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chievous “ Cave !” in one or other of these publications,hardly one vicious principle, whether of politics or morals, not denounced with a coarse and graphic phraseology far more dangerously exciting than direct recommendation ; for even the rudest and most audacious spirits love to cheat themselves—to palter with their own consciences, and, by misnomers and symbols and decorations, to hide the ugliness of knavery and theft and murder and rebellion, if not from themselves, from their neighbours. Upon the tone of
, those devoted to politics it is needless to descant. Every one who has grieved to observe how largely courtesy and sincerity are obscured in debate, who remembers what glaring contradictions must be reconciled, what extravagant propositions be defended for partizanship's sake, in our leading journals—will readily imagine in what manner the theory and the practice of political science will be presented by ignorant or knavish adventurers to readers, more qualified, alas ! from the imperfections of education, to feel hunger and cold and nakedness, than to reason upon the difference of ranks, or upon the impolicy of appeals to physical violence! Melancholy is the extent to which their passionate blindness is presumed upon by their guides. The Editor of one of these weekly publications, now imprisoned in one of our county jails for political offences, who the other day, addressing the women of England, wrote to them (to quote his own words), deprived though he be of the use of pens, ink and paper, included in this plaint less of contradiction and absurdity than most of his fraternity, when enlarging upon matters of far more imminent importance. A few may be found addressing their public with a crude and angry eloquence, born of the mistaken conviction, that among them and upon their shoulders lies the salvation of their country; but the larger part come under the denomination of those described in Scripture, “madmen who fling about fire, and say, Am I not in sport?”
Grievous would be this picture did it display the whole of the subject. But it must not be exposed and recommended to the attention of all dispassionate and benevolent thinkers, among our sages and law-givers, and authors, and journalists, responsibility, and bears more or less directly and weightily upon the class beneath him,-without an exhibition also of the remainder part. The same examination which compels us to lament the amount of poisonous and abominable trash poured out by the press for the consumption of the public, enables us also to enjoy the knowledge that a more healthy movement is simultaneously going on, which must in time neutralize and overcome an evil so virulent. As regards original creations, we are living in a time of all but barrenness,—with only here and there a glimpse of true poetry, to remind us that we have produced Miltons and Shakspeares, —with but a scattered essay or sermon, to stand in place of the noble testimonies uttered by the philosophers and divines of old. But we know that never was the press so active in placing before the people the master-pieces of our literature, the historical records of our country, in accessible and useful forms; that there was never so large a body of consumers of our really valuable classics as at present; and, we may add, consumers not merely of the works of positive and direct utility, but of those more recondite productions of human intellect,--fountains, as it were, opened by the loftiest minds, from whence those of a second order minister to those of a yet lower degree of intelligence and cultivation. The very papers whence we derive the facts just laid before the public, concerning the “ literature of debasement," in its lowest developement, announce also unhesitatingly, that the circulation of the cheapest miscellanies of wholesome and well-considered instruction, of the publications devoted to the mechanical arts, to natural history, and to the recording of such actions, past and present, as contain ennobling examples, exceeds largely the circulation of those odious publications which we would not bring to light by naming. While this remains to be the case,-in spite of the fever and ferment of the last forty years,-in spite of the real nature of criticism having been so long misunderstood among us,-in spite of authors of brilliant genius having flourished and passed away, without ever having dreamed of the high responsibilities of their mission,—we will not fear for the ultimate recovery and progress of the middle class from its present taste for the
those who have less leisure, less wealth and less education, shall utterly and finally abandon themselves to rapine and thievery and contempt of law, though they now flock by thousands and tens of thousands to gloat upon the picturesque daring of Jack Sheppard, and the frightful and stony-hearted villany of Jack's destroyer-Jonathan Wild!
1. Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committees of
the House of Commons on the State of Ireland. 1824
and 1825. 2. Reports of Commissioners on the Administration of Justice
in Ireland. 1826 and 1828. 3. Minutes of Evidence taken before the Select Committee of
the House of Lords on the State of Ireland. 1839. 4. Hansard's Parliamentary Debates for the Session 1839. The question of the continuation in office of a Liberal Ministry is one of vital importance to Ireland. An enlightened Government has effectually succeeded in composing the minds of the people of that country by the impartial administration of the laws, and is now anxiously looked to for such additional measures as are requisite to complete the good work it has so auspiciously begun. With Tory rule the Irish consider the old system to be allied, which divided the country into two parties, and gave all the privileges to one and all the burthens to the other. An extensive interest of property and education has grown up amongst the latter independent of its vast numerical superiority which must prevent the recurrence of any similar policy; nor do we think it would now be attempted. But, unhappily, there still remain many violent supporters of the old ascendency principles, who assert in public and in private the necessity of proscribing their Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen from the Constitution, and of depriving them of the privileges of British sub
It is very
and their discourses produce a corresponding effect on the minds of the multitude. They loudly proclaim that the bulk of the people have no respect for the laws, that they are prone to sedition, and their principles, moral and religious, are subversive of those regulations and destructive of those ties, by which society is held together. It may be, therefore, useful to consider whether the population of the Sister Isle have had experience of the administration of justice,-“ freely without sale, fully without denial, and speedily without delay,”—or whether their alleged hostility to law has not been rather directed against abuses and perversions of justice inflicted
them under that venerated name. natural for men who have long enjoyed the blessings of civil and religious freedom, to feel the greatest respect for those institutions by which their rights are protected ; and if a like feeling has not always existed amongst the Irish people, it ought to be remembered that it is but recently they have been admitted to a participation in the benefits of the Constitution.
The civil disability under which the Roman Catholics remained for so long a period after the Union, rendered the gentry of that body altogether useless for the purposes of government; and there could be no greater anomaly than that which was created by the Act of 1793, which conferred all but universal suffrage on the Roman Catholic people, but withheld from the upper classes of that persuasion, although possessing property and intelligence, the right of being returned to Parliament. Excluded from all share in making the laws, they had as little part in their administration. They therefore, not unnaturally, concluded that both parliament and the government were hostile to them. They felt that their rights were less secure than those of their Protestant fellow-subjects, and the tone of superiority assumed by the latter, particularly amongst the inferior classes, was a constant source of mortification and self-debasement.
As an appeal to the superior tribunals was a luxury which the Irish peasant could not at any time afford, his notions of law were chiefly derived from his own experience of its administration by the magistrates. Amongst the latter, a number of
which we allude,-men of little or no property or station, and sometimes of very indifferent character. They were in the habit of taking fees, independent of those that were legal, upon all business which came before them. Major-General Richard Bourke declared, before the Committee of the House of Commons on the State of Ireland in 1825, in answer to the question if such a system prevailed amongst the lower description of magistrates, that it was “very general; not only were “ fees taken upon all the business which this class of magi“strates transacted, but presents were received of various “ kinds, and labour was required from persons whom they “ patronized.” This labour he described to consist of “digging
potatoes, cutting turf, bringing home hay, and things of “ that sort*.” These magistrates, be it remembered, possessed a criminal and ministerial, and also a judicial jurisdiction. The former related to the imprisonment of parties for the purposes of trial, or holding them to bail, and the latter to the decision of tithe and other cases, and the infliction of pecuniary penalties on offenders, which they were enabled to impose under certain statutes. It was not uncommon
persons to be committed to jail upon charges of felony, to abide their trial at the ensuing assizes, and, after an imprisonment of several months, to be discharged in consequence of there being no prosecution, or as the charge against them was found to amount only to a light misdemeanour. In judicial proceedings it was a frequent occurrence for parties to travel a considerable distance with their witnesses, in obedience to the summons of magistrates, and to find on their arrival that the hearing was adjourned; and as these summonses, on which a fee was paid, were left blank with the clerk, and issued in all directions, it often happened that when parties appeared, the magistrates discovered that they had no jurisdiction in the case. It was given in evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the State of Ireland in 1825, that a criminal information had been, a short time before that period, filed in the Court of King's Bench, against the provost of a corporate town in Ireland, who had a regular scale of charges for admitting offenders to