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most solemn notes of warning ringing in its ears, the country is on the point of embarking on a course of policy forced upon it by no pressing grievance, by no popular movement, by no necessity of circumstance, by no promptings of patriotism, by no convictions of conscience. The leading politicians who are going to consummate this great crime will, with scarcely an exception, agree to the truth of our representation; yet they show no symptoms of repentance or recoil :- knowing their course to be wrong, and fearing lest it may be fatal, they still proceed upon it with a cold and dogged resolution, simply because party feeling and party tactics have led them all into a false position, and because no one of sufficient eminence among them has the candour or the courage to recant his error and accept the humiliation of an honest penitence. A great and ancient nation, we believe in our souls, has rarely assisted at a guiltier or sadder spectacle.

It needed the combined action of much impolicy and of many weaknesses, of many unworthy motives, and of some unavoidable misfortunes, to bring us into so disastrous a dilemma. Nothing short of the unconscious conspiracy of three parties could have done so much; a party prepared to abandon its dignity, a party willing to abnegate its principles, and a party prompt to take advantage of the political weakness and the moral lapses of the two contending rivals. Let us cast a momentary glance backwards over the recent history of the question. In 1832, Sir Robert Peel gracefully and wisely accepted his defeat, and, as he said, adopted the Reform Bill as "the final settlement of a great constitutional question.” So did the country which had demanded it. So did the Whigs who had carried it. All that was statesmanlike in Parliament was in a manner appalled at the greatness of the victory. All that was practical and progressive in the nation thought only of using the magnificent and ample means thus put into their hands. When a few extreme and discontented politicians,—discontented, as Frenchmen are, simply because their views were not paramount, and they themselves were not omnipotent,-ventured to hint at further changes and a new machine, Lord John Russell, speaking the sense and feeling of his whole party, was one of the first to put them down and to encounter their indignation by the utterance of the word “finality.” But the outcry which the phrase and the sentiment aroused among Radicals and Chartists seemed to have staggered and dismayed a man whose peculiarity it has always been, that-having no popular instinct, but only a historical and aristocratic liberalism that for a while ran parallel with the people's wishes—he has never been able to distinguish between democratic clamour and public opinion. This “popular fibre,” as it has been well called, this innate sympathy with and comprehension of the feelings of the country, is about the most useful and necessary instinct a statesman can possess, whether in a free or a despotic nation; but it bears no invariable or natural ratio to the liberality or advanced character of his opinions. Many Conservatives have it stronglysome tyrants even—few Whigs. Louis Napoleon has it in unusual measure, and it is one of the great secrets of his power. Sir Robert Peel had it largely; so had Lord Chatham; so even had Pitt. Mr. Bright has it only scantily and partially ; Lord John has it scarcely at all. Therefore it was that, feeling himself weak, and wishing to gain strength; wishing, above all, to rally to himself in the hard fight and the enfeebled condition in which his party then found itself, the extremne section to whom his blunders had given temporary influence and numbers; wishing also, perhaps, to retain or regain his former position as leader of all movements in the direction of organic reform,-he, proprio motu, and consulting no one, astounded his colleagues and disturbed the country by announcing in 1851 that in his opinion the time was come when it might be advisable to grant a further extension of the suffrage. To this rash and unwarrantable declaration - unwarrantable as being the act of a trusted general who, without the consent or knowledge of his co-mates and superiors in command, surrenders to the foe his most defensible and most indispensable position must be attributed mainly all the subsequent agitation, and nearly all subsequent false moves. Is there any man now who, seeing the vast steps that have been taken in practical reforms and the removal of all real burdens, and the absence of any felt and assignable grievance, doubts that, but for this fatal declaration, a further reform would have been as remote and purely speculative a question as the abolition of the House of Lords?

A false step of this magnitude and this nature on the part of the leader necessarily entailed analogous errors on the part of his followers. At the subsequent elections adhesion to some further measure of Parliamentary Reform became inevitably, but inconsiderately, one of the stock professions made by candidates, and one of the stock pledges exacted by constituents. The word had been given by the commander-in-chief, and was naturally taken up by the rank and file. The constituents generally had thought little about the matter, and cared less ; but it had been hastily taken up as one of the banners and watchwords of the Liberal party, and thenceforth Liberal candidates, on pain of being considered renegades and Tories, were obliged to profess themselves Reformers. If a few of the more reflective among them ventured to doubt the wisdom of this


resurrection of a buried strife, they were soon made aware that unless they repeated the Shibboleth of their faction there was no hope of their success. They therefore accepted the orthodox creed and echoed the orthodox cry. Moreover, as was natural, they felt little difficulty in doing so. They had always been Reformers : the possession of power by the Whigs was owing to the great victory they had gained over their antagonists on the question of Reform; the old flag, as a matter of old habit, still floated over their heads in processions and on hustings, still waved from the windows of their committee-rooms, still furnished allusions to round a period or to close a peroration; -how should they not still, whenever called upon, profess and fancy themselves Reformers ? At least they knew that they were striving to be returned to Parliament in order to swell the ranks, support the policy, and maintain the supremacy of the chief who had just declared that he believed further measures of Reform to be desirable. We know how much we all (save the most thoughtful, and therefore the exceptional, few) are under the influence of old phrases, old notions, old war-cries, and the habit of facing old foes. Lord John said a year or two ago -amid the enthusiastic cheers of an inconsiderate audience, who fancied they were applauding a noble sentiment and an honourable constancy, and never gave a moment's reflection to the shallowness of the thought involved in the expression :-"I was a Reformer from my youth; I was a Reformer throughout my manhood; and now that I am old I am a Reformer still (Vociferous cheering.)". That is to say, “I was very hungry, and righteously so, before dinner; I had a splendid meal in 1832; and now that I have feasted I am just as hungry as before !" The platitude uttered by the leader was acted upon by his supporters throughout the country; and in this manner it was that every Liberal member of the House of Commons became pledged to a policy which, as discussion and reflection threw light upon the question, appeared every year both to him and to his educated constituents more and more questionable, and more and more perilous.

So much was the cause of organic change in a democratic direction damaged and discredited by the discussions which took place, both in and out of Parliament, on the Reform Bills of 1852 and 1854; so clearly was the artificial character of the popular demand brought out; so impossible did it appear either to lay hold on any serious grievance to be removed, or to agree on any sound or defensible principle on which a remedy could be applied; so strongly, moreover, had the influential tendencies of the national mind begun to flow in an opposite direction,—that the subject might have been surrendered or dropped out of life, had not

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the Conservative party come forward with their especial contribution to the sad catalogue of blunders,-a contribution perhaps the guiltiest of all, because the most deliberately and consciously unnatural. If, when Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli came into office in 1857, they had boldly embraced a firm policy and adhered to their ancestral doctrines, instead of meanly abandoning both; if they had elected to remain opponents instead of becoming competitors ; if they had been either farsighted in their policy, or firm in their convictions, or courageous in their integrity, and had refused to stoop to bid against their rivals in that ignoble auction, where the object was of such questionable worth, and the price so ruinously high,—then both our present dilemma and our menaced danger might, we conscientiously believe, have been staved off. But from the hour when they announced their intention of bowing to the popular demand, and becoming themselves Parliamentary Reformers, not only did the faith of men in public virtue receive a fatal stab, but the party of resistance to democratic pressure abnegated its functions, and declared itself defunct. Henceforward there was no Conservative party to rally round; the movement party became triumphant, not by defeating its opponents, but by absorbing them; antagonism was merged in scramble and in rivalship; and every thing became a question of time, manner, and degree. Had Lord Derby, on his accession to power, distinctly taken his standas in a permanent fortress, not a casual intrenchment, as a position in which he meant to live, and was prepared to dieon the ground of resistance to all attempts to democratise or Americanise our institutions, while proclaiming, not his willingness but, his determination to remove every real grievance, and to purify every rotten branch of administration,-his power by this time would have been gigantic, and perhaps even enduring. When all fear of being betrayed or abandoned had been set at rest by a bold front and a dignified and solemn manifesto, every political philosopher who had long trembled in silence, or warned and remonstrated in vain ; every thorough and true-hearted Liberal, who loved his country too well to wish to see it assimilated either to America or France; every old Whig, who valued the hard-won settlement of 1832 too well to bear to see it undone and upset by the settlement of 1858; every educated and nearly balanced constituency, repentant for thoughtless demands, and anxious to escape the consequences of their thoughtlessness; and a great proportion of those who now form the moral, social, and intellectual weight of the so-called Liberal party, whose sincere liberalism is undoubted, but whose recoil from democracy is more than suspected, would now have been the adherents or the colleagues of the Conservative leader. Thousands who fought


with Lord Grey in 1832 would have been fighting as zealously and as toughly for Lord Derby in 1860. We say it deliberately, and with much opportunity of judging, neither the Parliamentary Whigs nor the Parliamentary Tories have any adequate idea of the reaction in the political mind of the nation towards conservatism and against democracy,—a reaction which is silent and latent only because it has no camp to which to rally, and no leaders whom it can respect or trust.

With all these culpable blunders was combined a misfortune for which no one is to blame, but which yet is one of the most serious calamities which can befall a country, and one to which a constitutional country is specially and perpetually liable. We have three parties instead of two. The great rivals and competitors for office were so nearly balanced, that a decided victory was impossible to either without the assistance and adhesion of the third. This third party-insignificant in weight and numbers as compared with either of the others, incapacitated from forming an administration of its own by virtue of its unpopular character, of its narrow principles, of its social and intellectual deficiencies, as well as of its numerical weakness-was yet more actually powerful than either by virtue of its peculiar arthritic position. For in the political as in the mechanical world, the position held is often of far more consequence than the force applied. A child at the extremity of a lever can do more, can set in motion mightier masses and effect more terrible bouleversements, than a giant less favourably placed. At close divisions, as at contested elections, fifty men whose aid is indispensable to decide the victory, if only they have distinct aims and will hold together, become almost omnipotent, and of course quite dictatorial. They must be had; they can make their own terms; and they sell themselves to the highest bidder, i.e. to that party which will concede the largest amount of their demands, and abnegate the greatest proportion of its own principles in order to fraternise with theirs. But this is not the worst. These critically placed umpires do not always sell themselves to the same purchaser. On one occasion they drive a hard bargain with one of the rivals; on the next occasion they drive a still harder with the opposing party. And the more rapid the changes, the more frequent the crises and catastrophes, the richer is the harvest of concessions which they reap from the vehement desires and the infirm principles of the opposing candidates for power. Year by year, night by night, as Whig and Tory find themselves in severe exigencies, or in passionate excitement, the degrading process of sapping and dilapidation goes on apace; resolution after resolution is undermined, security after security is given up, entrenchment after entrenchment is abandoned, till


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