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to coalesce or co-operate with much Mr. Cobbett, but only violence and
Out of parliament the most stre- writings of Mr. Cobbett, and the
to total failure of all his plans to cause, had nothing to fear. But as · bring about what he so ardently the writings of Mr. Cobbett had, in
and sincerely desires. But his zeal most unequivocal terms, and in that and perseverance are much more language which he knows so admi. conspicuous than his judgemert, rably how to adapt to the taste and common sense, or knowledge of the the comprehension of the great world.--In Mr. Cobbett these doc- mass of the people, told the labourtrines found a much more able sup- ing classes, that the remedy for the porter and advocate : not that his oppression and taxes under which arguments in their support will they laboured lay in their own stand the examination of a calm hands, he was justly afraid, that judgement, extensive views, and during the suspension of the habeas sound sense, but they are admirably corpus act he would be deprived of adapted to work their way with the his liberty ; he therefore deemed it majority of the nation; being ad. prudent to retire to America-prodressed, like all his other argu- mising, however, to return as soon ments, to the feelings and the sup- as England was again under the posed interests of those who are protection of her constitution; and little inclined, and as little able, to in the mean time to transmit from think for themselves.--Mr. Hunt America his Weekly Register. brings to the support of the cause Scarcely was he when several neicher the calmness of major Cart. weekly publications started up, wright, nor the point and force of some of them as violent in their
language, and outrageous in their they supported their cause by facts doctrines, as his Register had been; drawn from the history of England, but very far behind it in talen, and as well as by arguments. the power of exciting the people to Originally they contended every schemes of mischief, and feelings male person (with the exceptions of disaffection.
above stated) voted for a member It is foreign to the purpose of this of the house of commons, and paswork to state or examine minutely liaments were annual. Before exathe object which the ultra-reformers mining into the accuracy of these had in view, or the facts and argu. statements, it may be proper to rements by which they endeavoured mark, that if the mere antiquity of to establish their cause : but the hi. any political insitution proves its story of Britain at this period can wisdom, or its beneficial character not be well understood, without a and tendency, there are an almost brief and general outline on this infinite number of laws and usages, subject, and therefore we shall give now repealed or gone into disuse, it.
which the reformers ought to advoThe ultra-reformers contended, cate as strongly and zealously as that all the evils under which the parliamentary reform; but which, people of Britain laboured, -exces. if any attempts were made ro rerive sive taxation, and its consequent them, we are confident they would poverty and misery,-extravagance oppose, as destructive .f the rights in the expenditure of the public and liberties of the people. Besides, money,--and, in short, mal-admi- it is absurd to go back to ages of nistration in every respect, arose comparative ignorance, barbarism, entirely from the nation not being and slavery, for usages and institufully and fairly represented in the tions conducive to the personal or house of commons. This full and political happiness of a nation. But, fair representation, which was to be setting aside these considerations, the panacea for all public evils, ac- there is no clear and direct evidence curding to some of the advocates that in the former periods of our hifor reform, would be obtained, pro- story parliaments were annual; and vided every householder was en. all could not vote at a time when titled to vote for a member of the nearly all the lower classes were in house of commons. According to the eye of the law villains, or the others, the right of franchise must slaves of the great land-holders. be extended to every male person The argument from history, therepaying taxes, except those who were fore, in support of this extreme par. insane, criminals, or under age; but liamentary reform, in no point of with respect to the duration of par. view deserves much notice or re. liament, all were agreed that they spect: let us therefore attend to the ought to be annual. On the mode other argument by which this plan of collecting and giving the votes, is supported. It was often conand other inferior points, there was tended by Mr. Cobbett and the some difference of opinion. other advocates for parliamentary
Such was the object which major reform, that the people had a right Cartwright, Mr.Cobbett, sir Frane to this reform; that every person cis Burdett, lord Cochrane, and the paying taxes had a right to vote other reformers had in view; and for representatives; but it is obvious 271 this doctrine must be modified in were sincerely and anxiously desi. some degree; and is in part modi- rous to select only such members as fied by those who advocate it in the were pure and enlightened, can it most determined manner; for not be believed, that the people in this even Mr. Cobbett contends that wo- country are in such a state of infor. men, insane persons, criminals, or mation, as to enable them to make persons under age, though they pay such an election? Let us, however, taxes, ought to vote for representa- suppose a house of commons chosen tives. If asked why the privilege in this manner : what would be the should not extend to them, he would consequence if, instead of delibera. probably reply, Because it would ting, and acting on their own cool, not be for the good of the whole comprehensive deliberation, their that it should be so. Hence it ap- votes and proceedings were in all pears, that right must be limited, important cases to be directed by and in fact created, by what is for the orders of their constituents. the public good; and that, unless They would, indeed, be then the annual parliaments and universal real representatives of the people; suffrage can be proved to be for the and we imagine that this word ree public good, the arguments drawn presentation has had the effect of from former periods of our his blinding the over-zealous advocates tory, and from the alleged right for reform to all the evils and disof all who pay taxes to be repreadvantages that would result from sented in parliament, are not worth it. rush.
The mode in which the members We must therefore close with the of the house of commons are chosen strong hold of the reformers: they is comparatively of little impor. maintain, that if the members of the tance, provided they perform their house of commons were chosen an- duty. In fact, the mode of elecnually, and by all the people (with tion is of importance only so far as the exceptions above stated), they it may secure an enlightened and would be more intelligent, more patriotic assembly. That the mode pure, and consequently better able proposed by the reformers would and more disposed to legislate solely render the members entirely depenfor the good of the nation.
dent upon their constituents, and Let us see, what this takes for would in fact reduce the nation to granted. It takes for granted, in the state of being governed, in the first place, that the great mass many cases, by the people, there of the people are so enlightened and can be no doubt. But it may well pure, that they would select much be doubted, whether under this gomore pure and enlightened members vernment the people themselves than at present sit in the house of would prosper and be happy. A commons; and in the second place, house of commons composed of that of all ihe great questions that men of talents, information, zeal, come before parliament, the people and patriotism, actuated, as little are adequate judges ; for,according as human nature would allow us to to the plan of reform, the constitu- expect, by any other motives than ents are to instruct their members, a desire to study and promote the and the latter on all points are to public good, is the kind of asfollow these instructions.
sembly that would most benefit But even granting that the people the nation, and can it be believed
that such an assembly could exist mode of conducting the inquiry if its members were chosen an. might admit of some difference of nually by the people at large, and opinion, as well as the mode of re. if their votes and conduct were to forming the Statute-book. It seems be under the control of their consti- to us, with respect to the latter obtuents? At the same time, we are ject, that all the obsolete statutes decidedly of opinion, that the house should be expunged: that such as are of commons, as at present elected obscure should be rendered plain; and constituted, is not such an as- such as are loose and indefinite sembly as we have described; but should be rendered precise ; such as if the choice must be made, we are contradictory should be reconshould undoubtedly prefer its pre- ciled; and such as are framed in resent mode of election and frame, lation to a state of society no longer to an assembly chosen annually by existing, should be adapted to the universal suffrage.
present time. This ought to be done The ultra-relormers regard the certainly:- perhaps more; perhaps question of parliamentary reform the Statutes should all be classed as of such vital importance, that under distinct heads; each divi. they never exert their zeal or efforts sion prefaced by an exposition of in support of the reform of any the general principles on which it abuse not connected with that rested; and the whole statutes prewhich they maintain exists in the fixed by a clear, simple, and short representation of the people, and exposition of the grand principles yet there are many abuses and im. and objects of law. perfections which have crept into Closely connected with this subthe administration of the British go. ject is the reform of our criminal vernment, in almost all its branches, law. Towards this most humane, the reform of which ought to be an and not less wise and politic object, object of interest and importance sir Samuel Romilly has been directa with all parties.
ing the powers of his vigorous and The first subject we shall mention enlightened mind, and the zeal of relates to our laws in general, and his benevolent heart, for some years; our criminal code in particular. but most unaccountably he has exDuring the last session that lord perienced considerable opposition, Stanhope sat in the house of lords, and yet the facts on which he builds he moved for and obtained a com- his arguments are notorious. It is mittee to inquire into and report notorious that our criminal law, by upon the Statute-book. When it is its very severity, deseats its own ob. considered, that the statutes of the ject; and that so long as the law realm are so voluminous and com- affixes a capital punishment to those plicated, and many of them so con- crimes which in the opinion of the tradictory, that the most indefati- world do not deserve, and for all gable and experienced lawyers, on the purposes of punishment do not many points, cannot tell what the require it.--cither the persons suflaw actually is ; there can be no fering from them will allow the doubt, that the inquiry proposed criminals to go entirely without by lord Stanhope was imperiously punishment, or the administrators called for, and must have done of the law will acquit them, or progood ; and yet since his death the nounce a lighter punishmeat than subjece has been dropped. The the law awards,-notwithstanding
they thus act contrary to the oaths be effected in the financial depart. by which they are bound.
ment of government.
These we The state of our prisons, also, shall notice very briefly, and only calls for the interference and reform the most important. In the first of government. By the reports to place, the taxes might be simplithe house of commons, as well as fied: the taxes, as at present laid by other inquiries, it is ascertained on, give government gr influ. that our prisons, instead of correct- ence, by the number of persons eming and amending those who are ployed in their collection, and are committed to them, in too many collected at a very considerable exinstances convert the young and pense. One tax, on income, if rated timid criminal into the bardened fairly and impartially, would be col. profligate, by exposing him to the lected with comparatively little exsociety of the most abandoned of pense-would almost annihilate the the human species. Indeed, an un- in Auence of government in this recandid person, when he reflects on spect-would be less harassing and the state of our laws and our prisons, oppressive, and would be equally -on the encouragement given to productive. In the second place, gaming and drunkenness by the lot- the business in the public offices is tery, and the law relating to public not conducted with that regularity, houses and spirituous liquors, and and in that efficient and economical on the plan pursued by the police, manner, in which it might be, and of enticing to crime for the sake of in which it would be if the nation the reward, would be disposed to were not the paymaster. Lastly, allege, that the object of our govern- the accounts of the nation are not ment was not to prevent, but to en- kept on the most improved plan: courage vice; and that they found tallies are still used in the exche. a satisfaction in punishing crime. quer ! And even in the other of. The truth is, that all governments fices there is a complication, want are averse to change; and that the of method, and obscurity, which, French revolution, among the other while they prevail, must render it evils to which it gave birth, has by no means a difficult matter for strengthened this aversion to an in- those who are disposed to cheat the credible degree.
public to do it without detection, Of inferior consequence are the and consequently with impunity. reforms that might and ought to
Proceedings in Scotland respecting Borough Reform, with an introductory
Account of the State of Representation in thut part of the United King. dom.
historian not merely to narrate derstand those events thoroughly, events, but also to afford such ex- and to see them in all their bearplanation and instruction to their ings, relations, and consequences, 1817.