« AnteriorContinuar »
FURTHER CONSIDERATIONS ON REFORM,
PARTICULARLY AS TO ITS OPERATION IN WALES.
In number xi. of the Cambrian Quarterly, we entered fully, although then merely as a statistical summary, into the clauses of that all-exciting bill for Parliamentary Reform which particularly affected the counties and boroughs in Wales. That Bill having been since rejected by the House of Lords, and the recess of Parliament, however short, having allowed the members of the great council of the nation, as well as others, a little breathing time to recover from the maze and whirl of distraction, into which men's minds had been plunged by the extraordinarily multiplied discussion on its merits, as well as the reiterated adulation and abuse that were by turns dealt out so unsparingly, both on the advocates and the opponents of the Bill; we deem it not out of season to offer a few remarks on the question, not in lengthened detail, but merely as regards the principle of reform, in the sincere hope that, before the publication of our Spring number, the question may be settled upon the basis of justice and sound policy; that the country may have resumed its tranquillity; and that the liege subjects of our excellent and open-hearted sovereign, may have been enabled to resume the loom, the ploughshare, and the pruning hook, free from the agitation, well-nigh approaching to convulsion, which has, for so many months, harassed and crippled every species of our national industry.
It will be recollected by our numerous readers that, in the outset of this work, the discussion of subjects of a political nature was not intended to form any part of our plan; for, although we were well aware that a periodical of the present day could not, generally speaking, be considered as complete in all its parts, if the consideration of the policy of the country were left out, still we thought that the decided majority of our subscribers would be necessarily inhabitants of Wales, the literary men in which country are remarkable the rather for more secluded studies, whether relating to religion, history, philosophy, or poetry, than for paying any great attention to the common run of passing events. We, therefore, studiously avoided troubling them with the latter, in order to lay before them a more ample provision of the former. But we have since discovered that, whilst we did our Cambrian friends no more than justice as to their literary tastes, we unconsciously derogated from that portion of patriotic energy, which they possess in as great a degree as any other subjects of the realm, and which, by the way, we never doubted they felt, but were not certain if they cared to express; we, accordingly, in a for
mer number,* were constrained to inform our correspondents as follows:
"It must now be stated that the proprietor of the Cambrian Quarterly has been both perplexed and annoyed, in consequence of the numerous and, therefore, influential communications, urging the introduction of politics into his work. In order to preserve good faith with his original patrons, he gives public notice, that the future numbers will, occasionally, contain political articles upon subjects connected with Wales; but in the arrangement determined upon, it is probable that violent politicians, of whatever party, may be disappointed.”
Thus much we have felt compelled to say of ourselves; and we will add, once for all, that, whenever any public question shall appear to us of sufficient importance or interest to merit the attention of our friends, we shall endeavour to discuss it with that calmness and temperance, at the same time with that candour, without which no subject can be fairly examined, and, consequently, no truth fully elucidated.
It is in this spirit, then, that we will briefly review the question of Parliamentary Reform, which is calculated so vitally to affect the country at large, and to be felt beneficially, or otherwise, amid the most remote and solitary situations of our mountain glens. Whether “the Bill,” or anything like it, be passed into a law, remains to be proved; but thus much is certain, that no spot of the kingdom, however retired,-no individual, however obscure, will be left unconscious of the effects of that searching scrutiny, that thorough examination of the state of the country, and its social and political relations, to which this question has given rise. Wherever peculation, fraud, and dishonesty have existed, so surely there will be applied, to use the language of Bolingbroke, "the caustic and the incision knife." Length of time will no longer be a protection to abuses, nor will malpractices be allowed to increase and multiply. In every rank and situation of the commonwealth, is heard the loud unsparing portentous thunder of popular opinion. The word “ Reform” is fearful in its sound, but still more so in its probable consequences.
It has sent forth its warning voice, trumpet-tongued, through the land; and, in the language of the immortal Robert Burns, seems to say to the whole empire what he said to Caledonia,
“Hear Land-o'cakes and brither Scots,
I rede ye tent it;
And 'faith he'll prent it.” Few are they in number, we believe, who will be found hardy enough to treat this call as a false alarm. Indeed, we have reason
* Cambrian Quarterly, No. 9.
to know that many of those who, a few short years ago,
would have treated the question of reform as an idle threat, or a thing calculated only to amuse the minds of the multitude, or frighten the imaginations of children, have already changed their estimate of its merits, and set about the consideration of this important question, seriously and heartily. In God's name, we say, let them proceed with their work; let them not pause among the fastnesses of the confusion which they themselves may have created or supported; but let them honestly and fearlessly lanch into the fair and open field of examination, where they may meet their fellowmen of all ranks and degrees, who are anxious to know upon what foundations the evils (for evils there certainly are, and great ones,) of the country have accumulated.
But whilst we advocate the cause of a wholesome political reform, both in its purest principle and its strictest practice, let us not be misunderstood. Although we assert, and are prepared to prove, that the system upon which the government of the country has been carried on for the last century, however good in its origin, has frequently been perverted in its application, we are not to be confounded with the demagogue and the leveller, who would throw down all distinctions among mankind, and destroy our best and noblest institutions. Far be this heinous sin from us; and, in the sincerity of our hearts, we would say, cursed be the man who would for any, no matter how great, advantage to himself or his party, compromise the wellbeing and happiness of that which we hold to be far dearer than our lives, “the land we live in.” If we should be ever doomed to see destruction and misery stalking abroad in those places where we had fondly looked for protection, peace, and happiness, we would, after exhausting all our efforts to oppose their devastating progress, exclaim with the illustrious Byron,
“Oh! land of my fathers and mine,
The joys and the hopes which thou gavest.” To many well-intentioned people, our language, as applied to a party comparatively insignificant, and whose importance is chiefly remarkable on account of its baseness, may appear needlessly severe; but we beg to remind them, in the words of an ancient act of parliament, that the evil of their pernicious doctrine “hath increased, is increasing, and ought to be abated." Such is not only the case in England, but the march of their opinions is spread over a large district of the Principality, where the retired habits of the inhabitants have not been enough to protect them from the infection of those whose business would appear to be that of going about doing evil; whilst, in the metropolis, we have had the political schools, if they can be so called, of Carlile, of Hunt, and of Wakley, we have witnessed in Wales the irruption of a horde of
little better than barbarians, who, having doubtless created a sufficiency of distraction in their own counties, have crossed the border of the Principality to sow dissatisfaction and dissention there. Unhappily, they have not been disappointed; for they have, as is well known, succeeded in metamorphosing, for a time, in more instances than we care to mention, the working classes among the Welsh, from industrious and good subjects, into idle, dissolute, and dangerous portions of the people. From Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Warwickshire, have these emissaries against social order been sent, by the different committees and clubs, whose directors seemed to fancy they had not experienced faction and disturbance enough at home, and, therefore, empowered a body of weavers, colliers, and ironmen, to make excursions of experiment, as it were, into our mountains, to try, by the ordeal of their own treason, the hitherto respectable and loyal conduct of the Cambrians. . How they, for a time, succeeded, and how, subsequently, their baseDess was frustrated, is well known; although not, we regret to add, without, in one melancholy instance, the necessary interference of the Yeomanry, that patriotic and truly loyal force, whose aid in Wales, we believe, no one has dared to assert has ever been unconstitutionally used, whatever arguments to the contrary have been urged in allusion to Manchester or Newtownbarry.
But we do not class ourselves amongst the phlegmatic and foreboding; and we will not, therefore, dwell upon a melancholy picture of the past, neither will we believe in the production of future political misfortune. We need not point out the absolute necessity of a reform, not only parliamentary but national, for it has been insisted on loud and often, though to know that we had assisted in effecting a purely constitutional object of such unspeakable magnitude, would be the proudest reflection we could experience; yet, whilst we would use our strenuous endeavours to this end, we would not the less exert ourselves against those hateful and senseless doctrines of equalization of station, and division of property, which are incompatible alike with the history of nations, the maxims of sound philosophy, and the wisdom of ages; and which are propagated only by the worst of mankind for the worst of purposes, Let us ask the country gentleman, if he would choose to be attacked in the home of his fathers, and driven out, as by barbarians of old, to seek his fortune as best he could? Let us ask the clergyman, the respectable and respected father of his flock, if he is prepared to acknowledge the right of any faction to deprive him of the fruits of his spiritual labour, under the pretended injustice of his demand for his own in the shape of tithes, and thus leave him a pensioner, or rather a beggar, in the hands of a desperate and sacrilegious
Respecting the disarming of a troop of Yeomanry, near Swansea, last spring, by a mob, we have always held the opinion that an inquiry should have been instituted.
mob? Let us ask the manufacturer if he will consent to see his property destroyed, the fruits of his industry wasted, by the very persons who, with their families, would have starved bút for the judicious employment of his capital? If the squire, (of course the farmer must rise or fall with him,) the clergyman, and the manufacturer are not prepared to go these lengths, let them rest assured they will never please the mobocracy, who, in the instance of Bristol for example,-instigated, no doubt, not only by the desire of plunder, but encouraged, if not paid, by men, more intellectual, perhaps, though not less ferocious than themselves,-achieved a work of indiscriminate, senseless, and brutal destruction, which has never been surpassed in the history of these kingdoms, in its most madly distracted times.
We could illustrate far more fully and strongly the principle of wholesome reform we would advocate, as distinguished from that purblind and mad misrule, which, under the name of reform, would trample upon all law, all authority, all justice; which would make our wives widows, and our sons and daughters fatherless; which would pull down the widow's house, and render the orphan an outcast, houseless and friendless: and which, once allowed to get the ascendancy, would not be arrested in its progress until the country became one scene of diabolical anarchy, when, to procure a loaf of bread for his family, each individual's “hand must be against every man, and every man's hand against his.” In the name of all we hold sacred, then, we call upon the higher and middle orders of the people to oppose theinselves fearlessly to this hydra of abomination; to use every effort to crush the hideous production, while yet only nursed in the lair of its detested procreators, as the only means of saving themselves from ruin, and the country from worse evils than we dare to contemplate.
We have been led away by the overwhelming importance of our subject; and although, on sitting down to our task, we laid before us a speech delivered in the House of Commons, during the last session,* by a gentleman of high rank in the Principality, and possessing that union of talent and principle which is so requisite for the successful advocation of any noble cause, we have proceeded thus far without doing the honourable member that justice which he deserves: if an argument were wanting, to prove the folly of violent party-feeling, we would adduce the excellent speech of Mr. Kenyon, in support of such our opinion. This gentleman is the scion of a noble house, from the head of which we have occasionally felt it our duty respectfully to differ upon public questions, and we had entertained the impression that the school in which the Honorable Lloyd Kenyon has been nurtured,
* The Honourable Lloyd Kenyon's speech in the House of Commons, August 18, 1831, in proposing that more representatives should be given to Wales.