, in having supposed that a National Assembly would be a check upon the King, when its leading Members were his Ministers, and a great majority possessed places, pensions, or contracts, given by him. So that this limited Monarchy seems to have had a direct tendency, when fully established, to produce the most extravagant waste and peculation,—to end in the absolute dominion of one person, and to approach that end with an accelerating monon."—p. 74.
The following is his character of Representatives over whom the people have no check:—
" To preserve some appearance of being agents, and not sovereigns, and at the same time to extend their power and to increase their emoluments, the rulers in such Governments are obliged to use every art to deceive the people. They give their principal constituents a share of the public offices; and to serve these persons and themselves, they artfully make the takes fall upon the lower ranks, and extend the power of the rich over the industrious, by oppressive and humiliating laws. Such rulers are also tempted to grasp at every pretence for augmenting the army and navy,—for increasing the number of fortifications and other public buildings, not only for their own security, and an ostentations display of power, but likewise because the increase of expenditure increases the number of offices and contracts at their disposal.
"But the money that can be obtained by the most refined deceit in time of peace, is trifling when compared with what can be secreted with ease in time of war, as that dreadful scourge of mankind furnishes a plausible pretence for borrowing and taking enormous sums from the people, one half or three-fourths of which can be appropriated to the use of the rulers, under the names of commissions, places, pensions, contracts, and by manufactured accounts of the expenditure.
"Besides these very great advantages, which are the immediate attendants on war, there are many, not inconsiderable, that follow as consequences. It occasions a great increase of business at all the public offices, with a proportional addition of officers and clerks, many of whom being dependents of the rulers, are kept in pay after the war is over, though quite unnecessary; all the military officers are retained upon full or half pay; the interest of the debt also, and, if possible, a part of the principal, must be paid yearly. To answer all these purposes, the exorbitant taxes must be continued, the collecting of which requires may officers, and both receiving and paying the money furnishes a per centage, and an opportunity for embezzling. So that the rulers and their friends have by these various means very comfortable provisions after peace takes place, and may wait with some degree of patience until another war commences.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
" Men vested with such unlimited power and trust, and having such opportunities of embezzling large sums with impunity, must possess a very uncommon degree of honesty and
[p. 336] | [Page Image]fortitude if they do not become totally corrupted. We ought to expect to see the greatest number of them lose all sense of shame;—to see men of great estates, with the most consummate impudence, taking large sums from the public purse, to support their own vicious extravagance, and to bestow upon idle relations and favourites, without the least compunction; though conscious that these sums had been levied by their orders from people of business, from hard-wrought labourers, from the poor, and from the miserable, by taxes upon their wearing apparel and other necessaries, and even upon salt, an article which, is used in greatest quantities by the poorest people, to preserve their coarse animal food from total putrefaction.
" These oppressive faxes are imposed under the stale and mean pretence of State necessity; which necessity, when it does exist, is, with few exceptions, occasioned by extravagant public establishments, by, the peculation of the rulers, by their involving the nation in unnecessary wars, and by their screening from taxes the luxuries and property of their own rank."
THE POLAR ICE AND THE QUARTERLY REVIEW
IN the 35th number of the Quarterly Review, we have a singular article on a great change said to be taking place in the regions about the North Pole, and which has already filled the heads of certain philosophers with the most surprising speculations. Nothing less is expected than that Britain will immediately be blessed with the climate of Spain or Italy,—that vines will creep along our hills, oranges bloom in our groves, and all the luxuriant vegetation of southern climates clothe our northern mountains. These are gratifying anticipations; and the grounds on which they rest may be stated in a few words. It appears, from the testimonies of several nautical men, that, during the three last years, the quantity of broken ice found floating in the Atlantic, southward from Greenland, has been greater than usual; that the south-eastern coast, which was supposed to be locked by the ice for the last four hundred years, has been approached at one or two points; and that the seas about Spitzbergen have been found almost entirely open up to the latitude of 81. or 82., so as to offer no obstruction to a passage towards the Pole.— From these facts, it is inferred that the great rampart of ice which invested the eastern shores of Old Greenland has been broken up and totally dispersed, and that the fragments of this ice floating in the Atlantic were the cause of the coldness of the three last summers. But this effect can be but temporary; and, on the other hand, as the existence of a field of ice of 50,000 square miles in extent, situate where this was, must have depressed the temperature in Britain, and all the other north-west parts of Europe, its dispersion must improve the climate of these countries. That the climate of the north-western parts of Europe was once much warmer than it is at present, is supposed to be proved by the following circumstances:—1. That Iceland was at one period covered with wood, as appears from the large trees that are still dug out of the bogs; although nothing will now grow but a few stunted birches. 2. In the Higher Alps there are the same vestiges of ancient forests, with die same sterility at the present day; and the line of perpetual frost there is believed to be perpetually descending. 3. It appears from old authors, that vineyards were common in England at an early period, though the grape will not now ripen in it; and it appears also, that a change of the same kind is now taking place in certain parts of the north of France, where the grapes have not yielded any wine for the last seven years. All these are supposed to be the consequences of the gradual accumulation of ice on the coast of Greenland during the last four hundred years; and the reviewer anticipates that the removal of this ice will restore us our vines and our forests, and redress all the rigours of the climate. We are quite aware that the Quarterly Reviewers have no great pretensions to science; and we know too that they are in the custom of writing articles ad captandum vulgus; but we really did not believe that they would trifle with the credulity of their readers, so far as to give forth bona fide such a piece of shallow and absurd speculation as this. We did not believe, that, for the pleasure of making the ignorant stare, they would expose themselves to the derision of men even of ordinary information. We are required to believe that a belt of ice forty or fifty miles in breadth controuls the climate of the British Islands, at the distance of one thousand miles from its situation, and of Switzerland, at the distance of two thousand mites; and that the removal of this belt of ice would lead to a great amelioration in our climate, while the thousand miles of intervening sea remain exactly as they were. It is quite possible than an aerial current may transport a portion of the atmosphere of Greenland to Britain; but as it crosses a thousand miles of ocean in its course, it is plain, that whatever power the belt of ice has over the temperature of this aerial current, the ocean, presenting a surface twenty times as broad, must have twenty times as much power; and, indeed, from the known constitution of fluids, must have many hundred times as much power. The influence, therefore, of such an extent of open sea, must reduce that of the belt of ice beyond it to insignificance, and make it of very little consequence whether the wind, before reaching the sea, passes over fifty miles of ice or fifty miles of ploughed land. The temperature of islands, especially if they are small, is determined almost entirely by the temperature of the surrounding ocean; and hence it is, that in Shetland, which lies four hundred miles nearer this Greenland ice than the south of Scotland, there is seldom much frost in the winter; snow rarely falls, and never lies any considerable time. But, to balance this, the proximity of the ocean also renders their summers colder than ours. But even admitting that a strong wind could transport a portion of the temperature of the Greenland ice to this country, such an admission would not in the slightest degree strengthen the reviewer's argument. Those who expect warm winds from that quarter when the ice is removed, surely forget that it is not the burning sands of Africa, but the frozen continent of Greenland, which lies beyond that ice. What may be the exact temperature of that continent, we do not know; but there are circumstances from which we may judge. Its south-east coast, as laid down on maps, is fourteen or fifteen hundred miles in length. Its breadth maybe as great; but let us suppose it to be only four hundred. The accounts we have, represent the land towards the coast to consist of steep rocky mountains, with deep valleys between them, filled with glaciers or masses of frozen snow, which lie all the year over. If this bf the state of the coast, which enjoys the mitigating influence of the sea-breezes, we may be sure that the interior is still colder. But we may estimate its temperature from other data:—Captain Scoresby thinks he has ascterlained that the mean temperature of Spitzbergen, at the latitude of 78 degrees, is 18 degrees of Fahrenheit. From its anlogay with the American continent, Old Greenland is probably still colder; but even if the mean annual temperature is 18 degrees, perpetual frost must reign there down to the level of the sea. Or if we take the mean latitude of Greenland at 70 degrees, and add 16 degrees for the difference in latitude between places of the same temperature in Europe and America, this makes 86 degrees; then, according to the principles laid down in the most recent work on the subject (Encyclopedia Britannica, Supplement; article Climate), the height of the circle of perpetual congelation above the level of the sea at the parallel of 80 degrees will only be 76 feet. We have therefore every reason to believe, that all the interior of Greenland is covered with eternal ice or snow; and that before the winds from the north-weft reach the coast, they have passed over four hundred miles of this icy surface. Of what consequence can it
[p. 337] | [Page Image]be, then, whether winds which are so completely chilled pass over fifty miles more of ice when they arrive at the coast or not? Yet the whole of the reviewer's argument goes upon the assumption, that, by cutting off the last forty or fifty miles from an icy surface of three hundred or four hundred, the wind has to cross, the whole frigorific influence will cease. That such a barrier of ice would have a most injurious effect on the climate of Greenland, is obvious, because it chills the southern breezes, the only warm breezes which can reach that region; and that it may depress the temperature of Iceland when it approaches or actually touches its shores, is highly probable; but nothing can be more absurd than to assign it as the cause of any considerable change in Britain, France, or Switzerland. As well may the reviewer expect to raise the temperature in the inside of his house, by breaking off an icicle from a window on the opposite side of the street. The argument for a gradual deterioration of climate drawn from the remains of ancient forests buried in mosses, is of as little force. These mosses are generally of a date greatly anterior to the closing in of the Greenland ice, and the impossibility of raising wood now in these places, must be accounted for on other principles. In the Orkney Islands, and in the Hebrides, and on the west coast of Scotland in general, the remains of ancient forests are observed in situations where wood will not grow now; but the reviewer is greatly mistaken if he thinks that raisng the mean annual temperature would remedy this defect of the climate. The fir, according to Humboldt, grows to the height of sixty feet in Lapland, in the parallel of 70 degrees, where the mean temperature of the year is at least 10 degrees under that of the west coast of Scotland. In fact, the growth of wood depends much less on the mean annual temperature than on the extreme summer heat; and this again depends very much on the vicinity of extensive seas. Now, we do not see how the dispersion of the Greenland ice can protect Iceland, or the Orkneys, or the Hebrides, from the influence of the great Atlantic Ocean which surrounds them; and yet unless it can do this, it will never put these places on a footing with the countries where forests grow. Besides, there are a thousand circumstances connected with the trees included in mosses, which the supposition of a change of climate will not enable us to account for, and least of all, such a change as could result from the removal of the Greenland ice. But, after all, the reviewer's arguments are grounded on inferences rather than facts. Navigators state, that they have approached the shores of Old Greenland at one or two points; from which it is inferred that the whole coast is clear. Ice has been found floating in the Atlantic in larger quantities-than usual; therefore the reviewer concludes that the whole of the old barrier of ice has been broken up and carried southward. The seas, too, between Greenland and Spitzbergen have been found remarkably open,—but this is no uncommon occurrence. Indeed, the whalers generally approach the latitude of 80 degrees. From Laing's Voyage to Spitzbergen, a very accurate little work published two or three years ago, we learn that the sea was found almost quite clear of ice in the latitude of 81 degrees 50 minutes, on the 28th May, 1806 when nobody dreamed of a change in the climate of Europe.— He adds, "had our object been the making of discoveries, there was not apparently any thing to have prevented us from going a good way farther north." With respect to the statements about the vineyards in England and the north of France, as they rest entirely upon tradition and obscure historical allusions, we would confront them with the old theory, supported with so much plausibility in Hume's Essays, that the climate of Italy, France, and Germany, is much warmer at present than in ancient times; and we leave it to the curious to determine on which side the evidence preponderates. In searching for the cause of these phenomena, it was found that this breaking, up of the ice coincided, in point of time, with the variation of the compass becoming stationary. So it did with the battle of Waterloo; and we rather wonder it did not occur to the reviewer to trace it to this event as its cause. He would then have arrived at the comfortable conclusion, that we had put an end to the dominion of frost and French principles on the same day. The coldness of the summers of 1815 and 1816 was evidently the effect of the wet and cloudy weather. Icebergs in the Atlantic will not Account for it; for it is so far from being true, "that the mercury invariably fell with western winds," that the fact is directly contrary, as appears from Mr. Howard's observations at Tottenham:—
|1816.||April to September,||Easterly winds.||Westerly winds.|
|both inclusive.||52 days, 53.6.||10½ days. 54.57.|
|1817.||Ditto.||61 —– 53.27.||93 —– 55. 3.|
The clearing away of the ice, however, whether total or partial, will probably enable us to ascertain what has been the fate of the long-lost Danish colonies,—an object which must interest both our curiosity and our humanity. These colonies had existed for some centuries, and, it is said, occupied 190 villages about the year 1400; when the ice closed them in, and cut of all communication with the rest of the world. With such a climate and situation, it is not easy to imagine a more appalling destiny. Though we cannot believe that Government will give the least credit to the chimerical speculations we have been noticing, we are glad to learn that it is resolved to embrace the favourable opportunity afforded, by the open state of the Artie seas, for making discoveries in that quarter. One expedition has been fitted out, consisting of two small vessels, to explore Baffin's Bay and the northern coast of America; and another of the same description, to attempt the passage to Behring's Straits by the North Pole. Were the latter found practicable, the voyage to China would be shortened more than one half. We are by no means sanguine, however, on this point. But even should both expeditions fail in their main object, they may still ascertain many interesting facts, and make valuable additions to geography and natural history. We hope the new views regarding the variation of the compass, so well illustrated in Mr. Bain's valuable work, will he particularly attended to. It will be disgraceful, if two voyages, undertaken expressly for the advancement of science, terminate without adding to our knowledge respecting a subject of such immense importance to navigation, and so easily brought to the test of experiment. In concluding, we would recommend to the reviewer to read the article on Humboldt's narrative, in the same number, and to apply to himself the strictures on rash and hasty generalisation, so liberally bestowed upon that traveller. He may rest assured, that many changes take place in Europe without the agency of the Greenland ice; and that every iceberg found floating in the Atlantic is not the precursor of a great physical revolution.—Scotsman.
UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE AND ANNUAL
SECT. II.—CONDUCT QF THE RADICAL REFORMERS, AND OF THE
MINISTERIAL AND OPPOSITION PARTIES IN PARLIAMENT.
[FROM A CORRESPONDENT.]
BEFORE the Session of 1817 commenced, it was known, or at least it was expected, that Ministers intended to propose laws for abridging the liberty of the people; and under this expectation, amounting to all but a complete conviction of their intentions, it became the duty of those who had at any time put forth pretensions to popular favour and popular support, and more particularly of those who had been for years urging the people to petition for Reform,—of those who had pointed out abuses in the composition of the House, which might, but for
[p. 338] | [Page Image]their inquiries, never have been known,—it became their duty to stand between the people and the Minister, no matter how wide the difference of opinion between the people and themselves might appear: to those who contemplated taking another stride towards despotism, should have been left all the obloquy or merit of the proceeding; to the Opposition should hare belonged all the honour of defending liberty, of preventing the stride being taken, or of throwing down the enemies of the people while attempting it.
So far, however, were these pretended friends of Reform from doing this their sacred duty, that they, on the contrary, took the iniquity out of the hands of the Ministers, and by their eagerness to decry the people, prepared the way for every proposal, however iniquitous.
Mr. Brougham[note] , who should have been one of the last to attack the people, put himself, or was put by his party, as the herald of abuse; be became the diminutive of Edmund, Burke, copying his wards and his manner. It was he who blew the " conch of war," and set up the "war whoop,"—it was he who commenced the "horrid-yell" against the people.
On the, SECOND, DAY OF THE. SESSION, upon a petition from Wick being presented, he said, "he was anxious to lose no time or opportunity in, declaring his decided opposition to the principle of universal suffrage. It was his decided opinion, that if that measure were adopted, it would operate to destroy the Parliament, instead of reforming it,—tooverthrow the Constitution, instead of amending it; while it must serve to shake the universal security, of property. He was decidedly averse to those WILD, VAGUE, IMPRACTICABLE PROPOSISIONS (and oven if practicable, so PERNICIOUS), which were so loudly talked of."
It may here be remarked, that the loud, talking was all his own, for the people had been perfectly quiet and orderly in preparing their petition.
Two days, afterwards, he again repeated, "that he had lost no time or opportunity, in COUNTERACTING, the WILD MISCHIEVOUS, the ABSURD, nay, BLUNDERING DELUSIONS, unhappily. MISLEADING a great and respectable part of the community. Universal Suffrage would be the opening to unparalleled mischief; it never had been exercised. THE PEOPLE WERE MISLED, AND SHOULD BE RESCUED FROM THE CONTROUL OF LEADERS, WHO FROM IGNORANCE, OR WORSE MOTIVES, WERE MISLEADING THEM."
On the 14th of February, just a fortnight afterwards, he said, "there was but ONE OPINION IN THAT HOUSE upon the subject, and that was equally expressed by all the enlightened, rational, and, even: moderately informed persons in the kingdom. If there was one man in that House inclined to sanction, by his support, the WILD, DELUSIVE, and, HE MUST BELIEVE, NOT HONEST propositions, circulated with such pernicious industry out of doors, it was his duty to come forward and avow it. Where was the authority, either constitutional or legal, which represented such a claim as matter of right?" He blamed the FABRICATORS, by whom PETITIONS had been PALMED UPON THE PEOPLE, for having the assurance to say. Universal Suffrage was a right for which their ancestors bled;—stigmatised the antiquarians, who brooded over their wild and imaginary schemes, —who brought forth their little nostrums and big blunders;— admitted, that MORE THAN A MILLION OF MEN had signed petitions, who had flocked to meetings, simply because they fell distress, not, knowing the false teachers who had got among them.
Only seven days before this, the learned Gentleman informed the House, that half a million of men had signed petitions, to whom "the plea of IGNORANCE DID NOT APPLY, AS THEY ALL KNEW WHAT THEY SIGNES, and none intended offence." Was its a discovery, that when the names "amounted to more than a million," the "petitions" had been "palmed upon them?"— Was it a discovery, "that distress alone induced thorn to attend, meetings,"—and that false teachers persuaded them to sign? Or were they. "big blunders,"—or was it no blunder, to say, on the 7th, "that all the petitioners knew well what they did," and on the 14th, that they knew nothing about it? The nostrums which he and his friends did their best to produce, and to make palateable to the quiet, goodly kind of people,—the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus and the Gagging Acts,—were not certainty "little nostrums," neither were they sparingly administered.
As Mr. Brougham became the mouth-piece of his party, so his conduct has been more particularly selected. He was supported by Mr. Brand, Mr. Tierney[note] , Sir Wm. Lemon, Lord A. Hamilton, Mr. Calvert, Mr. Lambton[note] , Mr. Ponsonby[note] , and others, not so well known as pretended Parliamentary Reformers,—all of whom repeated his words with more or less of invective and abuse.
Some diversified their invectives, by elegantly pronouncing the people, and those whom they called their leaders, to be INCENDIARIES and MADMEX.
Day by day were the people calumniated and abused by the Outs, with more violence and injustice, and for a longer continuance, than had ever before been manifested, even by the most tyrannical, and corrupt Administration, which ever sat us a curse on the country;
In the mean time, Ministers were preparing their Suspension and, their Gagging Acts, encouraged as they were by the conduct of their usual opponents, and certain as that conduct bad made them, that no really effectual opposition was intended to any measures they might propose against the people.
How, indeed, could opposition to such measures be made on the part of a people, so debased as they had been represented to be,—people so deluded, so ignorant, so insane, who were incendiaries? What but coercion was proper for "MAD INCENDIARIES?"
Accordingly, when the Bills came before the House, the opposition was technical and languid; no enlarged views were opened, no long-headedness appeared; all was cavil and miserable personal opposition.
Even Sir Samuel Romilly was so tainted by the infectious air he breathed,, that he "thought some regulation necessary respecting the calling of public meetings," and spoke of clause so perfectly at variance with the judgment usually evinced by him on such subjects, as must excite surprise in every one who reads it.
The appeal made to the opinion of the House, was a barefaced attempt at delusion; the opinion of the House is appealed to against the people, and the Learned and Honourable Gentlemen are cheered: On all other questions, on very occasion, in which unanimity against the people is not requisite for some bad purpose, the opinion of the House is treated with contempt;—it is thou the opinion of the Treasury Bench,—-it is the opinion of the Ministers' majority, collected by means not necessary to describe, because they are known to every one of its Members,— of that House which, Mr. Mackintosh-said, "was conspiracy against the people."
Need we ask, if those who act thus are really contemptible? Need we say, how much weakness, Sir Samuel Romilly displayed, when he complained of the attempts of Reformers to bring such public men into contempt? Need We repeat the words of Mr. Mackintosh, that "the force and privileges of Parliament are almost indifferent to the people, for it is not the guardian of their rights nor the organ of their voice."
The denunciations against the most conspicuous of the Reformers for their DISHONEST PROPOSITIONS, FABRICATED and PALMED upon the people,—FALSELY teaching the people," were
[p. 339] | [Page Image]particularly reprebensible:—it was marking them out as fit objects of vengeance: and no thanks are due to those who so marked and denounced them, if Ministers did not afterwards lay their hands upon them; if, like the denunciation in the days of Roberspierre, they were not its victims. And who, let us ask, were the persons denounced? Mr. Mackintosh shall answer:—" They were as honest and enlightened men as any in the kingdom."
The leading Reformers, it is asserted, taught the people to demand "Universal Suffrage as a right for which their forefathers had bled:" but what was the fact? Simply this,—that two petitions, from obscure villages in Yorkshire, had put that paragraph into their petitions; and this was, with lawyer-like dexterity and lawyer-like perversity, put forth ns the general prayer of all the petitions;—and ignorance and iniquity were charged upon those who had never heard even the names of the villages, until they were mentioned in the House.
What ought we to think of the honesty of those who can descend to such despicable tricks, to charge dishonesty on others? —Why should We be accused of bringing such men into "contempt?"
We are asked, "where was the authority, either constitutional or legal, which represented such claim as matter of RIGHT?"
Our understandings are too confined to comprehend the meaning of the word constitutional, as it is here used: to us it appears a vague, unmeaning word,—a sound without sense, intended for the ear of those who never reason.
The word Legal, even, as used by learned friends, is not always intelligible. So far as it regards statutes made by the Legislature according to certain forms, we comprehend its meaning; but it may, it does here mean much more;—it means what is with singular absurdity called Common Law,—" an aggregate without an individual, a body of law without a single law;"—a mass of deformity, made up of ancient barbarous usages and modern dictums, having in a vast number of cases the operation of ex post facto laws, which never were and never will be, because they never can be, in favour of the people; and claiming a continuance only because they serve as a handle to arbitrary power.
All the injustice, all the ignorance, all the base imputation of bad motives, so meanly resorted to by the pretended friends of Reform, and so iniquitously heaped on the heads of the radical Reformers, recoil on those who uttered them.
Mr. Brand may talk his nonsense again, and he may choose to time it so as again to assist in producing, the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and the Act to shut up societies for reading and conversation; he may again talk of "the wild and impracticable schemes of demagogues,—vain theories of Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage, neither consistent with constitutional practice nor laws in ANY period of our history;"—he may again call the petitions of the people a "FARRAGO," and charge the Reformers with "a design to overthrow the Constitution;"—he may doubt if a petition ought to be received, if it deny that the House represents the people, although he was one of those who taught this language to the people. His friend Mr. Tierney may support him again. Mr. Lambton may have his peck at the Reformers; he may push at them with cut and dried and studied speeches, and accuse them with proposing WILD, FOOLISH, AND DISGUSTING PRINCIPLES;—He may repeat, that the "DISTURBANCES occasioned, by THESE MEN had developed the CHARACTER OF THE INSTIGATORS, and made it the duly of the House to interfere for the rest of the people." Mr. Ponsonby may be succeeded by another leader, when the forlorn party can find one, who may tell the people, "that the Report of the Secret Committee is not a libel on the people of England."
Mr. Gurney[note] may again desire to have the "Habeas Corpus Act suspended, and some measures taken to preserve the country from the horrible domination of self-constituted societies." Mr. Littleton[note] may again support the Gagging Bill, and vote for a clause excluding the people of Westminster from their usual place of meeting.
Lord Holland may again declare, that "the people are NOT INTITLED TO ANNUAL PARLIAMENTS BY ANY LAW," and talk of " wild awl visionary notions," and blunder on about the ancient mode of electing and proroguing Parliaments.
Lord Grey may again eat up his own words, and agree with his Noble Friend, and recommend the Minister to "prosecute cheap publications."
Lord Erskine may again inform us, that Universal Suffrage and ANNUAL PARLIAMENTS were contrary to the spirit and practice of the Constitution; and declare "he did not now hold the opinions that he did when he signed a paper for Parliamentary Reform;" and he may again bear to have it hinted to him from authority, that his recantation is not sufficiently broad and clear.
All of them may again exclaim against Reform in any shape, and adopting the creed of Holland House, as expressed by Sir James Mackintosh[note], declare—
1. "That there was a variety of modes of election which had been falsely blamed, as producing an INADEQUATE REPRESENTATION."
2. That "upon the whole, a Representation was produced more complete than any mode which should proceed on the basis Of UNIFORMITY could."
3 That any UNIFORM Representation was bad.
All of them may take for answer the extracts we have made from Mr. Mackintosh's book.
Lord Grey, Sir James Mackintosh, Lord Erskine, Mr. Tierney, and some others, may also be choaked with their own words, taken from the Petition of the Friends of the People, of which society they were the founders and supporters. It declares,—
1. " That the House is NOT AN ADEQUATE REPRESENTATION of the people of England.
2. " That it is prejudicial to the interests of the people, and contrary to the spirit of the Constitution.
3. " That the elective franchise is PARTIALLY and UNEQUALLY distributed.
4. " That the right of voting is regulated by no UNIFORM or rational principle.
5. " That from the combined operation of the defects your petitioners have pointed out, arise scenes of disgraceful confusion, litigation, and expense—of tumults, disorders, outrages, and perjury.
6. "That EIGHTY-FOUR individuals do of their OWN IMMEDIATE AUTHORITY SEND ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-SEVEN MEMBERS; and this your petitioners are ready to prove, and to name the Members, and those who send them.
7. " That ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MEMBERS are returned, not by the collective voice of those who appear to send them, but by the recommendation of SEVENTY POWERFUL INDIVIDUALS.
8. "That the total number of patrons altogether are ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FOUR, who return a decided majority of the HONOURABLE House."
Talk, indeed, of "bringing public men into contempt,"— where are we to look for people so truly contemptible?
All of them may repeat the iniquity, and all of them may Jesuitically appeal to the people for some purpose of their own, but it is hoped the people will never more cease to contemn them
Of the right of Suffrage, so vehemently denied it will be fair to pit the two Honourable and Learned Gennemen one against the other.
In the paragraph, which we have numbered 7, in a former number, Mr. Mackintosh reprobates the disfranchisement of any
[p. 340] | [Page Image]class of the people:—" Political inequality is (he says) equally inconsistent with natural right and the object of civil institution, —the slightest deviation from political equality legitimates every tyranny."
In No. 8, he calk the attempt to limit the right of Suffrage, " a violation of justice, and an absurd usurpation."
In No. 9, he disputes the justice of disfranchising even the "pauper," and denies the justice of refusing it to "domestic servants."
In No. 10, he declares, that on the principle of taxation, even, every man has "equal rights of election."
In No. 11, he declares, "that to represent property is absurd—men alone can be represented."
In No. 16, he insinuates that the general interest is not the object of Government, because the general will does not govern; and that "men are oppressed because they have no share in the Government."
In No. 26, he tells us, that so obstinate have those who by any means have got possession of power been, "that whatever EXCELLENCE, whatever FREEDOM is discoverable in Governments, has been infused into them by the shock of a Revolution"—such has ever been the PROGRESS OF FREEDOM AND INTELLECT against tyranny and ignorance."
Mr. Brougham says no to all this;—my learned friend is mistaken. The RIGHT was all in the usurper, and he never by any statute gave it out of his hands. Rights, indeed! how could the people have rights, when all right was centered in one man, and he did not choose to divide it? There is no statute, no express law, giving it to the people, and therefore they never had it,—and therefore they cannot have it now.
Using the word Right, or Rights, in the sense in which it is used by learned Gentlemen, a man has no right to the use of his legs, unless he has had the right granted him by a statute or an edict. Would a man walk from one town to another in any State on the Continent, he must ask leave to use his legs,—he must obtain a passport, or no town can he enter, into the gate of no town dare his legs carry him; and if he attempt to go past one without entering it, he will be put in prison for the attempt. Well, having been denied the use of his legs by statute or edict, it has become necessary to make another statute or edict, giving him the right to use his legs, before he dare use them, which but for the previous statute or edict would not have been necessary. In England, or in the United States of America, a law to allow a man the use of his legs need not be made, cannot be made, because he has in neither of those countries been denied their use by statute.
The right of a man to use his legs previously to any statute or edict forbidding it, will not be denied; and the right of Suffrage stands on the same ground. Every freeman, before the 8th of Henry VI., might, if he chose, vote: there was no law which forbade him, and there are several old laws respecting elections, which prove that none were excluded who chose to attend the County Court. It will admit of much doubt whether bondmen, even, in many cases, were not usually admitted to vote; and there are strong grounds for believing they did sometimes vote. The statute 8th Henry VI. was a disfranchising statute, conceived by villainy and executed by injustice. "Sir William Jones,"—a name held in reverence,—speaking of this act, says, " I agree with those who consider this act as basely aristocratical, as a wicked invasion, of popular rights, and therefore in a high degree unconstitutional. It is also a disgraceful confession of legislative weakness."[note]
Had no such statute as that of-8th Henry VI. robbed the people of their Suffrage, every man to this day would have voted for Members of the House of Commons. And had not one of the most ferocious and sanguinary tyrants that ever disgraced humanity, under the convenient word Prerogative, usurped a power above the law of prorogation, which the wealth screwed out of the people by means the most infamous, by his miscreant predecessor, enabled him to do, and his plundering afterwards enabled him to continue for so long a period, that less powerful tyrants were able to tread in his steps, Annual, or rather Sessional Parliaments, would still have been the law of the land, as they really were, until the 6th of William and Mary, when Triennial Parliaments were for the first time made legal.
Sessional Parliaments would not only have been the law of the land, but also the PRACTICE of the land, as they were before the 5th of Edward II., when a statute was made to COMPEL the King not to suffer a year to pass without CALLING ONE. NOW, indeed, since laws have been, made forbidding people to vote, as well as to use their legs,—now, indeed, it has become necessary, to enable them to do either, that laws should be passed to PERMIT them exercising those RIGHTS.
There was a time, then, when all freemen could vote as well as walk, without making any statute to permit them doing either; and the making statutes to prevent either the one or the other, was, to use the language of Mr. Mackintosh, "A VIOLATION OF JUSTICE, AND AN ABSURD USURPATION."
MONS. GEOFFRIN.—A wag who was in the habit of sending books to Mons. Geoffrin, sent him several rimes in succession the first volume of Father Lobbat's Travels. The good man, with all the composure possible, always read the book over again without perceiving the mistake. "How do you like these Travels, Sir?"—" They are very interesting: but the author seems to be somewhat given to repetition." He read Bayle's Dictionary with great attention, following the line with his finger along the double columns! "What an excellent work," lie said, "if it were only a little less abstruse."—However deficient the poor man was, he was permitted to sit down to dinner, at the end of the table, upon condition that he never attempted to join in the conversation. A foreigner, who was very assiduous in his visits to Madame Geoffrin, one day, not seeing him as usual at table, enquired after him. "What have you done, Madame, with the poor man, whom I always used to see here, and who never spoke a word?"—" Oh! that was my husband—he is dead."
CHEMICAL DANGERS.—Mons. Rouelle was an eminent French Chemist, but not the most cautious of operators. One day, while performing some experiments, he observed to his auditors, " Gentlemen, you see this cauldron upon this brazier: well, if I were to cease stirring a single moment, an explosion would ensue, which would blow us all into the air."—The company had hardly time to reflect on this comfortable piece of intelligence, before he did forget to stir, and his prediction was accomplished! The explosion took place with a horrible crash: all the windows of the laboratory were smashed to pieces, and two hundred auditors whirled away into the garden. Fortunately, no serious injury was received by any one, the greatest violence of the explosion having been in the direction of the chimney. The demonstrator himself was quit with the loss of his wig only.