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THE NATIONAL REVIEW.
ART. I.-ON THE JUST AND THE UNJUST IN THE
RECENT POPULAR DISCONTENT.
1. Papers connected with the Civil Service Reform.--Blue Book,
1855. 2. Manifesto of the Administrative Reform Association. 3. Speech of Mr. Layard. House of Commons. June 15, 1855. THE THE Periodical Press has many high functions and many
solemn obligations. To it belongs the duty of courageous bat temperate exposition of national grievances, and the ready reception, the conscientious sifting, and the cautious publication of individual wrongs. To it belongs the privilege of protecting the weak against oppression and rescuing the obscure from oblivion or neglect. It has to tear the mask from successful charlatanry, to expose incapacity where incapacity has been foisted into dangerous and unseemly eminence, and to denounce iniquity and corruption in those high places where only purity and principle should reign. It has to allay Popular passion when excessive or astray, and to moderate popular expectations when rushing into wild and irrational extremes. It is sometimes called upon to interpose to save victims as well as to point out criminals, to mitigate the severity of the sentence as well as to furnish evidence and insist upon a trial. It has often to plead the cause of high principle and of common sense in an arena where both are too apt to be trodden under foot. And, most frequently of all, are its efforts needed to remind legislators and statesmen of those great objects which are so incessantly smothered and lost sight of in the confused
multiplicity of small details and daily strife, No. I. JULY, 1855.
as well as of those golden rules of justice and of wisdom, whose voice is so apt to be drowned in the clang of party warfare and the gladiatorial conflicts of tongue and pen. The soldier's interest in the battle is concentrated on the charge or the diversion in which he is himself engaged; the general, engrossed in the plans for the campaign, thinks little of the purpose of the war; the minister forgets the sacred principles of wise and righteous statesmanship in the new political combinations which every day or every change makes requisite ;it is for those who stand aloof and apart, judicial but absorbed spectators, to watch that the great end be not sacrificed to the little means, nor the pure cause sullied by unhallowed advocacy, nor the white banner soiled by dirty hands or dragged through miry ways.
Perhaps, however, one of the noblest and most necessary, and assuredly not the least grateful, of the functions of the Press consists in separating what is just from what is unjust in popular discontent, and giving a definite expression and a sound direction to that general and well-founded indignation which would else be inarticulate, indiscriminating, and misapplied. National dissatisfaction is never groundless, but it is often ignorant, erroneous, and blind. “ Pour le peuple (said Sully) ce n'est jamais par envie d'attaquer qu'elle se soulère, mais par impatience de souffrir.” Popular discontent needs guiding as well as moderating Never mistaken as to fact, it constantly
. ascribes the evils it endures and observes to wrong causes, seeks their cure in a wrong quarter, and calls for vengeance on the wrong heads. Thus it is at the present moment. sudden strain and pressure upon all our institutions and in all our public departments has revealed to the startled country a state of things which was long ago clear enough to thoughtful and historical observers. Dark places have been irradiated, weak places have given way; by an instant of unwonted hurry and exertion garments that were always threadbare have been converted into haggard and indecent rags. Practical mismanagement and faults of system have come to light, in extent and in number absolutely stunning and confounding; and the surprise and uneasiness of the nation have been aggravated into positive alarm at perceiving, both in ministers and in Parliament, an apparent entire lack of that clear vision, that superior genius, and that commanding will, from which alone a remedy was to be hoped. Ministers spoke and acted not only as if they were unequal to meet the crisis and unable to supply the want, but as if they saw no perilous crisis to be met and no imperious wants to be supplied. And the House of Commons, though dismayed and angry, was irresolute, feeble, and con