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The Splendid Village, a Poem, in Two Parts, by the Author of "Corn
Free-trade in Theatricals-The West Indies-The Price of Prayer
The Lion's Mouth
A FEW PLAIN WORDS ON A GREAT QUESTION. THE Bill has been read a first time in the House of Lords. Two of the more influential of the Anti-Reformers-my Lords Harrowby and Wharncliffe, will not oppose the second reading, in consequence, it is said, of the understanding that previous, at least, to that great discussion, no additions are to be made to the Peerage. Be it so. But are Peers to be made afterwards? If so, when? Lord Grey positively declares-at least, so we are assured by those who would April 1832.-VOL. XXXIV. NO. CXXXVI.
not deceive us that he is ready the moment he foresees any obstacle in the Committee that requires a greater strength than Government possesses at present in the Upper House, to make the necessary creation. But who denies-does my Lord Grey even doubt—that those obstacles will be found, and the creation therefore necessary? Why not, then, we ask, as plain men, why not make it at once? "Because," reply Lord Grey's friends and confidents, "it is better that no Peers should be made for the second reading, though it may be necessary to make Peers for the Committee. Let the AntiReformers pass the principle, and then they can scarcely blame us if we call in new forces to carry the details of that measure the principle of which they themselves have sanctioned. Nor is it likely that so large a number would then be necessary. Several Peers, who will be Reformers if the creation be not made, will be Anti-Reformers if it be. They are delicate logicians, and do not care much for a small swamp at one stage of the Bill, if they escape a great swamp at another!" To me, however, this argument seems but a plausible sophistry. How can my Lord Grey foresee with so unerring an accuracy the exact portions of the Bill which will be objected to in the Committee? May he never be taken unawares! It is easy to say, if necessary, Peers shall be made. But the Necessity may come before the Creation! The Bill is read a second time; no Peers are made. Well! Schedule A is to be passed. That clause will be stoutly opposed. No one denies that the Harrowbys, who vote for the second reading, will oppose schedule A. My Lord Grey is now, therefore, called upon to make Peers: he makes (according to the principle by which he is reported to be actuated) the smallest number possible-he just pours enough democracy into the old channel to float off schedule A. But next comes schedule B. It is well known that many, very many Peers who will swallow the camels of schedule A, will strain at the gnats of schedule B. If your first little batch has been a moderate one, we shall now want a few more votes for schedule B. So presto!off with a second batch! Then comes the 107. franchise-may you not want a third batch for that? And lastly, the metropolitan districts may not a fourth, perhaps, be wanting for them? So that, instead of making one batch for one purpose, in a scholar-like and cleanly manner, we may be obliged to go on blundering, and sprawling, and sputtering out little batchkins of a dozen at a time; making use of the same violent struggles for three or four occasions, which would have sufficed for one, and swamping, as it is called, the House of Lords, not for one great and majestic end, but for a strictured and tedious series of ends. Either Peers are necessary, or they are not.
The whole juggling and legerdemain of "Not for the second reading," and "Certainly for the Committee," may do very well for the metaphysical subtleties of a college of schoolmen, but is not the broad and stern line of argument that becomes a great statesman. New Peers are necessary, or not. If they are necessary, as it is uni versally allowed, it is better to make them at once than at any subsequent stage. And for these simple reasons, which plain men can understand. By making them now, you remove anxiety, fear, suspicion among the people. By making them now, you put yourself beyond the power of surprise. Your delay makes you dependent on the caprice, the humour-(even be it said,) the honour of your enemies. Your firmness would make those enemies dependent on you. Which is the wiser policy? Good Heavens! what would the Burleighs or the Sullys have said of the men who preferred the former? By making Peers now, you can form an exact calculation of the requisite number to carry the whole Bill. If you make Peers for one schedule, as you propose, I assert that you cannot form that calculation. Every one who knows the constitution of the House of Lords, knows how difficult it is to ensure the attendance of a certain number of that indolent body on even the greatest measure. How often, if you persist in niggling and shaving off your party to its lowest possible majority, will you be in danger of a sudden division, a sudden defeat! If this risk has occurred in a House of Commons with an unparalleled majority—of men almost unequalled for vigilance and pertinacity of attendance, how much more will it be the case when you have stinted your lazy majorities to some ten or twenty votes, and task, for the first time, the patience and exertions of men who have so many Atalantas to allure them from the field of contest. If you, my Lord Grey, feel assured of your triumph, forgive the people; but they cannot sympathise with that assurance. You ask them to confide; you expect them to confide. My Lord Grey, they have done so; they do it still. They admire your genius; they revere your consistency; but they cannot forget, that in similar circumstances with their confidence all your own-with the self-same hostages of that confidence that are yet plighted to you in the House of Commons-with the support of the King-with the voice of the people-with the (all but) unanimity of the press, as now,-you were yet defeated in that ordeal you are about again to pass :--can you blame the people if they now doubt, since they were then disappointed, and if they think themselves almost called upon to demand from your hands a token that the past shall not be renewed? My Lord, we have gone through a long period of anxious and deep suspense; our trade has been arrested, our commerce impeded; men's minds, unsettled and
disquieted, have turned to the discussion of questions, before the mighty import of which the caprices and humours of some dozen or two of holiday Lords sink into nothing. These are things that require a termination;—if the Bill is to be still that grand soother, which it once would indeed have been, nothing-it is vain to blink the matter -nothing will give that termination but the consciousness of your superiority-the certainty of the Bill's victory in the House of Lords. My Lord, there are men who begin to fear that in this dallying and complaisance with men divorced for ever from the people—this "sweet, reluctant, amorous delay"-the people themselves have been less thought of than the whims and carpings of a handful of their, and your own, enemies. The world, thank Heaven! has arrived at that pitch when the prejudices of a few men, not eminent for wisdom, even though they be Lords, do not seem entitled to that respect which is due to the settled reason of a nation. There are men who have said that "You may have deemed the injury and distress of thousands as nothing compared with a shock to the pride of your order."* My Lord, the time fast presses when an answer to this charge may come too late!
But take the very widest postulate that credulity could expect, or diplomacy realize-suppose, after all, that Peers are not requiredsuppose you pass the Bill without them-what then? The Bill is a means, not an end. The Bill passed, a Reformed Parliament assembled, how will this Tory Upper House agree with the Reformers of the Lower? Your enemies predict that there will be a collision between the two Assemblies. Make no Peers, make few Peers, make doubtful Peers, and you will verify their prediction. Bill after Bill the Lower House will send to the Upper. Will the same degrading process of cajolery, and wooing, and sugar-plumming the physic be again and eternally repeated? Are a nation of men to witness for ever the babying of these pampered nobles, and dandle and coax the great acts of legislation into existence? No! This is not a spectacle that you the pride and boast of your order-can desire England should look upon, even would she tamely submit to it. New Peers-an infusion of the popular spirit-are exactly as necessary when the Bill is passed, as now, before the second reading. Why run (if it be only a risk) why, I ask, run the risk of delay? But it is said:" Very likely Peers may be necessary to preserve the concord of the two Houses; but it would be better to make them without reference to one particular measure—the blow to the dignity of the Upper House will be less immediate-the precedent less dangerous." My Lord, from whom does this distinction come-from whom proceeds this talk of dignity and precedent?-from the AntiExaminer, Sunday, March 25.
reformers from your enemies! Can you believe that they will not pour forth the same reproach, and the same menace, and the same prophecy-whenever the new Peers are made? If you make them after the Bill-will they not say with justice-" What!-there might have been some excuse for creating Peers when a Bill on which you considered the salvation of the Empire rested, was to be passedBut now-when the Bill is passed-where, in God's name, is the necessity of this wanton invasion. Have you other Bills to thrust down the throats of our consciences? You talk of concord between the two Houses. What does that portend? What Bills will this monstrous Reformed Parliament purpose to send up to us? You will make Peers-who shall agree to the confiscation of Church Property, the election by Ballot, the abolition of the Corn Laws?— in what other popular Bills are we likely to disagree with the Parliament you have created?" My Lord, will not this be said-will not this be said, plausibly?-for my part it seems to me much more plausible than all I have heard alleged against a creation for one clear, defined and solemn purpose. But this is not all—the People will now joyfully bear you out in the creation they so anxiously await they may doubt a little as to your motives in a creation hereafter-they may say that you desire not to strengthen the People, but to promote your friends-they may say that that Act which you could not perpetrate in order to ensure the safety of your country, you yet venture to achieve, in order to reward, or to confirm your Party. My Lord, Cæsar's character should be above suspicion. There is yet another Consideration. The King (God bless him!) lives-may his years be long-but the contingencies of human life are not precisely those which it becomes a wise legislator to omit from his calculations. Suppose between this time and that creation which you allow-or at least your immediate friends allow-ought hereafter to take place-it should please Heaven to afflict this country with the loss of William the Fourth-and the Regency of a personage by no means attached to your principles, or desirous to establish your power-could the creation then be so surely reckoned upon? And would it be any excuse to say what?-that you had deferred the consummation of a necessary union between the two Great Assemblies of Parliament from that time when the power of doing it was in your hands to that time when it was withdrawn? Looking forward to the jars and the strife between the unreformed Lords and the reformed Commons that must then ensue-I cannot think that the Lords would have much cause for gratitude in the effects of your indulgent procrastination.
In an admirable pamphlet,* which for its method, its temperance,
"Present Prospects." Ridgeway, Piccadilly, 1832.