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contributed to paralyse the efforts of the Whigs, by depriving them of the support necessary to their efficiency as an opposition, is the aristocratical composition and texture of their party. So long as a country remains in a state of comparative poverty and ignorance, the soil constitutes its chief property, and the proprietors of the soil are its most influential men; but as the human mind is expanded by knowledge, as ingenuity multiplies the products of labour, as capital is accumulated, and as man rises in wealth, talents, and importance, the value of property in land experiences an increase, as compared with what it formerly was, but it diminishes in respect to the whole property of the country. Hence, in proportion as a country advances in the career of prosperity, the influence of the hereditary proprietors of the soil must inevitably decrease; because it has in that case to contend with the antagonist influence of classes, formerly mere ciphers in political calculations, but now rendered important from the possession of wealth acquired by skill, industry, and enterprise. It is not meant to be insinuated, that,
even in the most advanced state of so
ciety, the influence of this privileged class can ever cease to be great: from the very nature of things, it must always assume a powerful, if not a commanding, attitude; but, then, it is not, as in ruder periods, the only or exclusive interest. Anciently, both Houses of Parliament were almost entirely composed of landholders, the representatives of the one great and predominating interest; and though, in the progress of time, numerous representatives of other interests have gradually found their way into the House of Commons, and coalesced in forming a sort of counterbalance to the weight of the hereditary proprietors of the soil, yet a large proportion of these have been introduced, either directly by
the aristocracy, or indirectly, with their concurrence and influence; while the composition of the House of Peers has been in no degree modified by the causes which have contributed to ameliorate that of the other House of Parliament. Such being the constitution of the legislature, and such the predominance of hereditary property and influence, it follows, that in all questions, the Corn Laws for instance, in which the interests of the aristocracy are opposed to those of the people, we may expect to find the former strenuously supported and maintained, while the latter are either neglected or sacrificed: we may expect that legislation will take a marked direction in favour of that particular kind of property which the aristocracy possess, and of which they imagine themselves alone competent fully to appreciate the value; that the national importance of manufactures will not be appreciated, the power of commerce misunderstood, and the giant strength with which science arms the merchant and the artizan overlooked; and that thus, while the people are perhaps compelled to pay a monopoly price for the prime necessary of life, the trade and commerce of the country will be fettered with absurd restrictions, and the nation deprived of that command of the wealth of the world, which her skill, capital, and industry, if left to take their natural course, would infallibly secure to her.
But while the natural tendency of the aristocracy continued to be oligarchical and exclusive, though partially modified by the operation of various concurrent causes, a new power was gradually and silently developing itself.
Formerly the great body of the people went for nothing in every political calculation; they constituted an inert mass, which, instead of aspiring to direct, waited to be impelled. Public opinion meant then only the opi
nion of the privileged class. But circumstances, which it is unnecessary to particularize, have operated a striking change in the relative position of the different great classes composing the commonwealth. Knowledge and industry, reciprocally acting upon each other as cause and effect, have not only improved the condition of the peo ple, but revealed to them the secret of their own strength; mind has pervaded the immense mass, penetrating almost every component atom; mens agitat molem et magno se corpore miscet; and though still excluded from nearly all participation in political rights, it is no longer safe either to neglect the interests, or contemn the opinions, wants, and desires, of this new class. In a government like ours, of which one great branch is essentially democratical, all the leading interests of the country must, in one shape or another, be represented; that is, the government must accommodate itself to the condition of the governed, and advance passibus æquis as they advance, otherwise it is absurd to talk either of its security or its strength: for as all free governments at least are founded on opinion, that must of necessity be the strongest which attaches to itself in the highest degree the sentiments and affections of the people.
From this new class, however, which, in modern times, has risen into consequence, the Tories kept aloof from principle, the Whigs from pride. The former, acting with perfect consistency, lost no ground by their undisguised reluctance to acknowledge the people as an influential body; the latter, ostensibly the advocates of popular rights, but in reality a section of the high aristocracy, and incomparably more adverse to the claims and rights of the people than their political opponents, came to be regarded as a mere faction, who professed liberal opinions as a means of
paving their way to power, and who could never have any sentiments or feelings in common with those whose support they were willing to secure. Alienation and distrust were the necessary consequence; and these feelings were strengthened by that insolent and domineering spirit which, as often as they have had the opportunity, the Whigs have never failed to manifest. That they have resisted many bad laws, proposed some salutary measures, and recommended a few useful principles in legislation and finance, may be readily conceded, because truth requires that they should not be defrauded of their just merits; but these isolated and generally unsuccessful efforts have failed to secure for them the confidence of the people, and have, in some cases, even tended to foster the suspicions already entertained of them. The support which the majority of the party have invariably given to the absura and iniquitous system of the Corn Laws, has of itself created a disgust and aversion in the public mind, not to be conquered or obliterated by their hollow declamations in favour of reform, and their laudable exertions to remove all re strictions from those particular branches of industry, where they had no private interest in bolstering up the cause of monopoly. It is not by thus coquetting with the people at particular times, and to serve special purposes, that their permanent favour can be gained. Experience has taught them that their true interests have been most effectually consulted by the men who are from principle most firmly opposed to their political pretensions : and as actual benefits conferred by those who have not thought it necessary to encumber themselves with professions, are generally received with corresponding gratitude; so it has hap pened, that in proportion as the Whigs have declined, their adversaries have
risen in public estimation, thus securing to themselves the indefinite possession of that power which they seem anxious to exert solely for the welfare and interest of the country.
The first substantive proof, and indeed almost a direct result, of this total separation of the Whigs from the people, was the appearance in the political field of what has been denominated the Radical party. Disappointed, cajoled, and, as they thought, betrayed by the Whigs, who were never either able or willing to redeem the pledges they had so frequently given, a large proportion of the operative classes, becoming speculative in proportion as knowledge was freely circulated, resolved to revenge themselves on their faithless and intractable advocates, not merely by deserting them, but by organizing a party which might, in a more efficient and energetic manner, represent their feelings, opinions, and interests; and that the separation might be as wide as possible, they determined to take their stand on the broad principles of the most unqualified democracy. Scorning all paltering about petty reforms, which they declared could never be productive of good, they announced their resolution to be content with nothing short of Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage. This was the fundamental article in their creed; and it had one incontestable merit, that, however impracticable it might be, it was at least perfectly intelligible, and admirably calculated to recommend itself to those who were conscious that their strength consisted in their numbers, and that, should they ever succeed in realizing their project, they would absorb, in the first place, all the power, and, in the second, all the property of the country. Unfortunately, it is almost always in times of public distress that dangerous political theories re promulgated and imbibed. Misery
is naturally credulous. During the afflicting stagnation of commerce and manufactures that prevailed some years ago, the Radical doctrines made an alarming progress among the operative classes both in England and Scotland, who, stimulated by pestilent demagogues, had wellnigh hoisted the banner of insurrection, and plunged the country in confusion and anarchy; but with the return of prosperity, accompanied as it has happily been by a series of public measures, remarkable alike for the benefits they have produced and the glory they have reflected on the present enlightened and liberal administration, the visions of Radicalism have vanished, leaving no trace of their existence, except in the unreadable pages of Bentham, or the somnolent dissertations in the Westminster Review. It is known, however, to all who are in the least acquainted with the subject, that had the Whigs retained the confidence of the people, which, by their selfishness, time-serving, pride, and insolence, they had so deservedly forfeited, Jacobinism would not have been reproduced in a new form, and history would have been deprived of one name more by which to characterize the spirit of turbulence and anarchy.
It may seem paradoxical to allege, that, in its composition, the Whig is essentially more aristocratical than the Tory party; but the fact is, nevertheless, well known, and, indeed, the apparent paradox will vanish upon closer observation. The principle of Toryism is the unqualified support of monarchy, and, of course, of the aristocracy, considered as one of the pillars of monarchy. But the Tories have never mistaken the pillar for that which it is only meant to support, or countenanced the disproportionate aggrandizement of one branch of the constitution at the expense of the others; nor have they hesitated to rally on
their side all those interests and feelings which, properly controlled and modified, might contribute to uphold the dignity of the Crown, and to increase the strength and security of the government. The Whig party, on the other hand, being, as we have said, a mere section of the high aristocracy, engaged in a fruitless struggle for power, incessantly shifting their ground, but remaining inflexibly true to the spirit of their order,-now coquetting with the people when popular support was required, and now deserting or denouncing those of whom they were the soi-disant defenders, reeling from side to side, like an inverted cone, uncertain where they might next fall, have not only assumed the appearance of an insulated political faction, the real representative of no interest except their own, but, by an obstinate adherence to their system of oscillation, have weakened their energies, and abated their influence. Afraid of compromising their dignity and independence, anxiously avoiding to give any tangible guarantees to those whose support could only be procured on that condition, and resolved, if ever they got hold of the helm, to enter upon office unfettered, they have disgusted and estranged many of their firmest friends, and are justly regarded as a domineering oligarchy, whose exclusion from power is viewed by the majority of the nation with undisguised satisfaction.
But while the Whigs were daily becoming more and more aristocratical in proportion as they were retrograding, various causes conspired to produce an opposite effect on their opponents: and the chief of these unquestionably was their long possession of power. Many men, from the middling or humbler classes of society, who entered into the lower departments of the state, remained in office till they had gradually ascended to the higher; and
consequently brought with them, to their more exalted stations, great knowledge of business, and experience of the details of government,—a thorough acquaintance with the different public interests,-a strong conviction of the necessity of watching over, protecting, and promoting those interests, a perfect freedom from that engrossing spirit of oligarchy, characteristic of a particular order,-and a desire to attend to the feelings and interests of those classes which form the main strength of every nation far advanced in the career of wealth and civilization. The great duties of government can never be safely intrusted except to men who have gone through a similar training, and who not only understand the theory of the machine, but have a practical and experimental knowledge of the mode in which it works. The admixture of men, whose attention has been more directed to the science than the details of government, is, doubtless, a necessary ingredient, because an administration altogether composed of mere men of business, would, like that of Lord Londonderry, be one of shifts and expedients merely; but it is, nevertheless, by the experience of practical men that the best theories must be modified to suit existing circumstances and interests, and the soundest doctrines applied to the ever-varying aspects and relations of foreign and domestic policy.
It is needless to say, that, for some time past, the government of this country has exhibited a union of sound principle, practical skill, great liberality, and high talent, hitherto almost without precedent in its history; and that the happy results of this union are apparent in the increased prosperity and happiness of the empire, and in the commanding attitude which she has assumed among the nations of Europe. From the accession of Mr Canning to the cabinet, we may date
the commencement of a new era. The absurd restraints by which commercé was formerly fettered have been removed, and, under the superintendence of the able men by whom he is surrounded, the principle of free trade has not only been acknowledged, but reduced to practice, as far as the actual circumstances of the world will admit. By enlightened views of finance, the pressure of taxation has been lightened, while the revenue has been increased. The administration of justice, in which we are all so deeply interested, has been improved by the enactment of laws, which have been hailed with gratitude from every part of the empire, because the benefits that must necessarily result from them, in the additional security to life and property, are of a kind that come home to every man's business and bosom. In our foreign policy, the honour and character of the country have not only been upheld, but immeasurably in creased, by a diplomacy equally remarkable for ability, sound principle, and decision, tempered by rare prudence and moderation,-by a determination to maintain the just rights of this kingdom, mixed with a becoming regard for those of other nations. The Whigs, who are seldom injured by their modesty, take a sort of secondhand credit to themselves for the great and substantial blessings which have been conferred upon the country, by boasting that they have schooled the Tories into liberal principles, and that the latter are only now reducing to practice what they have all along recommended. It would be foreign to our present purpose to inquire what portion of truth may be contained in this often-repeated boast. It is sufficient to remark, that declamation is one thing, and governing a great country wisely and liberally another; and that the question with the public is not one of speculative originality, but
practical fact-not who first recommended, but who first carried into effect those beneficial measures, about the vital importance of which there neither is nor can be any dispute.
At the commencement of 1825, the country was in the full enjoyment of that prosperity which, in ordinary circumstances, must always be the fruit of a liberal and enlightened policy; and in that prosperity the agricultural and commercial interests partook in nearly equal degrees. The severe distresses experienced by the former two years before were forgotten; while the latter seemed to advance with an activity and energy proportioned to the increased facilities given to the deve lopement of capital and enterprise. Even Ireland, although generally backward in receiving or yielding to any beneficial influence, participated in the general improvement; and the alarming outrages, for the suppression of which, extraordinary powers were two years before confided to his Majesty, had so far ceased, as to warrant the suspension of those powers in most of the disturbed districts. In a word, had it not been for the premature and injudicious repeal of the combination laws, during the preceding session, the commercial horizon would have been without a cloud. As every man of sense had anticipated, however, the workmen instantly availed themselves of their newly acquired liberty to attempt to dictate the law to their masters; strikes became general; combinations were organized upon principles, and to an extent, which could not fail to be regarded as both mischievous and dangerous; a regular rent was levied, and an active correspondence maintained by the leaders of these associations, which, as they had now the law on their side, were regularly organized, and affiliated in subordination to central juntas established in the principal emporia of trade and com