« AnteriorContinuar »
BLACKWOODS EDINBURGH MAGAZINE.
REMOTE CAUSES OF THE REFORM PASSION.
By the Author of “ Parliamentary Reform, and the French Revolution.”
GREAT changes in human affairs, the drop which made the cup overor great alterations in human charac- fow: Kellerman's charge, indeed, ter, never take place from trivial fixed Napoleon on the throne; but it causes. The most important events, was the glories of the Italian camindeed, are often apparently owing paigns, the triumphs of the Pyramids, to inconsiderable springs; but the which induced the nation to hail his train has been laid in all such cases usurpation with joy: the charge of by a long course of previous events. the loth hussars broke the last coA fit of passion in Mrs Masham ar- lumns of the imperial army ; but the rested the course of Marlborough’s foundation of the triumph of Welvictories, and preserved the totter- lington had been laid by the long ing kingdom of France; a charge course of the Peninsular victories, of a few squadrons of horse under and the bloody catastrophe of the Kellerman at Marengo fixed Napo- Moscow campaign. leon on the consular throne, and It is the same with the Reform another, under Sir Hussey Vivian, mania which now ravages the naagainst the flank of the Old Guard tion, and promises to inflict upon its at Waterloo, chained him to the rock inhabitants such a long series of disat St Helena. Superficial observers asters. The change of Ministers, the lament the subjection of human af. rashness and ambition of the Grey fairs to the caprice of fortune, or the administration, was the exciting casualties of chance; but a more en
cause; but unless they had found larged philosophy teaches us to re- the train laid by a long course of cognise in these apparently trivial preceding events, even their reckless ovents the operation of general laws, hands could not have ventured to and the last link in a chain of causes, fire it. Such prodigious innovations which have all conspired to produce as they threatened—such demolithe general result. Mrs Masham's tion of ancient institutions as they passion was the ultimate cause of proposed, would at once have hurled Marlborough's overthrow; but that any preceding government from the great event had been prepared by helm, and consigned them to the the accumulating jealousy of the na. dust amidst the applauses of the peo tion during the whole tide of his vic- ple. The voice of the nation would tories, and her indignation was but have been raised in execrations, loud,
VOL. XXXII, NO. CLXXXIX.
long, and irresistible; and the ap- sideration. Such is the weight of plause of the Jacobin mob drowned the argument against them, that it in the indignation of all the virtuous will admit of almost any concession, part of mankind.
and derives confirmation from the Even if it were true, as the con- most vehement writings in favour of servative party maintain, that the freedom prior to the fall of the Duke whole distractions and sharchy of of Wellington's administration. No the country are owing to the prodi- more emphatic condemnation of the digious and unnecessary addition Reform Bill is to be found than in which the government proposed to the sayings of Mr Fox in 1797, or make to the politidal power of the the speech of Earl Grey in 1817: no lower class of householders, still that more profound exposition of the would only, cenove the difficulty a principles of the conservative party step farther-back. For the question than in the History of Sir James remains, how has it happened that Mackintosh, or the Whig writings of twelve men were to be found in Mr Hallam. We have never yet Great Britain of sufficient rank, ta- heard the Lord Chancellor refute lents, and character, to construct a the masterly sketches of Henry cabinet, who would engage in a Brougham on this subject :. we have scheme of innovation so impetuous, looked in vain to the Lord Advocate and in the destruction of institutions for an answer to the arguments so sanctified by so long a train of recol- long and powerfully urged by Franlections ? That some of the Ministers cis Jeffrey : we have listened in vain, are most able men, is evident from in the speeches of the noble mover their speeches : that many of them of the bill, for a reply to the obserare amiable and good men, we can vations of Lord John Russell on the testify from personal intercourse: constitution. So rapid, so fatally that most of them are possessed of rapid, has been the progress of revogreat fortune is universally known: lutionary ideas, sluce this firebrand that they are all gentlemen is cer- was thrown into the bosom of the tain: that some of them are of old nation, that the conservative party and dignified families, is evident require now to refer to no other aufrom the classic names of Russell thority but the arguments and prinand Spencer which they bear. How, ciples of the authors of the bill a few then, has it happened that a cabinet years back, and they, in their turn, composed of such men should have are driven to the doctrines of the launched out in so astonishing a Jacobin and revolutionary party, manner upon the sea of innovation: whom their abilities, till they came that they should have engaged in into office, were successfully exerted measures which history will class, in refuting. in point of rashness, with the visions This moral phenomenon will apof Mirabeau, and, in point of peril, pear still more extraordinary when with the conspiracy of Catiline : that the character of the people among they should have been blinded alike whom this tempest has arisen is to the lessons of history, the dictates taken into consideration." It is a of wisdom, and the results of expe- remarkable fact,” says Turgot," that rience : that they should have for- while England is the country in the gotten equally all that the sages of world where the freedom of the ancient wisdom had bequeathed, and press has existed for the longest all that the tears of modern suffering time, and where discussion on public had taught: that they should have affairs has gone on for centuries in implicitly followed the footsteps of the most fearless manner, it is at the the French innovators, and periled same time the country in which the their lives and their estates, in a people have the greatest reverence course which had brought their mi- for antiquity, and are most obstiserable forerunners to an untimely nately attached to old institutions. I end ?
could alter fashions, laws, or ideas, This will appear still more extra- ten times in a despotic monarchy, ordinary, if the principles and wri. for once that they could be moved in tings of these men themselves, who the popular realm of England.”have urged on these disastrous mea. The observation is perfectly just, and sures, in early life, is taken into con- has been exemplified by the history