Изображения страниц



with the momentary success of his It cannot but seem strange, that the little seheme, the noble lord never principle which Lord John Russell troubled himself to look beyond its thought most important while in oppomomentary consequences--he never sition, in office he comparatively' foronce recollected that the time might gets-the appropriation of the revecome when the falsehood would be nues of the Irish church was the great detected, and its originator exposed object for which he struggled--to effect --dazzled by the glitter of the emolu- this sacrilegious project, he obtained ments of office, he never once thought his place. But scarcely has he been of its inconveniences-his whole soul placed in his office, when he unacwas asborbed in reflections upon the countably changes his mind. The reform magnitude of the prize at which he of corporations, upon which no vote of grasped, and the triumph of the anti- the House of Cominons had been cipation of the Horne Secretary's place, passed, which never had been brought he never once remembered that when forward in the party struggle that he and his accomplices had succeeded, disgraced the commencement of the upon the strength of their unfounded present session, becomes suddenly representations, in displacing honester magnified into the first importance, and abler men, the country would and viewed from the position in which expect them to verify their statements the noble lord is now placed, those by producing those measures for the objects, which but a little while ago preparation of which they took so appeared so vast, have dwindled into much credit to themselves.

comparative littleness and insignifiSir Robert Peel, however, was displaced_the Melbourne cabinet To those who honestly seek the reconstructed just as it was constituted good of the nation, the objects which in November, with the exception of were of importance in April are surely the only individual who appeared to of the same importance now. The be in ignorance of their glorious mea statesman who is convinced of the sures of reform. With the solitary omis- national utility of a great measure, will sion of Lord Brougham, the members steadily pursue it ; and, whether in of it have been reinstated in place- office or in opposition, his efforts will they again receive their salaries, and be directed to the same end. But bestow the patronage of the crown. while the interests of the nation are Lord John Russell's statement is now permanent, those of a party may be subjected to an inconvenient test. very changeable and uncertain ; and Those measures which were ready in thus, while the conduct of the patriot November, ought surely to be forth- is steady and consistent as the object coming in April. But, alas, for the which he seeks, the policy of the parveracity of the noble lord-alas, for tizan is vacillating and variable as the the credulity, real or pretended, of interests which he serves.

The one the House of Commons, that acted on has nothing to embarrass his calculahis word it is now discovered that tions, as he has nothing to consider the measures which were alisolutely but his country's good, while the other ready in November, are still to be must take into his account all the perthought of and prepared. The house plexing chances of party contingencies, adjourns for an unprecedented space of and be guided by all the debasing contime, to meet the convenience of the siderations of party selfishness, altering new cabinet—and in this awkward his course, and changing his tactics, as emergency, hasty and bungling mea- the poor and paltry interests of party sures are prepared, to meet the exigen- may require. cies of the case-principles taken up We believe that the only object of without consideration, are blundered the Whigs is to retain office—the out into details prepared without care; desire of place is the only motive that and, after many procrastinations and actuates them. We have long been excuses, the leader of the House of led to this conclusion, and recent Commons lays upon the table an ill- events have confirmed our belief. considered and a worse digested bill Ever since the assembling of parliafor the reform of municipal corporations ment, the whole tactics of the party in England and Wales.

have had reference to this single end.

It may be worth while to review the land were not yet prepared for the course which they have pursued. sacrifice of the Irish Church-

Sir Robert Peel took office with the they then satisfy their new allies the declared intention of endeavouring to Irish agitators, by surrendering into remove every abuse that might exist their hands the official patronage of in the institutions of the country-to that country, and the grievance of do everything to adapt them not only the Irish Church is to be left untouched, merely to the advanced intellect of the while they may invent some measure age, but to the new state of ety of reformn upon which they may force which was created by the Reform Bill the Conservatives to oppose thein, -everything that in his honest judy- and then brand them as the supporters ment he could believe calculated to of abuse. This was the object with improve the efficiency of our institu- which Lord John Russell prepared his tions, he pledged himself to support. measure of municipal reform.

He Nor did he contine himself to profes- took up the subject for a party purpose, sions. All these commissions which, and he commenced to legislate upou it under the Whig government, had been in a party spirit ; and though he has proceeding at so sluggish a pace, were been disappointed in his design-quickened into new activity—measures though the Conservative opposition, were put in train for a more equable which he so anxiously expected, has distribution of the revenues of the not been provoked, or the popular English Church, a reform in which clamour on which he calculated, been his opponents had never moved a raised—though one party look upon single step, and Sir Robert Peel set his measure without alarm, and the himself in good earnest to effect those other regard it with a mortifying indifalterations which might promote the ference, this may shew the erroneousutility without endangering the exist- ness, but it never can disprove the ence of our institutions. The Whigs selfish factiousness of his calculations. determined to prevent him from laying It may be worthy the attention of his measures before the country--ihey all thinking men in the country, to calfirst declared that the dissolution had culate the real gain to the cause of interrupted the progress of reform, a reform effected by the factious expul. declaration which has been proved to sion of Sir Robert Peel. The only have no foundation in fact ; but which, two measures which the new ministry at best, could answer no practical end. will introduce this session, are the They then proceed to occupy the time measures of Corporation Reform and of the legislature with one of the a bill for the settlement of the Irish most absurd resolutions that ever was Church question. It seems now uncersubmitted to a deliberative body-a tain whether the latter will be brought resolution dealing altogether with on this session at all ;- but, first, of abstract, not to say imaginary, exist- Corporation Reform, some measure of tences; and which never would have this nature will undoubtedly become been brought forward if it had not law-not indeed the crude and illbeen in the anticipation of its being digested measure of Lord John Russell, opposed, and thus, by a series of ma but a bill embodying its principles and næuvres, dictated by an utter reckless- avoiding its many and grievous errors. ness to everything but the one object Now this is precisely what would have of gaining place—they succeeded in taken place had Sir Robert Peel condriving from the head of affairs the tinued in office, except that his meaministers of their sovereign's choice sure would have been better arranged, and resumed the position for which all than it is probable the present one will parties in the country had long since be, even after all the amendments and pronounced them unfit.

modifications, which in its passage Out of office they had directed all through the houses it will unquestiontheir energies to gain it-in office ahly receive. In the matter of Corthey frame all their plans with the poration Reform has clearly gained single view to keep it. They found nothing. Then as to the Irish Church, that the subject they had taken up in it is more than probable that this quesopposition would not answer their tion will also be postponed until a more ministerial tactics—the people of Eng- convenient time, but if it is not, Lord


Morpeth's measure will be simply Sir of England is laughed at abroad, and Henry Hardinge's, with the addition despised at home. of a clause for “appropriating” the But it is time that we should come

surplus* revenues-that clause will to the consideration of the great quesinfallibly be rejected by the Lords, tion of Municipal Reform. We repeat the bill will be returned to the Com- our conviction that the measure which mons without it, and it is very probable Lord John Russell has introduced, can that at the close of a long and weari- never, in its present shape, become some session, the bill may be either lost law. The interests involved are too sight of altogether, or if passed, it will complicated, and the relations to be be passed without the clause ; that is, adjusted far too intricate to admit of just as it would had Sir Robert Peel the measure being disposed of in a continued at the head of affairs. hurry. We look, however, with con

While the removal of the grievances fidence to the wisdom of Parliament of dissenters, the reform of the English to effect such alterations in the bill, church, the reform of ecclesiastical and make such additions to its enactcourts, and the law reforms which, ments as may secure the great ends under Sir Robert Peel's administration, of corporate institutions—the good would have been perfected this session, government of the towns in which under the Whig-radical cabinet, are they exist, and the correct appropriaindefinitely postponed.

tion of municipal funds to the benefit The following tabular balance-sheet of the community at large. We trust will exhibit clearly what the country that there is still so much of patriotism has gained by the change :

in the legislature, that in the conside

ration of this most important subjectUNDER SIR ROBERT PEEL PROM LORD John Rus- a subject involving more than any

SELL WE WILL HAVE other the good of the country, and A bill that would have An indefinite , postthe happiness of the people-all party satished all the mode. ponement of the dissen. rate dissenters.

ters' marriage bill. considerations will be thrown aside, À well-devised mea. An ill.digested plan and that men of all parties will set sure of Corporate Re- of Corporate Reform, ferm, based on a popo. arranged in a hurry, for themselves honestly and disinterestedly lar principle, and secur. a party purpose. ing good municipal go.

to consider how best the new munici.

palities may be constituted, so as to

No measure of Eng. guard, as far as it is possible for a legislaof the Church of English Church Reform. land, effected under the

ture to guard, against the recurrence of sanction of the heads of

abuses, and secure that the corporations the church, abolishing sinecures, and equaliz.

shall, by an impartial administration of ing incomes

An abstract resolution justice, preserve order within their jusettled tithes in Ireland, about some imaginary risdictions, and by an honest distribusecuring the rights of surplus.

tion of their revenues, minister to the property, and yet removing all

convenience, foster the trade, and give complaint.

The whole machinery encouragement to the honest industry clesiastical law of the law courts de of the people under their control. courts, arranged under ranged by putting the

These are the simple objects which the superintendence of great seal of England in the first and greatestCommission.

we desire to see effected by any legis. reformer of our juris. And no measure of lative interference with the charters of prudence - a reformer law reform. in days when Lord John

corporations; and for these objects was the panegyrist of

alone such interference is justifiable ; Gatton and Old Sarum.

Lord John Russell appears to think And to make up for the measures

that these ends are gained by a system of solid utility we have lost, we have of popular election, without any furthe satisfaction of knowing that our ther precautionary provision.

We national affairs are managed by such fear that the problem is not quite so men as Lords John Russell and Mor- easy of solution. Popular election by peth, and our foreign policy under the no means insures purity of administradirection of Lord Palmerston ; and tion; still less does it insure prudence that in the hands of men who are and discretion. Indeed we believe neither respectable in integrity nor that history will amply bear out the competent in talent, the government assertions that popular jobbing is of all

Vol. VI.


An efficient Reform

A bill that would have

causes of

A reform of the ec.



others the most shameless and corrupt. council go out each year-so that anPeculation indeed, appears to be nual elections will take place under the regarded as the prerogative of the de- provisions of the bill. magogue. Those who have won the

The mayor and burgesses are to be favour of the populace by flattering the incorporation—the common counthem, are, of all others, the most likely cil the directing and deliberating body to consider themselves privileged to —besides these, there are to be a town take liberties with their pockets. treasurer, town clerk, and in some

The uniformity of Lord John Rus- boroughs a recorder, all to be elected sell's measure is a strong presumption by the common council, with the exagainst its usefulness ; with the excep- ception of the recorder, who is to be tion of the division of the larger nominated by the crown and to be a towns into wards, the provisions are barrister of not less than five years' the same for the largest city, and the standing. most inconsiderable borough in the Two very important arrangements kingdom--and yet few will say, that are, the institution of charitable trusthe measures adapted for the one will tees, and of auditors of the borough ; be equally well calculated for the the funds left in trust to the corporaother. But even leaving out of the tion are very properly placed under the question the difference of circum- management of a separate board—we stances between a great commercial do not approve of the constitution of city and a small venal borough, we ap- that board, but the principle is good ; prehend, that it will be found, that there and all the accounts of the town treaare not merely local interests and local surer and the charitable trustees are circumstances, but local acts of par- each year to be submitted to three auliament, that must exercise a very per- ditors, two to be elected by the burplexing and disturbing influence upon gesses, and one to be nominated by the the particular application of any gene- inayor, ral measure of municipal arrangement. In boroughs possessing the right of But this is ever the evil of hasty legisla- holding separate courts of session, the tion, that circumstances are overlooked burgesses are all liable to serve as until the mischief, which a little cau- grand or petit jurors. tion might have obviated, is practically The parts of the bill which appear felt, when the remedy becomes, per- to us to be most objectionable we shall haps, more cumbersome and compli- endeavour humbly to point out. We cated than the inconvenience it re cannot enter at present upon anything

like a full discussion of this great quesLord John Russell's bill enacts into tion, but we throw out the following burgesses all inhabitants of the borough observations, more as suggestions than who have been three years rated for as comments. the relief of the poor. Whether this We do not quarrel with the extenbe not too extensive a franchise we sion of the franchise, but we think it will not now stop to inquire; it seems, necessary, very necessary, that in however, strange in those who profess bodies so popular and democratic as to remove all anomalies from our con- the new corporations will be, there stitution, to form enactments of which should be provided some checks upon the effect is in every borough to create popular power ; the bill does not even three different constituencies at once require any qualifications for a common each exercising functions which would council - man, or a mayor—a pauper seem to belong to the mass of the in- may be made the first magistrate of a habitants—the vestry regulating the town, if he can find a constituency of poor-rates—the ten-pound householders paupers to elect him. returning the members to parliament, In the new corporation there will be and the burgesses managing the muni- no body analogous to the board of

aldermen. It might be possible, by The burgesses elect a common coun- establishing a second rank of burgesses cil consisting of members of which the composed of the wealthier inhabitants number is to vary from fifteen to of the boroughs, and giving to these ninety-the common council annually the election of a board of aldermen elect'a mayor-a third of the common from whom the mayor should be chosen


cipal affairs.

by the common council-to form a In the clause which regulates the system democratic enough for all the method of taking votes, there appears useful purposes of popular control, and to be some strange indefiniteness which Fet giving to property that just influ- will admit of much dispute, as its proence which would operate as a check per interpretation. We do not know upon popular licentiousness.

whether the framers of the bill designed The indiscriminate confiscation of that the voting should be secret, but a the rights of old freemen we altogether construction might be very fairly put disapprove of; their rights might upon the enactment which would have be retained, as they were in the reform this practical effect--a paper signed by bill, to those residing within seven the voter is to be handed to the mayor; miles of the borough. We are not there is no provision made that this quite sure that it is well to take from paper shall be open to the inspection the inhabitants of the city the power of any one else—this would be placing of conferring, even upon strangers, the unlimited power in the hands of the freedom of their city—the custom is a mayor--we do not believe that this very ancient one, it is derived certainly was the intention of the framers, but from no aristocratic source—it be- the clause is liable to this construclonged to the republican institutions of tion, and the instructions as to the Greece and Rome; and even if an mode of voting should be much more bonoraryfreedom were to confer no explicit. civic right, it were a tribute worth The power of removing, at their paying sometimes to distinguished pleasure, all the officers of the corpomerit-a tribute, be it remembered, ration, is one that certainly ought not of which, in the new boroughs, the to be intrusted, without some restricpeople would be the source.

tion, to the common council ; nothing The abolition of the exclusive rights ever could be better calculated to give of trading is a measure founded cer- occasion for party manæuvring and tainly on principles of equitable policy petty intrigue between needy adven-the time is gone by when trade re- turers and corrupt councillors—and quired the fictitious protection of certainly no provision could be more monopolies at home; at the same time, adapted utterly to destroy in the boweser, it must not be forgotten, that officers all sense of independence, and on faith of these exclusive rights, large to minister in the councillors to that apprentice fees have been paid, and spirit of arrogance and pride, which property vested in trade. These in- is the besetting sin of all democratic terests may not have all the sacredness communities. of vested interests, but they may, per The discretionary power of granting haps, be worthy the attention of the or withholding licenses for alehouses legislature.t

is one that certainly ought not be left The frequency of elections is a very altogether to the councillors—at least great evil in the present arrangements the recorder, who is the only corporate of the bill -a third part of the com- officer totally separate from local son council are to be elected every politics, and the only one too for year. We do not see that this fre- whose respectability we have any quency of election tends to any good security, should exercise over the matend—and we are very sure that it will ter some control. produce much evil, by creating annually The clauses for furnishing an efficient in the borough, all the confusion and night watch, and municipal police, as dissension, and ill-will, that are insepa- well as we can form an opinion, upon rable from the almost personal excite- a necessarily hasty perusal, seemed ment of the electioneering politics of admirably calculated to secure these a small town.

important objects.

. Since these observations were written, Mr. Praed, on the second reading of the bill, has given notice of amendment to preserve the rights of existing freemen.

* It is but justice to observe that the attention of the public has been already called to this part of the subject, which seemed altogether to be overlooked, by the Morning Herald. The subject of these interests was fully and powerfully discussed in the columns of that excellent journal.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »