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Title: Miscellaneous Writings and Speeches — Volume 4
Author: Macaulay, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Baron, 1800-1859
Language: English
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Lord Macaulay's Speeches

By Thomas Babington Macaulay







It was most reluctantly that I determined to suspend, during the last
autumn, a work which is the business and the pleasure of my life,
in order to prepare these Speeches for publication; and it is most
reluctantly that I now give them to the world. Even if I estimated their
oratorical merit much more highly than I do, I should not willingly have
revived, in the quiet times in which we are so happy as to live, the
memory of those fierce contentions in which too many years of my public
life were passed. Many expressions which, when society was convulsed
by political dissensions, and when the foundations of government were
shaking, were heard by an excited audience with sympathy and applause,
may, now that the passions of all parties have subsided, be thought
intemperate and acrimonious. It was especially painful to me to find
myself under the necessity of recalling to my own recollection, and to
the recollection of others, the keen encounters which took place between
the late Sir Robert Peel and myself. Some parts of the conduct of that
eminent man I must always think deserving of serious blame. But, on a
calm review of his long and chequered public life, I acknowledge, with
sincere pleasure, that his faults were much more than redeemed by great
virtues, great sacrifices, and great services. My political hostility to
him was never in the smallest degree tainted by personal ill-will. After
his fall from power a cordial reconciliation took place between us: I
admired the wisdom, the moderation, the disinterested patriotism, which
he invariably showed during the last and best years of his life; I
lamented his untimely death, as both a private and a public calamity;
and I earnestly wished that the sharp words which had sometimes been
exchanged between us might be forgotten.

Unhappily an act, for which the law affords no redress, but which I
have no hesitation in pronouncing to be a gross injury to me and a gross
fraud on the public, has compelled me to do what I should never have
done willingly. A bookseller, named Vizetelly, who seems to aspire to
that sort of distinction which Curll enjoyed a hundred and twenty years
ago, thought fit, without asking my consent, without even giving me any
notice, to announce an edition of my Speeches, and was not ashamed to
tell the world in his advertisement that he published them by special
license. When the book appeared, I found that it contained fifty-six
speeches, said to have been delivered by me in the House of Commons. Of
these speeches a few were reprinted from reports which I had corrected
for the Mirror of Parliament or the Parliamentary Debates, and were
therefore, with the exception of some errors of the pen and the press,
correctly given. The rest bear scarcely the faintest resemblance to
the speeches which I really made. The substance of what I said
is perpetually misrepresented. The connection of the arguments is
altogether lost. Extravagant blunders are put into my mouth in almost
every page. An editor who was not grossly ignorant would have perceived
that no person to whom the House of Commons would listen could possibly
have been guilty of such blunders. An editor who had the smallest
regard for truth, or for the fame of the person whose speeches he had
undertaken to publish, would have had recourse to the various sources of
information which were readily accessible, and, by collating them, would
have produced a book which would at least have contained no absolute
nonsense. But I have unfortunately had an editor whose only object was
to make a few pounds, and who was willing to sacrifice to that object my
reputation and his own. He took the very worst report extant, compared
it with no other report, removed no blemish however obvious or however
ludicrous, gave to the world some hundreds of pages utterly contemptible
both in matter and manner, and prefixed my name to them. The least that
he should have done was to consult the files of The Times newspaper.
I have frequently done so, when I have noticed in his book any passage
more than ordinarily absurd; and I have almost invariably found that
in The Times newspaper, my meaning had been correctly reported, though
often in words different from those which I had used.

I could fill a volume with instances of the injustice with which I have
been treated. But I will confine myself to a single speech, the speech
on the Dissenters' Chapels Bill. I have selected that speech, not
because Mr Vizetelly's version of that speech is worse than his versions
of thirty or forty other speeches, but because I have before me a report
of that speech which an honest and diligent editor would have thought it
his first duty to consult. The report of which I speak was published by
the Unitarian Dissenters, who were naturally desirous that there should
be an accurate record of what had passed in a debate deeply interesting
to them. It was not corrected by me: but it generally, though not
uniformly, exhibits with fidelity the substance of what I said.

Mr Vizetelly makes me say that the principle of our Statutes of
Limitation was to be found in the legislation of the Mexicans and
Peruvians. That is a matter about which, as I know nothing, I certainly
said nothing. Neither in The Times nor in the Unitarian report is there
anything about Mexico or Peru.

Mr Vizetelly next makes me say that the principle of limitation is found
"amongst the Pandects of the Benares." Did my editor believe that I
uttered these words, and that the House of Commons listened patiently
to them? If he did, what must be thought of his understanding? If he did
not, was it the part of an honest man to publish such gibberish as mine?
The most charitable supposition, which I therefore gladly adopt, is
that Mr Vizetelly saw nothing absurd in the expression which he has
attributed to me. The Benares he probably supposes to be some Oriental
nation. What he supposes their Pandects to be I shall not presume to
guess. If he had examined The Times, he would have found no trace of the
passage. The reporter, probably, did not catch what I said, and, being
more veracious than Mr Vizetelly, did not choose to ascribe to me what
I did not say. If Mr Vizetelly had consulted the Unitarian report, he
would have seen that I spoke of the Pundits of Benares; and he might,
without any very long or costly research, have learned where Benares is,
and what a Pundit is.

Mr Vizetelly then represents me as giving the House of Commons some very
extraordinary information about both the Calvinistic and the Arminian
Methodists. He makes me say that Whitfield held and taught that the
connection between Church and State was sinful. Whitfield never held
or taught any such thing; nor was I so grossly ignorant of the life and
character of that remarkable man as to impute to him a doctrine which he
would have abhorred. Here again, both in The Times and in the Unitarian
report, the substance of what I said is correctly given.

Mr Vizetelly proceeds to put into my mouth a curious account of the
polity of the Wesleyan Methodists. He makes me say that, after John
Wesley's death, "the feeling in favour of the lay administration of the
Sacrament became very strong and very general: a Conference was applied
for, was constituted, and, after some discussion, it was determined that
the request should be granted." Such folly could have been uttered only
by a person profoundly ignorant of the history of Methodism. Certainly
nothing of the sort was ever uttered by me; and nothing of the sort will
be found either in The Times or in the Unitarian report.

Mr Vizetelly makes me say that the Great Charter recognises the
principle of limitation, a thing which everybody who has read the Great
Charter knows not to be true. He makes me give an utterly false history
of Lord Nottingham's Occasional Conformity Bill. But I will not weary
my readers by proceeding further. These samples will probably be thought
sufficient. They all lie within a compass of seven or eight pages. It
will be observed that all the faults which I have pointed out are grave
faults of substance. Slighter faults of substance are numerous. As to
faults of syntax and of style, hardly one sentence in a hundred is free
from them.

I cannot permit myself to be exhibited, in this ridiculous and degrading
manner, for the profit of an unprincipled man. I therefore unwillingly,
and in mere self-defence, give this volume to the public. I have
selected, to the best of my judgment, from among my speeches, those
which are the least unworthy to be preserved. Nine of them were
corrected by me while they were still fresh in my memory, and appear
almost word for word as they were spoken. They are the speech of the
second of March 1831, the speech of the twentieth of September 1831,
the speech of the tenth of October 1831, the speech of the sixteenth of
December 1831, the speech on the Anatomy Bill, the speech on the India
Bill, the speech on Serjeant Talfourd's Copyright Bill, the speech on
the Sugar Duties, and the speech on the Irish Church. The substance of
the remaining speeches I have given with perfect ingenuousness. I have
not made alterations for the purpose of saving my own reputation either
for consistency or for foresight. I have not softened down the strong
terms in which I formerly expressed opinions which time and thought may
have modified; nor have I retouched my predictions in order to make them
correspond with subsequent events. Had I represented myself as speaking
in 1831, in 1840, or in 1845, as I should speak in 1853, I should have
deprived my book of its chief value. This volume is now at least a
strictly honest record of opinions and reasonings which were heard
with favour by a large part of the Commons of England at some important
conjunctures; and such a record, however low it may stand in the
estimation of the literary critic, cannot but be of use to the

I do not pretend to give with accuracy the diction of those speeches
which I did not myself correct within a week after they were delivered.
Many expressions, and a few paragraphs, linger in my memory. But
the rest, including much that had been carefully premeditated, is
irrecoverably lost. Nor have I, in this part of my task, derived much
assistance from any report. My delivery is, I believe, too rapid. Very
able shorthand writers have sometimes complained that they could not
follow me, and have contented themselves with setting down the substance
of what I said. As I am unable to recall the precise words which I used,
I have done my best to put my meaning into words which I might have

I have only, in conclusion, to beg that the readers of this Preface will
pardon an egotism which a great wrong has made necessary, and which is
quite as disagreeable to myself as it can be to them.


Parliamentary Reform. (March 2, 1831)

Parliamentary Reform. (July 5, 1831)

Parliamentary Reform. (September 20, 1831)

Parliamentary Reform. (October 10, 1831)

Parliamentary Reform. (December 16, 1831)

Anatomy Bill. (February 27, 1832)

Parliamentary Reform. (February 28, 1832)

Repeal of the Union with Ireland. (February 6, 1833)

Jewish Disabilities. (April 17, 1833)

Government of India. (July 10, 1833)

Edinburgh Election, 1839. (May 29, 1839)

Confidence in the Ministry of Lord Melbourne. (January 29, 1840)

War with China. (April 7, 1840)

Copyright. (February 5, 1841)

Copyright. (April 6, 1842)

The People's Charter. (May 3, 1842)

The Gates of Somnauth. (March 9, 1843)

The State of Ireland. (February 19, 1844)

Dissenters' Chapels Bill. (June 6, 1844)

The Sugar Duties. (February 26, 1845)

Maynooth. (April 14, 1845)

The Church of Ireland. (April 23, 1845)

Theological Tests in the Scotch Universities. (July 9, 1845)

Corn Laws. (December 2, 1845)

The Ten Hours Bill. (May 22, 1846)

The Literature of Britain. (November 4, 1846)

Education. (April 19, 1847)

Inaugural Speech at Glasgow College. (March 21, 1849)

Re-election to Parliament. (November 2, 1852)

Exclusion of Judges from the House of Commons. (June 1, 1853)



On Tuesday, the first of March, 1831, Lord John Russell moved the House
of Commons for leave to bring in a bill to amend the representation of
the people in England and Wales. The discussion occupied seven nights.
At length, on the morning of Thursday, the tenth of March, the motion
was carried without a division. The following speech was made on the
second night of the debate.

It is a circumstance, Sir, of happy augury for the motion before
the House, that almost all those who have opposed it have declared
themselves hostile on principle to Parliamentary Reform. Two Members,
I think, have confessed that, though they disapprove of the plan now
submitted to us, they are forced to admit the necessity of a change in
the Representative system. Yet even those gentleman have used, as far as
I have observed, no arguments which would not apply as strongly to the
most moderate change as to that which has been proposed by His Majesty's
Government. I say, Sir, that I consider this as a circumstance of happy
augury. For what I feared was, not the opposition of those who are
averse to all Reform, but the disunion of reformers. I knew that, during
three months, every reformer had been employed in conjecturing what the
plan of the Government would be. I knew that every reformer had imagined
in his own mind a scheme differing doubtless in some points from that
which my noble friend, the Paymaster of the Forces, has developed. I
felt therefore great apprehension that one person would be dissatisfied
with one part of the bill, that another person would be dissatisfied
with another part, and that thus our whole strength would be wasted in
internal dissensions. That apprehension is now at an end. I have seen
with delight the perfect concord which prevails among all who deserve
the name of reformers in this House; and I trust that I may consider it
as an omen of the concord which will prevail among reformers throughout
the country. I will not, Sir, at present express any opinion as to the
details of the bill; but, having during the last twenty-four hours given
the most diligent consideration to its general principles, I have no
hesitation in pronouncing it a wise, noble, and comprehensive measure,
skilfully framed for the healing of great distempers, for the securing
at once of the public liberties, and of the public repose, and for the
reconciling and knitting together of all the orders of the State.

The honourable Baronet who has just sat down (Sir John Walsh.), has
told us, that the Ministers have attempted to unite two inconsistent
principles in one abortive measure. Those were his very words. He
thinks, if I understand him rightly, that we ought either to leave
the representative system such as it is, or to make it perfectly
symmetrical. I think, Sir, that the Ministers would have acted unwisely
if they had taken either course. Their principle is plain, rational, and
consistent. It is this, to admit the middle class to a large and
direct share in the representation, without any violent shock to the
institutions of our country. I understand those cheers: but surely the
gentlemen who utter them will allow that the change which will be made
in our institutions by this bill is far less violent than that which,
according to the honourable Baronet, ought to be made if we make any
Reform at all. I praise the Ministers for not attempting, at the present
time, to make the representation uniform. I praise them for not effacing
the old distinction between the towns and the counties, and for not
assigning Members to districts, according to the American practice, by
the Rule of Three. The Government has, in my opinion, done all that was
necessary for the removing of a great practical evil, and no more than
was necessary.

I consider this, Sir, as a practical question. I rest my opinion on
no general theory of government. I distrust all general theories of
government. I will not positively say, that there is any form of polity
which may not, in some conceivable circumstances, be the best possible.
I believe that there are societies in which every man may safely be
admitted to vote. Gentlemen may cheer, but such is my opinion. I say,
Sir, that there are countries in which the condition of the labouring
classes is such that they may safely be intrusted with the right of
electing Members of the Legislature. If the labourers of England were
in that state in which I, from my soul, wish to see them, if employment
were always plentiful, wages always high, food always cheap, if a large
family were considered not as an encumbrance but as a blessing, the
principal objections to Universal Suffrage would, I think, be removed.
Universal Suffrage exists in the United States, without producing any
very frightful consequences; and I do not believe that the people of
those States, or of any part of the world, are in any good quality
naturally superior to our own countrymen. But, unhappily, the labouring
classes in England, and in all old countries, are occasionally in a
state of great distress. Some of the causes of this distress are, I
fear, beyond the control of the Government. We know what effect distress
produces, even on people more intelligent than the great body of the
labouring classes can possibly be. We know that it makes even wise men
irritable, unreasonable, credulous, eager for immediate relief, heedless
of remote consequences. There is no quackery in medicine, religion, or
politics, which may not impose even on a powerful mind, when that mind
has been disordered by pain or fear. It is therefore no reflection
on the poorer class of Englishmen, who are not, and who cannot in the
nature of things be, highly educated, to say that distress produces on
them its natural effects, those effects which it would produce on the
Americans, or on any other people, that it blinds their judgment, that
it inflames their passions, that it makes them prone to believe those
who flatter them, and to distrust those who would serve them. For the
sake, therefore, of the whole society, for the sake of the labouring
classes themselves, I hold it to be clearly expedient that, in a
country like this, the right of suffrage should depend on a pecuniary

But, Sir, every argument which would induce me to oppose Universal
Suffrage, induces me to support the plan which is now before us. I am
opposed to Universal Suffrage, because I think that it would produce a
destructive revolution. I support this plan, because I am sure that it
is our best security against a revolution. The noble Paymaster of the
Forces hinted, delicately indeed and remotely, at this subject. He spoke
of the danger of disappointing the expectations of the nation; and for
this he was charged with threatening the House. Sir, in the year 1817,
the late Lord Londonderry proposed a suspension of the Habeas Corpus
Act. On that occasion he told the House that, unless the measures which
he recommended were adopted, the public peace could not be preserved.
Was he accused of threatening the House? Again, in the year 1819, he
proposed the laws known by the name of the Six Acts. He then told
the House that, unless the executive power were reinforced, all the
institutions of the country would be overturned by popular violence. Was
he then accused of threatening the House? Will any gentleman say that
it is parliamentary and decorous to urge the danger arising from popular
discontent as an argument for severity; but that it is unparliamentary
and indecorous to urge that same danger as an argument for conciliation?
I, Sir, do entertain great apprehension for the fate of my country. I do
in my conscience believe that, unless the plan proposed, or some similar
plan, be speedily adopted, great and terrible calamities will befall us.
Entertaining this opinion, I think myself bound to state it, not as a
threat, but as a reason. I support this bill because it will improve our
institutions; but I support it also because it tends to preserve them.
That we may exclude those whom it is necessary to exclude, we must admit
those whom it may be safe to admit. At present we oppose the schemes of
revolutionists with only one half, with only one quarter of our proper
force. We say, and we say justly, that it is not by mere numbers, but
by property and intelligence, that the nation ought to be governed. Yet,
saying this, we exclude from all share in the government great masses
of property and intelligence, great numbers of those who are most
interested in preserving tranquillity, and who know best how to preserve
it. We do more. We drive over to the side of revolution those whom we
shut out from power. Is this a time when the cause of law and order can
spare one of its natural allies?

My noble friend, the Paymaster of the Forces, happily described the
effect which some parts of our representative system would produce
on the mind of a foreigner, who had heard much of our freedom and
greatness. If, Sir, I wished to make such a foreigner clearly understand
what I consider as the great defects of our system, I would conduct
him through that immense city which lies to the north of Great Russell
Street and Oxford Street, a city superior in size and in population to
the capitals of many mighty kingdoms; and probably superior in opulence,
intelligence, and general respectability, to any city in the world. I
would conduct him through that interminable succession of streets and
squares, all consisting of well built and well furnished houses. I
would make him observe the brilliancy of the shops, and the crowd of
well-appointed equipages. I would show him that magnificent circle of
palaces which surrounds the Regent's Park. I would tell him that the
rental of this district was far greater than that of the whole kingdom
of Scotland, at the time of the Union. And then I would tell him that
this was an unrepresented district. It is needless to give any more
instances. It is needless to speak of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds,
Sheffield, with no representation, or of Edinburgh and Glasgow with a
mock representation. If a property tax were now imposed on the principle
that no person who had less than a hundred and fifty pounds a year
should contribute, I should not be surprised to find that one half in
number and value of the contributors had no votes at all; and it would,
beyond all doubt, be found that one fiftieth part in number and value of
the contributors had a larger share of the representation than the
other forty-nine fiftieths. This is not government by property. It
is government by certain detached portions and fragments of property,
selected from the rest, and preferred to the rest, on no rational
principle whatever.

To say that such a system is ancient, is no defence. My honourable
friend, the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir Robert Harry
Inglis.), challenges us to show that the Constitution was ever better
than it is. Sir, we are legislators, not antiquaries. The question for
us is, not whether the Constitution was better formerly, but whether we
can make it better now. In fact, however, the system was not in ancient
times by any means so absurd as it is in our age. One noble Lord (Lord
Stormont.) has to-night told us that the town of Aldborough, which he
represents, was not larger in the time of Edward the First than it is at
present. The line of its walls, he assures us, may still be traced. It
is now built up to that line. He argues, therefore, that as the founders
of our representative institutions gave members to Aldborough when it
was as small as it now is, those who would disfranchise it on account
of its smallness have no right to say that they are recurring to the
original principle of our representative institutions. But does the
noble Lord remember the change which has taken place in the country
during the last five centuries? Does he remember how much England has
grown in population, while Aldborough has been standing still? Does
he consider, that in the time of Edward the First, the kingdom did not
contain two millions of inhabitants? It now contains nearly fourteen
millions. A hamlet of the present day would have been a town of some
importance in the time of our early Parliaments. Aldborough may be
absolutely as considerable a place as ever. But compared with the
kingdom, it is much less considerable, by the noble Lord's own showing,
than when it first elected burgesses. My honourable friend, the Member
for the University of Oxford, has collected numerous instances of the
tyranny which the kings and nobles anciently exercised, both over this
House and over the electors. It is not strange that, in times
when nothing was held sacred, the rights of the people, and of the
representatives of the people, should not have been held sacred. The
proceedings which my honourable friend has mentioned, no more prove
that, by the ancient constitution of the realm, this House ought to be
a tool of the king and of the aristocracy, than the Benevolences and the
Shipmoney prove their own legality, or than those unjustifiable arrests
which took place long after the ratification of the great Charter
and even after the Petition of Right, prove that the subject was not
anciently entitled to his personal liberty. We talk of the wisdom of
our ancestors: and in one respect at least they were wiser than we. They
legislated for their own times. They looked at the England which was
before them. They did not think it necessary to give twice as many
Members to York as they gave to London, because York had been the
capital of Britain in the time of Constantius Chlorus; and they would
have been amazed indeed if they had foreseen, that a city of more than
a hundred thousand inhabitants would be left without Representatives in
the nineteenth century, merely because it stood on ground which in
the thirteenth century had been occupied by a few huts. They framed
a representative system, which, though not without defects and
irregularities, was well adapted to the state of England in their time.
But a great revolution took place. The character of the old corporations
changed. New forms of property came into existence. New portions of
society rose into importance. There were in our rural districts rich
cultivators, who were not freeholders. There were in our capital rich
traders, who were not liverymen. Towns shrank into villages. Villages
swelled into cities larger than the London of the Plantagenets.
Unhappily while the natural growth of society went on, the artificial
polity continued unchanged. The ancient form of the representation
remained; and precisely because the form remained, the spirit departed.
Then came that pressure almost to bursting, the new wine in the old
bottles, the new society under the old institutions. It is now time for
us to pay a decent, a rational, a manly reverence to our ancestors, not
by superstitiously adhering to what they, in other circumstances, did,
but by doing what they, in our circumstances, would have done. All
history is full of revolutions, produced by causes similar to those
which are now operating in England. A portion of the community which had
been of no account expands and becomes strong. It demands a place in the
system, suited, not to its former weakness, but to its present power.
If this is granted, all is well. If this is refused, then comes
the struggle between the young energy of one class and the ancient
privileges of another. Such was the struggle between the Plebeians and
the Patricians of Rome. Such was the struggle of the Italian allies for
admission to the full rights of Roman citizens. Such was the struggle
of our North American colonies against the mother country. Such was
the struggle which the Third Estate of France maintained against the
aristocracy of birth. Such was the struggle which the Roman Catholics
of Ireland maintained against the aristocracy of creed. Such is the
struggle which the free people of colour in Jamaica are now maintaining
against the aristocracy of skin. Such, finally, is the struggle which
the middle classes in England are maintaining against an aristocracy
of mere locality, against an aristocracy the principle of which is to
invest a hundred drunken potwallopers in one place, or the owner of
a ruined hovel in another, with powers which are withheld from cities
renowned to the furthest ends of the earth, for the marvels of their
wealth and of their industry.

But these great cities, says my honourable friend the Member for the
University of Oxford, are virtually, though not directly, represented.
Are not the wishes of Manchester, he asks, as much consulted as those
of any town which sends Members to Parliament? Now, Sir, I do not
understand how a power which is salutary when exercised virtually can
be noxious when exercised directly. If the wishes of Manchester have as
much weight with us as they would have under a system which should give
Representatives to Manchester, how can there be any danger in giving
Representatives to Manchester? A virtual Representative is, I presume,
a man who acts as a direct Representative would act: for surely it
would be absurd to say that a man virtually represents the people
of Manchester, who is in the habit of saying No, when a man directly
representing the people of Manchester would say Aye. The utmost that
can be expected from virtual Representation is that it may be as good
as direct Representation. If so, why not grant direct Representation to
places which, as everybody allows, ought, by some process or other, to
be represented?

If it be said that there is an evil in change as change, I answer that
there is also an evil in discontent as discontent. This, indeed, is the
strongest part of our case. It is said that the system works well. I
deny it. I deny that a system works well, which the people regard
with aversion. We may say here, that it is a good system and a perfect
system. But if any man were to say so to any six hundred and fifty-eight
respectable farmers or shopkeepers, chosen by lot in any part of
England, he would be hooted down, and laughed to scorn. Are these the
feelings with which any part of the government ought to be regarded?
Above all, are these the feelings with which the popular branch of
the legislature ought to be regarded? It is almost as essential to the
utility of a House of Commons, that it should possess the confidence of
the people, as that it should deserve that confidence. Unfortunately,
that which is in theory the popular part of our government, is in
practice the unpopular part. Who wishes to dethrone the King? Who wishes
to turn the Lords out of their House? Here and there a crazy radical,
whom the boys in the street point at as he walks along. Who wishes to
alter the constitution of this House? The whole people. It is natural
that it should be so. The House of Commons is, in the language of Mr
Burke, a check, not on the people, but for the people. While that check
is efficient, there is no reason to fear that the King or the nobles
will oppress the people. But if the check requires checking, how is it
to be checked? If the salt shall lose its savour, wherewith shall we
season it? The distrust with which the nation regards this House may
be unjust. But what then? Can you remove that distrust? That it exists
cannot be denied. That it is an evil cannot be denied. That it is an
increasing evil cannot be denied. One gentleman tells us that it has
been produced by the late events in France and Belgium; another, that
it is the effect of seditious works which have lately been published.
If this feeling be of origin so recent, I have read history to little
purpose. Sir, this alarming discontent is not the growth of a day or of
a year. If there be any symptoms by which it is possible to distinguish
the chronic diseases of the body politic from its passing inflammations,
all those symptoms exist in the present case. The taint has been
gradually becoming more extensive and more malignant, through the whole
lifetime of two generations. We have tried anodynes. We have tried cruel
operations. What are we to try now? Who flatters himself that he can
turn this feeling back? Does there remain any argument which escaped the
comprehensive intellect of Mr Burke, or the subtlety of Mr Windham? Does
there remain any species of coercion which was not tried by Mr Pitt and
by Lord Londonderry? We have had laws. We have had blood. New treasons
have been created. The Press has been shackled. The Habeas Corpus Act
has been suspended. Public meetings have been prohibited. The event has
proved that these expedients were mere palliatives. You are at the end
of your palliatives. The evil remains. It is more formidable than ever.
What is to be done?

Under such circumstances, a great plan of reconciliation, prepared by
the Ministers of the Crown, has been brought before us in a manner which
gives additional lustre to a noble name, inseparably associated during
two centuries with the dearest liberties of the English people. I will
not say, that this plan is in all its details precisely such as I might
wish it to be; but it is founded on a great and a sound principle. It
takes away a vast power from a few. It distributes that power through
the great mass of the middle order. Every man, therefore, who thinks as
I think is bound to stand firmly by Ministers who are resolved to
stand or fall with this measure. Were I one of them, I would sooner,
infinitely sooner, fall with such a measure than stand by any other
means that ever supported a Cabinet.

My honourable friend, the Member for the University of Oxford, tells us,
that if we pass this law, England will soon be a republic. The reformed
House of Commons will, according to him, before it has sate ten years,
depose the King, and expel the Lords from their House. Sir, if my
honourable friend could prove this, he would have succeeded in bringing
an argument for democracy, infinitely stronger than any that is to be
found in the works of Paine. My honourable friend's proposition is in
fact this: that our monarchical and aristocratical institutions have no
hold on the public mind of England; that these institutions are regarded
with aversion by a decided majority of the middle class. This, Sir, I
say, is plainly deducible from his proposition; for he tells us that the
Representatives of the middle class will inevitably abolish royalty and
nobility within ten years: and there is surely no reason to think that
the Representatives of the middle class will be more inclined to a
democratic revolution than their constituents. Now, Sir, if I were
convinced that the great body of the middle class in England look with
aversion on monarchy and aristocracy, I should be forced, much against
my will, to come to this conclusion, that monarchical and aristocratical
institutions are unsuited to my country. Monarchy and aristocracy,
valuable and useful as I think them, are still valuable and useful as
means, and not as ends. The end of government is the happiness of
the people: and I do not conceive that, in a country like this, the
happiness of the people can be promoted by a form of government in which
the middle classes place no confidence, and which exists only because
the middle classes have no organ by which to make their sentiments
known. But, Sir, I am fully convinced that the middle classes sincerely
wish to uphold the Royal prerogatives and the constitutional rights of
the Peers. What facts does my honourable friend produce in support of
his opinion? One fact only; and that a fact which has absolutely nothing
to do with the question. The effect of this Reform, he tells us, would
be to make the House of Commons allpowerful. It was allpowerful once
before, in the beginning of 1649. Then it cut off the head of the King,
and abolished the House of Peers. Therefore, if it again has the supreme
power, it will act in the same manner. Now, Sir, it was not the House of
Commons that cut off the head of Charles the First; nor was the House
of Commons then allpowerful. It had been greatly reduced in numbers by
successive expulsions. It was under the absolute dominion of the army. A
majority of the House was willing to take the terms offered by the King.
The soldiers turned out the majority; and the minority, not a sixth part
of the whole House, passed those votes of which my honourable friend
speaks, votes of which the middle classes disapproved then, and of which
they disapprove still.

My honourable friend, and almost all the gentlemen who have taken the
same side with him in this Debate, have dwelt much on the utility of
close and rotten boroughs. It is by means of such boroughs, they tell
us, that the ablest men have been introduced into Parliament. It is
true that many distinguished persons have represented places of this
description. But, Sir, we must judge of a form of government by its
general tendency, not by happy accidents. Every form of government has
its happy accidents. Despotism has its happy accidents. Yet we are not
disposed to abolish all constitutional checks, to place an absolute
master over us, and to take our chance whether he may be a Caligula or
a Marcus Aurelius. In whatever way the House of Commons may be chosen,
some able men will be chosen in that way who would not be chosen in any
other way. If there were a law that the hundred tallest men in England
should be Members of Parliament, there would probably be some able men
among those who would come into the House by virtue of this law. If the
hundred persons whose names stand first in the alphabetical list of the
Court Guide were made Members of Parliament, there would probably be
able men among them. We read in ancient history, that a very able king
was elected by the neighing of his horse; but we shall scarcely, I
think, adopt this mode of election. In one of the most celebrated
republics of antiquity, Athens, Senators and Magistrates were chosen by
lot; and sometimes the lot fell fortunately. Once, for example, Socrates
was in office. A cruel and unjust proposition was made by a demagogue.
Socrates resisted it at the hazard of his own life. There is no event in
Grecian history more interesting than that memorable resistance. Yet who
would have officers appointed by lot, because the accident of the lot
may have given to a great and good man a power which he would probably
never have attained in any other way? We must judge, as I said, by
the general tendency of a system. No person can doubt that a House of
Commons chosen freely by the middle classes, will contain many very able
men. I do not say, that precisely the same able men who would find
their way into the present House of Commons will find their way into
the reformed House: but that is not the question. No particular man
is necessary to the State. We may depend on it that, if we provide the
country with popular institutions, those institutions will provide it
with great men.

There is another objection, which, I think, was first raised by the
honourable and learned Member for Newport. (Mr Horace Twiss.) He tells
us that the elective franchise is property; that to take it away from
a man who has not been judicially convicted of malpractices is robbery;
that no crime is proved against the voters in the close boroughs; that
no crime is even imputed to them in the preamble of the bill; and that
therefore to disfranchise them without compensation would be an act of
revolutionary tyranny. The honourable and learned gentleman has compared
the conduct of the present Ministers to that of those odious tools of
power, who, towards the close of the reign of Charles the Second, seized
the charters of the Whig corporations. Now, there was another precedent,
which I wonder that he did not recollect, both because it is much more
nearly in point than that to which he referred, and because my noble
friend, the Paymaster of the Forces, had previously alluded to it. If
the elective franchise is property, if to disfranchise voters without a
crime proved, or a compensation given, be robbery, was there ever such
an act of robbery as the disfranchising of the Irish forty-shilling
freeholders? Was any pecuniary compensation given to them? Is it
declared in the preamble of the bill which took away their franchise,
that they had been convicted of any offence? Was any judicial inquiry
instituted into their conduct? Were they even accused of any crime? Or
if you say that it was a crime in the electors of Clare to vote for
the honourable and learned gentleman who now represents the county of
Waterford, was a Protestant freeholder in Louth to be punished for
the crime of a Catholic freeholder in Clare? If the principle of the
honourable and learned Member for Newport be sound, the franchise of the
Irish peasant was property. That franchise the Ministers under whom the
honourable and learned Member held office did not scruple to take away.
Will he accuse those Ministers of robbery? If not, how can he bring such
an accusation against their successors?

Every gentleman, I think, who has spoken from the other side of the
House, has alluded to the opinions which some of His Majesty's Ministers
formerly entertained on the subject of Reform. It would be officious in
me, Sir, to undertake the defence of gentlemen who are so well able to
defend themselves. I will only say that, in my opinion, the country will
not think worse either of their capacity or of their patriotism, because
they have shown that they can profit by experience, because they have
learned to see the folly of delaying inevitable changes. There are
others who ought to have learned the same lesson. I say, Sir, that there
are those who, I should have thought, must have had enough to last them
all their lives of that humiliation which follows obstinate and boastful
resistance to changes rendered necessary by the progress of society, and
by the development of the human mind. Is it possible that those persons
can wish again to occupy a position which can neither be defended nor
surrendered with honour? I well remember, Sir, a certain evening in the
month of May, 1827. I had not then the honour of a seat in this House;
but I was an attentive observer of its proceedings. The right honourable
Baronet opposite (Sir Robert Peel), of whom personally I desire to speak
with that high respect which I feel for his talents and his character,
but of whose public conduct I must speak with the sincerity required
by my public duty, was then, as he is now, out of office. He had just
resigned the seals of the Home Department, because he conceived that the
recent ministerial arrangements had been too favourable to the Catholic
claims. He rose to ask whether it was the intention of the new Cabinet
to repeal the Test and Corporation Acts, and to reform the Parliament.
He bound up, I well remember, those two questions together; and he
declared that, if the Ministers should either attempt to repeal the
Test and Corporation Acts, or bring forward a measure of Parliamentary
Reform, he should think it his duty to oppose them to the utmost. Since
that declaration was made four years have elapsed; and what is now the
state of the three questions which then chiefly agitated the minds of
men? What is become of the Test and Corporation Acts? They are repealed.
By whom? By the right honourable Baronet. What has become of the
Catholic disabilities? They are removed. By whom? By the right
honourable Baronet. The question of Parliamentary Reform is still
behind. But signs, of which it is impossible to misconceive the import,
do most clearly indicate that unless that question also be speedily
settled, property, and order, and all the institutions of this great
monarchy, will be exposed to fearful peril. Is it possible that
gentlemen long versed in high political affairs cannot read these signs?
Is it possible that they can really believe that the Representative
system of England, such as it now is, will last to the year 1860? If
not, for what would they have us wait? Would they have us wait merely
that we may show to all the world how little we have profited by our own
recent experience?--Would they have us wait, that we may once again hit
the exact point where we can neither refuse with authority, nor
concede with grace? Would they have us wait, that the numbers of the
discontented party may become larger, its demands higher, its feelings
more acrimonious, its organisation more complete? Would they have us
wait till the whole tragicomedy of 1827 has been acted over again?
till they have been brought into office by a cry of 'No Reform,' to be
reformers, as they were once before brought into office by a cry of
'No Popery,' to be emancipators? Have they obliterated from their
minds--gladly, perhaps, would some among them obliterate from their
minds--the transactions of that year? And have they forgotten all the
transactions of the succeeding year? Have they forgotten how the spirit
of liberty in Ireland, debarred from its natural outlet, found a vent
by forbidden passages? Have they forgotten how we were forced to indulge
the Catholics in all the license of rebels, merely because we chose
to withhold from them the liberties of subjects? Do they wait for
associations more formidable than that of the Corn Exchange, for
contributions larger than the Rent, for agitators more violent than
those who, three years ago, divided with the King and the Parliament
the sovereignty of Ireland? Do they wait for that last and most dreadful
paroxysm of popular rage, for that last and most cruel test of military
fidelity? Let them wait, if their past experience shall induce them to
think that any high honour or any exquisite pleasure is to be obtained
by a policy like this. Let them wait, if this strange and fearful
infatuation be indeed upon them, that they should not see with their
eyes, or hear with their ears, or understand with their heart. But let
us know our interest and our duty better. Turn where we may, within,
around, the voice of great events is proclaiming to us, Reform, that
you may preserve. Now, therefore, while everything at home and abroad
forebodes ruin to those who persist in a hopeless struggle against the
spirit of the age, now, while the crash of the proudest throne of the
Continent is still resounding in our ears, now, while the roof of a
British palace affords an ignominious shelter to the exiled heir of
forty kings, now, while we see on every side ancient institutions
subverted, and great societies dissolved, now, while the heart of
England is still sound, now, while old feelings and old associations
retain a power and a charm which may too soon pass away, now, in this
your accepted time, now, in this your day of salvation, take counsel,
not of prejudice, not of party spirit, not of the ignominious pride of
a fatal consistency, but of history, of reason, of the ages which are
past, of the signs of this most portentous time. Pronounce in a
manner worthy of the expectation with which this great debate has been
anticipated, and of the long remembrance which it will leave behind.
Renew the youth of the State. Save property, divided against itself.
Save the multitude, endangered by its own unpopular power. Save the
greatest, and fairest, and most highly civilised community that ever
existed, from calamities which may in a few days sweep away all the rich
heritage of so many ages of wisdom and glory. The danger is terrible.
The time is short. If this bill should be rejected, I pray to God that
none of those who concur in rejecting it may ever remember their votes
with unavailing remorse, amidst the wreck of laws, the confusion of
ranks, the spoliation of property, and the dissolution of social order.



On Tuesday, the fourth of July, 1831, Lord John Russell moved the second
reading of the Bill to amend the representation of the people in England
and Wales. Sir John Walsh, member for Sudbury, moved, as an amendment,
that the bill should be read that day six months. After a discussion,
which lasted three nights, the amendment was rejected by 367 votes to
231, and the original motion was carried. The following Speech was made
on the second night of the debate.

Nobody, Sir, who has watched the course of the debate can have failed to
observe that the gentlemen who oppose this bill have chiefly relied on
a preliminary objection, which it is necessary to clear away before we
proceed to examine whether the proposed changes in our representative
system would or would not be improvements. The elective franchise,
we are told, is private property. It belongs to this freeman, to that
potwalloper, to the owner of this house, to the owner of that old wall;
and you have no more right to take it away without compensation than to
confiscate the dividends of a fundholder or the rents of a landholder.

Now, Sir, I admit that, if this objection be well founded, it is
decisive against the plan of Reform which has been submitted to us. If
the franchise be really private property, we have no more right to take
members away from Gatton because Gatton is small, and to give them to
Manchester because Manchester is large, than Cyrus, in the old story,
had to take away the big coat from the little boy and to put it on the
big boy. In no case, and under no pretext however specious, would I take
away from any member of the community anything which is of the nature
of property, without giving him full compensation. But I deny that the
elective franchise is of the nature of property; and I believe that, on
this point, I have with me all reason, all precedent, and all authority.
This at least is certain, that, if disfranchisement really be robbery,
the representative system which now exists is founded on robbery. How
was the franchise in the English counties fixed? By the act of Henry
the Sixth, which disfranchised tens of thousands of electors who had not
forty shilling freeholds. Was that robbery? How was the franchise in
the Irish counties fixed? By the act of George the Fourth, which
disfranchised tens of thousands of electors who had not ten pound
freeholds. Was that robbery? Or was the great parliamentary reform made
by Oliver Cromwell ever designated as robbery, even by those who most
abhorred his name? Everybody knows that the unsparing manner in which he
disfranchised small boroughs was emulously applauded, by royalists, who
hated him for having pulled down one dynasty, and by republicans, who
hated him for having founded another. Take Sir Harry Vane and Lord
Clarendon, both wise men, both, I believe, in the main, honest men, but
as much opposed to each other in politics as wise and honest men
could be. Both detested Oliver; yet both approved of Oliver's plan of
parliamentary reform. They grieved only that so salutary a change should
have been made by an usurper. Vane wished it to have been made by the
Rump; Clarendon wished it to be made by the King. Clarendon's language
on this subject is most remarkable. For he was no rash innovator.
The bias of his mind was altogether on the side of antiquity and
prescription. Yet he describes that great disfranchisement of boroughs
as an improvement fit to be made in a more warrantable method and at a
better time. This is that better time. What Cromwell attempted to effect
by an usurped authority, in a country which had lately been convulsed
by civil war, and which was with difficulty kept in a state of sullen
tranquillity by military force, it has fallen to our lot to accomplish
in profound peace, and under the rule of a prince whose title is
unquestioned, whose office is reverenced, and whose person is beloved.
It is easy to conceive with what scorn and astonishment Clarendon would
have heard it said that the reform which seemed to him so obviously just
and reasonable that he praised it, even when made by a regicide, could
not, without the grossest iniquity, be made even by a lawful King and a
lawful Parliament.

Sir, in the name of the institution of property, of that great
institution, for the sake of which, chiefly, all other institutions
exist, of that great institution to which we owe all knowledge, all
commerce, all industry, all civilisation, all that makes us to differ
from the tattooed savages of the Pacific Ocean, I protest against the
pernicious practice of ascribing to that which is not property the
sanctity which belongs to property alone. If, in order to save political
abuses from that fate with which they are threatened by the public
hatred, you claim for them the immunities of property, you must expect
that property will be regarded with some portion of the hatred which is
excited by political abuses. You bind up two very different things, in
the hope that they may stand together. Take heed that they do not fall
together. You tell the people that it is as unjust to disfranchise a
great lord's nomination borough as to confiscate his estate. Take heed
that you do not succeed in convincing weak and ignorant minds that there
is no more injustice in confiscating his estate than in disfranchising
his borough. That this is no imaginary danger, your own speeches in this
debate abundantly prove. You begin by ascribing to the franchises of Old
Sarum the sacredness of property; and you end, naturally enough, I
must own, by treating the rights of property as lightly as I should be
inclined to treat the franchises of Old Sarum. When you are reminded
that you voted, only two years ago, for disfranchising great numbers of
freeholders in Ireland, and when you are asked how, on the principles
which you now profess, you can justify that vote, you answer very
coolly, "no doubt that was confiscation. No doubt we took away from the
peasants of Munster and Connaught, without giving them a farthing of
compensation, that which was as much their property as their pigs or
their frieze coats. But we did it for the public good. We were pressed
by a great State necessity." Sir, if that be an answer, we too may plead
that we too have the public good in view, and that we are pressed by a
great State necessity. But I shall resort to no such plea. It fills me
with indignation and alarm to hear grave men avow what they own to be
downright robbery, and justify that robbery on the ground of political
convenience. No, Sir, there is one way, and only one way, in which those
gentlemen who voted for the disfranchising Act of 1829 can clear their
fame. Either they have no defence, or their defence must be this;
that the elective franchise is not of the nature of property, and that
therefore disfranchisement is not spoliation.

Having disposed, as I think, of the question of right, I come to the
question of expediency. I listened, Sir, with much interest and pleasure
to a noble Lord who spoke for the first time in this debate. (Lord
Porchester.) But I must own that he did not succeed in convincing me
that there is any real ground for the fears by which he is tormented.
He gave us a history of France since the Restoration. He told us of the
violent ebbs and flows of public feeling in that country. He told us
that the revolutionary party was fast rising to ascendency while M. De
Cazes was minister; that then came a violent reaction in favour of the
monarchy and the priesthood; that then the revolutionary party again
became dominant; that there had been a change of dynasty; and that the
Chamber of Peers had ceased to be a hereditary body. He then predicted,
if I understood him rightly, that, if we pass this bill, we shall
suffer all that France has suffered; that we shall have violent contests
between extreme parties, a revolution, and an abolition of the House of
Lords. I might, perhaps, dispute the accuracy of some parts of the noble
Lord's narrative. But I deny that his narrative, accurate or inaccurate,
is relevant. I deny that there is any analogy between the state of
France and the state of England. I deny that there is here any
great party which answers either to the revolutionary or to the
counter-revolutionary party in France. I most emphatically deny that
there is any resemblance in the character, and that there is likely to
be any resemblance in the fate, of the two Houses of Peers. I always
regarded the hereditary Chamber established by Louis the Eighteenth
as an institution which could not last. It was not in harmony with the
state of property; it was not in harmony with the public feeling; it
had neither the strength which is derived from wealth, nor the strength
which is derived from prescription. It was despised as plebeian by
the ancient nobility. It was hated as patrician by the democrats. It
belonged neither to the old France nor to the new France. It was a mere
exotic transplanted from our island. Here it had struck its roots deep,
and having stood during ages, was still green and vigorous. But it
languished in the foreign soil and the foreign air, and was blown
down by the first storm. It will be no such easy task to uproot the
aristocracy of England.

With much more force, at least with much more plausibility, the noble
Lord and several other members on the other side of the House have
argued against the proposed Reform on the ground that the existing
system has worked well. How great a country, they say, is ours! How
eminent in wealth and knowledge, in arts and arms! How much admired! How
much envied! Is it possible to believe that we have become what we are
under a bad government! And, if we have a good government, why alter
it? Now, Sir, I am very far from denying that England is great, and
prosperous, and highly civilised. I am equally far from denying that she
owes much of her greatness, of her prosperity, and of her civilisation
to her form of government. But is no nation ever to reform its
institutions because it has made great progress under those
institutions? Why, Sir, the progress is the very thing which makes the
reform absolutely necessary. The Czar Peter, we all know, did much for
Russia. But for his rude genius and energy, that country might have
still been utterly barbarous. Yet would it be reasonable to say that
the Russian people ought always, to the end of time, to be despotically
governed, because the Czar Peter was a despot? Let us remember that the
government and the society act and react on each other. Sometimes
the government is in advance of the society, and hurries the society
forward. So urged, the society gains on the government, comes up with
the government, outstrips the government, and begins to insist that the
government shall make more speed. If the government is wise, it will
yield to that just and natural demand. The great cause of revolutions
is this, that while nations move onward, constitutions stand still. The
peculiar happiness of England is that here, through many generations,
the constitution has moved onward with the nation. Gentlemen have told
us, that the most illustrious foreigners have, in every age, spoken
with admiration of the English constitution. Comines, they say, in the
fifteenth century, extolled the English constitution as the best in the
world. Montesquieu, in the eighteenth century, extolled it as the best
in the world. And would it not be madness in us to throw away what
such men thought the most precious of all our blessings? But was the
constitution which Montesquieu praised the same with the constitution
which Comines praised? No, Sir; if it had been so, Montesquieu never
would have praised it. For how was it possible that a polity which
exactly suited the subjects of Edward the Fourth should have exactly
suited the subjects of George the Second? The English have, it is true,
long been a great and a happy people. But they have been great and happy
because their history has been the history of a succession of timely
reforms. The Great Charter, the assembling of the first House of
Commons, the Petition of Right, the Declaration of Right, the Bill which
is now on our table, what are they all but steps in one great progress?
To every one of those steps the same objections might have been made
which we heard to-night, "You are better off than your neighbours are.
You are better off than your fathers were. Why can you not leave well

How copiously might a Jacobite orator have harangued on this topic
in the Convention of 1688! "Why make a change of dynasty? Why trouble
ourselves to devise new securities for our laws and liberties? See what
a nation we are. See how population and wealth have increased since what
you call the good old times of Queen Elizabeth. You cannot deny that the
country has been more prosperous under the kings of the House of Stuart
than under any of their predecessors. Keep that House, then, and be
thankful." Just such is the reasoning of the opponents of this
bill. They tell us that we are an ungrateful people, and that, under
institutions from which we have derived inestimable benefits, we are
more discontented than the slaves of the Dey of Tripoli. Sir, if we had
been slaves of the Dey of Tripoli, we should have been too much sunk
in intellectual and moral degradation to be capable of the rational and
manly discontent of freemen. It is precisely because our institutions
are so good that we are not perfectly contended with them; for they have
educated us into a capacity for enjoying still better institutions. That
the English Government has generally been in advance of almost all other
governments is true. But it is equally true that the English nation is,
and has during some time been, in advance of the English Government. One
plain proof of this is, that nothing is so ill made in our island as
the laws. In all those things which depend on the intelligence, the
knowledge, the industry, the energy of individuals, or of voluntary
combinations of individuals, this country stands pre-eminent among all
the countries of the world, ancient and modern. But in those things
which it belongs to the State to direct, we have no such claim to
superiority. Our fields are cultivated with a skill unknown elsewhere,
with a skill which has extorted rich harvests from moors and morasses.
Our houses are filled with conveniences which the kings of former times
might have envied. Our bridges, our canals, our roads, our modes of
communication, fill every stranger with wonder. Nowhere are manufactures
carried to such perfection. Nowhere is so vast a mass of mechanical
power collected. Nowhere does man exercise such a dominion over matter.
These are the works of the nation. Compare them with the works of the
rulers of the nation. Look at the criminal law, at the civil law, at the
modes of conveying lands, at the modes of conducting actions. It is by
these things that we must judge of our legislators, just as we judge
of our manufacturers by the cotton goods and the cutlery which they
produce, just as we judge of our engineers by the suspension bridges,
the tunnels, the steam carriages which they construct. Is, then,
the machinery by which justice is administered framed with the same
exquisite skill which is found in other kinds of machinery? Can there
be a stronger contrast than that which exists between the beauty, the
completeness, the speed, the precision with which every process is
performed in our factories, and the awkwardness, the rudeness, the
slowness, the uncertainty of the apparatus by which offences are
punished and rights vindicated? Look at the series of penal statutes,
the most bloody and the most inefficient in the world, at the puerile
fictions which make every declaration and every plea unintelligible both
to plaintiff and defendant, at the mummery of fines and recoveries, at
the chaos of precedents, at the bottomless pit of Chancery. Surely we
see the barbarism of the thirteenth century and the highest civilisation
of the nineteenth century side by side; and we see that the barbarism
belongs to the government, and the civilisation to the people.

This is a state of things which cannot last. If it be not terminated by
wisdom, it will be terminated by violence. A time has come at which it
is not merely desirable, but indispensable to the public safety, that
the government should be brought into harmony with the people; and it
is because this bill seems to me likely to bring the government into
harmony with the people, that I feel it to be my duty to give my hearty
support to His Majesty's Ministers.

We have been told, indeed, that this is not the plan of Reform which the
nation asked for. Be it so. But you cannot deny that it is the plan of
Reform which the nation has accepted. That, though differing in many
respects from what was asked, it has been accepted with transports
of joy and gratitude, is a decisive proof of the wisdom of timely
concession. Never in the history of the world was there so signal an
example of that true statesmanship, which, at once animating and gently
curbing the honest enthusiasm of millions, guides it safely and steadily
to a happy goal. It is not strange, that when men are refused what is
reasonable, they should demand what is unreasonable. It is not strange
that, when they find that their opinion is contemned and neglected by
the Legislature, they should lend a too favourable ear to worthless
agitators. We have seen how discontent may be produced. We have seen,
too, how it may be appeased. We have seen that the true source of the
power of demagogues is the obstinacy of rulers, and that a liberal
Government makes a conservative people. Early in the last session, the
First Minister of the Crown declared that he would consent to no
Reform; that he thought our representative system, just as it stood, the
masterpiece of human wisdom; that, if he had to make it anew, he would
make it such as it was, with all its represented ruins and all its
unrepresented cities. What followed? Everything was tumult and panic.
The funds fell. The streets were insecure. Men's hearts failed them for
fear. We began to move our property into German investments and American
investments. Such was the state of the public mind, that it was not
thought safe to let the Sovereign pass from his palace to the Guildhall
of his capital. What part of his kingdom is there in which His Majesty
now needs any other guard than the affection of his loving subjects?
There are, indeed, still malecontents; and they may be divided into two
classes, the friends of corruption and the sowers of sedition. It is
natural that all who directly profit by abuses, and all who profit by
the disaffection which abuses excite, should be leagued together against
a bill which, by making the government pure, will make the nation loyal.
There is, and always has been, a real alliance between the two extreme
parties in this country. They play into each other's hands. They live
by each other. Neither would have any influence if the other were taken
away. The demagogue would have no audience but for the indignation
excited among the multitude by the insolence of the enemies of Reform:
and the last hope of the enemies of Reform is in the uneasiness excited
among all who have anything to lose by the ravings of the demagogue.
I see, and glad I am to see, that the nation perfectly understands and
justly appreciates this coalition between those who hate all liberty and
those who hate all order. England has spoken, and spoken out. From her
most opulent seaports, from her manufacturing towns, from her capital
and its gigantic suburbs, from almost every one of her counties, has
gone forth a voice, answering in no doubtful or faltering accent to that
truly royal voice which appealed on the twenty-second of last April to
the sense of the nation.

So clearly, indeed, has the sense of the nation been expressed, that
scarcely any person now ventures to declare himself hostile to all
Reform. We are, it seems, a House of Reformers. Those very gentlemen
who, a few months ago, were vehement against all change, now own that
some change may be proper, may be necessary. They assure us that their
opposition is directed, not against Parliamentary Reform, but against
the particular plan which is now before us, and that a Tory Ministry
would devise a much better plan. I cannot but think that these tactics
are unskilful. I cannot but think that, when our opponents defended the
existing system in every part, they occupied a stronger position than
at present. As my noble friend the Paymaster-General said, they have
committed an error resembling that of the Scotch army at Dunbar. They
have left the high ground from which we might have had some difficulty
in dislodging them. They have come down to low ground, where they are at
our mercy. Surely, as Cromwell said, surely the Lord hath delivered them
into our hand.

For, Sir, it is impossible not to perceive that almost every argument
which they have urged against this Reform Bill may be urged with equal
force, or with greater force, against any Reform Bill which they can
themselves bring in.

First take, what, indeed, are not arguments, but wretched substitutes
for arguments, those vague terms of reproach, which have been so
largely employed, here and elsewhere, by our opponents; revolutionary,
anarchical, traitorous, and so forth. It will, I apprehend, hardly be
disputed that these epithets can be just as easily applied to one Reform
Bill as to another.

But, you say, intimidation has been used to promote the passing of this
bill; and it would be disgraceful, and of evil example, that Parliament
should yield to intimidation. But surely, if that argument be of any
force against the present bill, it will be of tenfold force against any
Reform Bill proposed by you. For this bill is the work of men who are
Reformers from conscientious conviction, of men, some of whom were
Reformers when Reformer was a name of reproach, of men, all of whom were
Reformers before the nation had begun to demand Reform in imperative and
menacing tones. But you are notoriously Reformers merely from fear. You
are Reformers under duress. If a concession is to be made to the public
importunity, you can hardly deny that it will be made with more grace
and dignity by Lord Grey than by you.

Then you complain of the anomalies of the bill. One county, you say,
will have twelve members; and another county, which is larger and more
populous, will have only ten. Some towns, which are to have only one
member, are more considerable than other towns which are to have two. Do
those who make these objections, objections which by the by will be more
in place when the bill is in committee, seriously mean to say that a
Tory Reform Bill will leave no anomalies in the representative system?
For my own part, I trouble myself not at all about anomalies, considered
merely as anomalies. I would not take the trouble of lifting up my hand
to get rid of an anomaly that was not also a grievance. But if gentlemen
have such a horror of anomalies, it is strange that they should so long
have persisted in upholding a system made up of anomalies far greater
than any that can be found in this bill (a cry of "No!"). Yes; far
greater. Answer me, if you can; but do not interrupt me. On this point,
indeed, it is much easier to interrupt than to answer. For who can
answer plain arithmetical demonstration? Under the present system,
Manchester, with two hundred thousand inhabitants, has no members. Old
Sarum, with no inhabitants, has two members. Find me such an anomaly in
the schedules which are now on the table. But is it possible that you,
that Tories, can seriously mean to adopt the only plan which can remove
all anomalies from the representative system? Are you prepared to
have, after every decennial census, a new distribution of members
among electoral districts? Is your plan of Reform that which Mr Canning
satirised as the most crazy of all the projects of the disciples of Tom
Paine? Do you really mean

     "That each fair burgh, numerically free,
     Shall choose its members by the rule of three?"

If not, let us hear no more of the anomalies of the Reform Bill.

But your great objection to this bill is that it will not be final. I
ask you whether you think that any Reform Bill which you can frame will
be final? For my part I do believe that the settlement proposed by His
Majesty's Ministers will be final, in the only sense in which a wise man
ever uses that word. I believe that it will last during that time
for which alone we ought at present to think of legislating. Another
generation may find in the new representative system defects such as we
find in the old representative system. Civilisation will proceed. Wealth
will increase. Industry and trade will find out new seats. The same
causes which have turned so many villages into great towns, which
have turned so many thousands of square miles of fir and heath into
cornfields and orchards, will continue to operate. Who can say that a
hundred years hence there may not be, on the shore of some desolate
and silent bay in the Hebrides, another Liverpool, with its docks and
warehouses and endless forests of masts? Who can say that the huge
chimneys of another Manchester may not rise in the wilds of Connemara?
For our children we do not pretend to legislate. All that we can do
for them is to leave to them a memorable example of the manner in which
great reforms ought to be made. In the only sense, therefore, in which
a statesman ought to say that anything is final, I pronounce this bill
final. But in what sense will your bill be final? Suppose that you could
defeat the Ministers, that you could displace them, that you could
form a Government, that you could obtain a majority in this House,
what course would events take? There is no difficulty in foreseeing
the stages of the rapid progress downward. First we should have a mock
reform; a Bassietlaw reform; a reform worthy of those politicians who,
when a delinquent borough had forfeited its franchise, and when it was
necessary for them to determine what they would do with two seats
in Parliament, deliberately gave those seats, not to Manchester or
Birmingham or Leeds, not to Lancashire or Staffordshire or Devonshire,
but to a constituent body studiously selected because it was not large
and because it was not independent; a reform worthy of those politicians
who, only twelve months ago, refused to give members to the three
greatest manufacturing towns in the world. We should have a reform which
would produce all the evils and none of the benefits of change, which
would take away from the representative system the foundation of
prescription, and yet would not substitute the surer foundation of
reason and public good. The people would be at once emboldened and
exasperated; emboldened because they would see that they had frightened
the Tories into making a pretence of reforming the Parliament; and
exasperated because they would see that the Tory Reform was a mere
pretence. Then would come agitation, tumult, political associations,
libels, inflammatory harangues. Coercion would only aggravate the
evil. This is no age, this is no country, for the war of power against
opinion. Those Jacobin mountebanks, whom this bill would at once send
back to their native obscurity, would rise into fearful importance. The
law would be sometimes braved and sometimes evaded. In short, England
would soon be what Ireland was at the beginning of 1829. Then, at
length, as in 1829, would come the late and vain repentance. Then, Sir,
amidst the generous cheers of the Whigs, who will be again occupying
their old seats on your left hand, and amidst the indignant murmurs of
those stanch Tories who are now again trusting to be again betrayed, the
right honourable Baronet opposite will rise from the Treasury Bench to
propose that bill on which the hearts of the people are set. But will
that bill be then accepted with the delight and thankfulness with which
it was received last March? Remember Ireland. Remember how, in that
country, concessions too long delayed were at last received. That great
boon which in 1801, in 1813, in 1825, would have won the hearts of
millions, given too late, and given from fear, only produced new
clamours and new dangers. Is not one such lesson enough for one
generation? A noble Lord opposite told us not to expect that this bill
will have a conciliatory effect. Recollect, he said, how the French
aristocracy surrendered their privileges in 1789, and how that surrender
was requited. Recollect that Day of Sacrifices which was afterwards
called the Day of Dupes. Sir, that day was afterwards called the Day of
Dupes, not because it was the Day of Sacrifices, but because it was
the Day of Sacrifices too long deferred. It was because the French
aristocracy resisted reform in 1783, that they were unable to resist
revolution in 1789. It was because they clung too long to odious
exemptions and distinctions, that they were at last unable to serve
their lands, their mansions, their heads. They would not endure Turgot:
and they had to endure Robespierre.

I am far indeed from wishing that the Members of this House should be
influenced by fear in the bad and unworthy sense of that word. But
there is an honest and honourable fear, which well becomes those who are
intrusted with the dearest interests of a great community; and to that
fear I am not ashamed to make an earnest appeal. It is very well to talk
of confronting sedition boldly, and of enforcing the law against those
who would disturb the public peace. No doubt a tumult caused by local
and temporary irritation ought to be suppressed with promptitude and
vigour. Such disturbances, for example, as those which Lord George
Gordon raised in 1780, should be instantly put down with the strong
hand. But woe to the Government which cannot distinguish between a
nation and a mob! Woe to the Government which thinks that a great, a
steady, a long continued movement of the public mind is to be stopped
like a street riot! This error has been twice fatal to the great House
of Bourbon. God be praised, our rulers have been wiser. The golden
opportunity which, if once suffered to escape, might never have been
retrieved, has been seized. Nothing, I firmly believe, can now prevent
the passing of this noble law, this second Bill of Rights. ["Murmurs."]
Yes, I call it, and the nation calls it, and our posterity will long
call it, this second Bill of Rights, this Greater Charter of the
Liberties of England. The year 1831 will, I trust, exhibit the first
example of the manner in which it behoves a free and enlightened people
to purify their polity from old and deeply seated abuses, without
bloodshed, without violence, without rapine, all points freely debated,
all the forms of senatorial deliberation punctiliously observed,
industry and trade not for a moment interrupted, the authority of law
not for a moment suspended. These are things of which we may well be
proud. These are things which swell the heart up with a good hope for
the destinies of mankind. I cannot but anticipate a long series of
happy years; of years during which a parental Government will be firmly
supported by a grateful nation: of years during which war, if war should
be inevitable, will find us an united people; of years pre-eminently
distinguished by the progress of arts, by the improvement of laws,
by the augmentation of the public resources, by the diminution of the
public burdens, by all those victories of peace, in which, far more than
in any military successes, consists the true felicity of states, and the
true glory of statesmen. With such hopes, Sir, and such feelings, I give
my cordial assent to the second reading of a bill which I consider as
in itself deserving of the warmest approbation, and as indispensably
necessary, in the present temper of the public mind, to the repose of
the country and to the stability of the throne.



On Monday, the nineteenth of September, 1831, the Bill to amend the
representation of the people in England and Wales was read a third time,
at an early hour and in a thin house, without any debate. But on the
question whether the Bill should pass a discussion arose which lasted
three nights. On the morning of the twenty-second of September the House
divided; and the Bill passed by 345 votes to 236. The following Speech
was made on the second night of the debate.

It is not without great diffidence, Sir, that I rise to address you on a
subject which has been nearly exhausted. Indeed, I should not have risen
had I not thought that, though the arguments on this question are for
the most part old, our situation at present is in a great measure new.
At length the Reform Bill, having passed without vital injury
through all the dangers which threatened it, during a long and minute
discussion, from the attacks of its enemies and from the dissensions
of its friends, comes before us for our final ratification, altered,
indeed, in some of its details for the better, and in some for the
worse, but in its great principles still the same bill which, on the
first of March, was proposed to the late Parliament, the same bill which
was received with joy and gratitude by the whole nation, the same bill
which, in an instant, took away the power of interested agitators, and
united in one firm body all the sects of sincere Reformers, the same
bill which, at the late election, received the approbation of almost
every great constituent body in the empire. With a confidence which
discussion has only strengthened, with an assured hope of great public
blessings if the wish of the nation shall be gratified, with a deep and
solemn apprehension of great public calamities if that wish shall be
disappointed, I, for the last time, give my most hearty assent to this
noble law, destined, I trust, to be the parent of many good laws, and,
through a long series of years, to secure the repose and promote the
prosperity of my country.

When I say that I expect this bill to promote the prosperity of the
country, I by no means intend to encourage those chimerical hopes which
the honourable and learned Member for Rye (Mr Pemberton.), who has so
much distinguished himself in this debate, has imputed to the Reformers.
The people, he says, are for the bill, because they expect that it will
immediately relieve all their distresses. Sir, I believe that very few
of that large and respectable class which we are now about to admit to
a share of political power entertain any such absurd expectation. They
expect relief, I doubt not; and I doubt not that they will find it:
but sudden relief they are far too wise to expect. The bill, says the
honourable and learned gentleman, is good for nothing: it is merely
theoretical: it removes no real and sensible evil: it will not give the
people more work, or higher wages, or cheaper bread. Undoubtedly, Sir,
the bill will not immediately give all those things to the people.
But will any institutions give them all those things? Do the present
institutions of the country secure to them those advantages? If we are
to pronounce the Reform Bill good for nothing, because it will not at
once raise the nation from distress to prosperity, what are we to say
of that system under which the nation has been of late sinking from
prosperity into distress? The defect is not in the Reform Bill, but in
the very nature of government. On the physical condition of the great
body of the people, government acts not as a specific, but as an
alternative. Its operation is powerful, indeed, and certain, but gradual
and indirect. The business of government is not directly to make the
people rich; and a government which attempts more than this is precisely
the government which is likely to perform less. Governments do not and
cannot support the people. We have no miraculous powers: we have not the
rod of the Hebrew lawgiver: we cannot rain down bread on the multitude
from Heaven: we cannot smite the rock and give them to drink. We can
give them only freedom to employ their industry to the best advantage,
and security in the enjoyment of what their industry has acquired. These
advantages it is our duty to give at the smallest possible cost. The
diligence and forethought of individuals will thus have fair play; and
it is only by the diligence and forethought of individuals that the
community can become prosperous. I am not aware that His Majesty's
Ministers, or any of the supporters of this bill, have encouraged the
people to hope, that Reform will remove distress, in any other way than
by this indirect process. By this indirect process the bill will, I
feel assured, conduce to the national prosperity. If it had been
passed fifteen years ago, it would have saved us from our present
embarrassments. If we pass it now, it will gradually extricate us from
them. It will secure to us a House of Commons, which, by preserving
peace, by destroying monopolies, by taking away unnecessary public
burthens, by judiciously distributing necessary public burthens, will,
in the progress of time, greatly improve our condition. This it will do;
and those who blame it for not doing more blame it for not doing what
no Constitution, no code of laws, ever did or ever will do; what
no legislator, who was not an ignorant and unprincipled quack, ever
ventured to promise.

But chimerical as are the hopes which the honourable and learned Member
for Rye imputes to the people, they are not, I think, more chimerical
than the fears which he has himself avowed. Indeed, those very gentlemen
who are constantly telling us that we are taking a leap in the dark,
that we pay no attention to the lessons of experience, that we are mere
theorists, are themselves the despisers of experience, are themselves
the mere theorists. They are terrified at the thought of admitting into
Parliament members elected by ten pound householders. They have formed
in their own imaginations a most frightful idea of these members. My
honourable and learned friend, the Member for Cockermouth (Sir James
Scarlett.), is certain that these members will take every opportunity of
promoting the interests of the journeyman in opposition to those of the
capitalist. The honourable and learned Member for Rye is convinced
that none but persons who have strong local connections, will ever be
returned for such constituent bodies. My honourable friend, the Member
for Thetford (Mr Alexander Baring.), tells us, that none but mob
orators, men who are willing to pay the basest court to the multitude,
will have any chance. Other speakers have gone still further, and
have described to us the future borough members as so many Marats and
Santerres, low, fierce, desperate men, who will turn the House into a
bear-garden, and who will try to turn the monarchy into a republic, mere
agitators, without honour, without sense, without education, without the
feelings or the manners of gentlemen. Whenever, during the course of the
fatiguing discussions by which we have been so long occupied, there has
been a cry of "question," or a noise at the bar, the orator who has been
interrupted has remarked, that such proceedings will be quite in place
in the Reformed Parliament, but that we ought to remember that the House
of Commons is still an assembly of gentlemen. This, I say, is to set up
mere theory, or rather mere prejudice, in opposition to long and ample
experience. Are the gentlemen who talk thus ignorant that we have
already the means of judging what kind of men the ten pound householders
will send up to parliament? Are they ignorant that there are even now
large towns with very popular franchises, with franchises even more
democratic than those which will be bestowed by the present bill?
Ought they not, on their own principles, to look at the results of
the experiments which have already been made, instead of predicting
frightful calamities at random? How do the facts which are before us
agree with their theories? Nottingham is a city with a franchise even
more democratic than that which this bill establishes. Does Nottingham
send hither mere vulgar demagogues? It returns two distinguished men,
one an advocate, the other a soldier, both unconnected with the town.
Every man paying scot and lot has a vote at Leicester. This is a lower
franchise than the ten pound franchise. Do we find that the Members
for Leicester are the mere tools of the journeymen? I was at Leicester
during the contest of 1826; and I recollect that the suffrages of the
scot and lot voters were pretty equally divided between two candidates,
neither of them connected with the place, neither of them a slave of the
mob, one a Tory Baronet from Derbyshire, the other a most respectable
and excellent friend of mine, connected with the manufacturing
interest, and also an inhabitant of Derbyshire. Look at Norwich. Look at
Northampton, with a franchise more democratic than even the scot and lot
franchise. Northampton formerly returned Mr Perceval, and now returns
gentlemen of high respectability, gentlemen who have a great stake in
the prosperity and tranquillity of the country. Look at the metropolitan
districts. This is an a fortiori case. Nay it is--the expression, I
fear, is awkward--an a fortiori case at two removes. The ten pound
householders of the metropolis are persons in a lower station of
life than the ten pound householders of other towns. The scot and lot
franchise in the metropolis is again lower than the ten pound franchise.
Yet have Westminster and Southwark been in the habit of sending us
members of whom we have had reason to be ashamed, of whom we have not
had reason to be proud? I do not say that the inhabitants of Westminster
and Southwark have always expressed their political sentiments with
proper moderation. That is not the question. The question is this: what
kind of men have they elected? The very principle of all Representative
government is, that men who do not judge well of public affairs may be
quite competent to choose others who will judge better. Whom, then, have
Westminster and Southwark sent us during the last fifty years, years
full of great events, years of intense popular excitement? Take any one
of those nomination boroughs, the patrons of which have conscientiously
endeavoured to send fit men into this House. Compare the Members for
that borough with the Members for Westminster and Southwark; and you
will have no doubt to which the preference is due. It is needless to
mention Mr Fox, Mr Sheridan, Mr Tierney, Sir Samuel Romilly. Yet I must
pause at the name of Sir Samuel Romilly. Was he a mob orator? Was he a
servile flatterer of the multitude? Sir, if he had any fault, if
there was any blemish on that most serene and spotless character, that
character which every public man, and especially every professional
man engaged in politics, ought to propose to himself as a model, it
was this, that he despised popularity too much and too visibly. The
honourable Member for Thetford told us that the honourable and learned
Member for Rye, with all his talents, would have no chance of a seat in
the Reformed Parliament, for want of the qualifications which succeed
on the hustings. Did Sir Samuel Romilly ever appear on the hustings of
Westminster? He never solicited one vote; he never showed himself to the
electors, till he had been returned at the head of the poll. Even
then, as I have heard from one of his nearest relatives, it was with
reluctance that he submitted to be chaired. He shrank from being made
a show. He loved the people, and he served them; but Coriolanus himself
was not less fit to canvass them. I will mention one other name, that
of a man of whom I have only a childish recollection, but who must have
been intimately known to many of those who hear me, Mr Henry Thornton.
He was a man eminently upright, honourable, and religious, a man of
strong understanding, a man of great political knowledge; but, in all
respects, the very reverse of a mob orator. He was a man who would not
have yielded to what he considered as unreasonable clamour, I will
not say to save his seat, but to save his life. Yet he continued to
represent Southwark, Parliament after Parliament, for many years. Such
has been the conduct of the scot and lot voters of the metropolis; and
there is clearly less reason to expect democratic violence from ten
pound householders than from scot and lot householders; and from ten
pound householders in the country towns than from ten pound householders
in London. Experience, I say, therefore, is on our side; and on the side
of our opponents nothing but mere conjecture and mere assertion.

Sir, when this bill was first brought forward, I supported it, not
only on the ground of its intrinsic merits, but, also, because I was
convinced that to reject it would be a course full of danger. I believe
that the danger of that course is in no respect diminished. I believe,
on the contrary, that it is increased. We are told that there is a
reaction. The warmth of the public feeling, it seems, has abated. In
this story both the sections of the party opposed to Reform are agreed;
those who hate Reform, because it will remove abuses, and those who hate
it, because it will vert anarchy; those who wish to see the electing
body controlled by ejectments, and those who wish to see it controlled
by riots. They must now, I think, be undeceived. They must have already
discovered that the surest way to prevent a reaction is to talk about
it, and that the enthusiasm of the people is at once rekindled by any
indiscreet mention of their seeming coolness. This, Sir, is not the
first reaction which the sagacity of the Opposition has discovered since
the Reform Bill was brought in. Every gentleman who sat in the late
Parliament, every gentleman who, during the sitting of the late
Parliament, paid attention to political speeches and publications, must
remember how, for some time before the debate on General Gascoyne's
motion, and during the debate on that motion, and down to the very day
of the dissolution, we were told that public feeling had cooled. The
right honourable Baronet, the member for Tamworth, told us so. All the
literary organs of the Opposition, from the Quarterly Review down to the
Morning Post, told us so. All the Members of the Opposition with whom
we conversed in private told us so. I have in my eye a noble friend of
mine, who assured me, on the very night which preceded the dissolution,
that the people had ceased to be zealous for the Ministerial plan, and
that we were more likely to lose than to gain by the elections. The
appeal was made to the people; and what was the result? What sign of a
reaction appeared among the Livery of London? What sign of a reaction
did the honourable Baronet who now represents Okehampton find among the
freeholders of Cornwall? (Sir Richard Vyvyan.) How was it with the large
represented towns? Had Liverpool cooled? or Bristol? or Leicester? or
Coventry? or Nottingham? or Norwich? How was it with the great seats of
manufacturing industry, Yorkshire, and Lancashire, and Staffordshire,
and Warwickshire, and Cheshire? How was it with the agricultural
districts, Northumberland and Cumberland, Leicestershire and
Lincolnshire, Kent and Essex, Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Somersetshire,
Dorsetshire, Devonshire? How was it with the strongholds of
aristocratical influence, Newark, and Stamford, and Hertford, and St
Alban's? Never did any people display, within the limits prescribed by
law, so generous a fervour, or so steadfast a determination, as that
very people whose apparent languor had just before inspired the enemies
of Reform with a delusive hope.

Such was the end of the reaction of April; and, if that lesson shall not
profit those to whom it was given, such and yet more signal will be the
end of the reaction of September. The two cases are strictly analogous.
In both cases the people were eager when they believed the bill to be
in danger, and quiet when they believed it to be in security. During the
three or four weeks which followed the promulgation of the Ministerial
plan, all was joy, and gratitude, and vigorous exertion. Everywhere
meetings were held: everywhere resolutions were passed: from every
quarter were sent up petitions to this House, and addresses to the
Throne: and then the nation, having given vent to its first feelings of
delight, having clearly and strongly expressed its opinions, having seen
the principle of the bill adopted by the House of Commons on the second
reading, became composed, and awaited the result with a tranquillity
which the Opposition mistook for indifference. All at once the aspect of
affairs changed. General Gascoyne's amendment was carried: the bill was
again in danger: exertions were again necessary. Then was it well
seen whether the calmness of the public mind was any indication of
indifference. The depth and sincerity of the prevailing sentiments were
proved, not by mere talking, but by actions, by votes, by sacrifices.
Intimidation was defied: expenses were rejected: old ties were broken:
the people struggled manfully: they triumphed gloriously: they placed
the bill in perfect security, as far as this house was concerned; and
they returned to their repose. They are now, as they were on the eve of
General Gascoyne's motion, awaiting the issue of the deliberations of
Parliament, without any indecent show of violence, but with anxious
interest and immovable resolution. And because they are not exhibiting
that noisy and rapturous enthusiasm which is in its own nature
transient, because they are not as much excited as on the day when the
plan of the Government was first made known to them, or on the day when
the late Parliament was dissolved, because they do not go on week after
week, hallooing, and holding meetings, and marching about with flags,
and making bonfires, and illuminating their houses, we are again told
that there is a reaction. To such a degree can men be deceived by
their wishes, in spite of their own recent experience. Sir, there is no
reaction; and there will be no reaction. All that has been said on this
subject convinces me only that those who are now, for the second time,
raising this cry, know nothing of the crisis in which they are called on
to act, or of the nation which they aspire to govern. All their opinions
respecting this bill are founded on one great error. They imagine that
the public feeling concerning Reform is a mere whim which sprang up
suddenly out of nothing, and which will as suddenly vanish into nothing.
They, therefore, confidently expect a reaction. They are always looking
out for a reaction. Everything that they see, or that they hear, they
construe into a sign of the approach of this reaction. They resemble the
man in Horace, who lies on the bank of the river, expecting that it
will every moment pass by and leave him a clear passage, not knowing the
depth and abundance of the fountain which feeds it, not knowing that
it flows, and will flow on for ever. They have found out a hundred
ingenious devices by which they deceive themselves. Sometimes they tell
us that the public feeling about Reform was caused by the events which
took place at Paris about fourteen months ago; though every observant
and impartial man knows, that the excitement which the late French
revolution produced in England was not the cause but the effect of that
progress which liberal opinions had made amongst us. Sometimes they
tell us that we should not have been troubled with any complaints on the
subject of the Representation, if the House of Commons had agreed to a
certain motion, made in the session of 1830, for inquiry into the causes
of the public distress. I remember nothing about that motion, except
that it gave rise to the dullest debate ever known; and the country, I
am firmly convinced, cared not one straw about it. But is it not strange
that men of real ability can deceive themselves so grossly, as to think
that any change in the government of a foreign nation, or the rejection
of any single motion, however popular, could all at once raise up a
great, rich, enlightened nation, against its ancient institutions? Could
such small drops have produced an overflowing, if the vessel had not
already been filled to the very brim? These explanations are incredible,
and if they were credible, would be anything but consolatory. If it were
really true that the English people had taken a sudden aversion to a
representative system which they had always loved and admired, because a
single division in Parliament had gone against their wishes, or because,
in a foreign country, in circumstances bearing not the faintest analogy
to those in which we are placed, a change of dynasty had happened, what
hope could we have for such a nation of madmen? How could we expect
that the present form of government, or any form of government, would be
durable amongst them?

Sir, the public feeling concerning Reform is of no such recent origin,
and springs from no such frivolous causes. Its first faint commencement
may be traced far, very far, back in our history. During seventy years
that feeling has had a great influence on the public mind. Through the
first thirty years of the reign of George the Third, it was gradually
increasing. The great leaders of the two parties in the State were
favourable to Reform. Plans of reform were supported by large and most
respectable minorities in the House of Commons. The French Revolution,
filling the higher and middle classes with an extreme dread of change,
and the war calling away the public attention from internal to external
politics, threw the question back; but the people never lost sight
of it. Peace came, and they were at leisure to think of domestic
improvements. Distress came, and they suspected, as was natural, that
their distress was the effect of unfaithful stewardship and unskilful
legislation. An opinion favourable to Parliamentary Reform grew up
rapidly, and became strong among the middle classes. But one tie, one
strong tie, still bound those classes to the Tory party. I mean the
Catholic Question. It is impossible to deny that, on that subject, a
large proportion, a majority, I fear, of the middle class of Englishmen,
conscientiously held opinions opposed to those which I have always
entertained, and were disposed to sacrifice every other consideration to
what they regarded as a religious duty. Thus the Catholic Question hid,
so to speak, the question of Parliamentary Reform. The feeling in favour
of Parliamentary Reform grew, but it grew in the shade. Every man, I
think, must have observed the progress of that feeling in his own social
circle. But few Reform meetings were held, and few petitions in favour
of Reform presented. At length the Catholics were emancipated; the
solitary link of sympathy which attached the people to the Tories was
broken; the cry of "No Popery" could no longer be opposed to the cry
of "Reform." That which, in the opinion of the two great parties in
Parliament, and of a vast portion of the community, had been the first
question, suddenly disappeared; and the question of Parliamentary Reform
took the first place. Then was put forth all the strength which had been
growing in silence and obscurity. Then it appeared that Reform had on
its side a coalition of interests and opinions unprecedented in our
history, all the liberality and intelligence which had supported the
Catholic claims, and all the clamour which had opposed them.

This, I believe, is the true history of that public feeling on the
subject of Reform which had been ascribed to causes quite inadequate to
the production of such an effect. If ever there was in the history of
mankind a national sentiment which was the very opposite of a caprice,
with which accident had nothing to do, which was produced by the slow,
steady, certain progress of the human mind, it is the sentiment of the
English people on the subject of Reform. Accidental circumstances
may have brought that feeling to maturity in a particular year, or a
particular month. That point I will not dispute; for it is not worth
disputing. But those accidental circumstances have brought on Reform,
only as the circumstance that, at a particular time, indulgences were
offered for sale in a particular town in Saxony, brought on the great
separation from the Church of Rome. In both cases the public mind was
prepared to move on the slightest impulse.

Thinking thus of the public opinion concerning Reform, being convinced
that this opinion is the mature product of time and of discussion, I
expect no reaction. I no more expect to see my countrymen again content
with the mere semblance of a Representation, than to see them again
drowning witches or burning heretics, trying causes by red hot
ploughshares, or offering up human sacrifices to wicker idols. I no more
expect a reaction in favour of Gatton and Old Sarum, than a reaction in
favour of Thor and Odin. I should think such a reaction almost as much
a miracle as that the shadow should go back upon the dial. Revolutions
produced by violence are often followed by reactions; the victories of
reason once gained, are gained for eternity.

In fact, if there be, in the present aspect of public affairs, any sign
peculiarly full of evil omen to the opponents of Reform, it is that very
calmness of the public mind on which they found their expectation of
success. They think that it is the calmness of indifference. It is the
calmness of confident hope: and in proportion to the confidence of hope
will be the bitterness of disappointment. Disappointment, indeed, I
do not anticipate. That we are certain of success in this House is now
acknowledged; and our opponents have, in consequence, during the whole
of this Session, and particularly during the present debate, addressed
their arguments and exhortations rather to the Lords than to the
assembly of which they are themselves Members. Their principal argument
has always been, that the bill will destroy the peerage. The honourable
and learned Member for Rye has, in plain terms, called on the Barons of
England to save their order from democratic encroachments, by rejecting
this measure. All these arguments, all these appeals, being interpreted,
mean this: "Proclaim to your countrymen that you have no common
interests with them, no common sympathies with them; that you can be
powerful only by their weakness, and exalted only by their degradation;
that the corruption which disgusts them, and the oppression against
which their spirit rises up, are indispensable to your authority;
that the freedom and purity of election are incompatible with the very
existence of your House. Give them clearly to understand that your
power rests, not as they have hitherto imagined, on their rational
convictions, or on their habitual veneration, or on your own great
property, but on a system fertile of political evils, fertile also of
low iniquities of which ordinary justice take cognisance. Bind up, in
inseparable union, the privileges of your estate with the grievances
of ours: resolve to stand or fall with abuses visibly marked out for
destruction: tell the people that they are attacking you in attacking
the three holes in the wall, and that they shall never get rid of
the three holes in the wall, till they have got rid of you; that a
hereditary peerage and a representative assembly, can co-exist only in
name, and that, if they will have a real House of Peers, they must be
content with a mock House of Commons." This, I say, is the advice given
to the Lords by those who call themselves the friends of aristocracy.
That advice so pernicious will not be followed, I am well assured; yet
I cannot but listen to it with uneasiness. I cannot but wonder that it
should proceed from the lips of men who are constantly lecturing us on
the duty of consulting history and experience. Have they never heard
what effects counsels like their own, when too faithfully followed, have
produced? Have they never visited that neighbouring country, which still
presents to the eye, even of a passing stranger, the signs of a great
dissolution and renovation of society? Have they never walked by those
stately mansions, now sinking into decay, and portioned out into lodging
rooms, which line the silent streets of the Faubourg St Germain? Have
they never seen the ruins of those castles whose terraces and gardens
overhang the Loire? Have they never heard that from those magnificent
hotels, from those ancient castles, an aristocracy as splendid, as
brave, as proud, as accomplished, as ever Europe saw, was driven forth
to exile and beggary, to implore the charity of hostile Governments and
hostile creeds, to cut wood in the back settlements of America, or to
teach French in the schoolrooms of London? And why were those haughty
nobles destroyed with that utter destruction? Why were they scattered
over the face of the earth, their titles abolished, their escutcheons
defaced, their parks wasted, their palaces dismantled, their heritage
given to strangers? Because they had no sympathy with the people,
no discernment of the signs of their time; because, in the pride and
narrowness of their hearts, they called those whose warnings might
have saved them theorists and speculators; because they refused all
concession till the time had arrived when no concession would avail. I
have no apprehension that such a fate awaits the nobles of England. I
draw no parallel between our aristocracy and that of France. Those who
represent the peerage as a class whose power is incompatible with the
just influence of the people in the State, draw that parallel, and not
I. They do all in their power to place the Lords and Commons of England
in that position with respect to each other in which the French gentry
stood with respect to the Third Estate. But I am convinced that these
advisers will not succeed. We see, with pride and delight, among the
friends of the people, the Talbots, the Cavendishes, the princely house
of Howard. Foremost among those who have entitled themselves, by their
exertions in this House, to the lasting gratitude of their countrymen,
we see the descendants of Marlborough, of Russell, and of Derby. I hope,
and firmly believe, that the Lords will see what their interests and
their honour require. I hope, and firmly believe, that they will act in
such a manner as to entitle themselves to the esteem and affection of
the people. But if not, let not the enemies of Reform imagine that their
reign is straightway to recommence, or that they have obtained anything
more than a short and uneasy respite. We are bound to respect the
constitutional rights of the Peers; but we are bound also not to forget
our own. We, too, have our privileges; we, too, are an estate of the
realm. A House of Commons strong in the love and confidence of the
people, a House of Commons which has nothing to fear from a dissolution,
is something in the government. Some persons, I well know, indulge a
hope that the rejection of the bill will at once restore the domination
of that party which fled from power last November, leaving everything
abroad and everything at home in confusion; leaving the European system,
which it had built up at a vast cost of blood and treasure, falling to
pieces in every direction; leaving the dynasties which it had restored,
hastening into exile; leaving the nations which it had joined together,
breaking away from each other; leaving the fundholders in dismay;
leaving the peasantry in insurrection; leaving the most fertile counties
lighted up with the fires of incendiaries; leaving the capital in such
a state, that a royal procession could not pass safely through it.
Dark and terrible, beyond any season within my remembrance of political
affairs, was the day of their flight. Far darker and far more terrible
will be the day of their return. They will return in opposition to
the whole British nation, united as it was never before united on any
internal question; united as firmly as when the Armada was sailing up
the Channel; united as firmly as when Bonaparte pitched his camp on the
cliffs of Boulogne. They will return pledged to defend evils which the
people are resolved to destroy. They will return to a situation in which
they can stand only by crushing and trampling down public opinion, and
from which, if they fall, they may, in their fall, drag down with them
the whole frame of society. Against such evils, should such evils appear
to threaten the country, it will be our privilege and our duty to warn
our gracious and beloved Sovereign. It will be our privilege and our
duty to convey the wishes of a loyal people to the throne of a patriot
king. At such a crisis the proper place for the House of Commons is
in front of the nation; and in that place this House will assuredly
be found. Whatever prejudice or weakness may do elsewhere to ruin the
empire, here, I trust, will not be wanting the wisdom, the virtue, and
the energy that may save it.



On the morning of Saturday, the eighth of October, 1831, the House of
Lords, by a majority of 190 to 158, rejected the Reform Bill. On the
Monday following, Lord Ebrington, member for Devonshire, moved the
following resolution in the House of Commons:

"That while this House deeply laments the present fate of a bill for
amending the representation of the people in England and Wales,
in favour of which the opinion of the country stands unequivocally
pronounced, and which has been matured by discussions the most anxious
and laborious, it feels itself called upon to reassert its firm
adherence to the principle and leading provisions of that great measure,
and to express its unabated confidence in the integrity, perseverance,
and ability of those Ministers, who, in introducing and conducting it,
have so well consulted the best interests of the country."

The resolution was carried by 329 votes to 198. The following speech was
made early in the debate.

I doubt, Sir, whether any person who had merely heard the speech of the
right honourable Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr Goulburn.)
would have been able to conjecture what the question is on which we are
discussing, and what the occasion on which we are assembled. For myself,
I can with perfect certainty declare that never in the whole course of
my life did I feel my mind oppressed by so deep and solemn a sense
of responsibility as at the present moment. I firmly believe that the
country is now in danger of calamities greater than ever threatened it,
from domestic misgovernment or from foreign hostility. The danger is no
less than this, that there may be a complete alienation of the people
from their rulers. To soothe the public mind, to reconcile the people to
the delay, the short delay, which must intervene before their wishes can
be legitimately gratified, and in the meantime to avert civil discord,
and to uphold the authority of law, these are, I conceive, the objects
of my noble friend, the Member for Devonshire: these ought, at the
present crisis, to be the objects of every honest Englishman. They
are objects which will assuredly be attained, if we rise to this great
occasion, if we take our stand in the place which the Constitution has
assigned to us, if we employ, with becoming firmness and dignity, the
powers which belong to us as trustees of the nation, and as advisers of
the Throne.

Sir, the Resolution of my noble friend consists of two parts. He calls
upon us to declare our undiminished attachment to the principles of
the Reform Bill, and also our undiminished confidence in His Majesty's
Ministers. I consider these two declarations as identical. The question
of Reform is, in my opinion, of such paramount importance, that,
approving the principles of the Ministerial Bill, I must think the
Ministers who have brought that bill forward, although I may differ
from them on some minor points, entitled to the strongest support
of Parliament. The right honourable gentleman, the Member for the
University of Cambridge, has attempted to divert the course of the
debate to questions comparatively unimportant. He has said much about
the coal duty, about the candle duty, about the budget of the present
Chancellor of the Exchequer. On most of the points to which he has
referred, it would be easy for me, were I so inclined, to defend the
Ministers; and where I could not defend them, I should find it easy to
recriminate on those who preceded them. The right honourable Member for
the University of Cambridge has taunted the Ministers with the defeat
which their plan respecting the timber trade sustained in the last
Parliament. I might, perhaps, at a more convenient season, be tempted
to inquire whether that defeat was more disgraceful to them or to their
predecessors. I might, perhaps, be tempted to ask the right honourable
gentleman whether, if he had not been treated, while in office, with
more fairness than he has shown while in opposition, it would have been
in his power to carry his best bill, the Beer Bill? He has accused
the Ministers of bringing forward financial propositions, and then
withdrawing those propositions. Did not he bring forward, during the
Session of 1830, a plan respecting the sugar duties? And was not that
plan withdrawn? But, Sir, this is mere trifling. I will not be seduced
from the matter in hand by the right honourable gentleman's example.
At the present moment I can see only one question in the State, the
question of Reform; only two parties, the friends of the Reform Bill and
its enemies.

It is not my intention, Sir, again to discuss the merits of the Reform
Bill. The principle of that bill received the approbation of the late
House of Commons after a discussion of ten nights; and the bill as it
now stands, after a long and most laborious investigation, passed the
present House of Commons by a majority which was nearly half as large
again as the minority. This was little more than a fortnight ago.
Nothing has since occurred to change our opinion. The justice of the
case is unaltered. The public enthusiasm is undiminished. Old Sarum has
grown no larger. Manchester has grown no smaller. In addressing this
House, therefore, I am entitled to assume that the bill is in itself a
good bill. If so, ought we to abandon it merely because the Lords have
rejected it? We ought to respect the lawful privileges of their
House; but we ought also to assert our own. We are constitutionally as
independent of their Lordships as their Lordships are of us. We have
precisely as good a right to adhere to our opinion as they have to
dissent from it. In speaking of their decision, I will attempt to follow
that example of moderation which was so judiciously set by my noble
friend, the Member for Devonshire. I will only say that I do not think
that they are more competent to form a correct judgment on a political
question than we are. It is certain that, on all the most important
points on which the two Houses have for a long time past differed,
the Lords have at length come over to the opinion of the Commons. I am
therefore entitled to say, that with respect to all those points, the
Peers themselves being judges, the House of Commons was in the right and
the House of Lords in the wrong. It was thus with respect to the Slave
trade: it was thus with respect to Catholic Emancipation: it was thus
with several other important questions. I, therefore, cannot think that
we ought, on the present occasion, to surrender our judgment to those
who have acknowledged that, on former occasions of the same kind, we
have judged more correctly than they.

Then again, Sir, I cannot forget how the majority and the minority in
this House were composed; I cannot forget that the majority contained
almost all those gentlemen who are returned by large bodies of electors.
It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say, that there were single Members
of the majority who had more constituents than the whole minority put
together. I speak advisedly and seriously. I believe that the number of
freeholders of Yorkshire exceeds that of all the electors who return the
Opposition. I cannot with propriety comment here on any reports which
may have been circulated concerning the majority and minority in the
House of Lords. I may, however, mention these notoriously historical
facts; that during the last forty years the powers of the executive
Government have been, almost without intermission, exercised by a party
opposed to Reform; and that a very great number of Peers have been
created, and all the present Bishops raised to the bench during those
years. On this question, therefore, while I feel more than usual respect
for the judgment of the House of Commons, I feel less than usual respect
for the judgment of the House of Lords. Our decision is the decision of
the nation; the decision of their Lordships can scarcely be considered
as the decision even of that class from which the Peers are
generally selected, and of which they may be considered as virtual
representatives, the great landed gentlemen of England. It seems to me
clear, therefore, that we ought, notwithstanding what has passed in the
other House, to adhere to our opinion concerning the Reform Bill.

The next question is this; ought we to make a formal declaration that we
adhere to our opinion? I think that we ought to make such a declaration;
and I am sure that we cannot make it in more temperate or more
constitutional terms than those which my noble friend asks us to adopt.
I support the Resolution which he has proposed with all my heart and
soul: I support it as a friend to Reform; but I support it still more
as a friend to law, to property, to social order. No observant and
unprejudiced man can look forward without great alarm to the effects
which the recent decision of the Lords may possibly produce. I do not
predict, I do not expect, open, armed insurrection. What I apprehend
is this, that the people may engage in a silent, but extensive and
persevering war against the law. What I apprehend is, that England may
exhibit the same spectacle which Ireland exhibited three years ago,
agitators stronger than the magistrate, associations stronger than the
law, a Government powerful enough to be hated, and not powerful enough
to be feared, a people bent on indemnifying themselves by illegal
excesses for the want of legal privileges. I fear, that we may before
long see the tribunals defied, the tax-gatherer resisted, public credit
shaken, property insecure, the whole frame of society hastening to
dissolution. It is easy to say, "Be bold: be firm: defy intimidation:
let the law have its course: the law is strong enough to put down the
seditious." Sir, we have heard all this blustering before; and we know
in what it ended. It is the blustering of little men whose lot has
fallen on a great crisis. Xerxes scourging the winds, Canute commanding
the waves to recede from his footstool, were but types of the folly
of those who apply the maxims of the Quarter Sessions to the great
convulsions of society. The law has no eyes: the law has no hands:
the law is nothing, nothing but a piece of paper printed by the King's
printer, with the King's arms at the top, till public opinion breathes
the breath of life into the dead letter. We found this in Ireland. The
Catholic Association bearded the Government. The Government resolved
to put down the Association. An indictment was brought against my
honourable and learned friend, the Member for Kerry. The Grand Jury
threw it out. Parliament met. The Lords Commissioners came down with a
speech recommending the suppression of the self-constituted legislature
of Dublin. A bill was brought in: it passed both Houses by large
majorities: it received the Royal assent. And what effect did it
produce? Exactly as much as that old Act of Queen Elizabeth, still
unrepealed, by which it is provided that every man who, without a
special exemption, shall eat meat on Fridays and Saturdays, shall pay a
fine of twenty shillings or go to prison for a month. Not only was the
Association not destroyed: its power was not for one day suspended: it
flourished and waxed strong under the law which had been made for the
purpose of annihilating it. The elections of 1826, the Clare election
two years later, proved the folly of those who think that nations are
governed by wax and parchment: and, at length, in the close of 1828, the
Government had only one plain choice before it, concession or civil war.
Sir, I firmly believe that, if the people of England shall lose all hope
of carrying the Reform Bill by constitutional means, they will forthwith
begin to offer to the Government the same kind of resistance which
was offered to the late Government, three years ago, by the people of
Ireland, a resistance by no means amounting to rebellion, a resistance
rarely amounting to any crime defined by the law, but a resistance
nevertheless which is quite sufficient to obstruct the course of
justice, to disturb the pursuits of industry, and to prevent the
accumulation of wealth. And is not this a danger which we ought to fear?
And is not this a danger which we are bound, by all means in our power,
to avert? And who are those who taunt us for yielding to intimidation?
Who are those who affect to speak with contempt of associations, and
agitators, and public meetings? Even the very persons who, scarce two
years ago, gave up to associations, and agitators, and public meetings,
their boasted Protestant Constitution, proclaiming all the time that
they saw the evils of Catholic Emancipation as strongly as ever. Surely,
surely, the note of defiance which is now so loudly sounded in our ears,
proceeds with a peculiarly bad grace from men whose highest glory it
is that they abased themselves to the dust before a people whom their
policy had driven to madness, from men the proudest moment of whose
lives was that in which they appeared in the character of persecutors
scared into toleration. Do they mean to indemnify themselves for the
humiliation of quailing before the people of Ireland by trampling on the
people of England? If so, they deceive themselves. The case of Ireland,
though a strong one, was by no means so strong a case as that with which
we have now to deal. The Government, in its struggle with the Catholics
of Ireland, had Great Britain at its back. Whom will it have at its back
in the struggle with the Reformers of Great Britain? I know only two
ways in which societies can permanently be governed, by public opinion,
and by the sword. A Government having at its command the armies, the
fleets, and the revenues of Great Britain, might possibly hold Ireland
by the sword. So Oliver Cromwell held Ireland; so William the Third held
it; so Mr Pitt held it; so the Duke of Wellington might perhaps have
held it. But to govern Great Britain by the sword! So wild a thought has
never, I will venture to say, occurred to any public man of any party;
and, if any man were frantic enough to make the attempt, he would find,
before three days had expired, that there is no better sword than that
which is fashioned out of a ploughshare. But, if not by the sword, how
is the country to be governed? I understand how the peace is kept at New
York. It is by the assent and support of the people. I understand also
how the peace is kept at Milan. It is by the bayonets of the Austrian
soldiers. But how the peace is to be kept when you have neither the
popular assent nor the military force, how the peace is to be kept
in England by a Government acting on the principles of the present
Opposition, I do not understand.

There is in truth a great anomaly in the relation between the English
people and their Government. Our institutions are either too popular or
not popular enough. The people have not sufficient power in making the
laws; but they have quite sufficient power to impede the execution of
the laws when made. The Legislature is almost entirely aristocratical;
the machinery by which the degrees of the Legislature are carried into
effect is almost entirely popular; and, therefore, we constantly see
all the power which ought to execute the law, employed to counteract the
law. Thus, for example, with a criminal code which carries its rigour
to the length of atrocity, we have a criminal judicature which often
carries its lenity to the length of perjury. Our law of libel is the
most absurdly severe that ever existed, so absurdly severe that, if it
were carried into full effect, it would be much more oppressive than
a censorship. And yet, with this severe law of libel, we have a
press which practically is as free as the air. In 1819 the Ministers
complained of the alarming increase of seditious and blasphemous
publications. They proposed a bill of great rigour to stop the growth
of the evil; and they carried their bill. It was enacted, that the
publisher of a seditious libel might, on a second conviction, be
banished, and that if he should return from banishment, he might be
transported. How often was this law put in force? Not once. Last year we
repealed it: but it was already dead, or rather it was dead born. It
was obsolete before Le Roi le veut had been pronounced over it. For any
effect which it produced it might as well have been in the Code Napoleon
as in the English Statute Book. And why did the Government, having
solicited and procured so sharp and weighty a weapon, straightway hang
it up to rust? Was there less sedition, were there fewer libels, after
the passing of the Act than before it? Sir, the very next year was the
year 1820, the year of the Bill of Pains and Penalties against Queen
Caroline, the very year when the public mind was most excited, the very
year when the public press was most scurrilous. Why then did not the
Ministers use their new law? Because they durst not: because they could
not. They had obtained it with ease; for in obtaining it they had to
deal with a subservient Parliament. They could not execute it: for in
executing it they would have to deal with a refractory people. These
are instances of the difficulty of carrying the law into effect when the
people are inclined to thwart their rulers. The great anomaly, or, to
speak more properly, the great evil which I have described, would,
I believe, be removed by the Reform Bill. That bill would establish
harmony between the people and the Legislature. It would give a fair
share in the making of laws to those without whose co-operation laws are
mere waste paper. Under a reformed system we should not see, as we now
often see, the nation repealing Acts of Parliament as fast as we and
the Lords can pass them. As I believe that the Reform Bill would produce
this blessed and salutary concord, so I fear that the rejection of
the Reform Bill, if that rejection should be considered as final, will
aggravate the evil which I have been describing to an unprecedented,
to a terrible extent. To all the laws which might be passed for the
collection of the revenue, or for the prevention of sedition, the people
would oppose the same kind of resistance by means of which they have
succeeded in mitigating, I might say in abrogating, the law of libel.
There would be so many offenders that the Government would scarcely know
at whom to aim its blow. Every offender would have so many accomplices
and protectors that the blow would almost always miss the aim. The Veto
of the people, a Veto not pronounced in set form like that of the Roman
Tribunes, but quite as effectual as that of the Roman Tribunes for the
purpose of impeding public measures, would meet the Government at every
turn. The administration would be unable to preserve order at home, or
to uphold the national honour abroad; and, at length, men who are now
moderate, who now think of revolution with horror, would begin to wish
that the lingering agony of the State might be terminated by one fierce,
sharp, decisive crisis.

Is there a way of escape from these calamities? I believe that there
is. I believe that, if we do our duty, if we give the people reason to
believe that the accomplishment of their wishes is only deferred, if
we declare our undiminished attachment to the Reform Bill, and our
resolution to support no Minister who will not support that bill, we
shall avert the fearful disasters which impend over the country. There
is danger that, at this conjuncture, men of more zeal than wisdom may
obtain a fatal influence over the public mind. With these men will be
joined others, who have neither zeal nor wisdom, common barrators in
politics, dregs of society which, in times of violent agitation, are
tossed up from the bottom to the top, and which, in quiet times, sink
again from the top to their natural place at the bottom. To these men
nothing is so hateful as the prospect of a reconciliation between the
orders of the State. A crisis like that which now makes every honest
citizen sad and anxious fills these men with joy, and with a detestable
hope. And how is it that such men, formed by nature and education to be
objects of mere contempt, can ever inspire terror? How is it that such
men, without talents or acquirements sufficient for the management of a
vestry, sometimes become dangerous to great empires? The secret of their
power lies in the indolence or faithlessness of those who ought to take
the lead in the redress of public grievances. The whole history of low
traders in sedition is contained in that fine old Hebrew fable which we
have all read in the Book of Judges. The trees meet to choose a king.
The vine, and the fig tree, and the olive tree decline the office. Then
it is that the sovereignty of the forest devolves upon the bramble:
then it is that from a base and noxious shrub goes forth the fire which
devours the cedars of Lebanon. Let us be instructed. If we are afraid
of political Unions and Reform Associations, let the House of Commons
become the chief point of political union: let the House of Commons
be the great Reform Association. If we are afraid that the people may
attempt to accomplish their wishes by unlawful means, let us give them
a solemn pledge that we will use in their cause all our high and ancient
privileges, so often victorious in old conflicts with tyranny; those
privileges which our ancestors invoked, not in vain, on the day when a
faithless king filled our house with his guards, took his seat, Sir, on
your chair, and saw your predecessor kneeling on the floor before
him. The Constitution of England, thank God, is not one of those
constitutions which are past all repair, and which must, for the public
welfare, be utterly destroyed. It has a decayed part; but it has also
a sound and precious part. It requires purification; but it contains
within itself the means by which that purification may be effected.
We read that in old times, when the villeins were driven to revolt by
oppression, when the castles of the nobility were burned to the ground,
when the warehouses of London were pillaged, when a hundred thousand
insurgents appeared in arms on Blackheath, when a foul murder
perpetrated in their presence had raised their passions to madness, when
they were looking round for some captain to succeed and avenge him whom
they had lost, just then, before Hob Miller, or Tom Carter, or Jack
Straw, could place himself at their head, the King rode up to them and
exclaimed, "I will be your leader!" and at once the infuriated multitude
laid down their arms, submitted to his guidance, dispersed at his
command. Herein let us imitate him. Our countrymen are, I fear, at
this moment, but too much disposed to lend a credulous ear to selfish
impostors. Let us say to them, "We are your leaders; we, your own house
of Commons; we, the constitutional interpreters of your wishes; the
knights of forty English shires, the citizens and burgesses of all your
largest towns. Our lawful power shall be firmly exerted to the utmost
in your cause; and our lawful power is such, that when firmly exerted in
your cause, it must finally prevail." This tone it is our interest and
our duty to take. The circumstances admit of no delay. Is there one
among us who is not looking with breathless anxiety for the next tidings
which may arrive from the remote parts of the kingdom? Even while I
speak, the moments are passing away, the irrevocable moments pregnant
with the destiny of a great people. The country is in danger: it may be
saved: we can save it: this is the way: this is the time. In our hands
are the issues of great good and great evil, the issues of the life and
death of the State. May the result of our deliberations be the repose
and prosperity of that noble country which is entitled to all our love;
and for the safety of which we are answerable to our own consciences, to
the memory of future ages, to the Judge of all hearts!



On Friday, the sixteenth of December 1831, Lord Althorpe moved the
second reading of the Bill to amend the representation of the people in
England and Wales. Lord Porchester moved, as an amendment, that the bill
should be read a second time that day six months. The debate lasted till
after midnight, and was then adjourned till twelve at noon. The House
did not divide till one on the Sunday morning. The amendment was then
rejected by 324 votes to 162; and the original motion was carried. The
following Speech was made on the first night of the debate.

I can assure my noble friend (Lord Mahon.), for whom I entertain
sentiments of respect and kindness which no political difference will,
I trust, ever disturb, that his remarks have given me no pain, except,
indeed, the pain which I feel at being compelled to say a few words
about myself. Those words shall be very few. I know how unpopular
egotism is in this House. My noble friend says that, in the debates of
last March, I declared myself opposed to the ballot, and that I have
since recanted, for the purpose of making myself popular with the
inhabitants of Leeds. My noble friend is altogether mistaken. I never
said, in any debate, that I was opposed to the ballot. The word ballot
never passed my lips within this House. I observed strict silence
respecting it on two accounts; in the first place, because my own
opinions were, till very lately, undecided; in the second place, because
I knew that the agitation of that question, a question of which the
importance appears to me to be greatly overrated, would divide those on
whose firm and cordial union the safety of the empire depends. My noble
friend has taken this opportunity of replying to a speech which I made
last October. The doctrines which I then laid down were, according to
him, most intemperate and dangerous. Now, Sir, it happens, curiously
enough, that my noble friend has himself asserted, in his speech of this
night, those very doctrines, in language so nearly resembling mine that
I might fairly accuse him of plagiarism. I said that laws have no force
in themselves, and that, unless supported by public opinion, they are
a mere dead letter. The noble Lord has said exactly the same thing
to-night. "Keep your old Constitution," he exclaims; "for, whatever may
be its defects in theory, it has more of the public veneration than your
new Constitution will have; and no laws can be efficient, unless they
have the public veneration." I said, that statutes are in themselves
only wax and parchment; and I was called an incendiary by the
opposition. The noble Lord has said to-night that statutes in themselves
are only ink and parchment; and those very persons who reviled me have
enthusiastically cheered him. I am quite at a loss to understand how
doctrines which are, in his mouth, true and constitutional, can, in
mine, be false and revolutionary.

But, Sir, it is time that I should address myself to the momentous
question before us. I shall certainly give my best support to this bill,
through all its stages; and, in so doing, I conceive that I shall act in
strict conformity with the resolution by which this House, towards
the close of the late Session, declared its unabated attachment to the
principles and to the leading provisions of the First Reform Bill. All
those principles, all those leading provisions, I find in the
present measure. In the details there are, undoubtedly, considerable
alterations. Most of the alterations appear to me to be improvements;
and even those alterations which I cannot consider as in themselves
improvements will yet be most useful, if their effect shall be to
conciliate opponents, and to facilitate the adjustment of a question
which, for the sake of order, for the sake of peace, for the sake of
trade, ought to be, not only satisfactorily, but speedily settled. We
have been told, Sir, that, if we pronounce this bill to be a better bill
than the last, we recant all the doctrines which we maintained during
the last Session, we sing our palinode; we allow that we have had a
great escape; we allow that our own conduct was deserving of censure;
we allow that the party which was the minority in this House, and, most
unhappily for the country, the majority in the other House, has saved
the country from a great calamity. Sir, even if this charge were well
founded, there are those who should have been prevented by prudence, if
not by magnanimity, from bringing it forward. I remember an Opposition
which took a very different course. I remember an Opposition which,
while excluded from power, taught all its doctrines to the Government;
which, after labouring long, and sacrificing much, in order to effect
improvements in various parts of our political and commercial system,
saw the honour of those improvements appropriated by others. But the
members of that Opposition had, I believe, a sincere desire to promote
the public good. They, therefore, raised no shout of triumph over the
recantations of their proselytes. They rejoiced, but with no ungenerous
joy, when their principles of trade, of jurisprudence, of foreign
policy, of religious liberty, became the principles of the
Administration. They were content that he who came into fellowship with
them at the eleventh hour should have a far larger share of the reward
than those who had borne the burthen and heat of the day. In the year
1828, a single division in this House changed the whole policy of the
Government with respect to the Test and Corporation Acts. My noble
friend, the Paymaster of the Forces, then sat where the right honourable
Baronet, the member for Tamworth, now sits. I do not remember that, when
the right honourable Baronet announced his change of purpose, my noble
friend sprang up to talk about palinodes, to magnify the wisdom and
virtue of the Whigs, and to sneer at his new coadjutors. Indeed, I am
not sure that the members of the late Opposition did not carry their
indulgence too far; that they did not too easily suffer the fame of
Grattan and Romilly to be transferred to less deserving claimants; that
they were not too ready, in the joy with which they welcomed the tardy
and convenient repentance of their converts, to grant a general amnesty
for the errors of the insincerity of years. If it were true that we had
recanted, this ought not to be made matter of charge against us by men
whom posterity will remember by nothing but recantations. But, in truth,
we recant nothing. We have nothing to recant. We support this bill. We
may possibly think it a better bill than that which preceded it. But
are we therefore bound to admit that we were in the wrong, that the
Opposition was in the right, that the House of Lords has conferred a
great benefit on the nation? We saw--who did not see?--great defects
in the first bill. But did we see nothing else? Is delay no evil? Is
prolonged excitement no evil? Is it no evil that the heart of a great
people should be made sick by deferred hope? We allow that many of the
changes which have been made are improvements. But we think that it
would have been far better for the country to have had the last bill,
with all its defects, than the present bill, with all its improvements.
Second thoughts are proverbially the best, but there are emergencies
which do not admit of second thoughts. There probably never was a law
which might not have been amended by delay. But there have been many
cases in which there would have been more mischief in the delay than
benefit in the amendments. The first bill, however inferior it may have
been in its details to the present bill, was yet herein far superior to
the present bill, than it was the first. If the first bill had passed,
it would, I firmly believe, have produced a complete reconciliation
between the aristocracy and the people. It is my earnest wish and prayer
that the present bill may produce this blessed effect; but I cannot say
that my hopes are so sanguine as they were at the beginning of the last
Session. The decision of the House of Lords has, I fear, excited in the
public mind feelings of resentment which will not soon be allayed. What
then, it is said, would you legislate in haste? Would you legislate in
times of great excitement concerning matters of such deep concern? Yes,
Sir, I would: and if any bad consequences should follow from the haste
and the excitement, let those be held answerable who, when there was no
need of haste, when there existed no excitement, refused to listen to
any project of Reform, nay, who made it an argument against Reform, that
the public mind was not excited. When few meetings were held, when few
petitions were sent up to us, these politicians said, "Would you alter
a Constitution with which the people are perfectly satisfied?" And now,
when the kingdom from one end to the other is convulsed by the question
of Reform, we hear it said by the very same persons, "Would you alter
the Representative system in such agitated times as these?" Half the
logic of misgovernment lies in this one sophistical dilemma: If the
people are turbulent, they are unfit for liberty: if they are quiet,
they do not want liberty.

I allow that hasty legislation is an evil. I allow that there are great
objections to legislating in troubled times. But reformers are compelled
to legislate fast, because bigots will not legislate early. Reformers
are compelled to legislate in times of excitement, because bigots will
not legislate in times of tranquillity. If, ten years ago, nay, if only
two years ago, there had been at the head of affairs men who understood
the signs of the times and the temper of the nation, we should not have
been forced to hurry now. If we cannot take our time, it is because we
have to make up for their lost time. If they had reformed gradually,
we might have reformed gradually; but we are compelled to move fast,
because they would not move at all.

Though I admit, Sir, that this bill is in its details superior to the
former bill, I must say that the best parts of this bill, those parts
for the sake of which principally I support it, those parts for the sake
of which I would support it, however imperfect its details might be,
are parts which it has in common with the former bill. It destroys
nomination; it admits the great body of the middle orders to a share in
the government; and it contains provisions which will, as I conceive,
greatly diminish the expense of elections.

Touching the expense of elections I will say a few words, because that
part of the subject has not, I think, received so much attention as it
deserves. Whenever the nomination boroughs are attacked, the opponents
of Reform produce a long list of eminent men who have sate for those
boroughs, and who, they tell us, would never have taken any part in
public affairs but for those boroughs. Now, Sir, I suppose no person
will maintain that a large constituent body is likely to prefer ignorant
and incapable men to men of information and ability? Whatever objections
there may be to democratic institutions, it was never, I believe,
doubted that those institutions are favourable to the development of
talents. We may prefer the constitution of Sparta to that of Athens, or
the constitution of Venice to that of Florence: but no person will
deny that Athens produced more great men than Sparta, or that Florence
produced more great men than Venice. But to come nearer home: the five
largest English towns which have now the right of returning two members
each by popular election, are Westminster, Southwark, Liverpool,
Bristol, and Norwich. Now let us see what members those places have sent
to Parliament. I will not speak of the living, though among the living
are some of the most distinguished ornaments of the House. I will
confine myself to the dead. Among many respectable and useful members
of Parliament, whom these towns have returned, during the last half
century, I find Mr Burke, Mr Fox, Mr Sheridan, Mr Windham, Mr Tierney,
Sir Samuel Romilly, Mr Canning, Mr Huskisson. These were eight of
the most illustrious parliamentary leaders of the generation which
is passing away from the world. Mr Pitt was, perhaps, the only
person worthy to make a ninth with them. It is, surely, a remarkable
circumstance that, of the nine most distinguished Members of the House
of Commons who have died within the last forty years, eight should have
been returned to Parliament by the five largest represented towns. I am,
therefore, warranted in saying that great constituent bodies are quite
as competent to discern merit, and quite as much disposed to reward
merit, as the proprietors of boroughs. It is true that some of the
distinguished statesmen whom I have mentioned would never have been
known to large constituent bodies if they had not first sate for
nomination boroughs. But why is this? Simply, because the expense of
contesting popular places, under the present system, is ruinously
great. A poor man cannot defray it; an untried man cannot expect his
constituents to defray it for him. And this is the way in which our
Representative system is defended. Corruption vouches corruption. Every
abuse is made the plea for another abuse. We must have nomination at
Gatton because we have profusion at Liverpool. Sir, these arguments
convince me, not that no Reform is required, but that a very deep and
searching Reform is required. If two evils serve in some respects to
counterbalance each other, this is a reason, not for keeping both, but
for getting rid of both together. At present you close against men of
talents that broad, that noble entrance which belongs to them, and which
ought to stand wide open to them; and in exchange you open to them a bye
entrance, low and narrow, always obscure, often filthy, through which,
too often, they can pass only by crawling on their hands and knees, and
from which they too often emerge sullied with stains never to be washed
away. But take the most favourable case. Suppose that the member who
sits for a nomination borough owes his seat to a man of virtue and
honour, to a man whose service is perfect freedom, to a man who would
think himself degraded by any proof of gratitude which might degrade
his nominee. Yet is it nothing that such a member comes into this House
wearing the badge, though not feeling the chain of servitude? Is it
nothing that he cannot speak of his independence without exciting a
smile? Is it nothing that he is considered, not as a Representative, but
as an adventurer? This is what your system does for men of genius. It
admits them to political power, not as, under better institutions, they
would be admitted to power, erect, independent, unsullied; but by
means which corrupt the virtue of many, and in some degree diminish the
authority of all. Could any system be devised, better fitted to pervert
the principles and break the spirit of men formed to be the glory of
their country? And, can we mention no instance in which this system has
made such men useless, or worse than useless, to the country of which
their talents were the ornament, and might, in happier circumstances,
have been the salvation? Ariel, the beautiful and kindly Ariel, doing
the bidding of the loathsome and malignant Sycorax, is but a faint
type of genius enslaved by the spells, and employed in the drudgery of

     "A spirit too delicate
     To act those earthy and abhorred commands."

We cannot do a greater service to men of real merit than by destroying
that which has been called their refuge, which is their house of
bondage; by taking from them the patronage of the great, and giving to
them in its stead the respect and confidence of the people. The bill now
before us will, I believe, produce that happy effect. It facilitates the
canvass; it reduces the expense of legal agency; it shortens the poll;
above all, it disfranchises the outvoters. It is not easy to calculate
the precise extent to which these changes will diminish the cost of
elections. I have attempted, however, to obtain some information on this
subject. I have applied to a gentleman of great experience in affairs of
this kind, a gentleman who, at the last three general elections, managed
the finances of the popular party in one of the largest boroughs in the
kingdom. He tells me, that at the general election of 1826, when that
borough was contested, the expenses of the popular candidate amounted to
eighteen thousand pounds; and that, by the best estimate which can now
be made, the borough may, under the reformed system, be as effectually
contested for one tenth part of that sum. In the new constituent bodies
there are no ancient rights reserved. In those bodies, therefore, the
expense of an election will be still smaller. I firmly believe, that it
will be possible to poll out Manchester for less than the market price
of Old Sarum.

Sir, I have, from the beginning of these discussions, supported Reform
on two grounds; first, because I believe it to be in itself a good
thing; and secondly, because I think the dangers of withholding it so
great that, even if it were an evil, it would be the less of two evils.
The dangers of the country have in no wise diminished. I believe that
they have greatly increased. It is, I fear, impossible to deny that
what has happened with respect to almost every great question that
ever divided mankind has happened also with respect to the Reform Bill.
Wherever great interests are at stake there will be much excitement; and
wherever there is much excitement there will be some extravagance. The
same great stirring of the human mind which produced the Reformation
produced also the follies and crimes of the Anabaptists. The same spirit
which resisted the Ship-money, and abolished the Star Chamber, produced
the Levellers and the Fifth Monarchy men. And so, it cannot be denied
that bad men, availing themselves of the agitation produced by the
question of Reform, have promulgated, and promulgated with some success,
doctrines incompatible with the existence, I do not say of monarchy, or
of aristocracy, but of all law, of all order, of all property, of all
civilisation, of all that makes us to differ from Mohawks or Hottentots.
I bring no accusation against that portion of the working classes which
has been imposed upon by these doctrines. Those persons are what their
situation has made them, ignorant from want of leisure, irritable
from the sense of distress. That they should be deluded by impudent
assertions and gross sophisms; that, suffering cruel privations, they
should give ready credence to promises of relief; that, never having
investigated the nature and operation of government, they should expect
impossibilities from it, and should reproach it for not performing
impossibilities; all this is perfectly natural. No errors which they may
commit ought ever to make us forget that it is in all probability owing
solely to the accident of our situation that we have not fallen into
errors precisely similar. There are few of us who do not know from
experience that, even with all our advantages of education, pain and
sorrow can make us very querulous and very unreasonable. We ought not,
therefore, to be surprised that, as the Scotch proverb says, "it should
be ill talking between a full man and a fasting;" that the logic of
the rich man who vindicates the rights of property, should seem very
inconclusive to the poor man who hears his children cry for bread.
I bring, I say, no accusation against the working classes. I would
withhold from them nothing which it might be for their good to possess.
I see with pleasure that, by the provisions of the Reform Bill, the most
industrious and respectable of our labourers will be admitted to a share
in the government of the State. If I would refuse to the working people
that larger share of power which some of them have demanded, I would
refuse it, because I am convinced that, by giving it, I should only
increase their distress. I admit that the end of government is their
happiness. But, that they may be governed for their happiness, they must
not be governed according to the doctrines which they have learned from
their illiterate, incapable, low-minded flatterers.

But, Sir, the fact that such doctrines have been promulgated among the
multitude is a strong argument for a speedy and effectual reform.
That government is attacked is a reason for making the foundations
of government broader, and deeper, and more solid. That property is
attacked is a reason for binding together all proprietors in the
firmest union. That the agitation of the question of Reform has enabled
worthless demagogues to propagate their notions with some success is a
reason for speedily settling the question in the only way in which it
can be settled. It is difficult, Sir, to conceive any spectacle more
alarming than that which presents itself to us, when we look at the two
extreme parties in this country; a narrow oligarchy above; an infuriated
multitude below; on the one side the vices engendered by power; on the
other side the vices engendered by distress; one party blindly averse
to improvement; the other party blindly clamouring for destruction; one
party ascribing to political abuses the sanctity of property; the other
party crying out against property as a political abuse. Both these
parties are alike ignorant of their true interest. God forbid that the
state should ever be at the mercy of either, or should ever experience
the calamities which must result from a collision between them! I
anticipate no such horrible event. For, between those two parties
stands a third party, infinitely more powerful than both the others put
together, attacked by both, vilified by both, but destined, I trust,
to save both from the fatal effects of their own folly. To that party
I have never ceased, through all the vicissitudes of public affairs, to
look with confidence and with good a hope. I speak of that great party
which zealously and steadily supported the first Reform Bill, and
which will, I have no doubt, support the second Reform Bill with equal
steadiness and equal zeal. That party is the middle class of England,
with the flower of the aristocracy at its head, and the flower of the
working classes bringing up its rear. That great party has taken its
immovable stand between the enemies of all order and the enemies of
all liberty. It will have Reform: it will not have revolution: it will
destroy political abuses: it will not suffer the rights of property to
be assailed: it will preserve, in spite of themselves, those who are
assailing it, from the right and from the left, with contradictory
accusations: it will be a daysman between them: it will lay its hand
upon them both: it will not suffer them to tear each other in pieces.
While that great party continues unbroken, as it now is unbroken, I
shall not relinquish the hope that this great contest may be conducted,
by lawful means, to a happy termination. But, of this I am assured, that
by means, lawful or unlawful, to a termination, happy or unhappy, this
contest must speedily come. All that I know of the history of past
times, all the observations that I have been able to make on the present
state of the country, have convinced me that the time has arrived when
a great concession must be made to the democracy of England; that the
question, whether the change be in itself good or bad, has become a
question of secondary importance; that, good or bad, the thing must
be done; that a law as strong as the laws of attraction and motion has
decreed it.

I well know that history, when we look at it in small portions, may be
so construed as to mean anything, that it may be interpreted in as many
ways as a Delphic oracle. "The French Revolution," says one expositor,
"was the effect of concession." "Not so," cries another: "The French
Revolution was produced by the obstinacy of an arbitrary government."
"If the French nobles," says the first, "had refused to sit with the
Third Estate, they would never have been driven from their country."
"They would never have been driven from their country," answers the
other, "if they had agreed to the reforms proposed by M. Turgot." These
controversies can never be brought to any decisive test, or to any
satisfactory conclusion. But, as I believe that history, when we look at
it in small fragments, proves anything, or nothing, so I believe that
it is full of useful and precious instruction when we contemplate it
in large portions, when we take in, at one view, the whole lifetime of
great societies. I believe that it is possible to obtain some insight
into the law which regulates the growth of communities, and some
knowledge of the effects which that growth produces. They history of
England, in particular, is the history of a government constantly
giving way, sometimes peaceably, sometimes after a violent struggle,
but constantly giving way before a nation which has been constantly
advancing. The forest laws, the laws of villenage, the oppressive power
of the Roman Catholic Church, the power, scarcely less oppressive,
which, during some time after the Reformation, was exercised by the
Protestant Establishment, the prerogatives of the Crown, the censorship
of the Press, successively yielded. The abuses of the representative
system are now yielding to the same irresistible force. It was
impossible for the Stuarts, and it would have been impossible for them
if they had possessed all the energy of Richelieu, and all the craft of
Mazarin, to govern England as England had been governed by the Tudors.
It was impossible for the princes of the House of Hanover to govern
England as England had been governed by the Stuarts. And so it is
impossible that England should be any longer governed as it was governed
under the four first princes of the House of Hanover. I say impossible.
I believe that over the great changes of the moral world we possess as
little power as over the great changes of the physical world. We can
no more prevent time from changing the distribution of property and
of intelligence, we can no more prevent property and intelligence from
aspiring to political power, than we can change the courses of the
seasons and of the tides. In peace or in tumult, by means of old
institutions, where those institutions are flexible, over the ruins
of old institutions, where those institutions oppose an unbending
resistance, the great march of society proceeds, and must proceed. The
feeble efforts of individuals to bear back are lost and swept away in
the mighty rush with which the species goes onward. Those who appear to
lead the movement are, in fact, only whirled along before it; those who
attempt to resist it, are beaten down and crushed beneath it.

It is because rulers do not pay sufficient attention to the stages of
this great movement, because they underrate its force, because they are
ignorant of its law, that so many violent and fearful revolutions have
changed the face of society. We have heard it said a hundred times
during these discussions, we have heard it said repeatedly in the course
of this very debate, that the people of England are more free than ever
they were, that the Government is more democratic than ever it was; and
this is urged as an argument against Reform. I admit the fact; but
I deny the inference. It is a principle never to be forgotten, in
discussions like this, that it is not by absolute, but by relative
misgovernment that nations are roused to madness. It is not sufficient
to look merely at the form of government. We must look also to the state
of the public mind. The worst tyrant that ever had his neck wrung in
modern Europe might have passed for a paragon of clemency in Persia or
Morocco. Our Indian subjects submit patiently to a monopoly of salt. We
tried a stamp duty, a duty so light as to be scarcely perceptible,
on the fierce breed of the old Puritans; and we lost an empire. The
Government of Louis the Sixteenth was certainly a much better and milder
Government than that of Louis the Fourteenth; yet Louis the Fourteenth
was admired, and even loved, by his people. Louis the Sixteenth died on
the scaffold. Why? Because, though the Government had made many steps in
the career of improvement, it had not advanced so rapidly as the nation.
Look at our own history. The liberties of the people were at least as
much respected by Charles the First as by Henry the Eighth, by James the
Second as by Edward the Sixth. But did this save the crown of James the
Second? Did this save the head of Charles the First? Every person
who knows the history of our civil dissensions knows that all those
arguments which are now employed by the opponents of the Reform Bill
might have been employed, and were actually employed, by the unfortunate
Stuarts. The reasoning of Charles, and of all his apologists, runs
thus:--"What new grievance does the nation suffer? What has the King
done more than what Henry did? more than what Elizabeth did? Did the
people ever enjoy more freedom than at present? Did they ever enjoy so
much freedom?" But what would a wise and honest counsellor, if Charles
had been so happy as to possess such a counsellor, have replied to
arguments like these? He would have said, "Sir, I acknowledge that the
people were never more free than under your government. I acknowledge
that those who talk of restoring the old Constitution of England use
an improper expression. I acknowledge that there has been a constant
improvement during those very years during which many persons imagine
that there has been a constant deterioration. But, though there has been
no change in the government for the worse, there has been a change in
the public mind which produces exactly the same effect which would
be produced by a change in the government for the worse. Perhaps this
change in the public mind is to be regretted. But no matter; you cannot
reverse it. You cannot undo all that eighty eventful years have done.
You cannot transform the Englishmen of 1640 into the Englishmen of 1560.
It may be that the simple loyalty of our fathers was preferable to that
inquiring, censuring, resisting spirit which is now abroad. It may be
that the times when men paid their benevolences cheerfully were better
times than these, when a gentleman goes before the Exchequer Chamber to
resist an assessment of twenty shillings. And so it may be that infancy
is a happier time than manhood, and manhood than old age. But God has
decreed that old age shall succeed to manhood, and manhood to infancy.
Even so have societies their law of growth. As their strength becomes
greater, as their experience becomes more extensive, you can no longer
confine them within the swaddling bands, or lull them in the cradles, or
amuse them with the rattles, or terrify them with the bugbears of their
infancy. I do not say that they are better or happier than they were;
but this I say, that they are different from what they were, that you
cannot again make them what they were, and that you cannot safely treat
them as if they continued to be what they were." This was the advice
which a wise and honest Minister would have given to Charles the First.
These were the principles on which that unhappy prince should have
acted. But no. He would govern, I do not say ill, I do not say
tyrannically; I only say this; he would govern the men of the
seventeenth century as if they had been the men of the sixteenth
century; and therefore it was, that all his talents and all his virtues
did not save him from unpopularity, from civil war, from a prison, from
a bar, from a scaffold. These things are written for our instruction.
Another great intellectual revolution has taken place; our lot has
been cast on a time analogous, in many respects, to the time which
immediately preceded the meeting of the Long Parliament. There is
a change in society. There must be a corresponding change in the
government. We are not, we cannot, in the nature of things, be, what our
fathers were. We are no more like the men of the American war, or the
men of the gagging bills, than the men who cried "privilege" round the
coach of Charles the First were like the men who changed their religion
once a year at the bidding of Henry the Eighth. That there is such a
change, I can no more doubt than I can doubt that we have more power
looms, more steam engines, more gas lights, than our ancestors. That
there is such a change, the Minister will surely find who shall attempt
to fit the yoke of Mr Pitt to the necks of the Englishmen of the
nineteenth century. What then can you do to bring back those times
when the constitution of this House was an object of veneration to the
people? Even as much as Strafford and Laud could do to bring back the
days of the Tudors; as much as Bonner and Gardiner could do to bring
back the days of Hildebrand; as much as Villele and Polignac could do
to bring back the days of Louis the Fourteenth. You may make the change
tedious; you may make it violent; you may--God in his mercy forbid!--you
may make it bloody; but avert it you cannot. Agitations of the public
mind, so deep and so long continued as those which we have witnessed, do
not end in nothing. In peace or in convulsion, by the law, or in spite
of the law, through the Parliament, or over the Parliament, Reform must
be carried. Therefore be content to guide that movement which you cannot
stop. Fling wide the gates to that force which else will enter through
the breach. Then will it still be, as it has hitherto been, the peculiar
glory of our Constitution that, though not exempt from the decay which
is wrought by the vicissitudes of fortune, and the lapse of time, in all
the proudest works of human power and wisdom, it yet contains within
it the means of self-reparation. Then will England add to her manifold
titles of glory this, the noblest and the purest of all; that every
blessing which other nations have been forced to seek, and have too
often sought in vain, by means of violent and bloody revolutions, she
will have attained by a peaceful and a lawful Reform.



On Monday, the twenty-seventh of February, 1832, the House took into
consideration the report of the Committee on Mr Warburton's Anatomy
Bill. Mr Henry Hunt attacked that bill with great asperity. In reply to
him the following Speech was made.

Sir, I cannot, even at this late hour of the night, refrain from saying
two or three words. Most of the observations of the honourable Member
for Preston I pass by, as undeserving of any answer before an audience
like this. But on one part of his speech I must make a few remarks. We
are, he says, making a law to benefit the rich, at the expense of the
poor. Sir, the fact is the direct reverse. This is a bill which tends
especially to the benefit of the poor. What are the evils against which
we are attempting to make provision? Two especially; that is to say, the
practice of Burking, and bad surgery. Now to both these the poor alone
are exposed. What man, in our rank of life, runs the smallest risk of
being Burked? That a man has property, that he has connections, that he
is likely to be missed and sought for, are circumstances which secure
him against the Burker. It is curious to observe the difference between
murders of this kind and other murders. An ordinary murder hides the
body, and disposes of the property. Bishop and Williams dig holes and
bury the property, and expose the body to sale. The more wretched, the
more lonely, any human being may be, the more desirable prey is he to
these wretches. It is the man, the mere naked man, that they pursue.
Again, as to bad surgery; this is, of all evils, the evil by which the
rich suffer least, and the poor most. If we could do all that in the
opinion of the Member for Preston ought to be done, if we could destroy
the English school of anatomy, if we could force every student of
medical science to go to the expense of a foreign education, on whom
would the bad consequences fall? On the rich? Not at all. As long as
there is in France, in Italy, in Germany, a single surgeon of eminent
skill, a single surgeon who is, to use the phrase of the member for
Preston, addicted to dissection, that surgeon will be in attendance
whenever an English nobleman is to be cut for the stone. The higher
orders in England will always be able to procure the best medical
assistance. Who suffers by the bad state of the Russian school of
surgery? The Emperor Nicholas? By no means. The whole evil falls on the
peasantry. If the education of a surgeon should become very extensive,
if the fees of surgeons should consequently rise, if the supply of
regular surgeons should diminish, the sufferers would be, not the
rich, but the poor in our country villages, who would again be left to
mountebanks, and barbers, and old women, and charms and quack medicines.
The honourable gentleman talks of sacrificing the interests of humanity
to the interests of science, as if this were a question about the
squaring of the circle, or the transit of Venus. This is not a mere
question of science: it is not the unprofitable exercise of an ingenious
mind: it is a question between health and sickness, between ease and
torment, between life and death. Does the honourable gentleman know from
what cruel sufferings the improvement of surgical science has rescued
our species? I will tell him one story, the first that comes into
my head. He may have heard of Leopold, Duke of Austria, the same who
imprisoned our Richard Coeur-de-Lion. Leopold's horse fell under him,
and crushed his leg. The surgeons said that the limb must be amputated;
but none of them knew how to amputate it. Leopold, in his agony, laid a
hatchet on his thigh, and ordered his servant to strike with a mallet.
The leg was cut off, and the Duke died of the gush of blood. Such was
the end of that powerful prince. Why, there is not now a bricklayer who
falls from a ladder in England, who cannot obtain surgical assistance,
infinitely superior to that which the sovereign of Austria could command
in the twelfth century. I think this a bill which tends to the good
of the people, and which tends especially to the good of the poor.
Therefore I support it. If it is unpopular, I am sorry for it. But
I shall cheerfully take my share of its unpopularity. For such, I am
convinced, ought to be the conduct of one whose object it is, not to
flatter the people, but to serve them.



On Tuesday, the twenty-eighth of February, 1832, in the Committee on the
Bill to amend the representation of the people in England and Wales,
the question was put, "That the Tower Hamlets, Middlesex, stand part of
Schedule C." The opponents of the Bill mustered their whole strength on
this occasion, and were joined by some members who had voted with the
Government on the second reading. The question was carried, however, by
316 votes to 236. The following Speech was made in reply to the Marquess
of Chandos and Sir Edward Sugden, who, on very different grounds,
objected to any increase in the number of metropolitan members.

Mr Bernal,--I have spoken so often on the question of Parliamentary
Reform, that I am very unwilling to occupy the time of the Committee.
But the importance of the amendment proposed by the noble Marquess, and
the peculiar circumstances in which we are placed to-night, make me so
anxious that I cannot remain silent.

In this debate, as in every other debate, our first object should be to
ascertain on which side the burden of the proof lies. Now, it seems to
me quite clear that the burden of the proof lies on those who support
the amendment. I am entitled to take it for granted that it is right and
wise to give representatives to some wealthy and populous places which
have hitherto been unrepresented. To this extent, at least, we all,
with scarcely an exception, now profess ourselves Reformers. There is,
indeed, a great party which still objects to the disfranchising even
of the smallest boroughs. But all the most distinguished chiefs of that
party have, here and elsewhere, admitted that the elective franchise
ought to be given to some great towns which have risen into importance
since our representative system took its present form. If this be so, on
what ground can it be contended that these metropolitan districts ought
not to be represented? Are they inferior in importance to the other
places to which we are all prepared to give members? I use the word
importance with perfect confidence: for, though in our recent debates
there has been some dispute as to the standard by which the importance
of towns is to be measured, there is no room for dispute here.
Here, take what standard you will, the result will be the same. Take
population: take the rental: take the number of ten pound houses: take
the amount of the assessed taxes: take any test in short: take any
number of tests, and combine those tests in any of the ingenious ways
which men of science have suggested: multiply: divide: subtract: add:
try squares or cubes: try square roots or cube roots: you will never be
able to find a pretext for excluding these districts from Schedule C.
If, then, it be acknowledged that the franchise ought to be given
to important places which are at present unrepresented, and if it be
acknowledged that these districts are in importance not inferior to any
place which is at present unrepresented, you are bound to give us strong
reasons for withholding the franchise from these districts.

The honourable and learned gentleman (Sir E. Sugden.) has tried to give
such reasons; and, in doing so, he has completely refuted the whole
speech of the noble Marquess, with whom he means to divide. (The
Marquess of Chandos.) The truth is that the noble Marquess and the
honourable and learned gentleman, though they agree in their votes, do
not at all agree in their forebodings or in their ulterior intentions.
The honourable and learned gentleman thinks it dangerous to increase the
number of metropolitan voters. The noble Lord is perfectly willing to
increase the number of metropolitan voters, and objects only to any
increase in the number of metropolitan members. "Will you," says the
honourable and learned gentleman, "be so rash, so insane, as to create
constituent bodies of twenty or thirty thousand electors?" "Yes," says
the noble Marquess, "and much more than that. I will create constituent
bodies of forty thousand, sixty thousand, a hundred thousand. I will add
Marylebone to Westminster. I will add Lambeth to Southwark. I will add
Finsbury and the Tower Hamlets to the City." The noble Marquess, it
is clear, is not afraid of the excitement which may be produced by the
polling of immense multitudes. Of what then is he afraid? Simply of
eight members: nay, of six members: for he is willing, he tells us, to
add two members to the two who already sit for Middlesex, and who may
be considered as metropolitan members. Are six members, then, so
formidable? I could mention a single peer who now sends more than six
members to the House. But, says the noble Marquess, the members for
the metropolitan districts will be called to a strict account by their
constituents: they will be mere delegates: they will be forced to speak,
not their own sense, but the sense of the capital. I will answer for
it, Sir, that they will not be called to a stricter account than those
gentlemen who are nominated by some great proprietors of boroughs. Is
it not notorious that those who represent it as in the highest degree
pernicious and degrading that a public man should be called to account
by a great city which has intrusted its dearest interests to his care,
do nevertheless think that he is bound by the most sacred ties of
honour to vote according to the wishes of his patron or to apply for the
Chiltern Hundreds? It is a bad thing, I fully admit, that a Member of
Parliament should be a mere delegate. But it is not worse that he should
be the delegate of a hundred thousand people than of one too powerful
individual. What a perverse, what an inconsistent spirit is this; too
proud to bend to the wishes of a nation, yet ready to lick the dust at
the feet of a patron! And how is it proved that a member for Lambeth
or Finsbury will be under a more servile awe of his constituents than
a member for Leicester, or a member for Leicestershire, or a member
for the University of Oxford? Is it not perfectly notorious that many
members voted, year after year, against Catholic Emancipation, simply
because they knew that, if they voted otherwise, they would lose their
seats? No doubt this is an evil. But it is an evil which will exist in
some form or other as long as human nature is the same, as long as
there are men so low-minded as to prefer the gratification of a vulgar
ambition to the approbation of their conscience and the welfare of their
country. Construct your representative system as you will, these men
will always be sycophants. If you give power to Marylebone, they will
fawn on the householders of Marylebone. If you leave power to Gatton,
they will fawn on the proprietor of Gatton. I can see no reason for
believing that their baseness will be more mischievous in the former
case than in the latter.

But, it is said, the power of this huge capital is even now dangerously
great; and will you increase that power? Now, Sir, I am far from denying
that the power of London is, in some sense, dangerously great; but I
altogether deny that the danger will be increased by this bill. It has
always been found that a hundred thousand people congregated close to
the seat of government exercise a greater influence on public affairs
than five hundred thousand dispersed over a remote province. But this
influence is not proportioned to the number of representatives chosen by
the capital. This influence is felt at present, though the greater part
of the capital is unrepresented. This influence is felt in countries
where there is no representative system at all. Indeed, this influence
is nowhere so great as under despotic governments. I need not remind the
Committee that the Caesars, while ruling by the sword, while putting
to death without a trial every senator, every magistrate, who incurred
their displeasure, yet found it necessary to keep the populace of the
imperial city in good humour by distributions of corn and shows of wild
beasts. Every country, from Britain to Egypt, was squeezed for the means
of filling the granaries and adorning the theatres of Rome. On more than
one occasion, long after the Cortes of Castile had become a mere name,
the rabble of Madrid assembled before the royal palace, forced their
King, their absolute King, to appear in the balcony, and exacted from
him a promise that he would dismiss an obnoxious minister. It was in
this way that Charles the Second was forced to part with Oropesa, and
that Charles the Third was forced to part with Squillaci. If there is
any country in the world where pure despotism exists, that country is
Turkey; and yet there is no country in the world where the inhabitants
of the capital are so much dreaded by the government. The Sultan, who
stands in awe of nothing else, stands in awe of the turbulent populace,
which may, at any moment, besiege him in his Seraglio. As soon as
Constantinople is up, everything is conceded. The unpopular edict is
recalled. The unpopular vizier is beheaded. This sort of power has
nothing to do with representation. It depends on physical force and
on vicinity. You do not propose to take this sort of power away from
London. Indeed, you cannot take it away. Nothing can take it away but an
earthquake more terrible than that of Lisbon, or a fire more destructive
than that of 1666. Law can do nothing against this description of power;
for it is a power which is formidable only when law has ceased to exist.
While the reign of law continues, eight votes in a House of six hundred
and fifty-eight Members will hardly do much harm. When the reign of law
is at an end, and the reign of violence commences, the importance of a
million and a half of people, all collected within a walk of the Palace,
of the Parliament House, of the Bank, of the Courts of Justice, will not
be measured by eight or by eighty votes. See, then, what you are doing.
That power which is not dangerous you refuse to London. That power which
is dangerous you leave undiminished; nay, you make it more dangerous
still. For by refusing to let eight or nine hundred thousand people
express their opinions and wishes in a legal and constitutional way, you
increase the risk of disaffection and of tumult. It is not necessary to
have recourse to the speeches or writings of democrats to show that
a represented district is far more likely to be turbulent than an
unrepresented district. Mr Burke, surely not a rash innovator, not
a flatterer of the multitude, described long ago in this place
with admirable eloquence the effect produced by the law which gave
representative institutions to the rebellious mountaineers of Wales.
That law, he said, had been to an agitated nation what the twin stars
celebrated by Horace were to a stormy sea; the wind had fallen; the
clouds had dispersed; the threatening waves had sunk to rest. I have
mentioned the commotions of Madrid and Constantinople. Why is it that
the population of unrepresented London, though physically far more
powerful than the population of Madrid or of Constantinople, has been
far more peaceable? Why have we never seen the inhabitants of the
metropolis besiege St James's, or force their way riotously into this
House? Why, but because they have other means of giving vent to their
feelings, because they enjoy the liberty of unlicensed printing, and the
liberty of holding public meetings. Just as the people of unrepresented
London are more orderly than the people of Constantinople and Madrid, so
will the people of represented London be more orderly than the people of
unrepresented London.

Surely, Sir, nothing can be more absurd than to withhold legal power
from a portion of the community because that portion of the community
possesses natural power. Yet that is precisely what the noble Marquess
would have us do. In all ages a chief cause of the intestine disorders
of states has been that the natural distribution of power and the legal
distribution of power have not corresponded with each other. This is
no newly discovered truth. It was well known to Aristotle more than two
thousand years ago. It is illustrated by every part of ancient and of
modern history, and eminently by the history of England during the last
few months. Our country has been in serious danger; and why? Because
a representative system, framed to suit the England of the thirteenth
century, did not suit the England of the nineteenth century; because an
old wall, the last relique of a departed city, retained the privileges
of that city, while great towns, celebrated all over the world for
wealth and intelligence, had no more share in the government than when
they were still hamlets. The object of this bill is to correct those
monstrous disproportions, and to bring the legal order of society into
something like harmony with the natural order. What, then, can be more
inconsistent with the fundamental principle of the bill than to exclude
any district from a share in the representation, for no reason but
because that district is, and must always be, one of great importance?
This bill was meant to reconcile and unite. Will you frame it in such a
manner that it must inevitably produce irritation and discord? This bill
was meant to be final in the only rational sense of the word final. Will
you frame it in such a way that it must inevitably be shortlived? Is it
to be the first business of the first reformed House of Commons to pass
a new Reform Bill? Gentlemen opposite have often predicted that the
settlement which we are making will not be permanent; and they are now
taking the surest way to accomplish their own prediction. I agree with
them in disliking change merely as change. I would bear with many
things which are indefensible in theory, nay, with some things which are
grievous in practice, rather than venture on a change in the composition
of Parliament. But when such a change is necessary,--and that such a
change is now necessary is admitted by men of all parties,--then I hold
that it ought to be full and effectual. A great crisis may be followed
by the complete restoration of health. But no constitution will bear
perpetual tampering. If the noble Marquess's amendment should unhappily
be carried, it is morally certain that the immense population of
Finsbury, of Marylebone, of Lambeth, of the Tower Hamlets, will,
importunately and clamorously, demand redress from the reformed
Parliament. That Parliament, you tell us, will be much more
democratically inclined than the Parliaments of past times. If so, how
can you expect that it will resist the urgent demands of a million of
people close to its door? These eight seats will be given. More than
eight seats will be given. The whole question of Reform will be opened
again; and the blame will rest on those who will, by mutilating this
great law in an essential part, cause hundreds of thousands who now
regard it as a boon to regard it as an outrage.

Sir, our word is pledged. Let us remember the solemn promise which we
gave to the nation last October at a perilous conjuncture. That promise
was that we would stand firmly by the principles and leading provisions
of the Reform Bill. Our sincerity is now brought to the test. One of the
leading provisions of the bill is in danger. The question is, not merely
whether these districts shall be represented, but whether we will keep
the faith which we plighted to our countrymen. Let us be firm. Let us
make no concession to those who, having in vain tried to throw the bill
out, are now trying to fritter it away. An attempt has been made to
induce the Irish members to vote against the government. It has been
hinted that, perhaps, some of the seats taken from the metropolis may be
given to Ireland. Our Irish friends will, I doubt not, remember that
the very persons who offer this bribe exerted themselves not long ago
to raise a cry against the proposition to give additional members to
Belfast, Limerick, Waterford, and Galway. The truth is that our enemies
wish only to divide us, and care not by what means. One day they try
to excite jealousy among the English by asserting that the plan of the
government is too favourable to Ireland. Next day they try to bribe the
Irish to desert us, by promising to give something to Ireland at the
expense of England. Let us disappoint these cunning men. Let us, from
whatever part of the United Kingdom we come, be true to each other and
to the good cause. We have the confidence of our country. We have justly
earned it. For God's sake let us not throw it away. Other occasions may
arise on which honest Reformers may fairly take different sides. But
to-night he that is not with us is against us.



On the twenty-ninth of January 1833, the first Parliament elected under
the Reform Act of 1832 met at Westminster. On the fifth of February,
King William the Fourth made a speech from the throne, in which he
expressed his hope that the Houses would entrust him with such powers as
might be necessary for maintaining order in Ireland and for preserving
and strengthening the union between that country and Great Britain.
An Address, assuring His Majesty of the concurrence and support of the
Commons, was moved by Lord Ormelie and seconded by Mr John Marshall.
Mr O'Connell opposed the Address, and moved, as an amendment, that the
House should resolve itself into a Committee. After a discussion of
four nights the amendment was rejected by 428 votes to 40. On the second
night of the debate the following Speech was made.

Last night, Sir, I thought that it would not be necessary for me to take
any part in the present debate: but the appeal which has this evening
been made to me by my honourable friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr
Edward Lytton Bulwer.) has forced me to rise. I will, however, postpone
the few words which I have to say in defence of my own consistency, till
I have expressed my opinion on the much more important subject which is
before the House.

My honourable friend tells us that we are now called upon to make a
choice between two modes of pacifying Ireland; that the government
recommends coercion; that the honourable and learned Member for Dublin
(Mr O'Connell.) recommends redress; and that it is our duty to try the
effect of redress before we have recourse to coercion. The antithesis is
framed with all the ingenuity which is characteristic of my honourable
friend's style; but I cannot help thinking that, on this occasion,
his ingenuity has imposed on himself, and that he has not sufficiently
considered the meaning of the pointed phrase which he used with so much
effect. Redress is no doubt a very well sounding word. What can be more
reasonable than to ask for redress? What more unjust than to refuse
redress? But my honourable friend will perceive, on reflection, that,
though he and the honourable and learned Member for Dublin agree in
pronouncing the word redress, they agree in nothing else. They utter the
same sound; but they attach to it two diametrically opposite meanings.
The honourable and learned Member for Dublin means by redress simply
the Repeal of the Union. Now, to the Repeal of the Union my honourable
friend the Member for Lincoln is decidedly adverse. When we get at his
real meaning, we find that he is just as unwilling as we are to give the
redress which the honourable and learned Member for Dublin demands. Only
a small minority of the House will, I hope, and believe, vote with that
honourable and learned member; but the minority which thinks with him
will be very much smaller.

We have, indeed, been told by some gentlemen, who are not themselves
repealers, that the question of Repeal deserves a much more serious
consideration than it has yet received. Repeal, they say, is an object
on which millions have, however unwisely, set their hearts; and men
who speak in the name of millions are not to be coughed down or sneered
down. That which a suffering nation regards, rightly or wrongly, as the
sole cure for all its distempers, ought not to be treated with levity,
but to be the subject of full and solemn debate. All this, Sir, is most
true: but I am surprised that this lecture should have been read to
us who sit on your right. It would, I apprehend, have been with more
propriety addressed to a different quarter. Whose fault is it that we
have not yet had, and that there is no prospect of our having, this full
and solemn debate? Is it the fault of His Majesty's Ministers? Have
not they framed the Speech which their Royal Master delivered from the
throne, in such a manner as to invite the grave and searching discussion
of the question of Repeal? and has not the invitation been declined? Is
it not fresh in our recollection that the honourable and learned Member
for Dublin spoke two hours, perhaps three hours,--nobody keeps accurate
account of time while he speaks,--but two or three hours without
venturing to join issue with us on this subject? In truth, he suffered
judgment to go against him by default. We, on this side of the House,
did our best to provoke him to the conflict. We called on him to
maintain here those doctrines which he had proclaimed elsewhere with so
much vehemence, and, I am sorry to be forced to add, with a scurrility
unworthy of his parts and eloquence. Never was a challenge more fairly
given: but it was not accepted. The great champion of Repeal would not
lift our glove. He shrank back; he skulked away; not, assuredly, from
distrust of his powers, which have never been more vigorously exerted
than in this debate, but evidently from distrust of his cause. I have
seldom heard so able a speech as his: I certainly never heard a speech
so evasive. From the beginning to the end he studiously avoided saying
a single word tending to raise a discussion about that Repeal which, in
other places, he constantly affirms to be the sole panacea for all the
evils by which his country is afflicted. Nor is this all. Yesterday
night he placed on our order-book not less than fourteen notices; and
of those notices not a single one had any reference to the Union between
Great Britain and Ireland. It is therefore evident to me, not only that
the honourable and learned gentleman is not now prepared to debate the
question in this House, but that he has no intention of debating it in
this House at all. He keeps it, and prudently keeps it, for audiences of
a very different kind. I am therefore, I repeat, surprised to hear
the Government accused of avoiding the discussion of this subject. Why
should we avoid a battle in which the bold and skilful captain of the
enemy evidently knows that we must be victorious?

One gentleman, though not a repealer, has begged us not to declare
ourselves decidedly adverse to repeal till we have studied the petitions
which are coming in from Ireland. Really, Sir, this is not a subject on
which any public man ought to be now making up his mind. My mind is made
up. My reasons are such as, I am certain, no petition from Ireland will
confute. Those reasons have long been ready to be produced; and, since
we are accused of flinching, I will at once produce them. I am prepared
to show that the Repeal of the Union would not remove the political and
social evils which afflict Ireland, nay, that it would aggravate almost
every one of those evils.

I understand, though I do not approve, the proceedings of poor Wolfe
Tone and his confederates. They wished to make a complete separation
between Great Britain and Ireland. They wished to establish a Hibernian
republic. Their plan was a very bad one; but, to do them justice, it
was perfectly consistent; and an ingenious man might defend it by some
plausible arguments. But that is not the plan of the honourable and
learned Member for Dublin. He assures us that he wishes the connection
between the islands to be perpetual. He is for a complete separation
between the two Parliaments; but he is for indissoluble union between
the two Crowns. Nor does the honourable and learned gentleman mean, by
an union between the Crowns, such an union as exists between the Crown
of this kingdom and the Crown of Hanover. For I need not say that,
though the same person is king of Great Britain and of Hanover, there
is no more political connection between Great Britain and Hanover than
between Great Britain and Hesse, or between Great Britain and Bavaria.
Hanover may be at peace with a state with which Great Britain is at war.
Nay, Hanover may, as a member of the Germanic body, send a contingent of
troops to cross bayonets with the King's English footguards. This is not
the relation in which the honourable and learned gentleman proposes that
Great Britain and Ireland should stand to each other. His plan is, that
each of the two countries shall have an independent legislature, but
that both shall have the same executive government. Now, is it possible
that a mind so acute and so well informed as his should not at
once perceive that this plan involves an absurdity, a downright
contradiction. Two independent legislatures! One executive government!
How can the thing be? No doubt, if the legislative power were quite
distinct from the executive power, England and Ireland might as easily
have two legislatures as two Chancellors and two Courts of King's Bench.
But though, in books written by theorists, the executive power and the
legislative power may be treated as things quite distinct, every man
acquainted with the real working of our constitution knows that the two
powers are most closely connected, nay, intermingled with each other.
During several generations, the whole administration of affairs has
been conducted in conformity with the sense of Parliament. About
every exercise of the prerogative of the Crown it is the privilege
of Parliament to offer advice; and that advice no wise king will
ever slight. It is the prerogative of the Sovereign to choose his own
servants; but it is impossible for him to maintain them in office unless
Parliament will support them. It is the prerogative of the Sovereign to
treat with other princes; but it is impossible for him to persist in any
scheme of foreign policy which is disagreeable to Parliament. It is
the prerogative of the Sovereign to make war; but he cannot raise a
battalion or man a frigate without the help of Parliament. The repealers
may therefore be refuted out of their own mouths. They say that
Great Britain and Ireland ought to have one executive power. But
the legislature has a most important share of the executive power.
Therefore, by the confession of the repealers themselves, Great Britain
and Ireland ought to have one legislature.

Consider for one moment in what a situation the executive government
will be placed if you have two independent legislatures, and if those
legislatures should differ, as all bodies which are independent of each
other will sometimes differ. Suppose the case of a commercial treaty
which is unpopular in England and popular in Ireland. The Irish
Parliament expresses its approbation of the terms, and passes a vote
of thanks to the negotiator. We at Westminster censure the terms and
impeach the negotiator. Or are we to have two foreign offices, one in
Downing Street and one in Dublin Castle? Is His Majesty to send to every
court in Christendom two diplomatic agents, to thwart each other, and
to be spies upon each other? It is inconceivable but that, in a very
few years, disputes such as can be terminated only by arms must arise
between communities so absurdly united and so absurdly disunited. All
history confirms this reasoning. Superficial observers have fancied that
they had found cases on the other side. But as soon as you examine those
cases you will see either that they bear no analogy to the case with
which we have to deal, or that they corroborate my argument. The case
of Ireland herself has been cited. Ireland, it has been said, had an
independent legislature from 1782 to 1800: during eighteen years there
were two coequal parliaments under one Crown; and yet there was no
collision. Sir, the reason that there was not perpetual collision was,
as we all know, that the Irish parliament, though nominally independent,
was generally kept in real dependence by means of the foulest corruption
that ever existed in any assembly. But it is not true that there was no
collision. Before the Irish legislature had been six years independent,
a collision did take place, a collision such as might well have produced
a civil war. In the year 1788, George the Third was incapacitated
by illness from discharging his regal functions. According to the
constitution, the duty of making provision for the discharge of those
functions devolved on the parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland.
Between the government of Great Britain and the government of Ireland
there was, during the interregnum, no connection whatever. The sovereign
who was the common head of both governments had virtually ceased to
exist: and the two legislatures were no more to each other than
this House and the Chamber of Deputies at Paris. What followed? The
Parliament of Great Britain resolved to offer the Regency to the Prince
of Wales under many important restrictions. The Parliament of Ireland
made him an offer of the Regency without any restrictions whatever. By
the same right by which the Irish Lords and Commons made that offer,
they might, if Mr Pitt's doctrine be the constitutional doctrine, as
I believe it to be, have made the Duke of York or the Duke of Leinster
Regent. To this Regent they might have given all the prerogatives of the
King. Suppose,--no extravagant supposition,--that George the Third
had not recovered, that the rest of his long life had been passed
in seclusion, Great Britain and Ireland would then have been, during
thirty-two years, as completely separated as Great Britain and Spain.
There would have been nothing in common between the governments, neither
executive power nor legislative power. It is plain, therefore, that a
total separation between the two islands might, in the natural course of
things, and without the smallest violation of the constitution on either
side, be the effect of the arrangement recommended by the honourable and
learned gentleman, who solemnly declares that he should consider such a
separation as the greatest of calamities.

No doubt, Sir, in several continental kingdoms there have been two
legislatures, and indeed more than two legislatures, under the same
Crown. But the explanation is simple. Those legislatures were of no real
weight in the government. Under Louis the Fourteenth Brittany had its
States; Burgundy had its States; and yet there was no collision between
the States of Brittany and the States of Burgundy. But why? Because
neither the States of Brittany nor the States of Burgundy imposed
any real restraint on the arbitrary power of the monarch. So, in
the dominions of the House of Hapsburg, there is the semblance of a
legislature in Hungary and the semblance of a legislature in the Tyrol:
but all the real power is with the Emperor. I do not say that you cannot
have one executive power and two mock parliaments, two parliaments which
merely transact parish business, two parliaments which exercise no more
influence on great affairs of state than the vestry of St Pancras or the
vestry of Marylebone. What I do say, and what common sense teaches, and
what all history teaches, is this, that you cannot have one executive
power and two real parliaments, two parliaments possessing such
powers as the parliament of this country has possessed ever since
the Revolution, two parliaments to the deliberate sense of which the
Sovereign must conform. If they differ, how can he conform to the sense
of both? The thing is as plain as a proposition in Euclid.

It is impossible for me to believe that considerations so obvious and so
important should not have occurred to the honourable and learned Member
for Dublin. Doubtless they have occurred to him; and therefore it
is that he shrinks from arguing the question here. Nay, even when he
harangues more credulous assemblies on the subject, he carefully avoids
precise explanations; and the hints which sometimes escape him are
not easily to be reconciled with each other. On one occasion, if
the newspapers are to be trusted, he declared that his object was to
establish a federal union between Great Britain and Ireland. A local
parliament, it seems, is to sit at Dublin, and to send deputies to an
imperial parliament which is to sit at Westminster. The honourable and
learned gentleman thinks, I suppose, that in this way he evades the
difficulties which I have pointed out. But he deceives himself.
If, indeed, his local legislature is to be subject to his imperial
legislature, if his local legislature is to be merely what the Assembly
of Antigua or Barbadoes is, or what the Irish Parliament was before
1782, the danger of collision is no doubt removed: but what, on the
honourable and learned gentleman's own principles, would Ireland gain by
such an arrangement? If, on the other hand, his local legislature is
to be for certain purposes independent, you have again the risk of
collision. Suppose that a difference of opinion should arise between the
Imperial Parliament and the Irish Parliament as to the limits of their
powers, who is to decide between them? A dispute between the House of
Commons and the House of Lords is bad enough. Yet in that case, the
Sovereign can, by a high exercise of his prerogative, produce harmony.
He can send us back to our constituents; and, if that expedient fails,
he can create more lords. When, in 1705, the dispute between the
Houses about the Aylesbury men ran high, Queen Anne restored concord by
dismissing the Parliament. Seven years later she put an end to another
conflict between the Houses by making twelve peers in one day. But who
is to arbitrate between two representative bodies chosen by different
constituent bodies? Look at what is now passing in America. Of all
federal constitutions that of the United States is the best. It was
framed by a convention which contained many wise and experienced men,
and over which Washington presided. Yet there is a debateable ground on
the frontier which separates the functions of Congress from those of
the state legislatures. A dispute as to the exact boundary has lately
arisen. Neither party seems disposed to yield: and, if both persist,
there can be no umpire but the sword.

For my part, Sir, I have no hesitation in saying that I should very
greatly prefer the total separation which the honourable and learned
gentleman professes to consider as a calamity, to the partial separation
which he has taught his countrymen to regard as a blessing. If, on a
fair trial, it be found that Great Britain and Ireland cannot exist
happily together as parts of one empire, in God's name let them
separate. I wish to see them joined as the limbs of a well formed body
are joined. In such a body the members assist each other: they are
nourished by the same food: if one member suffer, all suffer with it:
if one member rejoice, all rejoice with it. But I do not wish to see the
countries united, like those wretched twins from Siam who were exhibited
here a little while ago, by an unnatural ligament which made each the
constant plague of the other, always in each other's way, more helpless
than others because they had twice as many hands, slower than others
because they had twice as many legs, sympathising with each other only
in evil, not feeling each other's pleasures, not supported by each
other's aliments, but tormented by each other's infirmities, and certain
to perish miserably by each other's dissolution.

Ireland has undoubtedly just causes of complaint. We heard those causes
recapitulated last night by the honourable and learned Member, who tells
us that he represents not Dublin alone, but Ireland, and that he stands
between his country and civil war. I do not deny that most of the
grievances which he recounted exist, that they are serious, and that
they ought to be remedied as far as it is in the power of legislation to
remedy them. What I do deny is that they were caused by the Union, and
that the Repeal of the Union would remove them. I listened attentively
while the honourable and learned gentleman went through that long and
melancholy list: and I am confident that he did not mention a single
evil which was not a subject of bitter complaint while Ireland had a
domestic parliament. Is it fair, is it reasonable in the honourable
gentleman to impute to the Union evils which, as he knows better than
any other man in this house, existed long before the Union? Post hoc:
ergo, propter hoc is not always sound reasoning. But ante hoc: ergo,
non propter hoc is unanswerable. The old rustic who told Sir Thomas
More that Tenterden steeple was the cause of Godwin sands reasoned much
better than the honourable and learned gentleman. For it was not till
after Tenterden steeple was built that the frightful wrecks on the
Godwin sands were heard of. But the honourable and learned gentleman
would make Godwin sands the cause of Tenterden steeple. Some of the
Irish grievances which he ascribes to the Union are not only older than
the Union, but are not peculiarly Irish. They are common to England,
Scotland, and Ireland; and it was in order to get rid of them that we,
for the common benefit of England, Scotland, and Ireland, passed the
Reform Bill last year. Other grievances which the honourable and learned
gentleman mentioned are doubtless local; but is there to be a local
legislature wherever there is a local grievance? Wales has had local
grievances. We all remember the complaints which were made a few years
ago about the Welsh judicial system; but did anybody therefore propose
that Wales should have a distinct parliament? Cornwall has some local
grievances; but does anybody propose that Cornwall shall have its own
House of Lords and its own House of Commons? Leeds has local grievances.
The majority of my constituents distrust and dislike the municipal
government to which they are subject; they therefore call loudly on
us for corporation reform: but they do not ask us for a separate
legislature. Of this I am quite sure, that every argument which has been
urged for the purpose of showing that Great Britain and Ireland ought
to have two distinct parliaments may be urged with far greater force
for the purpose of showing that the north of Ireland and the south of
Ireland ought to have two distinct parliaments. The House of Commons of
the United Kingdom, it has been said, is chiefly elected by Protestants,
and therefore cannot be trusted to legislate for Catholic Ireland.
If this be so, how can an Irish House of Commons, chiefly elected
by Catholics, be trusted to legislate for Protestant Ulster? It is
perfectly notorious that theological antipathies are stronger in Ireland
than here. I appeal to the honourable and learned gentleman himself. He
has often declared that it is impossible for a Roman Catholic, whether
prosecutor or culprit, to obtain justice from a jury of Orangemen. It
is indeed certain that, in blood, religion, language, habits, character,
the population of some of the northern counties of Ireland has much
more in common with the population of England and Scotland than with the
population of Munster and Connaught. I defy the honourable and learned
Member, therefore, to find a reason for having a parliament at Dublin
which will not be just as good a reason for having another parliament at

Sir, in showing, as I think I have shown, the absurdity of this cry for
Repeal, I have in a great measure vindicated myself from the charge of
inconsistency which has been brought against me by my honourable friend
the Member for Lincoln. It is very easy to bring a volume of Hansard to
the House, to read a few sentences of a speech made in very different
circumstances, and to say, "Last year you were for pacifying England by
concession: this year you are for pacifying Ireland by coercion. How can
you vindicate your consistency?" Surely my honourable friend cannot
but know that nothing is easier than to write a theme for severity, for
clemency, for order, for liberty, for a contemplative life, for a active
life, and so on. It was a common exercise in the ancient schools of
rhetoric to take an abstract question, and to harangue first on one side
and then on the other. The question, Ought popular discontents to be
quieted by concession or coercion? would have been a very good subject
for oratory of this kind. There is no lack of commonplaces on either
side. But when we come to the real business of life, the value of these
commonplaces depends entirely on the particular circumstances of the
case which we are discussing. Nothing is easier than to write a treatise
proving that it is lawful to resist extreme tyranny. Nothing is easier
than to write a treatise setting forth the wickedness of wantonly
bringing on a great society the miseries inseparable from revolution,
the bloodshed, the spoliation, the anarchy. Both treatises may contain
much that is true; but neither will enable us to decide whether a
particular insurrection is or is not justifiable without a close
examination of the facts. There is surely no inconsistency in speaking
with respect of the memory of Lord Russell and with horror of the crime
of Thistlewood; and, in my opinion, the conduct of Russell and the
conduct of Thistlewood did not differ more widely than the cry for
Parliamentary Reform and the cry for the Repeal of the Union. The Reform
Bill I believe to be a blessing to the nation. Repeal I know to be a
mere delusion. I know it to be impracticable: and I know that, if it
were practicable, it would be pernicious to every part of the empire,
and utterly ruinous to Ireland. Is it not then absurd to say that,
because I wished last year to quiet the English people by giving them
that which was beneficial to them, I am therefore bound in consistency
to quiet the Irish people this year by giving them that which will
be fatal to them? I utterly deny, too, that, in consenting to arm the
government with extraordinary powers for the purpose of repressing
disturbances in Ireland, I am guilty of the smallest inconsistency. On
what occasion did I ever refuse to support any government in repressing
disturbances? It is perfectly true that, in the debates on the Reform
Bill, I imputed the tumults and outrages of 1830 to misrule. But did I
ever say that those tumults and outrages ought to be tolerated? I did
attribute the Kentish riots, the Hampshire riots, the burning of corn
stacks, the destruction of threshing machines, to the obstinacy with
which the Ministers of the Crown had refused to listen to the demands
of the people. But did I ever say that the rioters ought not to be
imprisoned, that the incendiaries ought not to be hanged? I did ascribe
the disorders of Nottingham and the fearful sacking of Bristol to the
unwise rejection of the Reform Bill by the Lords. But did I ever say
that such excesses as were committed at Nottingham and Bristol ought not
to be put down, if necessary, by the sword?

I would act towards Ireland on the same principles on which I acted
towards England. In Ireland, as in England, I would remove every just
cause of complaint; and in Ireland, as in England, I would support the
Government in preserving the public peace. What is there inconsistent
in this? My honourable friend seems to think that no person who believes
that disturbances have been caused by maladministration can consistently
lend his help to put down those disturbances. If that be so, the
honourable and learned Member for Dublin is quite as inconsistent as
I am; indeed, much more so; for he thinks very much worse of the
Government than I do; and yet he declares himself willing to assist
the Government in quelling the tumults which, as he assures us, its own
misconduct is likely to produce. He told us yesterday that our harsh
policy might perhaps goad the unthinking populace of Ireland into
insurrection; and he added that, if there should be insurrection, he
should, while execrating us as the authors of all the mischief, be found
in our ranks, and should be ready to support us in everything that
might be necessary for the restoration of order. As to this part of the
subject, there is no difference in principle between the honourable and
learned gentleman and myself. In his opinion, it is probable that a time
may soon come when vigorous coercion may be necessary, and when it may
be the duty of every friend of Ireland to co-operate in the work of
coercion. In my opinion, that time has already come. The grievances of
Ireland are doubtless great, so great that I never would have connected
myself with a Government which I did not believe to be intent on
redressing those grievances. But am I, because the grievances of Ireland
are great, and ought to be redressed, to abstain from redressing the
worst grievance of all? Am I to look on quietly while the laws are
insulted by a furious rabble, while houses are plundered and burned,
while my peaceable fellow-subjects are butchered? The distribution of
Church property, you tell us, is unjust. Perhaps I agree with you.
But what then? To what purpose is it to talk about the distribution of
Church property, while no property is secure? Then you try to deter us
from putting down robbery, arson, and murder, by telling us that if we
resort to coercion we shall raise a civil war. We are past that fear.
Recollect that, in one county alone, there have been within a few
weeks sixty murders or assaults with intent to murder and six hundred
burglaries. Since we parted last summer the slaughter in Ireland has
exceeded the slaughter of a pitched battle: the destruction of property
has been as great as would have been caused by the storming of three or
four towns. Civil war, indeed! I would rather live in the midst of any
civil war that we have had in England during the last two hundred
years than in some parts of Ireland at the present moment. Rather, much
rather, would I have lived on the line of march of the Pretender's army
in 1745 than in Tipperary now. It is idle to threaten us with civil war;
for we have it already; and it is because we are resolved to put an
end to it that we are called base, and brutal, and bloody. Such are the
epithets which the honourable and learned Member for Dublin thinks
it becoming to pour forth against the party to which he owes every
political privilege that he enjoys. He need not fear that any member
of that party will be provoked into a conflict of scurrility. Use
makes even sensitive minds callous to invective: and, copious as his
vocabulary is, he will not easily find in it any foul name which has not
been many times applied to those who sit around me, on account of the
zeal and steadiness with which they supported the emancipation of
the Roman Catholics. His reproaches are not more stinging than the
reproaches which, in times not very remote, we endured unflinchingly in
his cause. I can assure him that men who faced the cry of No Popery are
not likely to be scared by the cry of Repeal. The time will come when
history will do justice to the Whigs of England, and will faithfully
relate how much they did and suffered for Ireland; how, for the sake of
Ireland, they quitted office in 1807; how, for the sake of Ireland, they
remained out of office more than twenty years, braving the frowns of
the Court, braving the hisses of the multitude, renouncing power,
and patronage, and salaries, and peerages, and garters, and yet not
obtaining in return even a little fleeting popularity. I see on the
benches near me men who might, by uttering one word against Catholic
Emancipation, nay, by merely abstaining from uttering a word in favour
of Catholic Emancipation, have been returned to this House without
difficulty or expense, and who, rather than wrong their Irish
fellow-subjects, were content to relinquish all the objects of their
honourable ambition, and to retire into private life with conscience
and fame untarnished. As to one eminent person, who seems to be regarded
with especial malevolence by those who ought never to mention his name
without reverence and gratitude, I will say only this: that the loudest
clamour which the honourable and learned gentleman can excite against
Lord Grey will be trifling when compared with the clamour which Lord
Grey withstood in order to place the honourable and learned gentleman
where he now sits. Though a young member of the Whig party, I will
venture to speak in the name of the whole body. I tell the honourable
and learned gentleman, that the same spirit which sustained us in a just
contest for him will sustain us in an equally just contest against him.
Calumny, abuse, royal displeasure, popular fury, exclusion from office,
exclusion from Parliament, we were ready to endure them all, rather than
that he should be less than a British subject. We never will suffer him
to be more.

I stand here, Sir, for the first time as the representative of a
new constituent body, one of the largest, most prosperous, and most
enlightened towns in the kingdom. The electors of Leeds, believing that
at this time the service of the people is not incompatible with the
service of the Crown, have sent me to this House charged, in the
language of His Majesty's writ, to do and consent, in their name and in
their behalf, to such things as shall be proposed in the great Council
of the nation. In the name, then, and on the behalf of my constituents,
I give my full assent to that part of the Address wherein the House
declares its resolution to maintain inviolate, by the help of God, the
connection between Great Britain and Ireland, and to intrust to the
Sovereign such powers as shall be necessary to secure property, to
restore order, and to preserve the integrity of the empire.



On the seventeenth of April, 1833, the House of Commons resolved itself
into a Committee to consider of the civil disabilities of the Jews.
Mr Warburton took the chair. Mr Robert Grant moved the following

"That it is the opinion of this Committee that it is expedient to remove
all civil disabilities at present existing with respect to His Majesty's
subjects professing the Jewish religion, with the like exceptions as
are provided with respect to His Majesty's subjects professing the Roman
Catholic religion."

The resolution passed without a division, after a warm debate, in the
course of which the following Speech was made.

Mr Warburton,--I recollect, and my honourable friend the Member for
the University of Oxford will recollect, that when this subject was
discussed three years ago, it was remarked, by one whom we both loved
and whom we both regret, that the strength of the case of the Jews was a
serious inconvenience to their advocate, for that it was hardly possible
to make a speech for them without wearying the audience by repeating
truths which were universally admitted. If Sir James Mackintosh felt
this difficulty when the question was first brought forward in this
House, I may well despair of being able now to offer any arguments which
have a pretence to novelty.

My honourable friend, the Member for the University of Oxford, began his
speech by declaring that he had no intention of calling in question the
principles of religious liberty. He utterly disclaims persecution, that
is to say, persecution as defined by himself. It would, in his opinion,
be persecution to hang a Jew, or to flay him, or to draw his teeth,
or to imprison him, or to fine him; for every man who conducts himself
peaceably has a right to his life and his limbs, to his personal liberty
and his property. But it is not persecution, says my honourable friend,
to exclude any individual or any class from office; for nobody has a
right to office: in every country official appointments must be subject
to such regulations as the supreme authority may choose to make; nor can
any such regulations be reasonably complained of by any member of the
society as unjust. He who obtains an office obtains it, not as matter of
right, but as matter of favour. He who does not obtain an office is
not wronged; he is only in that situation in which the vast majority
of every community must necessarily be. There are in the United Kingdom
five and twenty million Christians without places; and, if they do not
complain, why should five and twenty thousand Jews complain of being in
the same case? In this way my honourable friend has convinced himself
that, as it would be most absurd in him and me to say that we are
wronged because we are not Secretaries of State, so it is most absurd
in the Jews to say that they are wronged, because they are, as a people,
excluded from public employment.

Now, surely my honourable friend cannot have considered to what
conclusions his reasoning leads. Those conclusions are so monstrous that
he would, I am certain, shrink from them. Does he really mean that it
would not be wrong in the legislature to enact that no man should be
a judge unless he weighed twelve stone, or that no man should sit in
parliament unless he were six feet high? We are about to bring in a bill
for the government of India. Suppose that we were to insert in that bill
a clause providing that no graduate of the University of Oxford
should be Governor General or Governor of any Presidency, would not my
honourable friend cry out against such a clause as most unjust to
the learned body which he represents? And would he think himself
sufficiently answered by being told, in his own words, that the
appointment to office is a mere matter of favour, and that to exclude
an individual or a class from office is no injury? Surely, on
consideration, he must admit that official appointments ought not to
be subject to regulations purely arbitrary, to regulations for which no
reason can be given but mere caprice, and that those who would exclude
any class from public employment are bound to show some special reason
for the exclusion.

My honourable friend has appealed to us as Christians. Let me then ask
him how he understands that great commandment which comprises the law
and the prophets. Can we be said to do unto others as we would that they
should do unto us if we wantonly inflict on them even the smallest
pain? As Christians, surely we are bound to consider, first, whether,
by excluding the Jews from all public trust, we give them pain; and,
secondly, whether it be necessary to give them that pain in order to
avert some greater evil. That by excluding them from public trust
we inflict pain on them my honourable friend will not dispute. As a
Christian, therefore, he is bound to relieve them from that pain, unless
he can show, what I am sure he has not yet shown, that it is necessary
to the general good that they should continue to suffer.

But where, he says, are you to stop, if once you admit into the House of
Commons people who deny the authority of the Gospels? Will you let in
a Mussulman? Will you let in a Parsee? Will you let in a Hindoo, who
worships a lump of stone with seven heads? I will answer my honourable
friend's question by another. Where does he mean to stop? Is he ready to
roast unbelievers at slow fires? If not, let him tell us why: and I
will engage to prove that his reason is just as decisive against the
intolerance which he thinks a duty, as against the intolerance which he
thinks a crime. Once admit that we are bound to inflict pain on a man
because he is not of our religion; and where are you to stop? Why stop
at the point fixed by my honourable friend rather than at the point
fixed by the honourable Member for Oldham (Mr Cobbett.), who would make
the Jews incapable of holding land? And why stop at the point fixed by
the honourable Member for Oldham rather than at the point which would
have been fixed by a Spanish Inquisitor of the sixteenth century? When
once you enter on a course of persecution, I defy you to find any reason
for making a halt till you have reached the extreme point. When my
honourable friend tells us that he will allow the Jews to possess
property to any amount, but that he will not allow them to possess the
smallest political power, he holds contradictory language. Property
is power. The honourable Member for Oldham reasons better than my
honourable friend. The honourable Member for Oldham sees very clearly
that it is impossible to deprive a man of political power if you
suffer him to be the proprietor of half a county, and therefore very
consistently proposes to confiscate the landed estates of the Jews. But
even the honourable Member for Oldham does not go far enough. He has
not proposed to confiscate the personal property of the Jews. Yet it is
perfectly certain that any Jew who has a million may easily make himself
very important in the State. By such steps we pass from official power
to landed property, and from landed property to personal property, and
from property to liberty, and from liberty to life. In truth, those
persecutors who use the rack and the stake have much to say for
themselves. They are convinced that their end is good; and it must be
admitted that they employ means which are not unlikely to attain the
end. Religious dissent has repeatedly been put down by sanguinary
persecution. In that way the Albigenses were put down. In that way
Protestantism was suppressed in Spain and Italy, so that it has never
since reared its head. But I defy any body to produce an instance in
which disabilities such as we are now considering have produced any
other effect than that of making the sufferers angry and obstinate.
My honourable friend should either persecute to some purpose, or not
persecute at all. He dislikes the word persecution I know. He will not
admit that the Jews are persecuted. And yet I am confident that he would
rather be sent to the King's Bench Prison for three months, or be fined
a hundred pounds, than be subject to the disabilities under which the
Jews lie. How can he then say that to impose such disabilities is not
persecution, and that to fine and imprison is persecution? All his
reasoning consists in drawing arbitrary lines. What he does not wish to
inflict he calls persecution. What he does wish to inflict he will not
call persecution. What he takes from the Jews he calls political power.
What he is too good-natured to take from the Jews he will not call
political power. The Jew must not sit in Parliament: but he may be the
proprietor of all the ten pound houses in a borough. He may have more
fifty pound tenants than any peer in the kingdom. He may give the voters
treats to please their palates, and hire bands of gipsies to break their
heads, as if he were a Christian and a Marquess. All the rest of this
system is of a piece. The Jew may be a juryman, but not a judge. He
may decide issues of fact, but not issues of law. He may give a hundred
thousand pounds damages; but he may not in the most trivial case grant a
new trial. He may rule the money market: he may influence the
exchanges: he may be summoned to congresses of Emperors and Kings. Great
potentates, instead of negotiating a loan with him by tying him in a
chair and pulling out his grinders, may treat with him as with a great
potentate, and may postpone the declaring of war or the signing of a
treaty till they have conferred with him. All this is as it should
be: but he must not be a Privy Councillor. He must not be called Right
Honourable, for that is political power. And who is it that we are
trying to cheat in this way? Even Omniscience. Yes, Sir; we have been
gravely told that the Jews are under the divine displeasure, and that if
we give them political power God will visit us in judgment. Do we then
think that God cannot distinguish between substance and form? Does not
He know that, while we withhold from the Jews the semblance and name
of political power, we suffer them to possess the substance? The plain
truth is that my honourable friend is drawn in one direction by his
opinions, and in a directly opposite direction by his excellent heart.
He halts between two opinions. He tries to make a compromise between
principles which admit of no compromise. He goes a certain way in
intolerance. Then he stops, without being able to give a reason for
stopping. But I know the reason. It is his humanity. Those who formerly
dragged the Jew at a horse's tail, and singed his beard with blazing
furzebushes, were much worse men than my honourable friend; but they
were more consistent than he.

It has been said that it would be monstrous to see a Jew judge try a man
for blasphemy. In my opinion it is monstrous to see any judge try a man
for blasphemy under the present law. But, if the law on that subject
were in a sound state, I do not see why a conscientious Jew might not
try a blasphemer. Every man, I think, ought to be at liberty to discuss
the evidences of religion; but no man ought to be at liberty to force on
the unwilling ears and eyes of others sounds and sights which must cause
annoyance and irritation. The distinction is clear. I think it wrong to
punish a man for selling Paine's Age of Reason in a back-shop to those
who choose to buy, or for delivering a Deistical lecture in a private
room to those who choose to listen. But if a man exhibits at a window
in the Strand a hideous caricature of that which is an object of awe
and adoration to nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand of
people who pass up and down that great thoroughfare; if a man in a place
of public resort applies opprobrious epithets to names held in reverence
by all Christians; such a man ought, in my opinion, to be severely
punished, not for differing from us in opinion, but for committing a
nuisance which gives us pain and disgust. He is no more entitled to
outrage our feelings by obtruding his impiety on us, and to say that
he is exercising his right of discussion, than to establish a yard for
butchering horses close to our houses, and to say that he is exercising
his right of property, or to run naked up and down the public streets,
and to say that he is exercising his right of locomotion. He has a right
of discussion, no doubt, as he has a right of property and a right of
locomotion. But he must use all his rights so as not to infringe the
rights of others.

These, Sir, are the principles on which I would frame the law of
blasphemy; and if the law were so framed, I am at a loss to understand
why a Jew might not enforce it as well as a Christian. I am not a Roman
Catholic; but if I were a judge at Malta, I should have no scruple about
punishing a bigoted Protestant who should burn the Pope in effigy before
the eyes of thousands of Roman Catholics. I am not a Mussulman; but if
I were a judge in India, I should have no scruple about punishing a
Christian who should pollute a mosque. Why, then, should I doubt that
a Jew, raised by his ability, learning, and integrity to the judicial
bench, would deal properly with any person who, in a Christian country,
should insult the Christian religion?

But, says my honourable friend, it has been prophesied that the Jews are
to be wanderers on the face of the earth, and that they are not to mix
on terms of equality with the people of the countries in which they
sojourn. Now, Sir, I am confident that I can demonstrate that this is
not the sense of any prophecy which is part of Holy Writ. For it is an
undoubted fact that, in the United States of America, Jewish citizens do
possess all the privileges possessed by Christian citizens. Therefore,
if the prophecies mean that the Jews never shall, during their
wanderings, be admitted by other nations to equal participation of
political rights, the prophecies are false. But the prophecies are
certainly not false. Therefore their meaning cannot be that which is
attributed to them by my honourable friend.

Another objection which has been made to this motion is that the Jews
look forward to the coming of a great deliverer, to their return to
Palestine, to the rebuilding of their Temple, to the revival of their
ancient worship, and that therefore they will always consider England,
not their country, but merely as their place of exile. But, surely, Sir,
it would be the grossest ignorance of human nature to imagine that the
anticipation of an event which is to happen at some time altogether
indefinite, of an event which has been vainly expected during many
centuries, of an event which even those who confidently expect that it
will happen do not confidently expect that they or their children or
their grandchildren will see, can ever occupy the minds of men to such
a degree as to make them regardless of what is near and present and
certain. Indeed Christians, as well as Jews, believe that the existing
order of things will come to an end. Many Christians believe that Jesus
will visibly reign on earth during a thousand years. Expositors of
prophecy have gone so far as to fix the year when the Millennial period
is to commence. The prevailing opinion is, I think, in favour of the
year 1866; but, according to some commentators, the time is close at
hand. Are we to exclude all millennarians from Parliament and office, on
the ground that they are impatiently looking forward to the miraculous
monarchy which is to supersede the present dynasty and the present
constitution of England, and that therefore they cannot be heartily
loyal to King William?

In one important point, Sir, my honourable friend, the Member for the
University of Oxford, must acknowledge that the Jewish religion is
of all erroneous religions the least mischievous. There is not the
slightest chance that the Jewish religion will spread. The Jew does not
wish to make proselytes. He may be said to reject them. He thinks it
almost culpable in one who does not belong to his race to presume to
belong to his religion. It is therefore not strange that a conversion
from Christianity to Judaism should be a rarer occurrence than a total
eclipse of the sun. There was one distinguished convert in the last
century, Lord George Gordon; and the history of his conversion
deserves to be remembered. For if ever there was a proselyte of whom a
proselytising sect would have been proud, it was Lord George; not only
because he was a man of high birth and rank; not only because he
had been a member of the legislature; but also because he had been
distinguished by the intolerance, nay, the ferocity, of his zeal for his
own form of Christianity. But was he allured into the Synagogue? Was he
even welcomed to it? No, sir; he was coldly and reluctantly permitted
to share the reproach and suffering of the chosen people; but he was
sternly shut out from their privileges. He underwent the painful rite
which their law enjoins. But when, on his deathbed, he begged hard to
be buried among them according to their ceremonial, he was told that
his request could not be granted. I understand that cry of "Hear." It
reminds me that one of the arguments against this motion is that the
Jews are an unsocial people, that they draw close to each other, and
stand aloof from strangers. Really, Sir, it is amusing to compare
the manner in which the question of Catholic emancipation was argued
formerly by some gentlemen with the manner in which the question of Jew
emancipation is argued by the same gentlemen now. When the question
was about Catholic emancipation, the cry was, "See how restless, how
versatile, how encroaching, how insinuating, is the spirit of the
Church of Rome. See how her priests compass earth and sea to make one
proselyte, how indefatigably they toil, how attentively they study the
weak and strong parts of every character, how skilfully they employ
literature, arts, sciences, as engines for the propagation of their
faith. You find them in every region and under every disguise, collating
manuscripts in the Bodleian, fixing telescopes in the observatory of
Pekin, teaching the use of the plough and the spinning-wheel to the
savages of Paraguay. Will you give power to the members of a Church so
busy, so aggressive, so insatiable?" Well, now the question is about
people who never try to seduce any stranger to join them, and who do not
wish anybody to be of their faith who is not also of their blood. And
now you exclaim, "Will you give power to the members of a sect which
remains sullenly apart from other sects, which does not invite, nay,
which hardly ever admits neophytes?" The truth is, that bigotry will
never want a pretence. Whatever the sect be which it is proposed
to tolerate, the peculiarities of that sect will, for the time, be
pronounced by intolerant men to be the most odious and dangerous that
can be conceived. As to the Jews, that they are unsocial as respects
religion is true; and so much the better: for, surely, as Christians,
we cannot wish that they should bestir themselves to pervert us from
our own faith. But that the Jews would be unsocial members of the civil
community, if the civil community did its duty by them, has never been
proved. My right honourable friend who made the motion which we are
discussing has produced a great body of evidence to show that they have
been grossly misrepresented; and that evidence has not been refuted by
my honourable friend the Member for the University of Oxford. But what
if it were true that the Jews are unsocial? What if it were true that
they do not regard England as their country? Would not the treatment
which they have undergone explain and excuse their antipathy to the
society in which they live? Has not similar antipathy often been felt
by persecuted Christians to the society which persecuted them? While
the bloody code of Elizabeth was enforced against the English Roman
Catholics, what was the patriotism of Roman Catholics? Oliver Cromwell
said that in his time they were Espaniolised. At a later period it
might have been said that they were Gallicised. It was the same with the
Calvinists. What more deadly enemies had France in the days of Louis
the Fourteenth than the persecuted Huguenots? But would any rational man
infer from these facts that either the Roman Catholic as such, or the
Calvinist as such, is incapable of loving the land of his birth? If
England were now invaded by Roman Catholics, how many English Roman
Catholics would go over to the invader? If France were now attacked by
a Protestant enemy, how many French Protestants would lend him help?
Why not try what effect would be produced on the Jews by that tolerant
policy which has made the English Roman Catholic a good Englishman, and
the French Calvinist a good Frenchman?

Another charge has been brought against the Jews, not by my honourable
friend the Member for the University of Oxford--he has too much learning
and too much good feeling to make such a charge--but by the honourable
Member for Oldham, who has, I am sorry to see, quitted his place. The
honourable Member for Oldham tells us that the Jews are naturally a mean
race, a sordid race, a money-getting race; that they are averse to all
honourable callings; that they neither sow nor reap; that they have
neither flocks nor herds; that usury is the only pursuit for which they
are fit; that they are destitute of all elevated and amiable sentiments.
Such, Sir, has in every age been the reasoning of bigots. They
never fail to plead in justification of persecution the vices which
persecution has engendered. England has been to the Jews less than half
a country; and we revile them because they do not feel for England more
than a half patriotism. We treat them as slaves, and wonder that they do
not regard us as brethren. We drive them to mean occupations, and then
reproach them for not embracing honourable professions. We long
forbade them to possess land; and we complain that they chiefly occupy
themselves in trade. We shut them out from all the paths of ambition;
and then we despise them for taking refuge in avarice. During many ages
we have, in all our dealings with them, abused our immense superiority
of force; and then we are disgusted because they have recourse to that
cunning which is the natural and universal defence of the weak against
the violence of the strong. But were they always a mere money-changing,
money-getting, money-hoarding race? Nobody knows better than my
honourable friend the Member for the University of Oxford that there is
nothing in their national character which unfits them for the highest
duties of citizens. He knows that, in the infancy of civilisation, when
our island was as savage as New Guinea, when letters and arts were
still unknown to Athens, when scarcely a thatched hut stood on what
was afterwards the site of Rome, this contemned people had their
fenced cities and cedar palaces, their splendid Temple, their fleets of
merchant ships, their schools of sacred learning, their great statesmen
and soldiers, their natural philosophers, their historians and their
poets. What nation ever contended more manfully against overwhelming
odds for its independence and religion? What nation ever, in its last
agonies, gave such signal proofs of what may be accomplished by a
brave despair? And if, in the course of many centuries, the oppressed
descendants of warriors and sages have degenerated from the qualities of
their fathers, if, while excluded from the blessings of law, and bowed
down under the yoke of slavery, they have contracted some of the vices
of outlaws and of slaves, shall we consider this as matter of reproach
to them? Shall we not rather consider it as matter of shame and remorse
to ourselves? Let us do justice to them. Let us open to them the door of
the House of Commons. Let us open to them every career in which ability
and energy can be displayed. Till we have done this, let us not presume
to say that there is no genius among the countrymen of Isaiah, no
heroism among the descendants of the Maccabees.

Sir, in supporting the motion of my honourable friend, I am, I firmly
believe, supporting the honour and the interests of the Christian
religion. I should think that I insulted that religion if I said that
it cannot stand unaided by intolerant laws. Without such laws it was
established, and without such laws it may be maintained. It triumphed
over the superstitions of the most refined and of the most savage
nations, over the graceful mythology of Greece and the bloody idolatry
of the Northern forests. It prevailed over the power and policy of
the Roman empire. It tamed the barbarians by whom that empire was
overthrown. But all these victories were gained not by the help of
intolerance, but in spite of the opposition of intolerance. The whole
history of Christianity proves that she has little indeed to fear from
persecution as a foe, but much to fear from persecution as an ally. May
she long continue to bless our country with her benignant influence,
strong in her sublime philosophy, strong in her spotless morality,
strong in those internal and external evidences to which the most
powerful and comprehensive of human intellects have yielded assent,
the last solace of those who have outlived every earthly hope, the last
restraint of those who are raised above every earthly fear! But let not
us, mistaking her character and her interests, fight the battle of truth
with the weapons of error, and endeavour to support by oppression that
religion which first taught the human race the great lesson of universal



On Wednesday, the tenth of July 1833, Mr Charles Grant, President of the
Board of Control, moved that the Bill for effecting an arrangement with
the India Company, and for the better government of His Majesty's
Indian territories, should be read a second time. The motion was carried
without a division, but not without a long debate, in the course of
which the following Speech was made.

Having, while this bill was in preparation, enjoyed the fullest and
kindest confidence of my right honourable friend, the President of the
Board of Control, agreeing with him completely in all those views which
on a former occasion he so luminously and eloquently developed, having
shared his anxieties, and feeling that in some degree I share his
responsibility, I am naturally desirous to obtain the attention of
the House while I attempt to defend the principles of the proposed
arrangement. I wish that I could promise to be very brief; but the
subject is so extensive that I will only promise to condense what I have
to say as much as I can.

I rejoice, Sir, that I am completely dispensed, by the turn which our
debates have taken, from the necessity of saying anything in favour
of one part of our plan, the opening of the China trade. No voice, I
believe, has yet been raised here in support of the monopoly. On that
subject all public men of all parties seem to be agreed. The resolution
proposed by the Ministers has received the unanimous assent of both
Houses, and the approbation of the whole kingdom. I will not, therefore,
Sir, detain you by vindicating what no gentleman has yet ventured to
attack, but will proceed to call your attention to those effects which
this great commercial revolution necessarily produced on the system of
Indian government and finance.

The China trade is to be opened. Reason requires this. Public opinion
requires it. The Government of the Duke of Wellington felt the necessity
as strongly as the Government of Lord Grey. No Minister, Whig or
Tory, could have been found to propose a renewal of the monopoly.
No parliament, reformed or unreformed, would have listened to such a
proposition. But though the opening of the trade was a matter concerning
which the public had long made up its mind, the political consequences
which must necessarily follow from the opening of the trade seem to me
to be even now little understood. The language which I have heard in
almost every circle where the subject was discussed was this: "Take away
the monopoly, and leave the government of India to the Company:" a
very short and convenient way of settling one of the most complicated
questions that ever a legislature had to consider. The honourable
Member for Sheffield (Mr Buckingham.), though not disposed to retain the
Company as an organ of government, has repeatedly used language which
proves that he shares in the general misconception. The fact is that
the abolition of the monopoly rendered it absolutely necessary to make a
fundamental change in the constitution of that great Corporation.

The Company had united in itself two characters, the character of trader
and the character of sovereign. Between the trader and the sovereign
there was a long and complicated account, almost every item of which
furnished matter for litigation. While the monopoly continued, indeed,
litigation was averted. The effect of the monopoly was, to satisfy the
claims both of commerce and of territory, at the expense of a third
party, the English people: to secure at once funds for the dividend of
the stockholder and funds for the government of the Indian Empire, by
means of a heavy tax on the tea consumed in this country. But, when the
third party would no longer bear this charge, all the great financial
questions which had, at the cost of that third party, been kept in
abeyance, were opened in an instant. The connection between the Company
in its mercantile capacity, and the same Company in its political
capacity, was dissolved. Even if the Company were permitted, as has been
suggested, to govern India, and at the same time to trade with China,
no advances would be made from the profits of its Chinese trade for
the support of its Indian government. It was in consideration of the
exclusive privilege that the Company had hitherto been required to make
those advances; it was by the exclusive privilege that the Company had
been enabled to make them. When that privilege was taken away, it would
be unreasonable in the legislature to impose such an obligation, and
impossible for the Company to fulfil it. The whole system of loans from
commerce to territory, and repayments from territory to commerce, must
cease. Each party must rest altogether on its own resources. It was
therefore absolutely necessary to ascertain what resources each party
possessed, to bring the long and intricate account between them to a
close, and to assign to each a fair portion of assets and liabilities.
There was vast property. How much of that property was applicable to
purposes of state? How much was applicable to a dividend? There were
debts to the amount of many millions. Which of these were the debts of
the government that ruled at Calcutta? Which of the great mercantile
house that bought tea at Canton? Were the creditors to look to the
land revenues of India for their money? Or, were they entitled to put
executions into the warehouses behind Bishopsgate Street?

There were two ways of settling these questions--adjudication and
compromise. The difficulties of adjudication were great; I think
insuperable. Whatever acuteness and diligence could do has been done.
One person in particular, whose talents and industry peculiarly fitted
him for such investigations, and of whom I can never think without
regret, Mr Hyde Villiers, devoted himself to the examination with an
ardour and a perseverance, which, I believe, shortened a life most
valuable to his country and to his friends. The assistance of the most
skilful accountants has been called in. But the difficulties are such as
no accountant, however skilful, could possibly remove. The difficulties
are not arithmetical, but political. They arise from the constitution
of the Company, from the long and intimate union of the commercial and
imperial characters in one body. Suppose that the treasurer of a charity
were to mix up the money which he receives on account of the charity
with his own private rents and dividends, to pay the whole into his bank
to his own private account, to draw it out again by cheques in exactly
the same form when he wanted it for his private expenses, and when he
wanted it for the purposes of his public trust. Suppose that he were
to continue to act thus till he was himself ignorant whether he were
in advance or in arrear; and suppose that many years after his death a
question were to arise whether his estate were in debt to the charity
or the charity in debt to his estate. Such is the question which is
now before us, with this important difference; that the accounts of an
individual could not be in such a state unless he had been guilty of
fraud, or of that gross negligence which is scarcely less culpable than
fraud, and that the accounts of the Company were brought into this state
by circumstances of a very peculiar kind, by circumstances unparalleled
in the history of the world.

It is a mistake to suppose that the Company was a merely commercial body
till the middle of the last century. Commerce was its chief object; but
in order to enable it to pursue that object, it had been, like the other
Companies which were its rivals, like the Dutch India Company, like the
French India Company, invested from a very early period with political
functions. More than a hundred and twenty years ago, the Company was
in miniature precisely what it now is. It was intrusted with the very
highest prerogatives of sovereignty. It had its forts, and its white
captains, and its black sepoys; it had its civil and criminal tribunals;
it was authorised to proclaim martial law; it sent ambassadors to the
native governments, and concluded treaties with them; it was Zemindar of
several districts, and within those districts, like other Zemindars of
the first class, it exercised the powers of a sovereign, even to the
infliction of capital punishment on the Hindoos within its jurisdiction.
It is incorrect, therefore, to say, that the Company was at first a mere
trader, and has since become a sovereign. It was at first a great trader
and a petty prince. The political functions at first attracted little
notice, because they were merely auxiliary to the commercial functions.
By degrees, however, the political functions became more and more
important. The Zemindar became a great nabob, became sovereign of all
India; the two hundred sepoys became two hundred thousand. This change
was gradually wrought, and was not immediately comprehended. It was
natural that, while the political functions of the Company were merely
auxiliary to its commerce, the political accounts should have been mixed
up with the commercial accounts. It was equally natural that this mode
of keeping accounts, having once been established, should have remained
unaltered; and the more so, as the change in the situation of the
Company, though rapid, was not sudden. It is impossible to name any one
day, or any one year, as the day or the year when the Company became a
great potentate. It has been the fashion indeed to fix on the year 1765,
the year in which the Mogul issued a commission authorising the Company
to administer the revenues of Bengal, Bahar, and Orissa, as the precise
date of the accession of this singular body to sovereignty. I am utterly
at a loss to understand why this epoch should be selected. Long before
1765 the Company had the reality of political power. Long before that
year, they made a Nabob of Arcot; they made and unmade Nabobs of Bengal;
they humbled the Vizier of Oude; they braved the Emperor of Hindostan
himself; more than half the revenues of Bengal were, under one pretence
or another, administered by them. And after the grant, the Company was
not, in form and name, an independent power. It was merely a minister
of the Court of Delhi. Its coinage bore the name of Shah Alam. The
inscription which, down to the time of the Marquess of Hastings,
appeared on the seal of the Governor-General, declared that great
functionary to be the slave of the Mogul. Even to this day we have never
formally deposed the King of Delhi. The Company contents itself with
being Mayor of the Palace, while the Roi Faineant is suffered to play at
being a sovereign. In fact, it was considered, both by Lord Clive and
by Warren Hastings, as a point of policy to leave the character of
the Company thus undefined, in order that the English might treat the
princes in whose names they governed as realities or nonentities, just
as might be most convenient.

Thus the transformation of the Company from a trading body, which
possessed some sovereign prerogatives for the purposes of trade, into a
sovereign body, the trade of which was auxiliary to its sovereignty, was
effected by degrees and under disguise. It is not strange, therefore,
that the mercantile and political transactions of this great corporation
should be entangled together in inextricable complication. The
commercial investments have been purchased out of the revenues of the
empire. The expenses of war and government have been defrayed out of
the profits of the trade. Commerce and territory have contributed to
the improvement of the same spot of land, to the repairs of the same
building. Securities have been given in precisely the same form for
money which has been borrowed for purposes of State, and for money which
has been borrowed for purposes of traffic. It is easy, indeed,--and this
is a circumstance which has, I think, misled some gentlemen,--it is easy
to see what part of the assets of the Company appears in a commercial
form, and what part appears in a political or territorial form. But
this is not the question. Assets which are commercial in form may
be territorial as respects the right of property; assets which are
territorial in form may be commercial as respects the right of property.
A chest of tea is not necessarily commercial property; it may have
been bought out of the territorial revenue. A fort is not necessarily
territorial property; it may stand on ground which the Company bought a
hundred years ago out of their commercial profits. Adjudication, if by
adjudication be meant decision according to some known rule of law, was
out of the question. To leave matters like these to be determined by the
ordinary maxims of our civil jurisprudence would have been the height of
absurdity and injustice. For example, the home bond debt of the Company,
it is believed, was incurred partly for political and partly for
commercial purposes. But there is no evidence which would enable us to
assign to each branch its proper share. The bonds all run in the same
form; and a court of justice would, therefore, of course, either lay the
whole burthen on the proprietors, or lay the whole on the territory.
We have legal opinions, very respectable legal opinions, to the effect,
that in strictness of law the territory is not responsible, and that the
commercial assets are responsible for every farthing of the debts which
were incurred for the government and defence of India. But though this
may be, and I believe is, law, it is, I am sure, neither reason nor
justice. On the other hand, it is urged by the advocates of the Company,
that some valuable portions of the territory are the property of that
body in its commercial capacity; that Calcutta, for example, is the
private estate of the Company; that the Company holds the island of
Bombay, in free and common socage, as of the Manor of East Greenwich. I
will not pronounce any opinion on these points. I have considered them
enough to see that there is quite difficulty enough in them to exercise
all the ingenuity of all the lawyers in the kingdom for twenty
years. But the fact is, Sir, that the municipal law was not made for
controversies of this description. The existence of such a body as this
gigantic corporation, this political monster of two natures, subject in
one hemisphere, sovereign in another, had never been contemplated by the
legislators or judges of former ages. Nothing but grotesque absurdity
and atrocious injustice could have been the effect, if the claims and
liabilities of such a body had been settled according to the rules of
Westminster Hall, if the maxims of conveyancers had been applied to the
titles by which flourishing cities and provinces are held, or the maxims
of the law merchant to those promissory notes which are the securities
for a great National Debt, raised for the purpose of exterminating the
Pindarrees and humbling the Burmese.

It was, as I have said, absolutely impossible to bring the question
between commerce and territory to a satisfactory adjudication; and I
must add that, even if the difficulties which I have mentioned could
have been surmounted, even if there had been reason to hope that a
satisfactory adjudication could have been obtained, I should still
have wished to avoid that course. I think it desirable that the Company
should continue to have a share in the government of India; and it would
evidently have been impossible, pending a litigation between commerce
and territory, to leave any political power to the Company. It
would clearly have been the duty of those who were charged with the
superintendence of India, to be the patrons of India throughout that
momentous litigation, to scrutinise with the utmost severity every claim
which might be made on the Indian revenues, and to oppose, with energy
and perseverance, every such claim, unless its justice were manifest.
If the Company was to be engaged in a suit for many millions, in a suit
which might last for many years, against the Indian territory, could we
entrust the Company with the government of that territory? Could we put
the plaintiff in the situation of prochain ami of the defendant? Could
we appoint governors who would have an interest opposed in the most
direct manner to the interest of the governed, whose stock would have
been raised in value by every decision which added to the burthens of
their subjects, and depressed by every decision which diminished those
burthens? It would be absurd to suppose that they would efficiently
defend our Indian Empire against the claims which they were themselves
bringing against it; and it would be equally absurd to give the
government of the Indian Empire to those who could not be trusted to
defend its interests.

Seeing, then, that it was most difficult, if not wholly impossible, to
resort to adjudication between commerce and territory, seeing that,
if recourse were had to adjudication, it would be necessary to make a
complete revolution in the whole constitution of India, the Government
has proposed a compromise. That compromise, with some modifications
which did not in the slightest degree affect its principle, and which,
while they gave satisfaction to the Company, will eventually lay no
additional burthen on the territory, has been accepted. It has, like
all other compromises, been loudly censured by violent partisans on
both sides. It has been represented by some as far too favourable to the
Company, and by others as most unjust to the Company. Sir, I own that we
cannot prove that either of these accusations is unfounded. It is of the
very essence of our case that we should not be able to show that we have
assigned, either to commerce or to territory, its precise due. For our
principal reason for recommending a compromise was our full conviction
that it was absolutely impossible to ascertain with precision what was
due to commerce and what was due to territory. It is not strange that
some people should accuse us of robbing the Company, and others of
conferring a vast boon on the Company, at the expense of India: for
we have proposed a middle course, on the very ground that there was
a chance of a result much more favourable to the Company than our
arrangement, and a chance also of a result much less favourable. If the
questions pending between the Company and India had been decided as the
ardent supporters of the Company predicted, India would, if I calculate
rightly, have paid eleven millions more than she will now have to pay.
If those questions had been decided as some violent enemies of the
Company predicted, that great body would have been utterly ruined. The
very meaning of compromise is that each party gives up his chance of
complete success, in order to be secured against the chance of utter
failure. And, as men of sanguine minds always overrate the chances in
their own favour, every fair compromise is sure to be severely censured
on both sides. I conceive that, in a case so dark and complicated as
this, the compromise which we recommend is sufficiently vindicated, if
it cannot be proved to be unfair. We are not bound to prove it to be
fair. For it would have been unnecessary for us to resort to compromise
at all if we had been in possession of evidence which would have enabled
us to pronounce, with certainty, what claims were fair and what were
unfair. It seems to me that we have acted with due consideration for
every party. The dividend which we give to the proprietors is precisely
the same dividend which they have been receiving during forty years,
and which they have expected to receive permanently. The price of their
stock bears at present the same proportion to the price of other stock
which it bore four or five years ago, before the anxiety and excitement
which the late negotiations naturally produced had begun to operate.
As to the territory, on the other hand, it is true that, if the assets
which are now in a commercial form should not produce a fund sufficient
to pay the debts and dividend of the Company, the territory must stand
to the loss and pay the difference. But in return for taking this risk,
the territory obtains an immediate release from claims to the amount of
many millions. I certainly do not believe that all those claims
could have been substantiated; but I know that very able men think
differently. And, if only one-fourth of the sum demanded had been
awarded to the Company, India would have lost more than the largest
sum which, as it seems to me, she can possibly lose under the proposed

In a pecuniary point of view, therefore, I conceive that we can defend
the measure as it affects the territory. But to the territory the
pecuniary question is of secondary importance. If we have made a good
pecuniary bargain for India, but a bad political bargain, if we have
saved three or four millions to the finances of that country, and given
to it, at the same time, pernicious institutions, we shall indeed have
been practising a most ruinous parsimony. If, on the other hand, it
shall be found that we have added fifty or a hundred thousand pounds
a-year to the expenditure of an empire which yields a revenue of twenty
millions, but that we have at the same time secured to that empire, as
far as in us lies, the blessings of good government, we shall have no
reason to be ashamed of our profusion. I hope and believe that India
will have to pay nothing. But on the most unfavourable supposition that
can be made, she will not have to pay so much to the Company as she now
pays annually to a single state pageant, to the titular Nabob of Bengal,
for example, or the titular King of Delhi. What she pays to these
nominal princes, who, while they did anything, did mischief, and who
now do nothing, she may well consent to pay to her real rulers, if
she receives from them, in return, efficient protection and good

We come then to the great question. Is it desirable to retain the
Company as an organ of government for India? I think that it is
desirable. The question is, I acknowledge, beset with difficulties. We
have to solve one of the hardest problems in politics. We are trying to
make brick without straw, to bring a clean thing out of an unclean,
to give a good government to a people to whom we cannot give a free
government. In this country, in any neighbouring country, it is easy to
frame securities against oppression. In Europe, you have the materials
of good government everywhere ready to your hands. The people are
everywhere perfectly competent to hold some share, not in every country
an equal share, but some share of political power. If the question were,
What is the best mode of securing good government in Europe? the merest
smatterer in politics would answer, representative institutions.
In India you cannot have representative institutions. Of all the
innumerable speculators who have offered their suggestions on Indian
politics, not a single one, as far as I know, however democratical his
opinions may be, has ever maintained the possibility of giving, at the
present time, such institutions to India. One gentleman, extremely
well acquainted with the affairs of our Eastern Empire, a most valuable
servant of the Company, and the author of a History of India, which,
though certainly not free from faults, is, I think, on the whole, the
greatest historical work which has appeared in our language since that
of Gibbon, I mean Mr Mill, was examined on this point. That gentleman
is well known to be a very bold and uncompromising politician. He has
written strongly, far too strongly I think, in favour of pure democracy.
He has gone so far as to maintain that no nation which has not a
representative legislature, chosen by universal suffrage, enjoys
security against oppression. But when he was asked before the Committee
of last year, whether he thought representative government practicable
in India, his answer was, "utterly out of the question." This, then,
is the state in which we are. We have to frame a good government for
a country into which, by universal acknowledgment, we cannot introduce
those institutions which all our habits, which all the reasonings of
European philosophers, which all the history of our own part of the
world would lead us to consider as the one great security for good
government. We have to engraft on despotism those blessings which are
the natural fruits of liberty. In these circumstances, Sir, it behoves
us to be cautious, even to the verge of timidity. The light of political
science and of history are withdrawn: we are walking in darkness: we do
not distinctly see whither we are going. It is the wisdom of a man, so
situated, to feel his way, and not to plant his foot till he is well
assured that the ground before him is firm.

Some things, however, in the midst of this obscurity, I can see with
clearness. I can see, for example, that it is desirable that the
authority exercised in this country over the Indian government should be
divided between two bodies, between a minister or a board appointed by
the Crown, and some other body independent of the Crown. If India is
to be a dependency of England, to be at war with our enemies, to be at
peace with our allies, to be protected by the English navy from maritime
aggression, to have a portion of the English army mixed with its sepoys,
it plainly follows that the King, to whom the Constitution gives the
direction of foreign affairs, and the command of the military and naval
forces, ought to have a share in the direction of the Indian government.
Yet, on the other hand, that a revenue of twenty millions a year,
an army of two hundred thousand men, a civil service abounding with
lucrative situations, should be left to the disposal of the Crown
without any check whatever, is what no minister, I conceive, would
venture to propose. This House is indeed the check provided by the
Constitution on the abuse of the royal prerogative. But that this House
is, or is likely ever to be, an efficient check on abuses practised
in India, I altogether deny. We have, as I believe we all feel, quite
business enough. If we were to undertake the task of looking into Indian
affairs as we look into British affairs, if we were to have Indian
budgets and Indian estimates, if we were to go into the Indian currency
question and the Indian Bank Charter, if to our disputes about Belgium
and Holland, Don Pedro and Don Miguel, were to be added disputes about
the debts of the Guicowar and the disorders of Mysore, the ex-king of
the Afghans and the Maharajah Runjeet Sing; if we were to have one night
occupied by the embezzlements of the Benares mint, and another by the
panic in the Calcutta money market; if the questions of Suttee or no
Suttee, Pilgrim tax or no Pilgrim tax, Ryotwary or Zemindary, half Batta
or whole Batta, were to be debated at the same length at which we have
debated Church reform and the assessed taxes, twenty-four hours a day
and three hundred and sixty-five days a year would be too short a time
for the discharge of our duties. The House, it is plain, has not
the necessary time to settle these matters; nor has it the necessary
knowledge; nor has it the motives to acquire that knowledge. The late
change in its constitution has made it, I believe, a much more faithful
representative of the English people. But it is as far as ever from
being a representative of the Indian people. A broken head in Cold Bath
Fields produces a greater sensation among us than three pitched battles
in India. A few weeks ago we had to decide on a claim brought by an
individual against the revenues of India. If it had been an English
question the walls would scarcely have held the Members who would
have flocked to the division. It was an Indian question; and we could
scarcely, by dint of supplication, make a House. Even when my right
honourable friend, the President of the Board of Control, gave his able
and interesting explanation of the plan which he intended to propose for
the government of a hundred millions of human beings, the attendance was
not so large as I have often seen it on a turnpike bill or a railroad

I then take these things as proved, that the Crown must have a certain
authority over India, that there must be an efficient check on the
authority of the Crown, and that the House of Commons cannot be that
efficient check. We must then find some other body to perform that
important office. We have such a body, the Company. Shall we discard it?

It is true that the power of the Company is an anomaly in politics.
It is strange, very strange, that a joint-stock society of traders,
a society, the shares of which are daily passed from hand to hand,
a society, the component parts of which are perpetually changing, a
society, which, judging a priori from its constitution, we should
have said was as little fitted for imperial functions as the Merchant
Tailors' Company or the New River Company, should be intrusted with
the sovereignty of a larger population, the disposal of a larger
clear revenue, the command of a larger army, than are under the direct
management of the Executive Government of the United Kingdom. But
what constitution can we give to our Indian Empire which shall not
be strange, which shall not be anomalous? That Empire is itself the
strangest of all political anomalies. That a handful of adventurers from
an island in the Atlantic should have subjugated a vast country divided
from the place of their birth by half the globe; a country which at no
very distant period was merely the subject of fable to the nations of
Europe; a country never before violated by the most renowned of Western
conquerors; a country which Trajan never entered; a country lying beyond
the point where the phalanx of Alexander refused to proceed; that we
should govern a territory ten thousand miles from us, a territory larger
and more populous than France, Spain, Italy, and Germany put together, a
territory, the present clear revenue of which exceeds the present
clear revenue of any state in the world, France excepted; a territory
inhabited by men differing from us in race, colour, language, manners,
morals, religion; these are prodigies to which the world has seen
nothing similar. Reason is confounded. We interrogate the past in vain.
General rules are useless where the whole is one vast exception. The
Company is an anomaly; but it is part of a system where every thing is
anomaly. It is the strangest of all governments; but it is designed for
the strangest of all empires.

If we discard the Company, we must find a substitute: and, take what
substitute we may, we shall find ourselves unable to give any reason for
believing that the body which we have put in the room of the Company
is likely to acquit itself of its duties better than the Company.
Commissioners appointed by the King during pleasure would be no check on
the Crown; Commissioners appointed by the King or by Parliament for
life would always be appointed by the political party which might be
uppermost, and if a change of administration took place, would harass
the new Government with the most vexatious opposition. The plan
suggested by the right honourable Gentleman, the Member for
Montgomeryshire (Mr Charles Wynn.), is I think the very worst that I
have ever heard. He would have Directors nominated every four years
by the Crown. Is it not plain that these Directors would always be
appointed from among the supporters of the Ministry for the time being;
that their situations would depend on the permanence of that Ministry;
that therefore all their power and patronage would be employed for the
purpose of propping that Ministry, and, in case of a change, for the
purpose of molesting those who might succeed to power; that they would
be subservient while their friends were in, and factious when their
friends were out? How would Lord Grey's Ministry have been situated if
the whole body of Directors had been nominated by the Duke of Wellington
in 1830. I mean no imputation on the Duke of Wellington. If the present
ministers had to nominate Directors for four years, they would, I have
no doubt, nominate men who would give no small trouble to the Duke
of Wellington if he were to return to office. What we want is a body
independent of the Government, and no more than independent; not a tool
of the Treasury, not a tool of the opposition. No new plan which I have
heard proposed would give us such a body. The Company, strange as its
constitution may be, is such a body. It is, as a corporation, neither
Whig nor Tory, neither high-church nor low-church. It cannot be charged
with having been for or against the Catholic Bill, for or against
the Reform Bill. It has constantly acted with a view not to English
politics, but to Indian politics. We have seen the country convulsed
by faction. We have seen Ministers driven from office by this House,
Parliament dissolved in anger, general elections of unprecedented
turbulence, debates of unprecedented interest. We have seen the two
branches of the Legislature placed in direct opposition to each other.
We have seen the advisers of the Crown dismissed one day, and brought
back the next day on the shoulders of the people. And amidst all these
agitating events the Company has preserved strict and unsuspected
neutrality. This is, I think an inestimable advantage, and it is an
advantage which we must altogether forego, if we consent to adopt any of
the schemes which I have heard proposed on the other side of the House.

We must judge of the Indian government, as of all other governments, by
its practical effects. According to the honourable Member for Sheffield,
India is ill governed; and the whole fault is with the Company.
Innumerable accusations, great and small, are brought by him against the
Directors. They are fond of war: they are fond of dominion: the taxation
is burthensome: the laws are undigested: the roads are rough: the post
goes on foot: and for everything the Company is answerable. From
the dethronement of the Mogul princes to the mishaps of Sir Charles
Metcalfe's courier, every disaster that has taken place in the East
during sixty years is laid to the charge of this Corporation. And the
inference is, that all the power which they possess ought to be taken
out of their hands, and transferred at once to the Crown.

Now, Sir, it seems to me that, for all the evils which the honourable
Gentleman has so pathetically recounted, the Ministers of the Crown are
as much to blame as the Company; nay, much more so: for the Board of
Control could, without the consent of the Directors, have redressed
those evils; and the Directors most certainly could not have redressed
them without the consent of the Board of Control. Take the case of that
frightful grievance which seems to have made the deepest impression on
the mind of the honourable Gentleman, the slowness of the mail. Why,
Sir, if my right honourable friend, the President of our Board thought
fit, he might direct me to write to the Court and require them to frame
a dispatch on that subject. If the Court disobeyed, he might himself
frame a dispatch ordering Lord William Bentinck to put the dawks
all over Bengal on horseback. If the Court refused to send out this
dispatch, the Board could apply to the King's Bench for a mandamus. If,
on the other hand, the Directors wished to accelerate the journeys of
the mail, and the Board were adverse to the project, the Directors could
do nothing at all. For all measures of internal policy the servants
of the King are at least as deeply responsible as the Company. For all
measures of foreign policy the servants of the King, and they alone are
responsible. I was surprised to hear the honourable Gentleman accuse the
Directors of insatiable ambition and rapacity, when he must know that
no act of aggression on any native state can be committed by the Company
without the sanction of the Board, and that, in fact, the Board has
repeatedly approved of warlike measures which were strenuously opposed
by the Company. He must know, in particular, that, during the energetic
and splendid administration of the Marquess of Wellesley, the company
was all for peace, and the Board all for conquest. If a line of conduct
which the honourable Gentleman thinks unjustifiable has been followed
by the Ministers of the Crown in spite of the remonstrances of
the Directors, this is surely a strange reason for turning off the
Directors, and giving the whole power unchecked to the Crown.

The honourable Member tells us that India, under the present system, is
not so rich and flourishing as she was two hundred years ago. Really,
Sir, I doubt whether we are in possession of sufficient data to enable
us to form a judgment on that point. But the matter is of little
importance. We ought to compare India under our government, not with
India under Acbar and his immediate successors, but with India as we
found it. The calamities through which that country passed during the
interval between the fall of the Mogul power and the establishment of
the English supremacy were sufficient to throw the people back whole
centuries. It would surely be unjust to say, that Alfred was a bad king
because Britain, under his government, was not so rich or so civilised
as in the time of the Romans.

In what state, then, did we find India? And what have we made India? We
found society throughout that vast country in a state to which history
scarcely furnishes a parallel. The nearest parallel would, perhaps, be
the state of Europe during the fifth century. The Mogul empire in the
time of the successors of Aurungzebe, like the Roman empire in the time
of the successors of Theodosius, was sinking under the vices of a bad
internal administration, and under the assaults of barbarous invaders.
At Delhi, as at Ravenna, there was a mock sovereign, immured in a
gorgeous state prison. He was suffered to indulge in every sensual
pleasure. He was adored with servile prostrations. He assumed and
bestowed the most magnificent titles. But, in fact, he was a mere puppet
in the hands of some ambitious subject. While the Honorii and Augustuli
of the East, surrounded by their fawning eunuchs, reveled and dozed
without knowing or caring what might pass beyond the walls of their
palace gardens, the provinces had ceased to respect a government which
could neither punish nor protect them. Society was a chaos. Its restless
and shifting elements formed themselves every moment into some new
combination, which the next moment dissolved. In the course of a single
generation a hundred dynasties grew up, flourished, decayed, were
extinguished, were forgotten. Every adventurer who could muster a troop
of horse might aspire to a throne. Every palace was every year the scene
of conspiracies, treasons, revolutions, parricides. Meanwhile a rapid
succession of Alarics and Attilas passed over the defenceless empire.
A Persian invader penetrated to Delhi, and carried back in triumph
the most precious treasures of the House of Tamerlane. The Afghan soon
followed by the same track, to glean whatever the Persian had spared.
The Jauts established themselves on the Jumna. The Seiks devastated
Lahore. Every part of India, from Tanjore to the Himalayas, was laid
under contribution by the Mahrattas. The people were ground down to the
dust by the oppressor without and the oppressor within, by the robber
from whom the Nabob was unable to protect them, by the Nabob who took
whatever the robber had left to them. All the evils of despotism, and
all the evils of anarchy, pressed at once on that miserable race. They
knew nothing of government but its exactions. Desolation was in their
imperial cities, and famine all along the banks of their broad and
redundant rivers. It seemed that a few more years would suffice to
efface all traces of the opulence and civilisation of an earlier age.

Such was the state of India when the Company began to take part in the
disputes of its ephemeral sovereigns. About eighty years have elapsed
since we appeared as auxiliaries in a contest between two rival families
for the sovereignty of a small corner of the Peninsula. From that
moment commenced a great, a stupendous process, the reconstruction of a
decomposed society. Two generations have passed away; and the process is
complete. The scattered fragments of the empire of Aurungzebe have been
united in an empire stronger and more closely knit together than that
which Aurungzebe ruled. The power of the new sovereigns penetrates their
dominions more completely, and is far more implicitly obeyed, than was
that of the proudest princes of the Mogul dynasty.

It is true that the early history of this great revolution is chequered
with guilt and shame. It is true that the founders of our Indian Empire
too often abused the strength which they derived from superior energy
and superior knowledge. It is true that, with some of the highest
qualities of the race from which they sprang, they combined some of the
worst defects of the race over which they ruled. How should it have
been otherwise? Born in humble stations, accustomed to earn a slender
maintenance by obscure industry, they found themselves transformed in
a few months from clerks drudging over desks, or captains in marching
regiments, into statesmen and generals, with armies at their command,
with the revenues of kingdoms at their disposal, with power to make and
depose sovereigns at their pleasure. They were what it was natural that
men should be who had been raised by so rapid an ascent to so dizzy an
eminence, profuse and rapacious, imperious and corrupt.

It is true, then, that there was too much foundation for the
representations of those satirists and dramatists who held up the
character of the English Nabob to the derision and hatred of a former
generation. It is true that some disgraceful intrigues, some unjust
and cruel wars, some instances of odious perfidy and avarice, stain the
annals of our Eastern Empire. It is true that the duties of government
and legislation were long wholly neglected or carelessly performed. It
is true that when the conquerors at length began to apply themselves
in earnest to the discharge of their high functions, they committed the
errors natural to rulers who were but imperfectly acquainted with the
language and manners of their subjects. It is true that some plans,
which were dictated by the purest and most benevolent feelings have not
been attended by the desired success. It is true that India suffers to
this day from a heavy burden of taxation and from a defective system of
law. It is true, I fear, that in those states which are connected with
us by subsidiary alliance, all the evils of oriental despotism have
too frequently shown themselves in their most loathsome and destructive

All this is true. Yet in the history and in the present state of our
Indian Empire I see ample reason for exultation and for a good hope.

I see that we have established order where we found confusion. I see
that the petty dynasties which were generated by the corruption of the
great Mahometan Empire, and which, a century ago, kept all India in
constant agitation, have been quelled by one overwhelming power. I see
that the predatory tribes, which, in the middle of the last century,
passed annually over the harvests of India with the destructive rapidity
of a hurricane, have quailed before the valour of a braver and sterner
race, have been vanquished, scattered, hunted to their strongholds, and
either extirpated by the English sword, or compelled to exchange the
pursuits of rapine for those of industry.

I look back for many years; and I see scarcely a trace of the vices
which blemished the splendid fame of the first conquerors of Bengal.
I see peace studiously preserved. I see faith inviolably maintained
towards feeble and dependent states. I see confidence gradually infused
into the minds of suspicious neighbours. I see the horrors of war
mitigated by the chivalrous and Christian spirit of Europe. I see
examples of moderation and clemency, such as I should seek in vain in
the annals of any other victorious and dominant nation. I see captive
tyrants, whose treachery and cruelty might have excused a severe
retribution, living in security, comfort, and dignity, under the
protection of the government which they laboured to destroy.

I see a large body of civil and military functionaries resembling in
nothing but capacity and valour those adventurers who, seventy years
ago, came hither, laden with wealth and infamy, to parade before our
fathers the plundered treasures of Bengal and Tanjore. I reflect with
pride that to the doubtful splendour which surrounds the memory of
Hastings and of Clive, we can oppose the spotless glory of Elphinstone
and Munro. I contemplate with reverence and delight the honourable
poverty which is the evidence of rectitude firmly maintained amidst
strong temptations. I rejoice to see my countrymen, after ruling
millions of subjects, after commanding victorious armies, after
dictating terms of peace at the gates of hostile capitals, after
administering the revenues of great provinces, after judging the causes
of wealthy Zemindars, after residing at the courts of tributary Kings,
return to their native land with no more than a decent competence.

I see a government anxiously bent on the public good. Even in its errors
I recognise a paternal feeling towards the great people committed to
its charge. I see toleration strictly maintained: yet I see bloody
and degrading superstitions gradually losing their power. I see the
morality, the philosophy, the taste of Europe, beginning to produce a
salutary effect on the hearts and understandings of our subjects. I see
the public mind of India, that public mind which we found debased
and contracted by the worst forms of political and religious tyranny,
expanding itself to just and noble views of the ends of government and
of the social duties of man.

I see evils: but I see the government actively employed in the work
of remedying those evils. The taxation is heavy; but the work of
retrenchment is unsparingly pursued. The mischiefs arising from the
system of subsidiary alliance are great: but the rulers of India are
fully aware of those mischiefs, and are engaged in guarding against
them. Wherever they now interfere for the purpose of supporting a native
government, they interfere also for the purpose of reforming it.

Seeing these things, then, am I prepared to discard the Company as
an organ of government? I am not. Assuredly I will never shrink from
innovation where I see reason to believe that innovation will
be improvement. That the present Government does not shrink from
innovations which it considers as improvements the bill now before the
House sufficiently shows. But surely the burden of the proof lies on the
innovators. They are bound to show that there is a fair probability
of obtaining some advantage before they call upon us to take up the
foundations of the Indian government. I have no superstitious veneration
for the Court of Directors or the Court of Proprietors. Find me a better
Council: find me a better constituent body: and I am ready for a change.
But of all the substitutes for the Company which have hitherto been
suggested, not one has been proved to be better than the Company; and
most of them I could, I think, easily prove to be worse. Circumstances
might force us to hazard a change. If the Company were to refuse to
accept of the government unless we would grant pecuniary terms which I
thought extravagant, or unless we gave up the clauses in this bill which
permit Europeans to hold landed property and natives to hold office, I
would take them at their word. But I will not discard them in the mere
rage of experiment.

Do I call the government of India a perfect government? Very far from
it. No nation can be perfectly well governed till it is competent to
govern itself. I compare the Indian government with other governments of
the same class, with despotisms, with military despotisms, with foreign
military despotisms; and I find none that approaches it in excellence.
I compare it with the government of the Roman provinces, with the
government of the Spanish colonies; and I am proud of my country and my
age. Here are a hundred millions of people under the absolute rule of
a few strangers, differing from them physically, differing from them
morally, mere Mamelukes, not born in the country which they rule,
not meaning to lay their bones in it. If you require me to make this
government as good as that of England, France, or the United States of
America, I own frankly that I can do no such thing. Reasoning a priori,
I should have come to the conclusion that such a government must be a
horrible tyranny. It is a source of constant amazement to me that it is
so good as I find it to be. I will not, therefore, in a case in which
I have neither principles nor precedents to guide me, pull down the
existing system on account of its theoretical defects. For I know that
any system which I could put in its place would be equally condemned by
theory, while it would not be equally sanctioned by experience.

Some change in the constitution of the Company was, as I have shown,
rendered inevitable by the opening of the China Trade; and it was
the duty of the Government to take care that the change should not
be prejudicial to India. There were many ways in which the compromise
between commerce and territory might have been effected. We might have
taken the assets, and paid a sum down, leaving the Company to invest
that sum as they chose. We might have offered English security with a
lower interest. We might have taken the course which the late ministers
designed to take. They would have left the Company in possession of the
means of carrying on its trade in competition with private merchants. My
firm belief is that, if this course had been taken, the Company must,
in a very few years, have abandoned the trade, or the trade would have
ruined the Company. It was not, however, solely or principally by regard
for the interest of the Company, or of English merchants generally, that
the Government was guided on this occasion. The course which appeared to
us the most likely to promote the interests of our Eastern Empire was to
make the proprietors of India stock creditors of the Indian territory.
Their interest will thus be in a great measure the same with the
interest of the people whom they are to rule. Their income will depend
on the revenues of their empire. The revenues of their empire
will depend on the manner in which the affairs of that empire are
administered. We furnish them with the strongest motives to watch over
the interests of the cultivator and the trader, to maintain peace, to
carry on with vigour the work of retrenchment, to detect and punish
extortion and corruption. Though they live at a distance from India,
though few of them have ever seen or may ever see the people whom they
rule, they will have a great stake in the happiness of their subjects.
If their misgovernment should produce disorder in the finances, they
will themselves feel the effects of that disorder in their own household
expenses. I believe this to be, next to a representative constitution,
the constitution which is the best security for good government. A
representative constitution India cannot at present have. And we have
therefore, I think, given her the best constitution of which she is

One word as to the new arrangement which we propose with respect to the
patronage. It is intended to introduce the principle of competition
in the disposal of writerships; and from this change I cannot but
anticipate the happiest results. The civil servants of the Company are
undoubtedly a highly respectable body of men; and in that body, as in
every large body, there are some persons of very eminent ability. I
rejoice most cordially to see this. I rejoice to see that the standard
of morality is so high in England, that intelligence is so generally
diffused through England, that young persons who are taken from the mass
of society, by favour and not by merit, and who are therefore only
fair samples of the mass, should, when placed in situations of high
importance, be so seldom found wanting. But it is not the less true that
India is entitled to the service of the best talents which England can
spare. That the average of intelligence and virtue is very high in
this country is matter for honest exultation. But it is no reason for
employing average men where you can obtain superior men. Consider
too, Sir, how rapidly the public mind of India is advancing, how much
attention is already paid by the higher classes of the natives to those
intellectual pursuits on the cultivation of which the superiority of
the European race to the rest of mankind principally depends. Surely,
in such circumstances, from motives of selfish policy, if from no higher
motive, we ought to fill the magistracies of our Eastern Empire with men
who may do honour to their country, with men who may represent the best
part of the English nation. This, Sir, is our object; and we believe
that by the plan which is now proposed this object will be attained. It
is proposed that for every vacancy in the civil service four candidates
shall be named, and the best candidate selected by examination. We
conceive that, under this system, the persons sent out will be young men
above par, young men superior either in talents or in diligence to the
mass. It is said, I know, that examinations in Latin, in Greek, and in
mathematics, are no tests of what men will prove to be in life. I am
perfectly aware that they are not infallible tests: but that they are
tests I confidently maintain. Look at every walk of life, at this House,
at the other House, at the Bar, at the Bench, at the Church, and see
whether it be not true that those who attain high distinction in the
world were generally men who were distinguished in their academic
career. Indeed, Sir, this objection would prove far too much even
for those who use it. It would prove that there is no use at all in
education. Why should we put boys out of their way? Why should we force
a lad, who would much rather fly a kite or trundle a hoop, to learn his
Latin Grammar? Why should we keep a young man to his Thucydides or his
Laplace, when he would much rather be shooting? Education would be mere
useless torture, if, at two or three and twenty, a man who had neglected
his studies were exactly on a par with a man who had applied himself to
them, exactly as likely to perform all the offices of public life with
credit to himself and with advantage to society. Whether the English
system of education be good or bad is not now the question. Perhaps I
may think that too much time is given to the ancient languages and
to the abstract sciences. But what then? Whatever be the languages,
whatever be the sciences, which it is, in any age or country, the
fashion to teach, the persons who become the greatest proficients in
those languages and those sciences will generally be the flower of
the youth, the most acute, the most industrious, the most ambitious
of honourable distinctions. If the Ptolemaic system were taught
at Cambridge instead of the Newtonian, the senior wrangler would
nevertheless be in general a superior man to the wooden spoon. If,
instead of learning Greek, we learned the Cherokee, the man who
understood the Cherokee best, who made the most correct and melodious
Cherokee verses, who comprehended most accurately the effect of the
Cherokee particles, would generally be a superior man to him who was
destitute of these accomplishments. If astrology were taught at our
Universities, the young man who cast nativities best would generally
turn out a superior man. If alchymy were taught, the young man who
showed most activity in the pursuit of the philosopher's stone would
generally turn out a superior man.

I will only add one other observation on this subject. Although I
am inclined to think that too exclusive an attention is paid in the
education of young English gentlemen to the dead languages, I conceive
that when you are choosing men to fill situations for which the very
first and most indispensable qualification is familiarity with foreign
languages, it would be difficult to find a better test of their fitness
than their classical acquirements.

Some persons have expressed doubts as to the possibility of procuring
fair examinations. I am quite sure that no person who has been either at
Cambridge or at Oxford can entertain such doubts. I feel, indeed, that I
ought to apologise for even noticing an objection so frivolous.

Next to the opening of the China trade, Sir, the change most eagerly
demanded by the English people was, that the restrictions on the
admission of Europeans to India should be removed. In this change there
are undoubtedly very great advantages. The chief advantage is, I think,
the improvement which the minds of our native subjects may be expected
to derive from free intercourse with a people far advanced beyond
themselves in intellectual cultivation. I cannot deny, however, that the
advantages are attended with some danger.

The danger is that the new comers, belonging to the ruling nation,
resembling in colour, in language, in manners, those who hold supreme
military and political power, and differing in all these respects from
the great mass of the population, may consider themselves as a superior
class, and may trample on the indigenous race. Hitherto there have been
strong restraints on Europeans resident in India. Licences were not
easily obtained. Those residents who were in the service of the Company
had obvious motives for conducting themselves with propriety. If they
incurred the serious displeasure of the Government, their hopes of
promotion were blighted. Even those who were not in the public service
were subject to the formidable power which the Government possessed of
banishing them at its pleasure.

The license of the Government will now no longer be necessary to persons
who desire to reside in the settled provinces of India. The power of
arbitrary deportation is withdrawn. Unless, therefore, we mean to leave
the natives exposed to the tyranny and insolence of every profligate
adventurer who may visit the East, we must place the European under
the same power which legislates for the Hindoo. No man loves political
freedom more than I. But a privilege enjoyed by a few individuals, in
the midst of a vast population who do not enjoy it, ought not to be
called freedom. It is tyranny. In the West Indies I have not the
least doubt that the existence of the Trial by Jury and of Legislative
Assemblies has tended to make the condition of the slaves worse than it
would otherwise have been. Or, to go to India itself for an instance,
though I fully believe that a mild penal code is better than a severe
penal code, the worst of all systems was surely that of having a mild
code for the Brahmins, who sprang from the head of the Creator, while
there was a severe code for the Sudras, who sprang from his feet. India
has suffered enough already from the distinction of castes, and from
the deeply rooted prejudices which that distinction has engendered. God
forbid that we should inflict on her the curse of a new caste, that we
should send her a new breed of Brahmins, authorised to treat all the
native population as Parias!

With a view to the prevention of this evil, we propose to give to the
Supreme Government the power of legislating for Europeans as well as for
natives. We propose that the regulations of the Government shall bind
the King's Court as they bind all other courts, and that registration
by the Judges of the King's Courts shall no longer be necessary to give
validity to those regulations within the towns of Calcutta, Madras, and

I could scarcely, Sir, believe my ears when I heard this part of our
plan condemned in another place. I should have thought that it would
have been received with peculiar favour in that quarter where it has met
with the most severe condemnation. What, at present, is the case? If the
Supreme Court and the Government differ on a question of jurisdiction,
or on a question of legislation within the towns which are the seats of
Government, there is absolutely no umpire but the Imperial Parliament.
The device of putting one wild elephant between two tame elephants was
ingenious: but it may not always be practicable. Suppose a tame elephant
between two wild elephants, or suppose that the whole herd should run
wild together. The thing is not without example. And is it not most
unjust and ridiculous that, on one side of a ditch, the edict of the
Governor General should have the force of law, and that on the other
side it should be of no effect unless registered by the Judges of the
Supreme Court? If the registration be a security for good legislation,
we are bound to give that security to all classes of our subjects. If
the registration be not a security for good legislation, why give it to
any? Is the system good? Extend it. Is it bad! Abolish it. But in the
name of common sense do not leave it as it is. It is as absurd as our
old law of sanctuary. The law which authorises imprisonment for debt
may be good or bad. But no man in his senses can approve of the ancient
system under which a debtor who might be arrested in Fleet Street was
safe as soon as he had scampered into Whitefriars. Just in the same way,
doubts may fairly be entertained about the expediency of allowing four
or five persons to make laws for India; but to allow them to make laws
for all India without the Mahratta ditch, and to except Calcutta, is the
height of absurdity.

I say, therefore, that either you must enlarge the power of the Supreme
Court, and give it a general veto on laws, or you must enlarge the
power of the Government, and make its regulations binding on all
Courts without distinction. The former course no person has ventured to
propose. To the latter course objections have been made; but objections
which to me, I must own, seem altogether frivolous.

It is acknowledged that of late years inconvenience has arisen from the
relation in which the Supreme Court stands to the Government. But, it is
said, that Court was originally instituted for the protection of natives
against Europeans. The wise course would therefore be to restore its
original character.

Now, Sir, the fact is, that the Supreme Court has never been so
mischievous as during the first ten years of its power, or so
respectable as it has lately been. Everybody who knows anything of its
early history knows, that, during a considerable time, it was the terror
of Bengal, the scourge of the native population, the screen of European
delinquents, a convenient tool of the Government for all purposes of
evil, an insurmountable obstacle to the Government in all undertakings
for the public good; that its proceedings were made up of pedantry,
cruelty, and corruption; that its disputes with the Government were at
one time on the point of breaking up the whole fabric of society; and
that a convulsion was averted only by the dexterous policy of Warren
Hastings, who at last bought off the opposition of the Chief Justice for
eight thousand pounds a year. It is notorious that, while the Supreme
Court opposed Hastings in all his best measures, it was a thoroughgoing
accomplice in his worst; that it took part in the most scandalous of
those proceedings which, fifty years ago, roused the indignation of
Parliament and of the country; that it assisted in the spoliation of the
princesses of Oude; that it passed sentence of death on Nuncomar. And
this is the Court which we are to restore from its present state of
degeneracy to its original purity. This is the protection which we are
to give to the natives against the Europeans. Sir, so far is it from
being true that the character of the Supreme Court has deteriorated,
that it has, perhaps, improved more than any other institution in India.
But the evil lies deep in the nature of the institution itself. The
judges have in our time deserved the greatest respect. Their judgment
and integrity have done much to mitigate the vices of the system.
The worst charge that can be brought against any of them is that of
pertinacity, disinterested, conscientious pertinacity, in error. The
real evil is the state of the law. You have two supreme powers in India.
There is no arbitrator except a Legislature fifteen thousand miles off.
Such a system is on the face of it an absurdity in politics. My
wonder is, not that this system has several times been on the point
of producing fatal consequences to the peace and resources of
India;--those, I think, are the words in which Warren Hastings described
the effect of the contest between his Government and the Judges;--but
that it has not actually produced such consequences. The most
distinguished members of the Indian Government, the most distinguished
Judges of the Supreme Court, call upon you to reform this system. Sir
Charles Metcalfe, Sir Charles Grey, represent with equal urgency the
expediency of having one single paramount council armed with legislative
power. The admission of Europeans to India renders it absolutely
necessary not to delay our decision. The effect of that admission would
be to raise a hundred questions, to produce a hundred contests between
the Council and the judicature. The Government would be paralysed at the
precise moment at which all its energy was required. While the two equal
powers were acting in opposite directions, the whole machine of the
state would stand still. The Europeans would be uncontrolled. The
natives would be unprotected. The consequences I will not pretend to
foresee. Everything beyond is darkness and confusion.

Having given to the Government supreme legislative power, we next
propose to give to it for a time the assistance of a commission for the
purpose of digesting and reforming the laws of India, so that those laws
may, as soon as possible, be formed into a Code. Gentleman of whom I
wish to speak with the highest respect have expressed a doubt whether
India be at present in a fit state to receive a benefit which is not yet
enjoyed by this free and highly civilised country. Sir, I can allow to
this argument very little weight beyond that which it derives from the
personal authority of those who use it. For, in the first place, our
freedom and our high civilisation make this improvement, desirable as
it must always be, less indispensably necessary to us than to our Indian
subjects; and in the next place, our freedom and civilisation, I fear,
make it far more difficult for us to obtain this benefit for ourselves
than to bestow it on them.

I believe that no country ever stood so much in need of a code of laws
as India; and I believe also that there never was a country in which the
want might so easily be supplied. I said that there were many points of
analogy between the state of that country after the fall of the Mogul
power, and the state of Europe after the fall of the Roman empire. In
one respect the analogy is very striking. As there were in Europe then,
so there are in India now, several systems of law widely differing from
each other, but coexisting and coequal. The indigenous population has
its own laws. Each of the successive races of conquerors has brought
with it its own peculiar jurisprudence: the Mussulman his Koran and the
innumerable commentators on the Koran; the Englishman his Statute Book
and his Term Reports. As there were established in Italy, at one and
the same time, the Roman Law, the Lombard law, the Ripuarian law, the
Bavarian law, and the Salic law, so we have now in our Eastern empire
Hindoo law, Mahometan law, Parsee law, English law, perpetually mingling
with each other and disturbing each other, varying with the person,
varying with the place. In one and the same cause the process and
pleadings are in the fashion of one nation, the judgment is according
to the laws of another. An issue is evolved according to the rules
of Westminster, and decided according to those of Benares. The only
Mahometan book in the nature of a code is the Koran; the only Hindoo
book, the Institutes. Everybody who knows those books knows that they
provide for a very small part of the cases which must arise in every
community. All beyond them is comment and tradition. Our regulations in
civil matters do not define rights, but merely establish remedies. If
a point of Hindoo law arises, the Judge calls on the Pundit for an
opinion. If a point of Mahometan law arises, the Judge applies to the
Cauzee. What the integrity of these functionaries is, we may learn from
Sir William Jones. That eminent man declared that he could not answer
it to his conscience to decide any point of law on the faith of a Hindoo
expositor. Sir Thomas Strange confirms this declaration. Even if there
were no suspicion of corruption on the part of the interpreters of the
law, the science which they profess is in such a state of confusion that
no reliance can be placed on their answers. Sir Francis Macnaghten tells
us, that it is a delusion to fancy that there is any known and fixed law
under which the Hindoo people live; that texts may be produced on any
side of any question; that expositors equal in authority perpetually
contradict each other: that the obsolete law is perpetually confounded
with the law actually in force; and that the first lesson to be
impressed on a functionary who has to administer Hindoo law is that it
is vain to think of extracting certainty from the books of the jurist.
The consequence is that in practice the decisions of the tribunals are
altogether arbitrary. What is administered is not law, but a kind of
rude and capricious equity. I asked an able and excellent judge lately
returned from India how one of our Zillah Courts would decide
several legal questions of great importance, questions not involving
considerations of religion or of caste, mere questions of commercial
law. He told me that it was a mere lottery. He knew how he should
himself decide them. But he knew nothing more. I asked a most
distinguished civil servant of the Company, with reference to the clause
in this Bill on the subject of slavery, whether at present, if a dancing
girl ran away from her master, the judge would force her to go back.
"Some judges," he said, "send a girl back. Others set her at liberty.
The whole is a mere matter of chance. Everything depends on the temper
of the individual judge."

Even in this country we have had complaints of judge-made law; even in
this country, where the standard of morality is higher than in almost
any other part of the world; where, during several generations, not
one depositary of our legal traditions has incurred the suspicion of
personal corruption; where there are popular institutions; where every
decision is watched by a shrewd and learned audience; where there is an
intelligent and observant public; where every remarkable case is fully
reported in a hundred newspapers; where, in short, there is everything
which can mitigate the evils of such a system. But judge-made law, where
there is an absolute government and a lax morality, where there is no
bar and no public, is a curse and a scandal not to be endured. It is
time that the magistrate should know what law he is to administer, that
the subject should know under what law he is to live. We do not mean
that all the people of India should live under the same law: far from
it: there is not a word in the bill, there was not a word in my right
honourable friend's speech, susceptible of such an interpretation.
We know how desirable that object is; but we also know that it is
unattainable. We know that respect must be paid to feelings generated by
differences of religion, of nation, and of caste. Much, I am persuaded,
may be done to assimilate the different systems of law without wounding
those feelings. But, whether we assimilate those systems or not, let us
ascertain them; let us digest them. We propose no rash innovation; we
wish to give no shock to the prejudices of any part of our subjects. Our
principle is simply this; uniformity where you can have it: diversity
where you must have it; but in all cases certainty.

As I believe that India stands more in need of a code than any other
country in the world, I believe also that there is no country on which
that great benefit can more easily be conferred. A code is almost the
only blessing, perhaps is the only blessing, which absolute governments
are better fitted to confer on a nation than popular governments.
The work of digesting a vast and artificial system of unwritten
jurisprudence is far more easily performed, and far better performed, by
few minds than by many, by a Napoleon than by a Chamber of Deputies and
a Chamber of Peers, by a government like that of Prussia or Denmark
than by a government like that of England. A quiet knot of two or three
veteran jurists is an infinitely better machinery for such a purpose
than a large popular assembly divided, as such assemblies almost always
are, into adverse factions. This seems to me, therefore, to be precisely
that point of time at which the advantage of a complete written code of
laws may most easily be conferred on India. It is a work which cannot
be well performed in an age of barbarism, which cannot without great
difficulty be performed in an age of freedom. It is a work which
especially belongs to a government like that of India, to an enlightened
and paternal despotism.

I have detained the House so long, Sir, that I will defer what I had to
say on some parts of this measure, important parts, indeed, but far less
important, as I think, than those to which I have adverted, till we are
in Committee. There is, however, one part of the bill on which, after
what has recently passed elsewhere, I feel myself irresistibly impelled
to say a few words. I allude to that wise, that benevolent, that noble
clause which enacts that no native of our Indian empire shall, by reason
of his colour, his descent, or his religion, be incapable of holding
office. At the risk of being called by that nickname which is regarded
as the most opprobrious of all nicknames by men of selfish hearts and
contracted minds, at the risk of being called a philosopher, I must say
that, to the last day of my life, I shall be proud of having been one
of those who assisted in the framing of the bill which contains that
clause. We are told that the time can never come when the natives of
India can be admitted to high civil and military office. We are told
that this is the condition on which we hold our power. We are told that
we are bound to confer on our subjects every benefit--which they
are capable of enjoying?--no;--which it is in our power to confer
on them?--no;--but which we can confer on them without hazard to the
perpetuity of our own domination. Against that proposition I solemnly
protest as inconsistent alike with sound policy and sound morality.

I am far, very far, from wishing to proceed hastily in this most
delicate matter. I feel that, for the good of India itself, the
admission of natives to high office must be effected by slow degrees.
But that, when the fulness of time is come, when the interest of India
requires the change, we ought to refuse to make that change lest we
should endanger our own power, this is a doctrine of which I cannot
think without indignation. Governments, like men, may buy existence too
dear. "Propter vitam vivendi perdere causas," is a despicable policy
both in individuals and in states. In the present case, such a policy
would be not only despicable, but absurd. The mere extent of empire
is not necessarily an advantage. To many governments it has been
cumbersome; to some it has been fatal. It will be allowed by every
statesman of our time that the prosperity of a community is made up of
the prosperity of those who compose the community, and that it is the
most childish ambition to covet dominion which adds to no man's comfort
or security. To the great trading nation, to the great manufacturing
nation, no progress which any portion of the human race can make in
knowledge, in taste for the conveniences of life, or in the wealth by
which those conveniences are produced, can be matter of indifference.
It is scarcely possible to calculate the benefits which we might derive
from the diffusion of European civilisation among the vast population of
the East. It would be, on the most selfish view of the case, far better
for us that the people of India were well governed and independent of
us, than ill governed and subject to us; that they were ruled by their
own kings, but wearing our broadcloth, and working with our cutlery,
than that they were performing their salams to English collectors and
English magistrates, but were too ignorant to value, or too poor to buy,
English manufactures. To trade with civilised men is infinitely more
profitable than to govern savages. That would, indeed, be a doting
wisdom, which, in order that India might remain a dependency, would make
it an useless and costly dependency, which would keep a hundred millions
of men from being our customers in order that they might continue to be
our slaves.

It was, as Bernier tells us, the practice of the miserable tyrants whom
he found in India, when they dreaded the capacity and spirit of some
distinguished subject, and yet could not venture to murder him, to
administer to him a daily dose of the pousta, a preparation of opium,
the effect of which was in a few months to destroy all the bodily and
mental powers of the wretch who was drugged with it, and to turn him
into a helpless idiot. The detestable artifice, more horrible than
assassination itself, was worthy of those who employed it. It is no
model for the English nation. We shall never consent to administer the
pousta to a whole community, to stupefy and paralyse a great people whom
God has committed to our charge, for the wretched purpose of rendering
them more amenable to our control. What is power worth if it is
founded on vice, on ignorance, and on misery; if we can hold it only
by violating the most sacred duties which as governors we owe to the
governed, and which, as a people blessed with far more than an ordinary
measure of political liberty and of intellectual light, we owe to a race
debased by three thousand years of despotism and priestcraft? We are
free, we are civilised, to little purpose, if we grudge to any portion
of the human race an equal measure of freedom and civilisation.

Are we to keep the people of India ignorant in order that we may keep
them submissive? Or do we think that we can give them knowledge without
awakening ambition? Or do we mean to awaken ambition and to provide it
with no legitimate vent? Who will answer any of these questions in the
affirmative? Yet one of them must be answered in the affirmative, by
every person who maintains that we ought permanently to exclude the
natives from high office. I have no fears. The path of duty is plain
before us: and it is also the path of wisdom, of national prosperity, of
national honour.

The destinies of our Indian empire are covered with thick darkness. It
is difficult to form any conjecture as to the fate reserved for a
state which resembles no other in history, and which forms by itself
a separate class of political phenomena. The laws which regulate its
growth and its decay are still unknown to us. It may be that the public
mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that
system; that by good government we may educate our subjects into a
capacity for better government; that, having become instructed in
European knowledge, they may, in some future age, demand European
institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not. But never
will I attempt to avert or to retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be
the proudest day in English history. To have found a great people sunk
in the lowest depths of slavery and superstition, to have so ruled
them as to have made them desirous and capable of all the privileges of
citizens, would indeed be a title to glory all our own. The sceptre may
pass away from us. Unforeseen accidents may derange our most profound
schemes of policy. Victory may be inconstant to our arms. But there are
triumphs which are followed by no reverse. There is an empire exempt
from all natural causes of decay. Those triumphs are the pacific
triumphs of reason over barbarism; that empire is the imperishable
empire of our arts and our morals, our literature and our laws.


ON THE 29TH OF MAY 1839.

The elevation of Mr Abercromby to the peerage in May 1839, caused a
vacancy in the representation of the city of Edinburgh. A meeting of
the electors was called to consider of the manner in which the vacancy
should be supplied. At this meeting the following Speech was made.

My Lord Provost and Gentlemen,--At the request of a very large and
respectable portion of your body, I appear before you as a candidate
for a high and solemn trust, which, uninvited, I should have thought
it presumption to solicit, but which, thus invited, I should think it
cowardice to decline. If I had felt myself justified in following my own
inclinations, I am not sure that even a summons so honourable as that
which I have received would have been sufficient to draw me away from
pursuits far better suited to my taste and temper than the turmoil of
political warfare. But I feel that my lot is cast in times in which
no man is free to judge, merely according to his own taste and temper,
whether he will devote himself to active or to contemplative life; in
times in which society has a right to demand, from every one of its
members, active and strenuous exertions. I have, therefore, obeyed your
call; and I now present myself before you for the purpose of offering
to you, not, what I am sure you would reject with disdain, flattery,
degrading alike to a candidate, and to a constituent body; but such
reasonable, candid, and manly explanations as become the mouth of a free
man ambitious of the confidence of a free people.

It is hardly necessary for me to say that I stand here unconnected with
this great community. It would be mere affectation not to acknowledge
that with respect to local questions I have much to learn; but I hope
that you will find in me no sluggish or inattentive learner. From an
early age I have felt a strong interest in Edinburgh, although attached
to Edinburgh by no other ties than those which are common to me with
multitudes; that tie which attaches every man of Scottish blood to the
ancient and renowned capital of our race; that tie which attaches every
student of history to the spot ennobled by so many great and memorable
events; that tie which attaches every traveller of taste to the most
beautiful of British cities; and that tie which attaches every lover
of literature to a place which, since it has ceased to be the seat of
empire, has derived from poetry, philosophy, and eloquence a far higher
distinction than empire can bestow. If to those ties it shall now be
your pleasure to add a tie still closer and more peculiar, I can only
assure you that it shall be the study of my life so to conduct myself
in these our troubled times that you may have no reason to be ashamed of
your choice.

Those gentlemen who invited me to appear as a candidate before you were
doubtless acquainted with the part which I took in public affairs during
the three first Parliaments of the late King. Circumstances have since
that time undergone great alteration; but no alteration has taken place
in my principles. I do not mean to say that thought, discussion, and the
new phenomena produced by the operation of a new representative system,
have not led me to modify some of my views on questions of detail; but,
with respect to the fundamental principles of government, my opinions
are still what they were when, in 1831 and 1832, I took part, according
to the measure of my abilities, in that great pacific victory which
purified the representative system of England, and which first gave a
real representative system to Scotland. Even at that time, Gentlemen,
the leaning of my mind was in favour of one measure to which the
illustrious leader of the Whig party, whose name ought never to be
mentioned without gratitude and reverence in any assembly of British
electors, I mean Earl Grey, was understood to entertain strong
objections, and to which his Cabinet, as a Cabinet, was invariably
opposed. I speak of the vote by ballot. All that has passed since that
time confirms me in the view which I was then inclined to take of
that important question. At the same time I do not think that all the
advantages are on one side and all the disadvantages on the other. I
must admit that the effect of the practice of secret voting would be to
withdraw the voter from the operation of some salutary and honourable,
as well as of some pernicious and degrading motives. But seeing, as
I cannot help seeing, that the practice of intimidation, instead of
diminishing, is gaining ground, I am compelled to consider whether the
time has not arrived when we are bound to apply what seems the only
efficient remedy. And I am compelled to consider whether, in doing so,
I am not strictly following the principles of the Reform Bill to the
legitimate conclusions. For surely those who supported the Reform Bill
intended to give the people of Britain a reality, not a delusion; to
destroy nomination, and not to make an outward show of destroying it;
to bestow the franchise, and not the name of the franchise; and least of
all, to give suffering and humiliation under the name of the franchise.
If men are to be returned to Parliament, not by popular election, but
by nomination, then I say without hesitation that the ancient system was
much the best. Both systems alike sent men to Parliament who were not
freely chosen by independent constituent bodies: but under the old
system there was little or no need of intimidation, while, under the new
system, we have the misery and disgrace produced by intimidation added
to the process. If, therefore, we are to have nomination, I prefer the
nomination which used to take place at Old Sarum to the nomination which
now takes place at Newark. In both cases you have members returned at
the will of one landed proprietor: but at Newark you have two hundred
ejectments into the bargain, to say nothing of the mortification and
remorse endured by all those who, though they were not ejected, yet
voted against their consciences from fear of ejectment.

There is perhaps no point on which good men of all parties are more
completely agreed than on the necessity of restraining and punishing
corruption in the election of Members of Parliament. The evils of
corruption are doubtless very great; but it appears to me that those
evils which are attributed to corruption may, with equal justice, be
attributed to intimidation, and that intimidation produces also some
monstrous evils with which corruption cannot be reproached. In both
cases alike the elector commits a breach of trust. In both cases alike
he employs for his own advantage an important power which was confided
to him, that it might be used, to the best of his judgment, for the
general good of the community. Thus far corruption and intimidation
operate in the same manner. But there is this difference betwixt the two
systems; corruption operates by giving pleasure, intimidation by giving
pain. To give a poor man five pounds causes no pain: on the contrary
it produces pleasure. It is in itself no bad act: indeed, if the five
pounds were given on another occasion, and without a corrupt object, it
might pass for a benevolent act. But to tell a man that you will reduce
him to a situation in which he will miss his former comforts, and in
which his family will be forced to beg their bread, is a cruel act.
Corruption has a sort of illegitimate relationship to benevolence, and
engenders some feelings of a cordial and friendly nature. There is a
notion of charity connected with the distribution of the money of the
rich among the needy, even in a corrupt manner. The comic writer who
tells us that the whole system of corruption is to be considered as a
commerce of generosity on one side and of gratitude on the other, has
rather exaggerated than misrepresented what really takes place in
many of these English constituent bodies where money is lavished to
conciliate the favour and obtain the suffrages of the people. But in
intimidation the whole process is an odious one. The whole feeling on
the part of the elector is that of shame, degradation, and hatred of the
person to whom he has given his vote. The elector is indeed placed in a
worse situation than if he had no vote at all; for there is not one of
us who would not rather be without a vote than be compelled to give it
to the person whom he dislikes above all others.

Thinking, therefore, that the practice of intimidation has all the evils
which are to be found in corruption, and that it has other evils which
are not to be found in corruption, I was naturally led to consider
whether it was possible to prevent it by any process similar to that by
which corruption is restrained. Corruption, you all know, is the subject
of penal laws. If it is brought home to the parties, they are liable to
severe punishment. Although it is not often that it can be brought
home, yet there are instances. I remember several men of large property
confined in Newgate for corruption. Penalties have been awarded
against offenders to the amount of five hundred pounds. Many members of
Parliament have been unseated on account of the malpractices of their
agents. But you cannot, I am afraid, repress intimidation by penal laws.
Such laws would infringe the most sacred rights of property. How can I
require a man to deal with tradesmen who have voted against him, or to
renew the leases of tenants who have voted against him? What is it that
the Jew says in the play?

     "I'll not answer that,
     But say it is my humour."

Or, as a Christian of our own time has expressed himself, "I have a
right to do what I will with my own." There is a great deal of weight
in the reasoning of Shylock and the Duke of Newcastle. There would be
an end of the right of property if you were to interdict a landlord
from ejecting a tenant, if you were to force a gentleman to employ a
particular butcher, and to take as much beef this year as last year.
The principle of the right of property is that a man is not only to
be allowed to dispose of his wealth rationally and usefully, but to
be allowed to indulge his passions and caprices, to employ whatever
tradesmen and labourers he chooses, and to let, or refuse to let, his
land according to his own pleasure, without giving any reason or asking
anybody's leave. I remember that, on one of the first evenings on which
I sate in the House of Commons, Mr Poulett Thompson proposed a censure
on the Duke of Newcastle for His Grace's conduct towards the electors of
Newark. Sir Robert Peel opposed the motion, not only with considerable
ability, but with really unanswerable reasons. He asked if it was meant
that a tenant who voted against his landlord was to keep his lease for
ever. If so, tenants would vote against a landlord to secure themselves,
as they now vote with a landlord to secure themselves. I thought, and
think, this argument unanswerable; but then it is unanswerable in favour
of the ballot; for, if it be impossible to deal with intimidation by
punishment, you are bound to consider whether there be any means of
prevention; and the only mode of prevention that has ever been suggested
is the ballot. That the ballot has disadvantages to be set off against
its advantages, I admit; but it appears to me that we have only a choice
of evils, and that the evils for which the ballot is a specific remedy
are greater than any which the ballot is likely to produce. Observe with
what exquisite accuracy the ballot draws the line of distinction between
the power which we ought to give to the proprietor and the power which
we ought not to give him. It leaves the proprietor the absolute power
to do what he will with his own. Nobody calls upon him to say why he
ejected this tenant, or took away his custom from that tradesman. It
leaves him at liberty to follow his own tastes, to follow his strangest
whims. The only thing which it puts beyond his power is the vote of the
tenant, the vote of the tradesman, which it is our duty to protect. I
ought at the same time to say, that there is one objection to the
ballot of a very serious nature, but which I think may, nevertheless, be
obviated. It is quite clear that, if the ballot shall be adopted, there
will be no remedy for an undue return by a subsequent scrutiny. Unless,
therefore, the registration of votes can be counted on as correct,
the ballot will undoubtedly lead to great inconvenience. It seems,
therefore, that a careful revision of the whole system of registration,
and an improvement of the tribunal before which the rights of the
electors are to be established, should be an inseparable part of any
measure by which the ballot is to be introduced.

As to those evils which we have been considering, they are evils which
are practically felt; they are evils which press hard upon a large
portion of the constituent body; and it is not therefore strange, that
the cry for a remedy should be loud and urgent. But there is another
subject respecting which I am told that many among you are anxious, a
subject of a very different description. I allude to the duration of

It must be admitted that for some years past we have had little reason
to complain of the length of Parliaments. Since the year 1830 we
have had five general elections; two occasioned by the deaths of two
Sovereigns, and three by political conjunctures. As to the present
Parliament, I do not think that, whatever opinion gentlemen may
entertain of the conduct of that body, they will impute its faults to
any confidence which the members have that they are to sit for seven
years; for I very much question whether there be one gentleman in the
House of Commons who thinks, or has ever thought, that his seat is worth
three years' purchase. When, therefore, we discuss this question,
we must remember that we are discussing a question not immediately
pressing. I freely admit, however, that this is no reason for not fairly
considering the subject: for it is the part of wise men to provide
against evils which, though not actually felt, may be reasonably
apprehended. It seems to me that here, as in the case of the ballot,
there are serious considerations to be urged on both sides. The
objections to long Parliaments are perfectly obvious. The truth is that,
in very long Parliaments, you have no representation at all. The mind
of the people goes on changing; and the Parliament, remaining unchanged,
ceases to reflect the opinion of the constituent bodies. In the old
times before the Revolution, a Parliament might sit during the life
of the monarch. Parliaments were then sometimes of eighteen or twenty
years' duration. Thus the Parliament called by Charles the Second soon
after his return from exile, and elected when the nation was drunk with
hope and convulsed by a hysterical paroxysm of loyalty, continued to sit
long after two-thirds of those who had heartily welcomed the King
back from Holland as heartily wished him in Holland again. Since the
Revolution we have not felt that evil to the same extent: but it must be
admitted that the term of seven years is too long. There are, however,
other considerations to set off against this. There are two very serious
evils connected with every general election: the first is, the violent
political excitement: the second is, the ruinous expense. Both these
evils were very greatly diminished by the Reform Act. Formerly these
were things which you in Scotland knew nothing about; but in England
the injury to the peace and morals of society resulting from a general
election was incalculable. During a fifteen days' poll in a town of one
hundred thousand inhabitants, money was flowing in all directions; the
streets were running with beer; all business was suspended; and there
was nothing but disturbance and riot, and slander, and calumny, and
quarrels, which left in the bosoms of private families heartburnings
such as were not extinguished in the course of many years. By limiting
the duration of the poll, the Reform Act has conferred as great a
blessing on the country,--and that is saying a bold word,--as by any
other provision which it contains. Still it is not to be denied that
there are evils inseparable from that state of political excitement into
which every community is thrown by the preparations for an election. A
still greater evil is the expense. That evil too has been diminished by
the operation of the Reform Act; but it still exists to a considerable
extent. We do not now indeed hear of such elections as that of Yorkshire
in 1807, or that of Northumberland in 1827. We do not hear of elections
that cost two hundred thousand pounds. But that the tenth part of that
sum, nay, that the hundredth part of that sum should be expended in a
contest, is a great evil. Do not imagine, Gentlemen, that all this evil
falls on the candidates. It is on you that the evil falls. The effect
must necessarily be to limit you in your choice of able men to serve
you. The number of men who can advance fifty thousand pounds is
necessarily much smaller than the number of men who can advance five
thousand pounds; the number of these again is much smaller than the
number of those who can advance five hundred pounds; and the number of
men who can advance five hundred pounds every three years is necessarily
smaller than the number of those who can advance five hundred pounds
every seven years. Therefore it seems to me that the question is one of
comparison. In long Parliaments the representative character is in some
measure effaced. On the other side, if you have short Parliaments, your
choice of men will be limited. Now in all questions of this sort, it
is the part of wisdom to weigh, not indeed with minute accuracy,--for
questions of civil prudence cannot be subjected to an arithmetical
test,--but to weigh the advantages and disadvantages carefully, and then
to strike the balance. Gentlemen will probably judge according to their
habits of mind, and according to their opportunities of observation.
Those who have seen much of the evils of elections will probably incline
to long Parliaments; those who have seen little or nothing of these
evils will probably incline to a short term. Only observe this, that,
whatever may be the legal term, it ought to be a year longer than that
for which Parliaments ought ordinarily to sit. For there must be a
general election at the end of the legal term, let the state of the
country be what it may. There may be riot; there may be revolution;
there may be famine in the country; and yet if the Minister wait to
the end of the legal term, the writs must go out. A wise Minister will
therefore always dissolve the Parliament a year before the end of the
legal term, if the country be then in a quiet state. It has now been
long the practice not to keep a Parliament more than six years. Thus
the Parliament which was elected in 1784 sat till 1790, six years;
the Parliament of 1790 till 1796, the Parliament of 1796 to 1802, the
Parliament of 1812 to 1818, and the Parliament of 1820 till 1826. If,
therefore, you wish the duration of Parliaments to be shortened to three
years, the proper course would be to fix the legal term at four years;
and if you wish them to sit for four years, the proper course would be
to fix the legal term at five years. My own inclination would be to fix
the legal term at five years, and thus to have a Parliament practically
every four years. I ought to add that, whenever any shortening of
Parliament takes place, we ought to alter that rule which requires that
Parliament shall be dissolved as often as the demise of the Crown takes
place. It is a rule for which no statesmanlike reason can be given; it
is a mere technical rule; and it has already been so much relaxed that,
even considered as a technical rule, it is absurd.

I come now to another subject, of the highest and gravest importance:
I mean the elective franchise; and I acknowledge that I am doubtful
whether my opinions on this subject may be so pleasing to many here
present as, if I may judge from your expressions, my sentiments on
other subjects have been. I shall express my opinions, however, on this
subject as frankly as I have expressed them when they may have been more
pleasing. I shall express them with the frankness of a man who is more
desirous to gain your esteem than to gain your votes. I am for the
original principle of the Reform Bill. I think that principle excellent;
and I am sorry that we ever deviated from it. There were two deviations
to which I was strongly opposed, and to which the authors of the bill,
hard pressed by their opponents and feebly supported by their friends,
very unwillingly consented. One was the admission of the freemen to vote
in towns: the other was the admission of the fifty pound tenants at will
to vote in counties. At the same time I must say that I despair of being
able to apply a direct remedy to either of these evils. The ballot might
perhaps be an indirect remedy for the latter. I think that the system of
registration should be amended, that the clauses relating to the payment
of rates should be altered, or altogether removed, and that the elective
franchise should be extended to every ten pound householder, whether
he resides within or without the limits of a town. To this extent I am
prepared to go; but I should not be dealing with the ingenuousness which
you have a right to expect, if I did not tell you that I am not prepared
to go further. There are many other questions as to which you are
entitled to know the opinions of your representative: but I shall only
glance rapidly at the most important. I have ever been a most determined
enemy to the slave trade, and to personal slavery under every form. I
have always been a friend to popular education. I have always been a
friend to the right of free discussion. I have always been adverse to
all restrictions on trade, and especially to those restrictions which
affect the price of the necessaries of life. I have always been adverse
to religious persecution, whether it takes the form of direct penal
laws, or of civil disabilities.

Now, having said so much upon measures, I hope you will permit me to
say something about men. If you send me as your representative to
Parliament, I wish you to understand that I shall go there determined
to support the present ministry. I shall do so not from any personal
interest or feeling. I have certainly the happiness to have several kind
and much valued friends among the members of the Government; and there
is one member of the Government, the noble President of the Council, to
whom I owe obligations which I shall always be proud to avow. That noble
Lord, when I was utterly unknown in public life, and scarcely known even
to himself, placed me in the House of Commons; and it is due to him
to say that he never in the least interfered with the freedom of my
parliamentary conduct. I have since represented a great constituent
body, for whose confidence and kindness I can never be sufficiently
grateful, I mean the populous borough of Leeds. I may possibly by
your kindness be placed in the proud situation of Representative of
Edinburgh; but I never could and never can be a more independent Member
of the House of Commons than when I sat there as the nominee of Lord
Lansdowne. But, while I acknowledge my obligations to that noble person,
while I avow the friendship which I feel for many of his colleagues,
it is not on such grounds that I vindicate the support which it is my
intention to give them. I have no right to sacrifice your interests to
my personal or private feelings: my principles do not permit me to do
so; nor do my friends expect that I should do so. The support which I
propose to give to the present Ministry I shall give on the following
grounds. I believe the present Ministry to be by many degrees the best
Ministry which, in the present state of the country, can be formed.
I believe that we have only one choice. I believe that our choice is
between a Ministry substantially,--for of course I do not speak of
particular individuals,--between a Ministry substantially the same that
we have, and a Ministry under the direction of the Duke of Wellington
and Sir Robert Peel. I do not hesitate to pronounce that my choice is in
favour of the former. Some gentleman appears to dissent from what I say.
If I knew what his objections are, I would try to remove them. But it
is impossible to answer inarticulate noises. Is the objection that the
government is too conservative? Or is the objection that the government
is too radical? If I understand rightly, the objection is that the
Government does not proceed vigorously enough in the work of Reform. To
that objection then I will address myself. Now, I am far from denying
that the Ministers have committed faults. But, at the same time, I make
allowances for the difficulties with which they are contending; and
having made these allowances, I confidently say that, when I look back
at the past, I think them entitled to praise, and that, looking forward
to the future, I can pronounce with still more confidence that they are
entitled to support.

It is a common error, and one which I have found among men, not only
intelligent, but much conversant in public business, to think that in
politics, legislation is everything and administration nothing. Nothing
is more usual than to hear people say, "What! another session gone and
nothing done; no new bills passed; the Irish Municipal Bill stopped in
the House of Lords. How could we be worse off if the Tories were in?"
My answer is that, if the Tories were in, our legislation would be in as
bad a state as at present, and we should have a bad administration into
the bargain. It seems strange to me that gentlemen should not be
aware that it may be better to have unreformed laws administered in a
reforming spirit, than reformed laws administered in a spirit hostile to
all reform. We often hear the maxim, "Measures not men," and there is
a sense in which it is an excellent maxim. Measures not men, certainly:
that is, we are not to oppose Sir Robert Peel simply because he is Sir
Robert Peel, or to support Lord John Russell simply because he is Lord
John Russell. We are not to follow our political leaders in the way in
which my honest Highland ancestors followed their chieftains. We are not
to imitate that blind devotion which led all the Campbells to take the
side of George the Second because the Duke of Argyle was a Whig, and
all the Camerons to take the side of the Stuarts because Lochiel was a
Jacobite. But if you mean that, while the laws remain the same, it is
unimportant by whom they are administered, then I say that a doctrine
more absurd was never uttered. Why, what are laws? They are mere words;
they are a dead letter; till a living agent comes to put life into them.
This is the case even in judicial matters. You can tie up the judges
of the land much more closely than it would be right to tie up the
Secretary for the Home Department or the Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
Yet is it immaterial whether the laws be administered by Chief Justice
Hale or Chief Justice Jeffreys? And can you doubt that the case is still
stronger when you come to political questions? It would be perfectly
easy, as many of you must be aware, to point out instances in which
society has prospered under defective laws, well administered, and other
instances in which society has been miserable under institutions that
looked well on paper. But we need not go beyond our own country and our
own times. Let us see what, within this island and in the present year,
a good administration has done to mitigate bad laws. For example, let us
take the law of libel. I hold the present state of our law of libel to
be a scandal to a civilised community. Nothing more absurd can be found
in the whole history of jurisprudence. How the law of libel was abused
formerly, you all know. You all know how it was abused under the
administrations of Lord North, of Mr Pitt, of Mr Perceval, of the
Earl of Liverpool; and I am sorry to say that it was abused, most
unjustifiably abused, by Lord Abinger under the administration of the
Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel. Now is there any person who will
pretend to say that it has ever been abused by the Government of
Lord Melbourne? That Government has enemies in abundance; it has been
attacked by Tory malcontents and by Radical malcontents; but has any one
of them ever had the effrontery to say that it has abused the power of
filing ex officio informations for libel? Has this been from want of
provocation? On the contrary, the present Government has been libelled
in a way in which no Government was ever libelled before. Has the law
been altered? Has it been modified? Not at all. We have exactly the
same laws that we had when Mr Perry was brought to trial for saying that
George the Third was unpopular, Mr Leigh Hunt for saying that George the
Fourth was fat, and Sir Francis Burdett for expressing, not perhaps in
the best taste, a natural and honest indignation at the slaughter which
took place at Manchester in 1819. The law is precisely the same; but if
it had been entirely remodelled, political writers could not have had
more liberty than they have enjoyed since Lord Melbourne came into

I have given you an instance of the power of a good administration to
mitigate a bad law. Now, see how necessary it is that there should be a
good administration to carry a good law into effect. An excellent bill
was brought into the House of Commons by Lord John Russell in 1828, and
passed. To any other man than Lord John Russell the carrying of such
a bill would have been an enviable distinction indeed; but his name
is identified with still greater reforms. It will, however, always be
accounted one of his titles to public gratitude that he was the author
of the law which repealed the Test Act. Well, a short time since, a
noble peer, the Lord Lieutenant of the county of Nottingham, thought fit
to re-enact the Test Act, so far as that county was concerned. I have
already mentioned His Grace the Duke of Newcastle, and, to say truth,
there is no life richer in illustrations of all forms and branches of
misgovernment than his. His Grace very coolly informed Her Majesty's
Ministers that he had not recommended a certain gentleman for the
commission of the peace because the gentleman was a Dissenter. Now here
is a law which admits Dissenters to offices; and a Tory nobleman takes
it on himself to rescind that law. But happily we have Whig Ministers.
What did they do? Why, they put the Dissenter into the Commission; and
they turned the Tory nobleman out of the Lieutenancy. Do you seriously
imagine that under a Tory administration this would have been done? I
have no wish to say anything disrespectful of the great Tory leaders.
I shall always speak with respect of the great qualities and public
services of the Duke of Wellington: I have no other feeling about him
than one of pride that my country has produced so great a man; nor do
I feel anything but respect and kindness for Sir Robert Peel, of whose
abilities no person that has had to encounter him in debate will ever
speak slightingly. I do not imagine that those eminent men would have
approved of the conduct of the Duke of Newcastle. I believe that the
Duke of Wellington would as soon have thought of running away from the
field of battle as of doing the same thing in Hampshire, where he is
Lord Lieutenant. But do you believe that he would have turned the Duke
of Newcastle out? I believe that he would not. As Mr Pulteney, a great
political leader, said a hundred years since, "The heads of parties are,
like the heads of snakes, carried on by the tails." It would have been
utterly impossible for the Tory Ministers to have discarded the powerful
Tory Duke, unless they had at the same time resolved, like Mr Canning in
1827, to throw themselves for support on the Whigs.

Now I have given you these two instances to show that a change in the
administration may produce all the effects of a change in the law. You
see that to have a Tory Government is virtually to reenact the Test Act,
and that to have a Whig Government is virtually to repeal the law of
libel. And if this is the case in England and Scotland, where society is
in a sound state, how much more must it be the case in the diseased
part of the empire, in Ireland? Ask any man there, whatever may be his
religion, whatever may be his politics, Churchman, Presbyterian, Roman
Catholic, Repealer, Precursor, Orangeman, ask Mr O'Connell, ask Colonel
Conolly, whether it is a slight matter in whose hands the executive
power is lodged. Every Irishman will tell you that it is a matter of
life and death; that in fact more depends upon the men than upon the
laws. It disgusts me therefore to hear men of liberal politics say,
"What is the use of a Whig Government? The Ministers can do nothing for
the country. They have been four years at work on an Irish Municipal
Bill, without being able to pass it through the Lords." Would any ten
Acts of Parliament make such a difference to Ireland as the difference
between having Lord Ebrington for Lord Lieutenant, with Lord Morpeth
for Secretary, and having the Earl of Roden for Lord Lieutenant, with Mr
Lefroy for Secretary? Ask the popular Irish leaders whether they
would like better to remain as they are, with Lord Ebrington as Lord
Lieutenant, or to have the Municipal Bill, and any other three bills
which they might name, with Lord Roden for Viceroy; and they will at
once answer, "Leave us Lord Ebrington; and burn your bills." The truth
is that, the more defective the legislation, the more important is a
good administration, just as the personal qualities of the Sovereign are
of more importance in despotic countries like Russia than in a limited
monarchy. If we have not in our Statute Book all the securities
necessary for good government, it is of the more importance that
the character of the men who administer the government should be an
additional security.

But we are told that the Government is weak. That is most true; and I
believe that almost all that we are tempted to blame in the conduct of
the Government is to be attributed to weakness. But let us consider what
the nature of this weakness is. Is it that kind of weakness which makes
it our duty to oppose the Government? Or is it that kind of weakness
which makes it our duty to support the Government? Is it intellectual
weakness, moral weakness, the incapacity to discern, or the want
of courage to pursue, the true interest of the nation? Such was the
weakness of Mr Addington, when this country was threatened with invasion
from Boulogne. Such was the weakness of the Government which sent out
the wretched Walcheren expedition, and starved the Duke of Wellington in
Spain; a government whose only strength was shown in prosecuting writers
who exposed abuses, and in slaughtering rioters whom oppression had
driven into outrage. Is that the weakness of the present Government? I
think not. As compared with any other party capable of holding the reins
of Government, they are deficient neither in intellectual nor in moral
strength. On all great questions of difference between the Ministers and
the Opposition, I hold the Ministers to be in the right. When I consider
the difficulties with which they have to struggle, when I see how
manfully that struggle is maintained by Lord Melbourne, when I see that
Lord John Russell has excited even the admiration of his opponents by
the heroic manner in which he has gone on, year after year, in sickness
and domestic sorrow, fighting the battle of Reform, I am led to the
conclusion that the weakness of the Ministers is of that sort which
makes it our duty to give them, not opposition, but support; and that
support it is my purpose to afford to the best of my ability.

If, indeed, I thought myself at liberty to consult my own inclination,
I should have stood aloof from the conflict. If you should be pleased
to send me to Parliament, I shall enter an assembly very different
from that which I quitted in 1834. I left the Wigs united and dominant,
strong in the confidence and attachment of one House of Parliament,
strong also in the fears of the other. I shall return to find them
helpless in the Lords, and forced almost every week to fight a battle
for existence in the Commons. Many, whom I left bound together by what
seemed indissoluble private and public ties, I shall now find assailing
each other with more than the ordinary bitterness of political
hostility. Many with whom I sate side by side, contending through whole
nights for the Reform Bill, till the sun broke over the Thames on our
undiminished ranks, I shall now find on hostile benches. I shall be
compelled to engage in painful altercations with many with whom I had
hoped never to have a conflict, except in the generous and friendly
strife which should best serve the common cause. I left the Liberal
Government strong enough to maintain itself against an adverse Court; I
see that the Liberal Government now rests for support on the preference
of a Sovereign, in whom the country sees with delight the promise of a
better, a gentler, a happier Elizabeth, of a Sovereign in whom we hope
that our children and our grandchildren will admire the firmness, the
sagacity, and the spirit which distinguished the last and greatest of
the Tudors, tempered by the beneficent influence of more humane times
and more popular institutions. Whether royal favour, never more needed
and never better deserved, will enable the government to surmount the
difficulties with which it has to deal, I cannot presume to judge. It
may be that the blow has only been deferred for a season, and that a
long period of Tory domination is before us. Be it so. I entered public
life a Whig; and a Whig I am determined to remain. I use that word, and
I wish you to understand that I use it, in no narrow sense. I mean by
a Whig, not one who subscribes implicitly to the contents of any book,
though that book may have been written by Locke; not one who approves
the whole conduct of any statesman, though that statesman may have been
Fox; not one who adopts the opinions in fashion in any circle, though
that circle may be composed of the finest and noblest spirits of the
age. But it seems to me that, when I look back on our history, I can
discern a great party which has, through many generations, preserved its
identity; a party often depressed, never extinguished; a party which,
though often tainted with the faults of the age, has always been in
advance of the age; a party which, though guilty of many errors and
some crimes, has the glory of having established our civil and religious
liberties on a firm foundation; and of that party I am proud to be a
member. It was that party which, on the great question of monopolies,
stood up against Elizabeth. It was that party which, in the reign of
James the First, organised the earliest parliamentary opposition, which
steadily asserted the privileges of the people, and wrested prerogative
after prerogative from the Crown. It was that party which forced
Charles the First to relinquish the ship-money. It was that party which
destroyed the Star Chamber and the High Commission Court. It was that
party which, under Charles the Second, carried the Habeas Corpus Act,
which effected the Revolution, which passed the Toleration Act, which
broke the yoke of a foreign church in your country, and which saved
Scotland from the fate of unhappy Ireland. It was that party which
reared and maintained the constitutional throne of Hanover against the
hostility of the Church and of the landed aristocracy of England. It
was that party which opposed the war with America and the war with the
French Republic; which imparted the blessings of our free Constitution
to the Dissenters; and which, at a later period, by unparalleled
sacrifices and exertions, extended the same blessings to the Roman
Catholics. To the Whigs of the seventeenth century we owe it that we
have a House of Commons. To the Whigs of the nineteenth century we owe
it that the House of Commons has been purified. The abolition of the
slave trade, the abolition of colonial slavery, the extension of popular
education, the mitigation of the rigour of the penal code, all, all were
effected by that party; and of that party, I repeat, I am a member. I
look with pride on all that the Whigs have done for the cause of human
freedom and of human happiness. I see them now hard pressed, struggling
with difficulties, but still fighting the good fight. At their head I
see men who have inherited the spirit and the virtues, as well as the
blood, of old champions and martyrs of freedom. To those men I propose
to attach myself. Delusion may triumph: but the triumphs of delusion are
but for a day. We may be defeated: but our principles will only gather
fresh strength from defeats. Be that, however, as it may, my part is
taken. While one shred of the old banner is flying, by that banner will
I at least be found. The good old cause, as Sidney called it on the
scaffold, vanquished or victorious, insulted or triumphant, the good
old cause is still the good old cause with me. Whether in or out of
Parliament, whether speaking with that authority which must always
belong to the representative of this great and enlightened community,
or expressing the humble sentiments of a private citizen, I will to the
last maintain inviolate my fidelity to principles which, though they may
be borne down for a time by senseless clamour, are yet strong with the
strength and immortal with the immortality of truth, and which, however
they may be misunderstood or misrepresented by contemporaries, will
assuredly find justice from a better age. Gentlemen, I have done. I have
only to thank you for the kind attention with which you have heard me,
and to express my hope that whether my principles have met with your
concurrence or not, the frankness with which I have expressed them will
at least obtain your approbation.



On the twenty-eighth of January 1840, Sir John Yarde Buller moved the
following resolution:

"That Her Majesty's Government, as at present constituted, does not
possess the confidence of the House."

After a discussion of four nights the motion was rejected by 308 votes
to 287. The following Speech was made on the second night of the debate.

The House, Sir, may possibly imagine that I rise under some little
feeling of irritation to reply to the personal reflections which have
been introduced into the discussion. It would be easy to reply to these
reflections. It would be still easier to retort them: but I should
think either course unworthy of me and of this great occasion. If ever
I should so far forget myself as to wander from the subject of debate to
matters concerning only myself, it will not, I hope, be at a time when
the dearest interests of our country are staked on the result of our
deliberations. I rise under feelings of anxiety which leave no room in
my mind for selfish vanity or petty vindictiveness. I believe with the
most intense conviction that, in pleading for the Government to which
I belong, I am pleading for the safety of the Commonwealth, for the
reformation of abuses, and at the same time for the preservation of
august and venerable institutions: and I trust, Mr Speaker, that when
the question is whether a Cabinet be or be not worthy of the confidence
of Parliament, the first Member of that Cabinet who comes forward to
defend himself and his colleagues will find here some portion of that
generosity and good feeling which once distinguished English gentlemen.
But be this as it may, my voice shall be heard. I repeat, that I am
pleading at once for the reformation and for the preservation of our
institutions, for liberty and order, for justice administered in mercy,
for equal laws, for the rights of conscience, and for the real union of
Great Britain and Ireland. If, on so grave an occasion, I should advert
to one or two of the charges which have been brought against myself
personally, I shall do so only because I conceive that those charges
affect in some degree the character of the Government to which I belong.

One of the chief accusations brought against the Government by the
honourable Baronet (Sir John Yarde Buller.) who opened the debate,
and repeated by the seconder (Alderman Thompson.), and by almost every
gentlemen who has addressed the House from the benches opposite, is that
I have been invited to take office though my opinion with respect to the
Ballot is known to be different from that of my colleagues. We have been
repeatedly told that a Ministry in which there is not perfect unanimity
on a subject so important must be undeserving of the public confidence.
Now, Sir, it is true that I am in favour of secret voting, that my noble
and right honourable friends near me are in favour of open voting,
and yet that we sit in the same Cabinet. But if, on account of this
difference of opinion, the Government is unworthy of public confidence,
then I am sure that scarcely any government which has existed within the
memory of the oldest man has been deserving of public confidence. It
is well-known that in the Cabinets of Mr Pitt, of Mr Fox, of Lord
Liverpool, of Mr Canning, of the Duke of Wellington, there were
open questions of great moment. Mr Pitt, while still zealous for
parliamentary reform, brought into the Cabinet Lord Grenville, who
was adverse to parliamentary reform. Again, Mr Pitt, while eloquently
supporting the abolition of the Slave Trade, brought into the Cabinet
Mr Dundas, who was the chief defender of the Slave Trade. Mr Fox,
too, intense as was his abhorrence of the Slave Trade, sat in the same
Cabinet with Lord Sidmouth and Mr Windham, who voted to the last against
the abolition of that trade. Lord Liverpool, Mr Canning, the Duke of
Wellington, all left the question of Catholic Emancipation open. And
yet, of all questions, that was perhaps the very last that should have
been left open. For it was not merely a legislative question, but a
question which affected every part of the executive administration.
But, to come to the present time, suppose that you could carry your
resolution, suppose that you could drive the present Ministers from
power, who that may succeed them will be able to form a government in
which there will be no open questions? Can the right honourable Baronet
the member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel.) form a Cabinet without
leaving the great question of our privileges open? In what respect is
that question less important than the question of the Ballot? Is it not
indeed from the privileges of the House that all questions relating
to the constitution of the House derive their importance? What does it
matter how we are chosen, if, when we meet, we do not possess the
powers necessary to enable us to perform the functions of a legislative
assembly? Yet you who would turn out the present Ministers because they
differ from each other as to the way in which Members of this House
should be chosen, wish to bring in men who decidedly differ from each
other as to the relation in which this House stands to the nation, to
the other House, and to the Courts of Judicature. Will you say that the
dispute between the House and the Court of Queen's Bench is a trifling
dispute? Surely, in the late debates, you were all perfectly agreed as
to the importance of the question, though you were agreed as to nothing
else. Some of you told us that we were contending for a power essential
to our honour and usefulness. Many of you protested against our
proceedings, and declared that we were encroaching on the province of
the tribunals, violating the liberty of our fellow citizens, punishing
honest magistrates for not perjuring themselves. Are these trifles? And
can we believe that you really feel a horror of open questions when we
see your Prime Minister elect sending people to prison overnight,
and his law officers elect respectfully attending the levee of those
prisoners the next morning? Observe, too, that this question of
privileges is not merely important; it is also pressing. Something must
be done, and that speedily. My belief is that more inconvenience would
follow from leaving that question open one month than from leaving the
question of the Ballot open ten years.

The Ballot, Sir, is not the only subject on which I am accused of
holding dangerous opinions. The right honourable Baronet the Member
for Pembroke (Sir James Graham.) pronounces the present Government
a Chartist Government; and he proves his point by saying that I am a
member of the government, and that I wish to give the elective franchise
to every ten pound householder, whether his house be in a town or in
the country. Is it possible, Sir, that the honourable Baronet should not
know that the fundamental principle of the plan of government called the
People's Charter is that every male of twenty-one should have a vote?
Or is it possible that he can see no difference between giving the
franchise to all ten pound householders, and giving the franchise to all
males of twenty-one? Does he think the ten pound householders a class
morally or intellectually unfit to possess the franchise, he who bore a
chief part in framing the law which gave them the franchise in all the
represented towns of the United Kingdom? Or will he say that the ten
pound householder in a town is morally and intellectually fit to be
an elector, but that the ten pound householder who lives in the
open country is morally and intellectually unfit? Is not house-rent
notoriously higher in towns than in the country? Is it not, therefore,
probable that the occupant of a ten pound house in a rural hamlet will
be a man who has a greater stake in the peace and welfare of society
than a man who has a ten pound house in Manchester or Birmingham? Can
you defend on conservative principles an arrangement which gives votes
to a poorer class and withholds them from a richer? For my own part, I
believe it to be essential to the welfare of the state, that the elector
should have a pecuniary qualification. I believe that the ten pound
qualification cannot be proved to be either too high or too low.
Changes, which may hereafter take place in the value of money and in
the condition of the people, may make a change of the qualification
necessary. But the ten pound qualification is, I believe, well suited to
the present state of things. At any rate, I am unable to conceive why it
should be a sufficient qualification within the limits of a borough, and
an insufficient qualification a yard beyond those limits; sufficient at
Knightsbridge, but insufficient at Kensington; sufficient at Lambeth,
but insufficient at Battersea? If any person calls this Chartism, he
must permit me to tell him that he does not know what Chartism is.

A motion, Sir, such as that which we are considering, brings under our
review the whole policy of the kingdom, domestic, foreign, and colonial.
It is not strange, therefore, that there should have been several
episodes in this debate. Something has been said about the hostilities
on the River Plata, something about the hostilities on the coast of
China, something about Commissioner Lin, something about Captain Elliot.
But on such points I shall not dwell, for it is evidently not by the
opinion which the House may entertain on such points that the event
of the debate will be decided. The main argument of the gentlemen who
support the motion, the argument on which the right honourable Baronet
who opened the debate chiefly relied, the argument which his seconder
repeated, and which has formed the substance of every speech since
delivered from the opposite side of the House, may be fairly summed
up thus, "The country is not in a satisfactory state. There is much
recklessness, much turbulence, much craving for political change; and
the cause of these evils is the policy of the Whigs. They rose to power
by agitation in 1830: they retained power by means of agitation through
the tempestuous months which followed: they carried the Reform Bill
by means of agitation: expelled from office, they forced themselves in
again by means of agitation; and now we are paying the penalty of their
misconduct. Chartism is the natural offspring of Whiggism. From those
who caused the evil we cannot expect the remedy. The first thing to
be done is to dismiss them, and to call to power men who, not having
instigated the people to commit excesses, can, without incurring the
charge of inconsistency, enforce the laws."

Now, Sir, it seems to me that this argument was completely refuted by
the able and eloquent speech of my right honourable friend the Judge
Advocate. (Sir George Grey.) He said, and he said most truly, that those
who hold this language are really accusing, not the Government of Lord
Melbourne, but the Government of Lord Grey. I was therefore, I must say,
surprised, after the speech of my right honourable friend, to hear
the right honourable Baronet the Member for Pembroke, himself a
distinguished member of the cabinet of Lord Grey, pronounce a harangue
against agitation. That he was himself an agitator he does not venture
to deny; but he tries to excuse himself by saying, "I liked the Reform
Bill; I thought it a good bill; and so I agitated for it; and, in
agitating for it, I acknowledge that I went to the very utmost limit of
what was prudent, to the very utmost limit of what was legal." Does not
the right honourable Baronet perceive that, by setting up this defence
for his own past conduct, he admits that agitation is good or evil,
according as the objects of the agitation are good or evil? When I hear
him speak of agitation as a practice disgraceful to a public man, and
especially to a Minister of the Crown, and address his lecture in a
particular manner to me, I cannot but wonder that he should not perceive
that his reproaches, instead of wounding me, recoil on himself. I was
not a member of the Cabinet which brought in the Reform Bill, which
dissolved the Parliament in a moment of intense excitement in order
to carry the Reform Bill, which refused to serve the Sovereign longer
unless he would create peers in sufficient numbers to carry the Reform
Bill. I was at that time only one of those hundreds of members of this
House, one of those millions of Englishmen, who were deeply impressed
with the conviction that the Reform Bill was one of the best laws
that ever had been framed, and who reposed entire confidence in the
abilities, the integrity, and the patriotism of the ministers; and
I must add that in no member of the administration did I place more
confidence than in the right honourable Baronet, who was then First
Lord of the Admiralty, and in the noble lord who was then Secretary for
Ireland. (Lord Stanley.) It was indeed impossible for me not to see that
the public mind was strongly, was dangerously stirred: but I trusted
that men so able, men so upright, men who had so large a stake in the
country, would carry us safe through the storm which they had raised.
And is it not rather hard that my confidence in the right honourable
Baronet and the noble lord is to be imputed to me as a crime by the very
men who are trying to raise the right honourable Baronet and the noble
lord to power? The Charter, we have been told in this debate, is the
child of the Reform Bill. But whose child is the Reform Bill? If men are
to be deemed unfit for office because they roused the national spirit
to support that bill, because they went as far as the law permitted in
order to carry that bill, then I say that no men can be more unfit for
office than the right honourable Baronet and the noble lord. It may be
thought presumptuous in me to defend two persons who are so well able to
defend themselves, and the more so, as they have a powerful ally in
the right honourable Baronet the Member for Tamworth, who, having twice
offered them high places in the Government, must be supposed to be of
opinion that they are not disqualified for being ministers by having
been agitators. I will, however, venture to offer some arguments in
vindication of the conduct of my noble and right honourable friends,
as I once called them, and as, notwithstanding the asperity which
has characterised the present debate, I should still have pleasure in
calling them. I would say in their behalf that agitation ought not to be
indiscriminately condemned; that great abuses ought to be removed;
that in this country scarcely any great abuse was ever removed till the
public feeling had been roused against it; and that the public feeling
has seldom been roused against abuses without exertions to which the
name of agitation may be given. I altogether deny the assertion which
we have repeatedly heard in the course of this debate, that a government
which does not discountenance agitation cannot be trusted to suppress
rebellion. Agitation and rebellion, you say, are in kind the same thing:
they differ only in degree. Sir, they are the same thing in the sense
in which to breathe a vein and to cut a throat are the same thing. There
are many points of resemblance between the act of the surgeon and the
act of the assassin. In both there is the steel, the incision, the
smart, the bloodshed. But the acts differ as widely as possible both in
moral character and in physical effect. So with agitation and rebellion.
I do not believe that there has been any moment since the revolution
of 1688 at which an insurrection in this country would have been
justifiable. On the other hand, I hold that we have owed to agitation a
long series of beneficent reforms which could have been effected in no
other way. Nor do I understand how any person can reprobate agitation,
merely as agitation, unless he is prepared to adopt the maxim of Bishop
Horsley, that the people have nothing to do with the laws but to
obey them. The truth is that agitation is inseparable from popular
government. If you wish to get rid of agitation, you must establish an
oligarchy like that of Venice, or a despotism like that of Russia. If
a Russian thinks that he is able to suggest an improvement in the
commercial code or the criminal code of his country, he tries to obtain
an audience of the Emperor Nicholas or of Count Nesselrode. If he
can satisfy them that his plans are good, then undoubtedly, without
agitation, without controversy in newspapers, without harangues from
hustings, without clamorous meetings in great halls and in marketplaces,
without petitions signed by tens of thousands, you may have a reform
effected with one stroke of the pen. Not so here. Here the people, as
electors, have power to decide questions of the highest importance. And
ought they not to hear and read before they decide? And how can they
hear if nobody speaks, or read if nobody writes? You must admit,
then, that it is our right, and that it may be our duty, to attempt
by speaking and writing to induce the great body of our countrymen to
pronounce what we think a right decision; and what else is agitation? In
saying this I am not defending one party alone. Has there been no Tory
agitation? No agitation against Popery? No agitation against the new
Poor Law? No agitation against the plan of education framed by the
present Government? Or, to pass from questions about which we differ to
questions about which we all agree: Would the slave trade ever have
been abolished without agitation? Would slavery ever have been abolished
without agitation? Would your prison discipline ever have been improved
without agitation? Would your penal code, once the scandal of the
Statute Book, have been mitigated without agitation? I am far from
denying that agitation may be abused, may be employed for bad ends, may
be carried to unjustifiable lengths. So may that freedom of speech
which is one of the most precious privileges of this House. Indeed,
the analogy is very close. What is agitation but the mode in which the
public, the body which we represent, the great outer assembly, if I may
so speak, holds its debates? It is as necessary to the good government
of the country that our constituents should debate as that we should
debate. They sometimes go wrong, as we sometimes go wrong. There
is often much exaggeration, much unfairness, much acrimony in their
debates. Is there none in ours? Some worthless demagogues may have
exhorted the people to resist the laws. But what member of Lord Grey's
Government, what member of the present Government, ever gave any
countenance to any illegal proceedings? It is perfectly true that some
words which have been uttered here and in other places, and which, when
taken together with the context and candidly construed, will appear to
mean nothing but what was reasonable and constitutional and moderate,
have been distorted and mutilated into something that has a seditious
aspect. But who is secure against such misrepresentation? Not, I am
sure, the right honourable Baronet the Member for Pembroke. He ought to
remember that his own speeches have been used by bad men for bad ends.
He ought to remember that some expressions which he used in 1830, on
the subject of the emoluments divided among Privy Councillors, have been
quoted by the Chartists in vindication of their excesses. Do I blame him
for this? Not at all. He said nothing that was not justifiable. But it
is impossible for a man so to guard his lips that his language shall not
sometimes be misunderstood by dull men, and sometimes misrepresented
by dishonest men. I do not, I say, blame him for having used those
expressions: but I do say that, knowing how his own expressions had been
perverted, he should have hesitated before he threw upon men, not
less attached than himself to the cause of law, of order and property,
imputations certainly not better founded than those to which he is
himself liable.

And now, Sir, to pass by many topics to which, but for the lateness of
the hour, I would willingly advert, let me remind the House that
the question before us is not a positive question, but a question of
comparison. No man, though he may disapprove of some part of the conduct
of the present Ministers, is justified in voting for the motion which we
are considering, unless he believes that a change would, on the whole,
be beneficial. No government is perfect: but some government there must
be; and if the present government were worse than its enemies think it,
it ought to exist until it can be succeeded by a better. Now I take it
to be perfectly clear that, in the event of the removal of Her Majesty's
present advisers, an administration must be formed of which the right
honourable Baronet the Member for Tamworth will be the head. Towards
that right honourable Baronet, and towards many of the noblemen and
gentlemen who would probably in that event be associated with him, I
entertain none but kind and respectful feelings. I am far, I hope, from
that narrowness of mind which makes a man unable to see merit in any
party but his own. If I may venture to parody the old Venetian proverb,
I would be "First an Englishman; and then a Whig." I feel proud of my
country when I think how much ability, uprightness, and patriotism may
be found on both sides of the House. Among our opponents stands forth,
eminently distinguished by parts, eloquence, knowledge, and, I willingly
admit, by public spirit, the right honourable Baronet the Member for
Tamworth. Having said this, I shall offer no apology for the remarks
which, in the discharge of my public duty, I shall make, without, I
hope, any personal discourtesy, on his past conduct, and his present

It has been, Sir, I will not say his fault, but his misfortune, his
fate, to be the leader of a party with which he has no sympathy. To go
back to what is now matter of history, the right honourable Baronet
bore a chief part in the restoration of the currency. By a very
large proportion of his followers the restoration of the currency is
considered as the chief cause of the distresses of the country. The
right honourable Baronet cordially supported the commercial policy of Mr
Huskisson. But there was no name more odious than that of Mr Huskisson
to the rank and file of the Tory party. The right honourable Baronet
assented to the Act which removed the disabilities of the Protestant
Dissenters. But, a very short time ago, a noble Duke, one of the
highest in power and rank of the right honourable Baronet's adherents,
positively refused to lend his aid to the executing of that Act.
The right honourable Baronet brought in the bill which removed the
disabilities of the Roman Catholics: but his supporters make it a chief
article of charge against us that we have given practical effect to
the law which is his best title to public esteem. The right honourable
Baronet has declared himself decidedly favourable to the new Poor Law.
Yet, if a voice is raised against the Whig Bastilles and the Kings of
Somerset House, it is almost certain to be the voice of some zealous
retainer of the right honourable Baronet. On the great question of
privilege, the right honourable Baronet has taken a part which entitles
him to the gratitude of all who are solicitous for the honour and the
usefulness of the popular branch of the legislature. But if any person
calls us tyrants, and calls those whom we have imprisoned martyrs, that
person is certain to be a partisan of the right honourable Baronet.
Even when the right honourable Baronet does happen to agree with his
followers as to a conclusion, he seldom arrives at that conclusion by
the same process of reasoning which satisfies them. Many great questions
which they consider as questions of right and wrong, as questions of
moral and religious principle, as questions which must, for no earthly
object, and on no emergency, be compromised, are treated by him merely
as questions of expediency, of place, and of time. He has opposed many
bills introduced by the present Government; but he has opposed them on
such grounds that he is at perfect liberty to bring in the same bills
himself next year, with perhaps some slight variation. I listened to him
as I always listen to him, with pleasure, when he spoke last session on
the subject of education. I could not but be amused by the skill with
which he performed the hard task of translating the gibberish of bigots
into language which might not misbecome the mouth of a man of sense. I
felt certain that he despised the prejudices of which he condescended
to make use, and that his opinion about the Normal Schools and the Douai
Version entirely agreed with my own. I therefore do not think that,
in times like these, the right honourable Baronet can conduct the
administration with honour to himself or with satisfaction to those
who are impatient to see him in office. I will not affect to feel
apprehensions from which I am entirely free. I do not fear, and I will
not pretend to fear, that the right honourable Baronet will be a tyrant
and a persecutor. I do not believe that he will give up Ireland to the
tender mercies of those zealots who form, I am afraid, the strongest,
and I am sure the loudest, part of his retinue. I do not believe that
he will strike the names of Roman Catholics from the Privy Council book,
and from the Commissions of the Peace. I do not believe that he will
lay on our table a bill for the repeal of that great Act which was
introduced by himself in 1829. What I do anticipate is this, that he
will attempt to keep his party together by means which will excite
grave discontents, and yet that he will not succeed in keeping his party
together; that he will lose the support of the Tories without obtaining
the support of the nation; and that his government will fall from causes
purely internal.

This, Sir, is not mere conjecture. The drama is not a new one. It was
performed a few years ago on the same stage and by most of the same
actors. In 1827 the right honourable Baronet was, as now, the head of
a powerful Tory opposition. He had, as now, the support of a strong
minority in this House. He had, as now, a majority in the other House.
He was, as now, the favourite of the Church and of the Universities. All
who dreaded political change, all who hated religious liberty, rallied
round him then, as they rally round him now. Their cry was then, as
now, that a government unfriendly to the civil and ecclesiastical
constitution of the realm was kept in power by intrigue and court
favour, and that the right honourable Baronet was the man to whom the
nation must look to defend its laws against revolutionists, and its
religion against idolaters. At length that cry became irresistible.
Tory animosity had pursued the most accomplished of Tory statesmen and
orators to a resting place in Westminster Abbey. The arrangement which
was made after his death lasted but a very few months: a Tory government
was formed; and the right honourable Baronet became the leading minister
of the Crown in the House of Commons. His adherents hailed his elevation
with clamorous delight, and confidently expected many years of triumph
and dominion. Is it necessary to say in what disappointment, in what
sorrow, in what fury, those expectations ended? The right honourable
Baronet had been raised to power by prejudices and passions in which
he had no share. His followers were bigots. He was a statesman. He was
coolly weighing conveniences against inconveniences, while they were
ready to resort to a proscription and to hazard a civil war rather than
depart from what they called their principles. For a time he tried to
take a middle course. He imagined that it might be possible for him to
stand well with his old friends, and yet to perform some part of his
duty to the state. But those were not times in which he could long
continue to halt between two opinions. His elevation, as it had excited
the hopes of the oppressors, had excited also the terror and the rage of
the oppressed. Agitation, which had, during more than a year, slumbered
in Ireland, awoke with renewed vigour, and soon became more formidable
than ever. The Roman Catholic Association began to exercise authority
such as the Irish Parliament, in the days of its independence, had never
possessed. An agitator became more powerful than the Lord Lieutenant.
Violence engendered violence. Every explosion of feeling on one side of
St George's Channel was answered by a louder explosion on the other.
The Clare election, the Penenden Heath meeting showed that the time
for evasion and delay was past. A crisis had arrived which made it
absolutely necessary for the Government to take one side or the other. A
simple issue was proposed to the right honourable Baronet, concession
or civil war; to disgust his party, or to ruin his country. He chose
the good part. He performed a duty, deeply painful, in some sense
humiliating, yet in truth highly honourable to him. He came down to this
House and proposed the emancipation of the Roman Catholics. Among his
adherents were some who, like himself, had opposed the Roman Catholic
claims merely on the ground of political expediency; and these persons
readily consented to support his new policy. But not so the great body
of his followers. Their zeal for Protestant ascendency was a ruling
passion, a passion, too, which they thought it a virtue to indulge. They
had exerted themselves to raise to power the man whom they regarded as
the ablest and most trusty champion of that ascendency; and he had not
only abandoned the good cause, but had become its adversary. Who can
forget in what a roar of obloquy their anger burst forth? Never before
was such a flood of calumny and invective poured on a single head. All
history, all fiction were ransacked by the old friends of the right
honourable Baronet, for nicknames and allusions. One right honourable
gentleman, who I am sorry not to see in his place opposite, found
English prose too weak to express his indignation, and pursued his
perfidious chief with reproaches borrowed from the ravings of the
deserted Dido. Another Tory explored Holy Writ for parallels, and could
find no parallel but Judas Iscariot. The great university which had been
proud to confer on the right honourable Baronet the highest marks of
favour, was foremost in affixing the brand of infamy. From Cornwall,
from Northumberland, clergymen came up by hundreds to Oxford, in order
to vote against him whose presence, a few days before, would have set
the bells of their parish churches jingling. Nay, such was the violence
of this new enmity that the old enmity of the Tories to Whigs, Radicals,
Dissenters, Papists, seemed to be forgotten. That Ministry which, when
it came into power at the close of 1828, was one of the strongest that
the country ever saw, was, at the close of 1829, one of the weakest. It
lingered another year, staggering between two parties, leaning now on
one, now on the other, reeling sometimes under a blow from the right,
sometimes under a blow from the left, and certain to fall as soon as the
Tory opposition and the Whig opposition could find a question on which
to unite. Such a question was found: and that Ministry fell without a

Now what I wish to know is this. What reason have we to believe that any
administration which the right honourable Baronet can now form will have
a different fate? Is he changed since 1829? Is his party changed? He
is, I believe, still the same, still a statesman, moderate in opinions,
cautious in temper, perfectly free from that fanaticism which inflames
so many of his supporters. As to his party, I admit that it is not
the same; for it is very much worse. It is decidedly fiercer and
more unreasonable than it was eleven years ago. I judge by its public
meetings; I judge by its journals; I judge by its pulpits, pulpits which
every week resound with ribaldry and slander such as would disgrace the
hustings. A change has come over the spirit of a part, I hope not the
larger part, of the Tory body. It was once the glory of the Tories
that, through all changes of fortune, they were animated by a steady
and fervent loyalty which made even error respectable, and gave to what
might otherwise have been called servility something of the manliness
and nobleness of freedom. A great Tory poet, whose eminent services
to the cause of monarchy had been ill requited by an ungrateful Court,
boasted that

     "Loyalty is still the same,
     Whether it win or lose the game;
     True as the dial to the sun,
     Although it be not shined upon."

Toryism has now changed its character. We have lived to see a monster of
a faction made up of the worst parts of the Cavalier and the worst parts
of the Roundhead. We have lived to see a race of disloyal Tories. We
have lived to see Tories giving themselves the airs of those insolent
pikemen who puffed out their tobacco smoke in the face of Charles the
First. We have lived to see Tories who, because they are not allowed to
grind the people after the fashion of Strafford, turn round and revile
the Sovereign in the style of Hugh Peters. I say, therefore, that, while
the leader is still what he was eleven years ago, when his moderation
alienated his intemperate followers, his followers are more intemperate
than ever. It is my firm belief that the majority of them desire the
repeal of the Emancipation Act. You say, no. But I will give reasons,
and unanswerable reasons, for what I say. How, if you really wish to
maintain the Emancipation Act, do you explain that clamour which you
have raised, and which has resounded through the whole kingdom, about
the three Popish Privy Councillors? You resent, as a calumny, the
imputation that you wish to repeal the Emancipation Act; and yet you cry
out that Church and State are in danger of ruin whenever the Government
carries that Act into effect. If the Emancipation Act is never to be
executed, why should it not be repealed? I perfectly understand that an
honest man may wish it to be repealed. But I am at a loss to understand
how honest men can say, "We wish the Emancipation Act to be maintained:
you who accuse us of wishing to repeal it slander us foully: we value
it as much as you do. Let it remain among our statutes, provided always
that it remains as a dead letter. If you dare to put it in force,
indeed, we will agitate against you; for, though we talk against
agitation, we too can practice agitation: we will denounce you in our
associations; for, though we call associations unconstitutional, we
too have our associations: our divines shall preach about Jezebel: our
tavern spouters shall give significant hints about James the Second."
Yes, Sir, such hints have been given, hints that a sovereign who has
merely executed the law, ought to be treated like a sovereign who
grossly violated the law. I perfectly understand, as I said, that an
honest man may disapprove of the Emancipation Act, and may wish it
repealed. But can any man, who is of opinion that Roman Catholics ought
to be admitted to office, honestly maintain that they now enjoy more
than their fair share of power and emolument? What is the proportion
of Roman Catholics to the whole population of the United Kingdom?
About one-fourth. What proportion of the Privy Councillors are Roman
Catholics? About one-seventieth. And what, after all, is the power of a
Privy Councillor, merely as such? Are not the right honourable gentlemen
opposite Privy Councillors? If a change should take place, will not the
present Ministers still be Privy Councillors? It is notorious that no
Privy Councillor goes to Council unless he is specially summoned. He is
called Right Honourable, and he walks out of a room before Esquires and
Knights. And can we seriously believe that men who think it monstrous
that this honorary distinction should be given to three Roman Catholics,
do sincerely desire to maintain a law by which a Roman Catholic may be
Commander in Chief with all the military patronage, First Lord of the
Admiralty with all the naval patronage, or First Lord of the Treasury,
with the chief influence in every department of the Government. I must
therefore suppose that those who join in the cry against the three Privy
Councillors, are either imbecile or hostile to the Emancipation Act.

I repeat, therefore, that, while the right honourable Baronet is as free
from bigotry as he was eleven years ago, his party is more bigoted
than it was eleven years ago. The difficulty of governing Ireland in
opposition to the feelings of the great body of the Irish people is, I
apprehend, as great now as it was eleven years ago. What then must be
the fate of a government formed by the right honourable Baronet? Suppose
that the event of this debate should make him Prime Minister? Should I
be wrong if I were to prophesy that three years hence he will be more
hated and vilified by the Tory party than the present advisers of the
Crown have been? Should I be wrong if I were to say that all those
literary organs which now deafen us with praise of him, will then deafen
us with abuse of him? Should I be wrong if I were to say that he will
be burned in effigy by those who now drink his health with three times
three and one cheer more? Should I be wrong if I were to say that those
very gentlemen who have crowded hither to-night in order to vote him
into power, will crowd hither to vote Lord Melbourne back? Once already
have I seen those very persons go out into the lobby for the purpose of
driving the right honourable Baronet from the high situation to which
they had themselves exalted him. I went out with them myself; yes, with
the whole body of the Tory country gentlemen, with the whole body of
high Churchmen. All the four University Members were with us. The effect
of that division was to bring Lord Grey, Lord Althorpe, Lord Brougham,
Lord Durham into power. You may say that the Tories on that occasion
judged ill, that they were blinded by vindictive passion, that if
they had foreseen all that followed they might have acted differently.
Perhaps so. But what has been once may be again. I cannot think it
possible that those who are now supporting the right honourable Baronet
will continue from personal attachment to support him if they see that
his policy is in essentials the same as Lord Melbourne's. I believe that
they have quite as much personal attachment to Lord Melbourne as to
the right honourable Baronet. They follow the right honourable Baronet
because his abilities, his eloquence, his experience are necessary to
them; but they are but half reconciled to him. They never can forget
that, in the most important crisis of his public life, he deliberately
chose rather to be the victim of their injustice than its instrument.
It is idle to suppose that they will be satisfied by seeing a new set of
men in power. Their maxim is most truly "Measures, not men." They care
not before whom the sword of state is borne at Dublin, or who wears the
badge of St Patrick. What they abhor is not Lord Normanby personally or
Lord Ebrington personally, but the great principles in conformity with
which Ireland has been governed by Lord Normanby and by Lord Ebrington,
the principles of justice, humanity, and religious freedom. What they
wish to have in Ireland is not my Lord Haddington, or any other viceroy
whom the right honourable Baronet may select, but the tyranny of race
over race, and of creed over creed. Give them what they want; and you
convulse the empire. Refuse them; and you dissolve the Tory party. I
believe that the right honourable Baronet himself is by no means without
apprehensions that, if he were now called to the head of affairs, he
would, very speedily, have the dilemma of 1829 again before him. He
certainly was not without such apprehensions when, a few months ago,
he was commanded by Her Majesty to submit to her the plan of an
administration. The aspect of public affairs was not at that time
cheering. The Chartists were stirring in England. There were troubles in
Canada. There were great discontents in the West Indies. An expedition,
of which the event was still doubtful, had been sent into the heart of
Asia. Yet, among many causes of anxiety, the discerning eye of the right
honourable Baronet easily discerned the quarter where the great and
immediate danger lay. He told the House that his difficulty would
be Ireland. Now, Sir, that which would be the difficulty of his
administration is the strength of the present administration. Her
Majesty's Ministers enjoy the confidence of Ireland; and I believe that
what ought to be done for that country will excite less discontent
here if done by them than if done by him. He, I am afraid, great as his
abilities are, and good as I willingly admit his intentions to be, would
find it easy to lose the confidence of his partisans, but hard indeed to
win the confidence of the Irish people.

It is indeed principally on account of Ireland that I feel solicitous
about the issue of the present debate. I well know how little chance he
who speaks on that theme has of obtaining a fair hearing. Would to
God that I were addressing an audience which would judge this great
controversy as it is judged by foreign nations, and as it will be judged
by future ages. The passions which inflame us, the sophisms which
delude us, will not last for ever. The paroxysms of faction have their
appointed season. Even the madness of fanaticism is but for a day. The
time is coming when our conflicts will be to others what the conflicts
of our forefathers are to us; when the preachers who now disturb the
State, and the politicians who now make a stalking horse of the Church,
will be no more than Sacheverel and Harley. Then will be told, in
language very different from that which now calls forth applause from
the mob of Exeter Hall, the true story of these troubled years.

There was, it will then be said, a part of the kingdom of Queen Victoria
which presented a lamentable contrast to the rest; not from the want of
natural fruitfulness, for there was no richer soil in Europe; not from
want of facilities for trade, for the coasts of this unhappy region were
indented by bays and estuaries capable of holding all the navies of the
world; not because the people were too dull to improve these advantages
or too pusillanimous to defend them; for in natural quickness of wit
and gallantry of spirit they ranked high among the nations. But all the
bounty of nature had been made unavailing by the crimes and errors of
man. In the twelfth century that fair island was a conquered province.
The nineteenth century found it a conquered province still. During that
long interval many great changes had taken place which had conduced to
the general welfare of the empire: but those changes had only aggravated
the misery of Ireland. The Reformation came, bringing to England and
Scotland divine truth and intellectual liberty. To Ireland it brought
only fresh calamities. Two new war cries, Protestant and Catholic,
animated the old feud between the Englishry and the Irishry. The
Revolution came, bringing to England and Scotland civil and spiritual
freedom, to Ireland subjugation, degradation, persecution. The Union
came: but though it joined legislatures, it left hearts as widely
disjoined as ever. Catholic Emancipation came: but it came too late;
it came as a concession made to fear, and, having excited unreasonable
hopes, was naturally followed by unreasonable disappointment. Then
came violent irritation, and numerous errors on both sides. Agitation
produced coercion, and coercion produced fresh agitation. Difficulties
and dangers went on increasing, till a government arose which, all other
means having failed, determined to employ the only means that had not
yet been fairly tried, justice and mercy. The State, long the stepmother
of the many, and the mother only of the few, became for the first time
the common parent of all the great family. The body of the people began
to look on their rulers as friends. Battalion after battalion, squadron
after squadron was withdrawn from districts which, as it had till then
been thought, could be governed by the sword alone. Yet the security
of property and the authority of law became every day more complete.
Symptoms of amendment, symptoms such as cannot be either concealed or
counterfeited, began to appear; and those who once despaired of the
destinies of Ireland began to entertain a confident hope that she would
at length take among European nations that high place to which her
natural resources and the intelligence of her children entitle her to

In words such as these, I am confident, will the next generation speak
of the events in our time. Relying on the sure justice of history and
posterity, I care not, as far as I am personally concerned, whether we
stand or fall. That issue it is for the House to decide. Whether the
result will be victory or defeat, I know not. But I know that there are
defeats not less glorious than any victory; and yet I have shared in
some glorious victories. Those were proud and happy days;--some who sit
on the benches opposite can well remember, and must, I think, regret
them;--those were proud and happy days when, amidst the applauses and
blessings of millions, my noble friend led us on in the great struggle
for the Reform Bill; when hundreds waited round our doors till sunrise
to hear how we had sped; when the great cities of the north poured forth
their population on the highways to meet the mails which brought from
the capital the tidings whether the battle of the people had been lost
or won. Such days my noble friend cannot hope to see again. Two such
triumphs would be too much for one life. But perhaps there still awaits
him a less pleasing, a less exhilarating, but a not less honourable
task, the task of contending against superior numbers, and through
years of discomfiture, for those civil and religious liberties which are
inseparably associated with the name of his illustrious house. At his
side will not be wanting men who against all odds, and through all turns
of fortune, in evil days and amidst evil tongues, will defend to the
last, with unabated spirit, the noble principles of Milton and of Locke.
We may be driven from office. We may be doomed to a life of opposition.
We may be made marks for the rancour of sects which, hating each other
with a deadly hatred, yet hate toleration still more. We may be exposed
to the rage of Laud on one side, and of Praise-God-Barebones on the
other. But justice will be done at last: and a portion of the praise
which we bestow on the old champions and martyrs of freedom will not
be refused by future generations to the men who have in our days
endeavoured to bind together in real union races too long estranged, and
to efface, by the mild influence of a parental government, the fearful
traces which have been left by the misrule of ages.



On the seventh of April, 1840, Sir James Graham moved the following

"That it appears to this House, on consideration of the papers relating
to China presented to this House by command of Her Majesty, that the
interruption in our commercial and friendly intercourse with that
country, and the hostilities which have since taken place, are mainly to
be attributed to the want of foresight and precaution on the part of Her
Majesty's present advisers, in respect to our relations with China, and
especially to their neglect to furnish the Superintendent at Canton with
powers and instructions calculated to provide against the growing evils
connected with the contraband trade in opium, and adapted to the novel
and difficult situation in which the Superintendent was placed."

As soon as the question had been put from the Chair the following Speech
was made.

The motion was rejected, after a debate of three nights, by 271 votes to

Mr Speaker,--If the right honourable Baronet, in rising to make an
attack on the Government, was forced to own that he was unnerved and
overpowered by his sense of the importance of the question with which he
had to deal, one who rises to repel that attack may, without any shame,
confess that he feels similar emotions. And yet I must say that the
anxiety, the natural and becoming anxiety, with which Her Majesty's
Ministers have awaited the judgment of the House on these papers, was
not a little allayed by the terms of the right honourable Baronet's
motion, and has been still more allayed by his speech. It was impossible
for us to doubt either his inclination or his ability to detect and
to expose any fault which we might have committed, and we may well
congratulate ourselves on finding that, after the closest examination
into a long series of transactions, so extensive, so complicated, and,
in some respects, so disastrous, so keen an assailant could produce only
so futile an accusation.

In the first place, Sir, the resolution which the right honourable
Baronet has moved relates entirely to events which took place before the
rupture with the Chinese Government. That rupture took place in March,
1839. The right honourable Baronet therefore does not propose to pass
any censure on any step which has been taken by the Government within
the last thirteen months; and it will, I think, be generally admitted,
that when he abstains from censuring the proceedings of the Government,
it is because the most unfriendly scrutiny can find nothing in those
proceedings to censure. We by no means deny that he has a perfect right
to propose a vote expressing disapprobation of what was done in 1837 or
1838. At the same time, we cannot but be gratified by learning that he
approves of our present policy, and of the measures which we have taken,
since the rupture, for the vindication of the national honour and for
the protection of the national interests.

It is also to be observed that the right honourable Baronet has not
ventured, either in his motion or in his speech, to charge Her Majesty's
Ministers with any unwise or unjust act, with any act tending to lower
the character of England, or to give cause of offence to China. The only
sins which he imputes to them are sins of omission. His complaint is
merely that they did not foresee the course which events would take at
Canton, and that consequently they did not send sufficient instructions
to the British resident who was stationed there. Now it is evident that
such an accusation is of all accusations that which requires the fullest
and most distinct proof; for it is of all accusations that which it is
easiest to make and hardest to refute. A man charged with a culpable
act which he has not committed has comparatively little difficulty in
proving his innocence. But when the charge is merely this, that he has
not, in a long and intricate series of transactions, done all that it
would have been wise to do, how is he to vindicate himself? And the case
which we are considering has this peculiarity, that the envoy to whom
the Ministers are said to have left too large a discretion was fifteen
thousand miles from them. The charge against them therefore is this,
that they did not give such copious and particular directions as
were sufficient, in every possible emergency, for the guidance of a
functionary, who was fifteen thousand miles off. Now, Sir, I am ready to
admit that, if the papers on our table related to important negotiations
with a neighbouring state, if they related, for example, to a
negotiation carried on with France, my noble friend the Secretary for
Foreign Affairs (Lord Palmerston.) might well have been blamed for
sending instructions so meagre and so vague to our ambassador at Paris.
For my noble friend knows to-night what passed between our ambassador
at Paris and the French Ministers yesterday; and a messenger despatched
to-night from Downing Street will be at the Embassy in the Faubourg
Saint Honore the day after to-morrow. But that constant and minute
control, which the Foreign Secretary is bound to exercise over
diplomatic agents who are near, becomes an useless and pernicious
meddling when exercised over agents who are separated from him by a
voyage of five months. There are on both sides of the House gentlemen
conversant with the affairs of India. I appeal to those gentlemen. India
is nearer to us than China. India is far better known to us than China.
Yet is it not universally acknowledged that India can be governed only
in India? The authorities at home point out to a governor the general
line of policy which they wish him to follow; but they do not send him
directions as to the details of his administration. How indeed is it
possible that they should send him such directions? Consider in what a
state the affairs of this country would be if they were to be conducted
according to directions framed by the ablest statesman residing in
Bengal. A despatch goes hence asking for instructions while London is
illuminating for the peace of Amiens. The instructions arrive when the
French army is encamped at Boulogne, and when the whole island is up in
arms to repel invasion. A despatch is written asking for instructions
when Bonaparte is at Elba. The instructions come when he is at the
Tuilleries. A despatch is written asking for instructions when he is at
the Tuilleries. The instructions come when he is at St Helena. It would
be just as impossible to govern India in London as to govern England at
Calcutta. While letters are preparing here on the supposition that there
is profound peace in the Carnatic, Hyder is at the gates of Fort St
George. While letters are preparing here on the supposition that trade
is flourishing and that the revenue exceeds the expenditure, the crops
have failed, great agency houses have broken, and the government is
negotiating a loan on hard terms. It is notorious that the great men
who founded and preserved our Indian empire, Clive and Warren Hastings,
treated all particular orders which they received from home as mere
waste paper. Had not those great men had the sense and spirit so to
treat such orders, we should not now have had an Indian empire. But the
case of China is far stronger. For, though a person who is now writing a
despatch to Fort William in Leadenhall Street or Cannon Row, cannot know
what events have happened in India within the last two months, he may be
very intimately acquainted with the general state of that country, with
its wants, with its resources, with the habits and temper of the native
population, and with the character of every prince and minister from
Nepaul to Tanjore. But what does anybody here know of China? Even those
Europeans who have been in that empire are almost as ignorant of it as
the rest of us. Everything is covered by a veil, through which a glimpse
of what is within may occasionally be caught, a glimpse just sufficient
to set the imagination at work, and more likely to mislead than to
inform. The right honourable Baronet has told us that an Englishman at
Canton sees about as much of China as a foreigner who should land at
Wapping and proceed no further would see of England. Certainly the
sights and sounds of Wapping would give a foreigner but a very imperfect
notion of our Government, of our manufactures, of our agriculture, of
the state of learning and the arts among us. And yet the illustration
is but a faint one. For a foreigner may, without seeing even Wapping,
without visiting England at all, study our literature, and may thence
form a vivid and correct idea of our institutions and manners. But the
literature of China affords us no such help. Obstacles unparalleled in
any other country which has books must be surmounted by the student
who is determined to master the Chinese tongue. To learn to read is the
business of half a life. It is easier to become such a linguist as Sir
William Jones was than to become a good Chinese scholar. You may count
upon your fingers the Europeans whose industry and genius, even when
stimulated by the most fervent religious zeal, has triumphed over the
difficulties of a language without an alphabet. Here then is a country
separated from us physically by half the globe, separated from us
still more effectually by the barriers which the most jealous of all
governments and the hardest of all languages oppose to the researches of
strangers. Is it then reasonable to blame my noble friend because he has
not sent to our envoys in such a country as this instructions as full
and precise as it would have been his duty to send to a minister at
Brussels or at the Hague? The right honourable Baronet who comes forward
as the accuser on this occasion is really accusing himself. He was
a member of the Government of Lord Grey. He was himself concerned in
framing the first instructions which were given by my noble friend to
our first Superintendent at Canton. For those instructions the right
honourable Baronet frankly admits that he is himself responsible. Are
those instructions then very copious and minute? Not at all. They merely
lay down general principles. The Resident, for example, is enjoined to
respect national usages, and to avoid whatever may shock the prejudices
of the Chinese; but no orders are given him as to matters of detail.
In 1834 my noble friend quitted the Foreign Office, and the Duke of
Wellington went to it. Did the Duke of Wellington send out those copious
and exact directions with which, according to the right honourable
Baronet, the Government is bound to furnish its agent in China? No, Sir;
the Duke of Wellington, grown old in the conduct of great affairs, knows
better than anybody that a man of very ordinary ability at Canton is
likely to be a better judge of what ought to be done on an emergency
arising at Canton than the greatest politician at Westminster can
possibly be. His Grace, therefore, like a wise man as he is, wrote only
one letter to the Superintendent, and in that letter merely referred the
Superintendent to the general directions given by Lord Palmerston. And
how, Sir, does the right honourable Baronet prove that, by persisting in
the course which he himself took when in office, and which the Duke
of Wellington took when in office, Her Majesty's present advisers have
brought on that rupture which we all deplore? He has read us, from the
voluminous papers which are on the table, much which has but a very
remote connection with the question. He has said much about things which
happened before the present Ministry existed, and much about things
which have happened at Canton since the rupture; but very little that
is relevant to the issue raised by the resolution which he has himself
proposed. That issue is simply this, whether the mismanagement of the
present Ministry produced the rupture. I listened to his long and able
speech with the greatest attention, and did my best to separate
that part which had any relation to his motion from a great mass of
extraneous matter. If my analysis be correct, the charge which he brings
against the Government consists of four articles.

The first article is, that the Government omitted to alter that part of
the original instructions which directed the Superintendent to reside at

The second article is, that the Government omitted to alter that part
of the original instructions which directed the Superintendent to
communicate directly with the representatives of the Emperor.

The third article is, that the Government omitted to follow the
advice of the Duke of Wellington, who had left at the Foreign Office a
memorandum recommending that a British ship of war should be stationed
in the China sea.

The fourth article is, that the Government omitted to authorise and
empower the Superintendent to put down the contraband trade carried on
by British subjects with China.

Such, Sir, are the counts of this indictment. Of these counts, the
fourth is the only one which will require a lengthened defence. The
first three may be disposed of in very few words.

As to the first, the answer is simple. It is true that the Government
did not revoke that part of the instructions which directed the
Superintendent to reside at Canton; and it is true that this part of the
instructions did at one time cause a dispute between the Superintendent
and the Chinese authorities. But it is equally true that this dispute
was accommodated early in 1837; that the Chinese Government furnished
the Superintendent with a passport authorising him to reside at Canton;
that, during the two years which preceded the rupture, the Chinese
Government made no objection to his residing at Canton; and that there
is not in all this huge blue book one word indicating that the rupture
was caused, directly or indirectly, by his residing at Canton. On the
first count, therefore, I am confident that the verdict must be, Not

To the second count we have a similar answer. It is true that there
was a dispute with the authorities of Canton about the mode of
communication. But it is equally true that this dispute was settled by
a compromise. The Chinese made a concession as to the channel of
communication. The Superintendent made a concession as to the form
of communication. The question had been thus set at rest before the
rupture, and had absolutely nothing to do with the rupture.

As to the third charge, I must tell the right honourable Baronet that
he has altogether misapprehended that memorandum which he so confidently
cites. The Duke of Wellington did not advise the Government to station a
ship of war constantly in the China seas. The Duke, writing in 1835,
at a time when the regular course of the trade had been interrupted,
recommended that a ship of war should be stationed near Canton, "till
the trade should take its regular peaceable course." Those are His
Grace's own words. Do they not imply that, when the trade had again
taken its regular peaceable course, it might be right to remove the ship
of war? Well, Sir, the trade, after that memorandum was written, did
resume its regular peaceable course: that the right honourable Baronet
himself will admit; for it is part of his own case that Sir George
Robinson had succeeded in restoring quiet and security. The third charge
then is simply this, that the Ministers did not do in a time of perfect
tranquillity what the Duke of Wellington thought that it would have been
right to do in a time of trouble.

And now, Sir, I come to the fourth charge, the only real charge; for
the other three are so futile that I hardly understand how the right
honourable Baronet should have ventured to bring them forward.
The fourth charge is, that the Ministers omitted to send to the
Superintendent orders and powers to suppress the contraband trade, and
that this omission was the cause of the rupture.

Now, Sir, let me ask whether it was not notorious, when the right
honourable Baronet was in office, that British subjects carried on an
extensive contraband trade with China? Did the right honourable Baronet
and his colleagues instruct the Superintendent to put down that trade?
Never. That trade went on while the Duke of Wellington was at the
Foreign Office. Did the Duke of Wellington instruct the Superintendent
to put down that trade? No, Sir, never. Are then the followers of the
right honourable Baronet, are the followers of the Duke of Wellington,
prepared to pass a vote of censure on us for following the example of
the right honourable Baronet and of the Duke of Wellington? But I am
understating my case. Since the present Ministers came into office, the
reasons against sending out such instructions were much stronger than
when the right honourable Baronet was in office, or when the Duke of
Wellington was in office. Down to the month of May 1838, my noble friend
had good grounds for believing that the Chinese Government was about
to legalise the trade in opium. It is by no means easy to follow the
windings of Chinese politics. But, it is certain that about four years
ago the whole question was taken into serious consideration at Pekin.
The attention of the Emperor was called to the undoubted fact, that the
law which forbade the trade in opium was a dead letter. That law had
been intended to guard against two evils, which the Chinese legislators
seem to have regarded with equal horror, the importation of a noxious
drug, and the exportation of the precious metals. It was found, however,
that as many pounds of opium came in, and that as many pounds of silver
went out, as if there had been no such law. The only effect of the
prohibition was that the people learned to think lightly of imperial
edicts, and that no part of the great sums expended in the purchase
of the forbidden luxury came into the imperial treasury. These
considerations were set forth in a most luminous and judicious state
paper, drawn by Tang Tzee, President of the Sacrificial Offices. I am
sorry to hear that this enlightened Minister has been turned out of
office on account of his liberality: for to be turned out of office is,
I apprehend, a much more serious misfortune in China than in England.
Tang Tzee argued that it was unwise to attempt to exclude opium, for
that, while millions desired to have it, no law would keep it out, and
that the manner in which it had long been brought in had produced an
injurious effect both on the revenues of the state and on the morals of
the people. Opposed to Tang Tzee was Tchu Sing, a statesman of a very
different class, of a class which, I am sorry to say, is not confined to
China. Tchu Sing appears to be one of those staunch conservatives who,
when they find that a law is inefficient because it is too severe,
imagine that they can make it efficient by making it more severe still.
His historical knowledge is much on a par with his legislative wisdom.
He seems to have paid particular attention to the rise and progress of
our Indian Empire, and he informs his imperial master that opium is
the weapon by which England effects her conquests. She had, it seems,
persuaded the people of Hindostan to smoke and swallow this besotting
drug, till they became so feeble in body and mind, that they were
subjugated without difficulty. Some time appears to have elapsed before
the Emperor made up his mind on the point in dispute between Tang Tzee
and Tchu Sing. Our Superintendent, Captain Elliot, was of opinion that
the decision would be in favour of the rational view taken by Tang Tzee;
and such, as I can myself attest, was, during part of the year 1837, the
opinion of the whole mercantile community of Calcutta. Indeed, it was
expected that every ship which arrived in the Hoogley from Canton would
bring the news that the opium trade had been declared legal. Nor was
it known in London till May 1838, that the arguments of Tchu Sing had
prevailed. Surely, Sir, it would have been most absurd to order Captain
Elliot to suppress this trade at a time when everybody expected that it
would soon cease to be contraband. The right honourable Baronet must,
I think, himself admit that, till the month of May 1838, the Government
here omitted nothing that ought to have been done.

The question before us is therefore reduced to very narrow limits. It
is merely this: Ought my noble friend, in May 1838, to have sent out a
despatch commanding and empowering Captain Elliot to put down the opium
trade? I do not think that it would have been right or wise to send
out such a despatch. Consider, Sir, with what powers it would have been
necessary to arm the Superintendent. He must have been authorised to
arrest, to confine, to send across the sea any British subject whom he
might believe to have been concerned in introducing opium into China. I
do not deny that, under the Act of Parliament, the Government might have
invested him with this dictatorship. But I do say that the Government
ought not lightly to invest any man with such a dictatorship, and, that
if, in consequence of directions sent out by the Government, numerous
subjects of Her Majesty had been taken into custody and shipped off to
Bengal or to England without being permitted to wind up their affairs,
this House would in all probability have called the Ministers to a
strict account. Nor do I believe that by sending such directions the
Government would have averted the rupture which has taken place. I will
go further. I believe that, if such directions had been sent, we should
now have been, as we are, at war with China; and that we should have
been at war in circumstances singularly dishonourable and disastrous.

For, Sir, suppose that the Superintendent had been authorised and
commanded by the Government to put forth an order prohibiting British
subjects from trading in opium; suppose that he had put forth such an
order; how was he to enforce it? The right honourable Baronet has had
too much experience of public affairs to imagine that a lucrative trade
will be suppressed by a sheet of paper and a seal. In England we have a
preventive service which costs us half a million a year. We employ more
than fifty cruisers to guard our coasts. We have six thousand effective
men whose business is to intercept smugglers. And yet everybody knows
that every article which is much desired, which is easily concealed, and
which is heavily taxed, is smuggled into our island to a great extent.
The quantity of brandy which comes in without paying duty is known to
be not less than six hundred thousand gallons a year. Some people think
that the quantity of tobacco which is imported clandestinely is as great
as the quantity which goes through the custom-houses. Be this as it may,
there is no doubt that the illicit importation is enormous. It has been
proved before a Committee of this House that not less than four millions
of pounds of tobacco have lately been smuggled into Ireland. And all
this, observe, has been done in spite of the most efficient preventive
service that I believe ever existed in the world. Consider too that the
price of an ounce of opium is far, very far higher than the price of a
pound of tobacco. Knowing this, knowing that the whole power of King,
Lords, and Commons cannot here put a stop to a traffic less easy, and
less profitable than the traffic in opium, can you believe that an
order prohibiting the traffic in opium would have been readily obeyed?
Remember by what powerful motives both the buyer and the seller would
have been impelled to deal with each other. The buyer would have been
driven to the seller by something little short of torture, by a physical
craving as fierce and impatient as any to which our race is subject.
For, when stimulants of this sort have been long used, they are desired
with a rage which resembles the rage of hunger. The seller would have
been driven to the buyer by the hope of vast and rapid gain. And do
you imagine that the intense appetite on one side for what had become a
necessary of life, and on the other for riches, would have been appeased
by a few lines signed Charles Elliot? The very utmost effect which it
is possible to believe that such an order would have produced would
have been this, that the opium trade would have left Canton, where the
dealers were under the eye of the Superintendent, and where they would
have run some risk of being punished by him, and would have spread
itself along the coast. If we know anything about the Chinese
Government, we know this, that its coastguard is neither trusty nor
efficient; and we know that a coastguard as trusty and efficient as
our own would not be able to cut off communication between the merchant
longing for silver and the smoker longing for his pipe. Whole fleets
of vessels would have managed to land their cargoes along the shore.
Conflicts would have arisen between our countrymen and the local
magistrates, who would not, like the authorities of Canton, have
had some knowledge of European habits and feelings. The mere malum
prohibitum would, as usual, have produced the mala in se. The unlawful
traffic would inevitably have led to a crowd of acts, not only unlawful,
but immoral. The smuggler would, by the almost irresistible force of
circumstances, have been turned into a pirate. We know that, even at
Canton, where the smugglers stand in some awe of the authority of the
Superintendent and of the opinion of an English society which contains
many respectable persons, the illicit trade has caused many brawls and
outrages. What, then, was to be expected when every captain of a ship
laden with opium would have been the sole judge of his own conduct? It
is easy to guess what would have happened. A boat is sent ashore to fill
the water-casks and to buy fresh provisions. The provisions are refused.
The sailors take them by force. Then a well is poisoned. Two or three
of the ship's company die in agonies. The crew in a fury land, shoot
and stab every man whom they meet, and sack and burn a village. Is this
improbable? Have not similar causes repeatedly produced similar effects?
Do we not know that the jealous vigilance with which Spain excluded the
ships of other nations from her Transatlantic possessions turned men who
would otherwise have been honest merchant adventurers into buccaneers?
The same causes which raised up one race of buccaneers in the Gulf of
Mexico would soon have raised up another in the China Sea. And can
we doubt what would in that case have been the conduct of the Chinese
authorities at Canton? We see that Commissioner Lin has arrested and
confined men of spotless character, men whom he had not the slightest
reason to suspect of being engaged in any illicit commerce. He did so on
the ground that some of their countrymen had violated the revenue
laws of China. How then would he have acted if he had learned that
the red-headed devils had not merely been selling opium, but had been
fighting, plundering, slaying, burning? Would he not have put forth
a proclamation in his most vituperative style, setting forth that the
Outside Barbarians had undertaken to stop the contraband trade, but that
they had been found deceivers, that the Superintendent's edict was a
mere pretence, that there was more smuggling than ever, that to the
smuggling had been added robbery and murder, and that therefore he
should detain all men of the guilty race as hostages till reparation
should be made? I say, therefore, that, if the Ministers had done that
which the right honourable Baronet blames them for not doing, we should
only have reached by a worse way the point at which we now are.

I have now, Sir, gone through the four heads of the charge brought
against the Government; and I say with confidence that the interruption
of our friendly relations with China cannot justly be imputed to any one
of the omissions mentioned by the right honourable Baronet. In truth, if
I could feel assured that no gentleman would vote for the motion without
attentively reading it, and considering whether the proposition which it
affirms has been made out, I should have no uneasiness as to the
result of this debate. But I know that no member weighs the words of a
resolution for which he is asked to vote, as he would weigh the words
of an affidavit which he was asked to swear. And I am aware that
some persons, for whose humanity and honesty I entertain the greatest
respect, are inclined to divide with the right honourable Baronet, not
because they think that he has proved his case, but because they have
taken up a notion that we are making war for the purpose of forcing
the Government of China to admit opium into that country, and that,
therefore, we richly deserve to be censured. Certainly, Sir, if we
had been guilty of such absurdity and such atrocity as those gentlemen
impute to us, we should deserve not only censure but condign punishment.
But the imputation is altogether unfounded. Our course was clear. We may
doubt indeed whether the Emperor of China judged well in listening to
Tchu Sing and disgracing Tang Tzee. We may doubt whether it be a wise
policy to exclude altogether from any country a drug which is often
fatally abused, but which to those who use it rightly is one of the
most precious boons vouchsafed by Providence to man, powerful to assuage
pain, to soothe irritation, and to restore health. We may doubt whether
it be a wise policy to make laws for the purpose of preventing the
precious metals from being exported in the natural course of trade. We
have learned from all history, and from our own experience, that revenue
cutters, custom-house officers, informers, will never keep out of any
country foreign luxuries of small bulk for which consumers are willing
to pay high prices, and will never prevent gold and silver from going
abroad in exchange for such luxuries. We cannot believe that what
England with her skilfully organised fiscal system and her gigantic
marine, has never been able to effect, will be accomplished by the junks
which are at the command of the mandarins of China. But, whatever our
opinion on these points may be, we are perfectly aware that they are
points which it belongs not to us but to the Emperor of China to decide.
He had a perfect right to keep out opium and to keep in silver, if he
could do so by means consistent with morality and public law. If his
officers seized a chest of the forbidden drug, we were not entitled to
complain; nor did we complain. But when, finding that they could not
suppress the contraband trade by just means, they resorted to means
flagrantly unjust, when they imprisoned our innocent countrymen, when
they insulted our Sovereign in the person of her representative, then
it became our duty to demand satisfaction. Whether the opium trade be
a pernicious trade is not the question. Take a parallel case: take the
most execrable crime that ever was called a trade, the African slave
trade. You will hardly say that a contraband trade in opium is more
immoral than a contraband trade in negroes. We prohibited slave-trading:
we made it felony; we made it piracy; we invited foreign powers to join
with us in putting it down; to some foreign powers we paid large sums
in order to obtain their co-operation; we employed our naval force to
intercept the kidnappers; and yet it is notorious that, in spite of all
our exertions and sacrifices, great numbers of slaves were, even as
late as ten or twelve years ago, introduced from Madagascar into our
own island of Mauritius. Assuredly it was our right, it was our duty, to
guard the coasts of that island strictly, to stop slave ships, to bring
the buyers and sellers to punishment. But suppose, Sir, that a ship
under French colours was seen skulking near the island, that the
Governor was fully satisfied from her build, her rigging, and her
movements, that she was a slaver, and was only waiting for the night to
put on shore the wretches who were in her hold. Suppose that, not having
a sufficient naval force to seize this vessel, he were to arrest thirty
or forty French merchants, most of whom had never been suspected of
slave-trading, and were to lock them up. Suppose that he were to lay
violent hands on the French consul. Suppose that the Governor were
to threaten to starve his prisoners to death unless they produced the
proprietor of the slaver. Would not the French Government in such a case
have a right to demand reparation? And, if we refused reparation, would
not the French Government have a right to exact reparation by arms? And
would it be enough for us to say, "This is a wicked trade, an inhuman
trade. Think of the misery of the poor creatures who are torn from their
homes. Think of the horrors of the middle passage. Will you make war in
order to force us to admit slaves into our colonies?" Surely the answer
of the French would be, "We are not making war in order to force you
to admit slaves into the Mauritius. By all means keep them out. By
all means punish every man, French or English, whom you can convict of
bringing them in. What we complain of is that you have confounded
the innocent with the guilty, and that you have acted towards the
representative of our government in a manner inconsistent with the law
of nations. Do not, in your zeal for one great principle, trample on all
the other great principles of morality." Just such are the grounds on
which Her Majesty has demanded reparation from China. And was it not
time? See, Sir, see how rapidly injury has followed injury. The Imperial
Commissioner, emboldened by the facility with which he had perpetrated
the first outrage, and utterly ignorant of the relative position of his
country and ours in the scale of power and civilisation, has risen in
his requisitions. He began by confiscating property. His next demand was
for innocent blood. A Chinese had been slain. Careful inquiry was made;
but it was impossible to ascertain who was the slayer, or even to
what nation the slayer belonged. No matter. It was notified to the
Superintendent that some subject of the Queen, innocent or guilty, must
be delivered up to suffer death. The Superintendent refused to comply.
Then our countrymen at Canton were seized. Those who were at Macao
were driven thence: not men alone, but women with child, babies at the
breast. The fugitives begged in vain for a morsel of bread. Our Lascars,
people of a different colour from ours, but still our fellow-subjects,
were flung into the sea. An English gentleman was barbarously mutilated.
And was this to be borne? I am far from thinking that we ought, in our
dealings with such a people as the Chinese, to be litigious on points
of etiquette. The place of our country among the nations of the world is
not so mean or so ill ascertained that we need resent mere impertinence,
which is the effect of a very pitiable ignorance. Conscious of superior
power, we can bear to hear our Sovereign described as a tributary of the
Celestial Empire. Conscious of superior knowledge we can bear to hear
ourselves described as savages destitute of every useful art. When our
ambassadors were required to perform a prostration, which in Europe
would have been considered as degrading, we were rather amused than
irritated. It would have been unworthy of us to have recourse to arms on
account of an uncivil phrase, or of a dispute about a ceremony. But this
is not a question of phrases and ceremonies. The liberties and lives of
Englishmen are at stake: and it is fit that all nations, civilised and
uncivilised, should know that, wherever the Englishman may wander, he is
followed by the eye and guarded by the power of England.

I was much touched, and so, I dare say, were many other gentlemen, by
a passage in one of Captain Elliot's despatches. I mean that passage in
which he describes his arrival at the factory in the moment of extreme
danger. As soon as he landed he was surrounded by his countrymen, all
in an agony of distress and despair. The first thing which he did was
to order the British flag to be brought from his boat and planted in
the balcony. The sight immediately revived the hearts of those who had
a minute before given themselves up for lost. It was natural that they
should look up with hope and confidence to that victorious flag. For it
reminded them that they belonged to a country unaccustomed to defeat, to
submission, or to shame; to a country which had exacted such reparation
for the wrongs of her children as had made the ears of all who heard
of it to tingle; to a country which had made the Dey of Algiers humble
himself to the dust before her insulted Consul; to a country which had
avenged the victims of the Black Hole on the Field of Plassey; to a
country which had not degenerated since the Great Protector vowed that
he would make the name of Englishman as much respected as ever had been
the name of Roman citizen. They knew that, surrounded as they were by
enemies, and separated by great oceans and continents from all help, not
a hair of their heads would be harmed with impunity. On this part of the
subject I believe that both the great contending parties in this House
are agreed. I did not detect in the speech of the right honourable
Baronet,--and I listened to that speech with the closest attention,--one
word indicating that he is less disposed than we to insist on full
satisfaction for the great wrong which has been done. I cannot believe
that the House will pass a vote of censure so grossly unjust as that
which he has moved. But I rejoice to think that, whether we are censured
or not, the national honour will still be safe. There may be a change of
men; but, as respects China, there will be no change of measures. I have
done; and have only to express my fervent hope that this most righteous
quarrel may be prosecuted to a speedy and triumphant close; that the
brave men to whom is intrusted the task of exacting reparation may
perform their duty in such a manner as to spread, throughout regions
in which the English name is hardly known, the fame not only of English
skill and valour, but of English mercy and moderation; and that the
overruling care of that gracious Providence which has so often brought
good out of evil may make the war to which we have been forced the means
of establishing a durable peace, beneficial alike to the victors and the



On the twenty-ninth of January 1841, Mr Serjeant Talfourd obtained leave
to bring in a bill to amend the law of copyright. The object of this
bill was to extend the term of copyright in a book to sixty years,
reckoned from the death of the writer.

On the fifth of February Mr Serjeant Talfourd moved that the bill should
be read a second time. In reply to him the following Speech was made.
The bill was rejected by 45 votes to 38.

Though, Sir, it is in some sense agreeable to approach a subject with
which political animosities have nothing to do, I offer myself to your
notice with some reluctance. It is painful to me to take a course which
may possibly be misunderstood or misrepresented as unfriendly to the
interests of literature and literary men. It is painful to me, I will
add, to oppose my honourable and learned friend on a question which
he has taken up from the purest motives, and which he regards with a
parental interest. These feelings have hitherto kept me silent when
the law of copyright has been under discussion. But as I am, on full
consideration, satisfied that the measure before us will, if adopted,
inflict grievous injury on the public, without conferring any
compensating advantage on men of letters, I think it my duty to avow
that opinion and to defend it.

The first thing to be done, Sir, is to settle on what principles the
question is to be argued. Are we free to legislate for the public good,
or are we not? Is this a question of expediency, or is it a question
of right? Many of those who have written and petitioned against the
existing state of things treat the question as one of right. The law of
nature, according to them, gives to every man a sacred and indefeasible
property in his own ideas, in the fruits of his own reason and
imagination. The legislature has indeed the power to take away this
property, just as it has the power to pass an act of attainder for
cutting off an innocent man's head without a trial. But, as such an act
of attainder would be legal murder, so would an act invading the
right of an author to his copy be, according to these gentlemen, legal

Now, Sir, if this be so, let justice be done, cost what it may. I am
not prepared, like my honourable and learned friend, to agree to a
compromise between right and expediency, and to commit an injustice for
the public convenience. But I must say, that his theory soars far beyond
the reach of my faculties. It is not necessary to go, on the present
occasion, into a metaphysical inquiry about the origin of the right of
property; and certainly nothing but the strongest necessity would lead
me to discuss a subject so likely to be distasteful to the House. I
agree, I own, with Paley in thinking that property is the creature of
the law, and that the law which creates property can be defended only
on this ground, that it is a law beneficial to mankind. But it is
unnecessary to debate that point. For, even if I believed in a natural
right of property, independent of utility and anterior to legislation, I
should still deny that this right could survive the original proprietor.
Few, I apprehend, even of those who have studied in the most mystical
and sentimental schools of moral philosophy, will be disposed to
maintain that there is a natural law of succession older and of higher
authority than any human code. If there be, it is quite certain that
we have abuses to reform much more serious than any connected with the
question of copyright. For this natural law can be only one; and the
modes of succession in the Queen's dominions are twenty. To go no
further than England, land generally descends to the eldest son. In Kent
the sons share and share alike. In many districts the youngest takes the
whole. Formerly a portion of a man's personal property was secured to
his family; and it was only of the residue that he could dispose by
will. Now he can dispose of the whole by will: but you limited his
power, a few years ago, by enacting that the will should not be valid
unless there were two witnesses. If a man dies intestate, his personal
property generally goes according to the statute of distributions; but
there are local customs which modify that statute. Now which of all
these systems is conformed to the eternal standard of right? Is it
primogeniture, or gavelkind, or borough English? Are wills jure divino?
Are the two witnesses jure divino? Might not the pars rationabilis
of our old law have a fair claim to be regarded as of celestial
institution? Was the statute of distributions enacted in Heaven long
before it was adopted by Parliament? Or is it to Custom of York, or to
Custom of London, that this preeminence belongs? Surely, Sir, even those
who hold that there is a natural right of property must admit that rules
prescribing the manner in which the effects of deceased persons shall be
distributed are purely arbitrary, and originate altogether in the will
of the legislature. If so, Sir, there is no controversy between my
honourable and learned friend and myself as to the principles on which
this question is to be argued. For the existing law gives an author
copyright during his natural life; nor do I propose to invade that
privilege, which I should, on the contrary, be prepared to defend
strenuously against any assailant. The only point in issue between
us is, how long after an author's death the State shall recognise a
copyright in his representatives and assigns; and it can, I think,
hardly be disputed by any rational man that this is a point which the
legislature is free to determine in the way which may appear to be most
conducive to the general good.

We may now, therefore, I think, descend from these high regions, where
we are in danger of being lost in the clouds, to firm ground and clear
light. Let us look at this question like legislators, and after fairly
balancing conveniences and inconveniences, pronounce between the
existing law of copyright, and the law now proposed to us. The question
of copyright, Sir, like most questions of civil prudence, is neither
black nor white, but grey. The system of copyright has great advantages
and great disadvantages; and it is our business to ascertain what these
are, and then to make an arrangement under which the advantages may be
as far as possible secured, and the disadvantages as far as possible
excluded. The charge which I bring against my honourable and learned
friend's bill is this, that it leaves the advantages nearly what they
are at present, and increases the disadvantages at least fourfold.

The advantages arising from a system of copyright are obvious. It is
desirable that we should have a supply of good books; we cannot have
such a supply unless men of letters are liberally remunerated; and the
least objectionable way of remunerating them is by means of copyright.
You cannot depend for literary instruction and amusement on the
leisure of men occupied in the pursuits of active life. Such men may
occasionally produce compositions of great merit. But you must not look
to such men for works which require deep meditation and long research.
Works of that kind you can expect only from persons who make literature
the business of their lives. Of these persons few will be found among
the rich and the noble. The rich and the noble are not impelled to
intellectual exertion by necessity. They may be impelled to intellectual
exertion by the desire of distinguishing themselves, or by the desire
of benefiting the community. But it is generally within these walls that
they seek to signalise themselves and to serve their fellow-creatures.
Both their ambition and their public spirit, in a country like this,
naturally take a political turn. It is then on men whose profession is
literature, and whose private means are not ample, that you must rely
for a supply of valuable books. Such men must be remunerated for their
literary labour. And there are only two ways in which they can be
remunerated. One of those ways is patronage; the other is copyright.

There have been times in which men of letters looked, not to the public,
but to the government, or to a few great men, for the reward of their
exertions. It was thus in the time of Maecenas and Pollio at Rome,
of the Medici at Florence, of Louis the Fourteenth in France, of Lord
Halifax and Lord Oxford in this country. Now, Sir, I well know that
there are cases in which it is fit and graceful, nay, in which it is a
sacred duty to reward the merits or to relieve the distresses of men of
genius by the exercise of this species of liberality. But these cases
are exceptions. I can conceive no system more fatal to the integrity and
independence of literary men than one under which they should be taught
to look for their daily bread to the favour of ministers and nobles. I
can conceive no system more certain to turn those minds which are formed
by nature to be the blessings and ornaments of our species into public
scandals and pests.

We have, then, only one resource left. We must betake ourselves to
copyright, be the inconveniences of copyright what they may. Those
inconveniences, in truth, are neither few nor small. Copyright is
monopoly, and produces all the effects which the general voice of
mankind attributes to monopoly. My honourable and learned friend
talks very contemptuously of those who are led away by the theory that
monopoly makes things dear. That monopoly makes things dear is certainly
a theory, as all the great truths which have been established by the
experience of all ages and nations, and which are taken for granted in
all reasonings, may be said to be theories. It is a theory in the same
sense in which it is a theory that day and night follow each other, that
lead is heavier than water, that bread nourishes, that arsenic poisons,
that alcohol intoxicates. If, as my honourable and learned friend seems
to think, the whole world is in the wrong on this point, if the real
effect of monopoly is to make articles good and cheap, why does he stop
short in his career of change? Why does he limit the operation of so
salutary a principle to sixty years? Why does he consent to anything
short of a perpetuity? He told us that in consenting to anything short
of a perpetuity he was making a compromise between extreme right and
expediency. But if his opinion about monopoly be correct, extreme right
and expediency would coincide. Or rather, why should we not restore the
monopoly of the East India trade to the East India Company? Why should
we not revive all those old monopolies which, in Elizabeth's reign,
galled our fathers so severely that, maddened by intolerable wrong, they
opposed to their sovereign a resistance before which her haughty spirit
quailed for the first and for the last time? Was it the cheapness and
excellence of commodities that then so violently stirred the indignation
of the English people? I believe, Sir, that I may with safety take it
for granted that the effect of monopoly generally is to make articles
scarce, to make them dear, and to make them bad. And I may with equal
safety challenge my honourable friend to find out any distinction
between copyright and other privileges of the same kind; any reason why
a monopoly of books should produce an effect directly the reverse of
that which was produced by the East India Company's monopoly of tea, or
by Lord Essex's monopoly of sweet wines. Thus, then, stands the case. It
is good that authors should be remunerated; and the least exceptionable
way of remunerating them is by a monopoly. Yet monopoly is an evil. For
the sake of the good we must submit to the evil; but the evil ought not
to last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the

Now, I will not affirm that the existing law is perfect, that it
exactly hits the point at which the monopoly ought to cease; but this
I confidently say, that the existing law is very much nearer that point
than the law proposed by my honourable and learned friend. For consider
this; the evil effects of the monopoly are proportioned to the length
of its duration. But the good effects for the sake of which we bear
with the evil effects are by no means proportioned to the length of its
duration. A monopoly of sixty years produces twice as much evil as
a monopoly of thirty years, and thrice as much evil as a monopoly of
twenty years. But it is by no means the fact that a posthumous monopoly
of sixty years gives to an author thrice as much pleasure and thrice
as strong a motive as a posthumous monopoly of twenty years. On the
contrary, the difference is so small as to be hardly perceptible. We
all know how faintly we are affected by the prospect of very distant
advantages, even when they are advantages which we may reasonably hope
that we shall ourselves enjoy. But an advantage that is to be enjoyed
more than half a century after we are dead, by somebody, we know not by
whom, perhaps by somebody unborn, by somebody utterly unconnected with
us, is really no motive at all to action. It is very probable that in
the course of some generations land in the unexplored and unmapped heart
of the Australasian continent will be very valuable. But there is none
of us who would lay down five pounds for a whole province in the heart
of the Australasian continent. We know, that neither we, nor anybody for
whom we care, will ever receive a farthing of rent from such a province.
And a man is very little moved by the thought that in the year 2000 or
2100, somebody who claims through him will employ more shepherds than
Prince Esterhazy, and will have the finest house and gallery of pictures
at Victoria or Sydney. Now, this is the sort of boon which my honourable
and learned friend holds out to authors. Considered as a boon to them,
it is a mere nullity, but considered as an impost on the public, it is
no nullity, but a very serious and pernicious reality. I will take an
example. Dr Johnson died fifty-six years ago. If the law were what my
honourable and learned friend wishes to make it, somebody would now have
the monopoly of Dr Johnson's works. Who that somebody would be it is
impossible to say; but we may venture to guess. I guess, then, that
it would have been some bookseller, who was the assign of another
bookseller, who was the grandson of a third bookseller, who had bought
the copyright from Black Frank, the doctor's servant and residuary
legatee, in 1785 or 1786. Now, would the knowledge that this copyright
would exist in 1841 have been a source of gratification to Johnson?
Would it have stimulated his exertions? Would it have once drawn him out
of his bed before noon? Would it have once cheered him under a fit of
the spleen? Would it have induced him to give us one more allegory, one
more life of a poet, one more imitation of Juvenal? I firmly believe
not. I firmly believe that a hundred years ago, when he was writing our
debates for the Gentleman's Magazine, he would very much rather have had
twopence to buy a plate of shin of beef at a cook's shop underground.
Considered as a reward to him, the difference between a twenty years'
and sixty years' term of posthumous copyright would have been nothing or
next to nothing. But is the difference nothing to us? I can buy Rasselas
for sixpence; I might have had to give five shillings for it. I can buy
the Dictionary, the entire genuine Dictionary, for two guineas, perhaps
for less; I might have had to give five or six guineas for it. Do I
grudge this to a man like Dr Johnson? Not at all. Show me that the
prospect of this boon roused him to any vigorous effort, or sustained
his spirits under depressing circumstances, and I am quite willing to
pay the price of such an object, heavy as that price is. But what I do
complain of is that my circumstances are to be worse, and Johnson's none
the better; that I am to give five pounds for what to him was not worth
a farthing.

The principle of copyright is this. It is a tax on readers for the
purpose of giving a bounty to writers. The tax is an exceedingly bad
one; it is a tax on one of the most innocent and most salutary of human
pleasures; and never let us forget, that a tax on innocent pleasures
is a premium on vicious pleasures. I admit, however, the necessity of
giving a bounty to genius and learning. In order to give such a bounty,
I willingly submit even to this severe and burdensome tax. Nay, I am
ready to increase the tax, if it can be shown that by so doing I should
proportionally increase the bounty. My complaint is, that my honourable
and learned friend doubles, triples, quadruples, the tax, and makes
scarcely any perceptible addition to the bounty. Why, Sir, what is the
additional amount of taxation which would have been levied on the public
for Dr Johnson's works alone, if my honourable and learned friend's
bill had been the law of the land? I have not data sufficient to form
an opinion. But I am confident that the taxation on his Dictionary alone
would have amounted to many thousands of pounds. In reckoning the whole
additional sum which the holders of his copyrights would have taken
out of the pockets of the public during the last half century at twenty
thousand pounds, I feel satisfied that I very greatly underrate it. Now,
I again say that I think it but fair that we should pay twenty thousand
pounds in consideration of twenty thousand pounds' worth of pleasure and
encouragement received by Dr Johnson. But I think it very hard that we
should pay twenty thousand pounds for what he would not have valued at
five shillings.

My honourable and learned friend dwells on the claims of the posterity
of great writers. Undoubtedly, Sir, it would be very pleasing to see a
descendant of Shakespeare living in opulence on the fruits of his great
ancestor's genius. A house maintained in splendour by such a patrimony
would be a more interesting and striking object than Blenheim is to us,
or than Strathfieldsaye will be to our children. But, unhappily, it is
scarcely possible that, under any system, such a thing can come to pass.
My honourable and learned friend does not propose that copyright shall
descend to the eldest son, or shall be bound up by irrecoverable entail.
It is to be merely personal property. It is therefore highly improbable
that it will descend during sixty years or half that term from parent to
child. The chance is that more people than one will have an interest in
it. They will in all probability sell it and divide the proceeds. The
price which a bookseller will give for it will bear no proportion to the
sum which he will afterwards draw from the public, if his speculation
proves successful. He will give little, if anything, more for a term of
sixty years than for a term of thirty or five and twenty. The present
value of a distant advantage is always small; but when there is great
room to doubt whether a distant advantage will be any advantage at all,
the present value sink to almost nothing. Such is the inconstancy of
the public taste that no sensible man will venture to pronounce, with
confidence, what the sale of any book published in our days will be
in the years between 1890 and 1900. The whole fashion of thinking and
writing has often undergone a change in a much shorter period than
that to which my honourable and learned friend would extend posthumous
copyright. What would have been considered the best literary property
in the earlier part of Charles the Second's reign? I imagine Cowley's
Poems. Overleap sixty years, and you are in the generation of which Pope
asked, "Who now reads Cowley?" What works were ever expected with more
impatience by the public than those of Lord Bolingbroke, which appeared,
I think, in 1754? In 1814, no bookseller would have thanked you for the
copyright of them all, if you had offered it to him for nothing. What
would Paternoster Row give now for the copyright of Hayley's Triumphs of
Temper, so much admired within the memory of many people still living? I
say, therefore, that, from the very nature of literary property, it will
almost always pass away from an author's family; and I say, that the
price given for it to the family will bear a very small proportion to
the tax which the purchaser, if his speculation turns out well, will in
the course of a long series of years levy on the public.

If, Sir, I wished to find a strong and perfect illustration of the
effects which I anticipate from long copyright, I should select,--my
honourable and learned friend will be surprised,--I should select the
case of Milton's granddaughter. As often as this bill has been under
discussion, the fate of Milton's granddaughter has been brought forward
by the advocates of monopoly. My honourable and learned friend has
repeatedly told the story with great eloquence and effect. He has
dilated on the sufferings, on the abject poverty, of this ill-fated
woman, the last of an illustrious race. He tells us that, in the
extremity of her distress, Garrick gave her a benefit, that Johnson
wrote a prologue, and that the public contributed some hundreds
of pounds. Was it fit, he asks, that she should receive, in this
eleemosynary form, a small portion of what was in truth a debt? Why, he
asks, instead of obtaining a pittance from charity, did she not live in
comfort and luxury on the proceeds of the sale of her ancestor's works?
But, Sir, will my honourable and learned friend tell me that this event,
which he has so often and so pathetically described, was caused by the
shortness of the term of copyright? Why, at that time, the duration of
copyright was longer than even he, at present, proposes to make it. The
monopoly lasted, not sixty years, but for ever. At the time at which
Milton's granddaughter asked charity, Milton's works were the exclusive
property of a bookseller. Within a few months of the day on which the
benefit was given at Garrick's theatre, the holder of the copyright of
Paradise Lost,--I think it was Tonson,--applied to the Court of Chancery
for an injunction against a bookseller who had published a cheap edition
of the great epic poem, and obtained the injunction. The representation
of Comus was, if I remember rightly, in 1750; the injunction in 1752.
Here, then, is a perfect illustration of the effect of long copyright.
Milton's works are the property of a single publisher. Everybody who
wants them must buy them at Tonson's shop, and at Tonson's price.
Whoever attempts to undersell Tonson is harassed with legal proceedings.
Thousands who would gladly possess a copy of Paradise Lost, must forego
that great enjoyment. And what, in the meantime, is the situation of the
only person for whom we can suppose that the author, protected at such
a cost to the public, was at all interested? She is reduced to utter
destitution. Milton's works are under a monopoly. Milton's granddaughter
is starving. The reader is pillaged; but the writer's family is not
enriched. Society is taxed doubly. It has to give an exorbitant price
for the poems; and it has at the same time to give alms to the only
surviving descendant of the poet.

But this is not all. I think it right, Sir, to call the attention of
the House to an evil, which is perhaps more to be apprehended when an
author's copyright remains in the hands of his family, than when it is
transferred to booksellers. I seriously fear that, if such a measure
as this should be adopted, many valuable works will be either totally
suppressed or grievously mutilated. I can prove that this danger is
not chimerical; and I am quite certain that, if the danger be real,
the safeguards which my honourable and learned friend has devised are
altogether nugatory. That the danger is not chimerical may easily be
shown. Most of us, I am sure, have known persons who, very erroneously
as I think, but from the best motives, would not choose to reprint
Fielding's novels, or Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire. Some gentlemen may perhaps be of opinion that it would be
as well if Tom Jones and Gibbon's History were never reprinted. I will
not, then, dwell on these or similar cases. I will take cases respecting
which it is not likely that there will be any difference of opinion
here; cases, too, in which the danger of which I now speak is not matter
of supposition, but matter of fact. Take Richardson's novels. Whatever
I may, on the present occasion, think of my honourable and learned
friend's judgment as a legislator, I must always respect his judgment as
a critic. He will, I am sure, say that Richardson's novels are among
the most valuable, among the most original works in our language. No
writings have done more to raise the fame of English genius in foreign
countries. No writings are more deeply pathetic. No writings, those of
Shakspeare excepted, show more profound knowledge of the human heart. As
to their moral tendency, I can cite the most respectable testimony. Dr
Johnson describes Richardson as one who had taught the passions to move
at the command of virtue. My dear and honoured friend, Mr Wilberforce,
in his celebrated religious treatise, when speaking of the unchristian
tendency of the fashionable novels of the eighteenth century, distinctly
excepts Richardson from the censure. Another excellent person, whom I
can never mention without respect and kindness, Mrs Hannah More, often
declared in conversation, and has declared in one of her published
poems, that she first learned from the writings of Richardson those
principles of piety by which her life was guided. I may safely say that
books celebrated as works of art through the whole civilised world, and
praised for their moral tendency by Dr Johnson, by Mr Wilberforce, by
Mrs Hannah More, ought not to be suppressed. Sir, it is my firm belief,
that if the law had been what my honourable and learned friend proposes
to make it, they would have been suppressed. I remember Richardson's
grandson well; he was a clergyman in the city of London; he was a most
upright and excellent man; but he had conceived a strong prejudice
against works of fiction. He thought all novel-reading not only
frivolous but sinful. He said,--this I state on the authority of one of
his clerical brethren who is now a bishop,--he said that he had never
thought it right to read one of his grandfather's books. Suppose, Sir,
that the law had been what my honourable and learned friend would make
it. Suppose that the copyright of Richardson's novels had descended, as
might well have been the case, to this gentleman. I firmly believe,
that he would have thought it sinful to give them a wide circulation.
I firmly believe, that he would not for a hundred thousand pounds have
deliberately done what he thought sinful. He would not have reprinted
them. And what protection does my honourable and learned friend give to
the public in such a case? Why, Sir, what he proposes is this: if a book
is not reprinted during five years, any person who wishes to reprint
it may give notice in the London Gazette: the advertisement must be
repeated three times: a year must elapse; and then, if the proprietor of
the copyright does not put forth a new edition, he loses his exclusive
privilege. Now, what protection is this to the public? What is a new
edition? Does the law define the number of copies that make an edition?
Does it limit the price of a copy? Are twelve copies on large paper,
charged at thirty guineas each, an edition? It has been usual, when
monopolies have been granted, to prescribe numbers and to limit prices.
But I did not find the my honourable and learned friend proposes to do
so in the present case. And, without some such provision, the security
which he offers is manifestly illusory. It is my conviction that, under
such a system as that which he recommends to us, a copy of Clarissa
would have been as rare as an Aldus or a Caxton.

I will give another instance. One of the most instructive, interesting,
and delightful books in our language is Boswell's Life of Johnson.
Now it is well known that Boswell's eldest son considered this book,
considered the whole relation of Boswell to Johnson, as a blot in the
escutcheon of the family. He thought, not perhaps altogether without
reason, that his father had exhibited himself in a ludicrous and
degrading light. And thus he became so sore and irritable that at last
he could not bear to hear the Life of Johnson mentioned. Suppose that
the law had been what my honourable and learned friend wishes to
make it. Suppose that the copyright of Boswell's Life of Johnson had
belonged, as it well might, during sixty years, to Boswell's eldest
son. What would have been the consequence? An unadulterated copy of the
finest biographical work in the world would have been as scarce as the
first edition of Camden's Britannia.

These are strong cases. I have shown you that, if the law had been what
you are now going to make it, the finest prose work of fiction in the
language, the finest biographical work in the language, would very
probably have been suppressed. But I have stated my case weakly. The
books which I have mentioned are singularly inoffensive books, books not
touching on any of those questions which drive even wise men beyond the
bounds of wisdom. There are books of a very different kind, books which
are the rallying points of great political and religious parties. What
is likely to happen if the copyright of one of the these books should by
descent or transfer come into the possession of some hostile zealot? I
will take a single instance. It is only fifty years since John Wesley
died; and all his works, if the law had been what my honourable and
learned friend wishes to make it, would now have been the property of
some person or other. The sect founded by Wesley is the most numerous,
the wealthiest, the most powerful, the most zealous of sects. In every
parliamentary election it is a matter of the greatest importance to
obtain the support of the Wesleyan Methodists. Their numerical strength
is reckoned by hundreds of thousands. They hold the memory of their
founder in the greatest reverence; and not without reason, for he was
unquestionably a great and a good man. To his authority they constantly
appeal. His works are in their eyes of the highest value. His doctrinal
writings they regard as containing the best system of theology ever
deduced from Scripture. His journals, interesting even to the common
reader, are peculiarly interesting to the Methodist: for they contain
the whole history of that singular polity which, weak and despised
in its beginning, is now, after the lapse of a century, so strong,
so flourishing, and so formidable. The hymns to which he gave his
imprimatur are a most important part of the public worship of his
followers. Now, suppose that the copyright of these works should belong
to some person who holds the memory of Wesley and the doctrines and
discipline of the Methodists in abhorrence. There are many such persons.
The Ecclesiastical Courts are at this very time sitting on the case of
a clergyman of the Established Church who refused Christian burial to a
child baptized by a Methodist preacher. I took up the other day a work
which is considered as among the most respectable organs of a large
and growing party in the Church of England, and there I saw John Wesley
designated as a forsworn priest. Suppose that the works of Wesley were
suppressed. Why, Sir, such a grievance would be enough to shake the
foundations of Government. Let gentlemen who are attached to the Church
reflect for a moment what their feelings would be if the Book of Common
Prayer were not to be reprinted for thirty or forty years, if the price
of a Book of Common Prayer were run up to five or ten guineas. And
then let them determine whether they will pass a law under which it is
possible, under which it is probable, that so intolerable a wrong may be
done to some sect consisting perhaps of half a million of persons.

I am so sensible, Sir, of the kindness with which the House has listened
to me, that I will not detain you longer. I will only say this, that if
the measure before us should pass, and should produce one-tenth part of
the evil which it is calculated to produce, and which I fully expect it
to produce, there will soon be a remedy, though of a very objectionable
kind. Just as the absurd acts which prohibited the sale of game were
virtually repealed by the poacher, just as many absurd revenue acts have
been virtually repealed by the smuggler, so will this law be virtually
repealed by piratical booksellers. At present the holder of copyright
has the public feeling on his side. Those who invade copyright are
regarded as knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving
men. Everybody is well pleased to see them restrained by the law, and
compelled to refund their ill-gotten gains. No tradesman of good repute
will have anything to do with such disgraceful transactions. Pass this
law: and that feeling is at an end. Men very different from the present
race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable
monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in the
violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade legal pursuit;
and the whole nation will be in the plot. On which side indeed should
the public sympathy be when the question is whether some book as
popular as Robinson Crusoe, or the Pilgrim's Progress, shall be in every
cottage, or whether it shall be confined to the libraries of the rich
for the advantage of the great-grandson of a bookseller who, a hundred
years before, drove a hard bargain for the copyright with the author
when in great distress? Remember too that, when once it ceases to be
considered as wrong and discreditable to invade literary property, no
person can say where the invasion will stop. The public seldom makes
nice distinctions. The wholesome copyright which now exists will share
in the disgrace and danger of the new copyright which you are about to
create. And you will find that, in attempting to impose unreasonable
restraints on the reprinting of the works of the dead, you have, to
a great extent, annulled those restraints which now prevent men from
pillaging and defrauding the living. If I saw, Sir, any probability that
this bill could be so amended in the Committee that my objections might
be removed, I would not divide the House in this stage. But I am so
fully convinced that no alteration which would not seem insupportable to
my honourable and learned friend, could render his measure supportable
to me, that I must move, though with regret, that this bill be read a
second time this day six months.



On the third of March 1842, Lord Mahon obtained permission to bring in
a bill to amend the Law of Copyright. This bill extended the term of
Copyright in a book to twenty-five years, reckoned from the death of the

On the sixth of April the House went into Committee on the bill, and Mr
Greene took the Chair. Several divisions took place, of which the result
was that the plan suggested in the following Speech was, with some
modifications, adopted.

Mr Greene,--I have been amused and gratified by the remarks which
my noble friend (Lord Mahon.) has made on the arguments by which I
prevailed on the last House of Commons to reject the bill introduced by
a very able and accomplished man, Mr Serjeant Talfourd. My noble friend
has done me a high and rare honour. For this is, I believe, the first
occasion on which a speech made in one Parliament has been answered in
another. I should not find it difficult to vindicate the soundness of
the reasons which I formerly urged, to set them in a clearer light,
and to fortify them by additional facts. But it seems to me that we had
better discuss the bill which is now on our table than the bill which
was there fourteen months ago. Glad I am to find that there is a very
wide difference between the two bills, and that my noble friend,
though he has tried to refute my arguments, has acted as if he had been
convinced by them. I objected to the term of sixty years as far too
long. My noble friend has cut that term down to twenty-five years. I
warned the House that, under the provisions of Mr Serjeant Talfourd's
bill, valuable works might not improbably be suppressed by the
representatives of authors. My noble friend has prepared a clause which,
as he thinks, will guard against that danger. I will not, therefore,
waste the time of the Committee by debating points which he has
conceded, but will proceed at once to the proper business of this

Sir, I have no objection to the principle of my noble friend's bill.
Indeed, I had no objection to the principle of the bill of last year. I
have long thought that the term of copyright ought to be extended. When
Mr Serjeant Talfourd moved for leave to bring in his bill, I did not
oppose the motion. Indeed I meant to vote for the second reading, and
to reserve what I had to say for the Committee. But the learned Serjeant
left me no choice. He, in strong language, begged that nobody who was
disposed to reduce the term of sixty years would divide with him. "Do
not," he said, "give me your support, if all that you mean to grant to
men of letters is a miserable addition of fourteen or fifteen years to
the present term. I do not wish for such support. I despise it." Not
wishing to obtrude on the learned Serjeant a support which he despised,
I had no course left but to take the sense of the House on the second
reading. The circumstances are now different. My noble friend's bill
is not at present a good bill; but it may be improved into a very
good bill; nor will he, I am persuaded, withdraw it if it should be so
improved. He and I have the same object in view; but we differ as to the
best mode of attaining that object. We are equally desirous to extend
the protection now enjoyed by writers. In what way it may be extended
with most benefit to them and with least inconvenience to the public, is
the question.

The present state of the law is this. The author of a work has a certain
copyright in that work for a term of twenty-eight years. If he should
live more than twenty-eight years after the publication of the work, he
retains the copyright to the end of his life.

My noble friend does not propose to make any addition to the term
of twenty-eight years. But he proposes that the copyright shall last
twenty-five years after the author's death. Thus my noble friend makes
no addition to that term which is certain, but makes a very large
addition to that term which is uncertain.

My plan is different. I would made no addition to the uncertain term;
but I would make a large addition to the certain term. I propose to add
fourteen years to the twenty-eight years which the law now allows to an
author. His copyright will, in this way, last till his death, or till
the expiration of forty-two years, whichever shall first happen. And I
think that I shall be able to prove to the satisfaction of the Committee
that my plan will be more beneficial to literature and to literary men
than the plan of my noble friend.

It must surely, Sir, be admitted that the protection which we give to
books ought to be distributed as evenly as possible, that every book
should have a fair share of that protection, and no book more than a
fair share. It would evidently be absurd to put tickets into a wheel,
with different numbers marked upon them, and to make writers draw, one
a term of twenty-eight years, another a term of fifty, another a term of
ninety. And yet this sort of lottery is what my noble friend proposes to
establish. I know that we cannot altogether exclude chance. You have two
terms of copyright; one certain, the other uncertain; and we cannot, I
admit, get rid of the uncertain term. It is proper, no doubt, that an
author's copyright should last during his life. But, Sir, though we
cannot altogether exclude chance, we can very much diminish the share
which chance must have in distributing the recompense which we wish
to give to genius and learning. By every addition which we make to the
certain term we diminish the influence of chance; by every addition
which we make to the uncertain term we increase the influence of chance.
I shall make myself best understood by putting cases. Take two eminent
female writers, who died within our own memory, Madame D'Arblay and Miss
Austen. As the law now stands, Miss Austen's charming novels would have
only from twenty-eight to thirty-three years of copyright. For that
extraordinary woman died young: she died before her genius was fully
appreciated by the world. Madame D'Arblay outlived the whole generation
to which she belonged. The copyright of her celebrated novel, Evelina,
lasted, under the present law, sixty-two years. Surely this inequality
is sufficiently great--sixty-two years of copyright for Evelina, only
twenty-eight for Persuasion. But to my noble friend this inequality
seems not great enough. He proposes to add twenty-five years to Madame
D'Arblay's term, and not a single day to Miss Austen's term. He would
give to Persuasion a copyright of only twenty-eight years, as at
present, and to Evelina a copyright more than three times as long, a
copyright of eighty-seven years. Now, is this reasonable? See, on the
other hand, the operation of my plan. I make no addition at all to
Madame D'Arblay's term of sixty-two years, which is, in my opinion,
quite long enough; but I extend Miss Austen's term to forty-two years,
which is, in my opinion, not too much. You see, Sir, that at present
chance has too much sway in this matter: that at present the protection
which the State gives to letters is very unequally given. You see that
if my noble friend's plan be adopted, more will be left to chance than
under the present system, and you will have such inequalities as are
unknown under the present system. You see also that, under the system
which I recommend, we shall have, not perfect certainty, not perfect
equality, but much less uncertainty and inequality than at present.

But this is not all. My noble friend's plan is not merely to institute
a lottery in which some writers will draw prizes and some will draw
blanks. It is much worse than this. His lottery is so contrived that, in
the vast majority of cases, the blanks will fall to the best books, and
the prizes to books of inferior merit.

Take Shakspeare. My noble friend gives a longer protection than I should
give to Love's Labour's Lost, and Pericles, Prince of Tyre; but he gives
a shorter protection than I should give to Othello and Macbeth.

Take Milton. Milton died in 1674. The copyrights of Milton's great
works would, according to my noble friend's plan, expire in 1699. Comus
appeared in 1634, the Paradise Lost in 1668. To Comus, then, my noble
friend would give sixty-five years of copyright, and to the Paradise
Lost only thirty-one years. Is that reasonable? Comus is a noble
poem: but who would rank it with the Paradise Lost? My plan would give
forty-two years both to the Paradise Lost and to Comus.

Let us pass on from Milton to Dryden. My noble friend would give
more than sixty years of copyright to Dryden's worst works; to the
encomiastic verses on Oliver Cromwell, to the Wild Gallant, to the Rival
Ladies, to other wretched pieces as bad as anything written by Flecknoe
or Settle: but for Theodore and Honoria, for Tancred and Sigismunda, for
Cimon and Iphigenia, for Palamon and Arcite, for Alexander's Feast, my
noble friend thinks a copyright of twenty-eight years sufficient. Of
all Pope's works, that to which my noble friend would give the largest
measure of protection is the volume of Pastorals, remarkable only as the
production of a boy. Johnson's first work was a Translation of a Book of
Travels in Abyssinia, published in 1735. It was so poorly executed that
in his later years he did not like to hear it mentioned. Boswell once
picked up a copy of it, and told his friend that he had done so. "Do not
talk about it," said Johnson: "it is a thing to be forgotten." To this
performance my noble friend would give protection during the enormous
term of seventy-five years. To the Lives of the Poets he would give
protection during about thirty years. Well; take Henry Fielding; it
matters not whom I take, but take Fielding. His early works are read
only by the curious, and would not be read even by the curious, but for
the fame which he acquired in the latter part of his life by works of
a very different kind. What is the value of the Temple Beau, of the
Intriguing Chambermaid, of half a dozen other plays of which few
gentlemen have even heard the names? Yet to these worthless pieces my
noble friend would give a term of copyright longer by more than twenty
years than that which he would give to Tom Jones and Amelia.

Go on to Burke. His little tract, entitled the Vindication of Natural
Society is certainly not without merit; but it would not be remembered
in our days if it did not bear the name of Burke. To this tract my noble
friend would give a copyright of near seventy years. But to the great
work on the French Revolution, to the Appeal from the New to the Old
Whigs, to the letters on the Regicide Peace, he would give a copyright
of thirty years or little more.

And, Sir observe that I am not selecting here and there extraordinary
instances in order to make up the semblance of a case. I am taking the
greatest names of our literature in chronological order. Go to other
nations; go to remote ages; you will still find the general rule the
same. There was no copyright at Athens or Rome; but the history of the
Greek and Latin literature illustrates my argument quite as well as if
copyright had existed in ancient times. Of all the plays of Sophocles,
the one to which the plan of my noble friend would have given the
most scanty recompense would have been that wonderful masterpiece, the
Oedipus at Colonos. Who would class together the Speech of Demosthenes
against his Guardians, and the Speech for the Crown? My noble friend,
indeed, would not class them together. For to the Speech against the
Guardians he would give a copyright of near seventy years, and to the
incomparable Speech for the Crown a copyright of less than half that
length. Go to Rome. My noble friend would give more than twice as long a
term to Cicero's juvenile declamation in defence of Roscius Amerinus as
to the Second Philippic. Go to France. My noble friend would give a far
longer term to Racine's Freres Ennemis than to Athalie, and to Moliere's
Etourdi than to Tartuffe. Go to Spain. My noble friend would give a
longer term to forgotten works of Cervantes, works which nobody now
reads, than to Don Quixote. Go to Germany. According to my noble
friend's plan, of all the works of Schiller the Robbers would be the
most favoured: of all the works of Goethe, the Sorrows of Werter would
be the most favoured. I thank the Committee for listening so kindly to
this long enumeration. Gentlemen will perceive, I am sure, that it is
not from pedantry that I mention the names of so many books and authors.
But just as, in our debates on civil affairs, we constantly draw
illustrations from civil history, we must, in a debate about literary
property, draw our illustrations from literary history. Now, Sir, I
have, I think, shown from literary history that the effect of my
noble friend's plan would be to give to crude and imperfect works, to
third-rate and fourth-rate works, a great advantage over the highest
productions of genius. It is impossible to account for the facts which I
have laid before you by attributing them to mere accident. Their number
is too great, their character too uniform. We must seek for some other
explanation; and we shall easily find one.

It is the law of our nature that the mind shall attain its full power
by slow degrees; and this is especially true of the most vigorous minds.
Young men, no doubt, have often produced works of great merit; but it
would be impossible to name any writer of the first order whose juvenile
performances were his best. That all the most valuable books of history,
of philology, of physical and metaphysical science, of divinity, of
political economy, have been produced by men of mature years will hardly
be disputed. The case may not be quite so clear as respects works of
the imagination. And yet I know no work of the imagination of the very
highest class that was ever, in any age or country, produced by a
man under thirty-five. Whatever powers a youth may have received from
nature, it is impossible that his taste and judgment can be ripe, that
his mind can be richly stored with images, that he can have observed
the vicissitudes of life, that he can have studied the nicer shades of
character. How, as Marmontel very sensibly said, is a person to paint
portraits who has never seen faces? On the whole, I believe that I may,
without fear of contradiction, affirm this, that of the good books now
extant in the world more than nineteen-twentieths were published after
the writers had attained the age of forty. If this be so, it is evident
that the plan of my noble friend is framed on a vicious principle. For,
while he gives to juvenile productions a very much larger protection
than they now enjoy, he does comparatively little for the works of men
in the full maturity of their powers, and absolutely nothing for any
work which is published during the last three years of the life of the
writer. For, by the existing law, the copyright of such a work lasts
twenty-eight years from the publication; and my noble friend gives only
twenty-five years, to be reckoned from the writer's death.

What I recommend is that the certain term, reckoned from the date of
publication, shall be forty-two years instead of twenty-eight years. In
this arrangement there is no uncertainty, no inequality. The advantage
which I propose to give will be the same to every book. No work will
have so long a copyright as my noble friend gives to some books, or so
short a copyright as he gives to others. No copyright will last ninety
years. No copyright will end in twenty-eight years. To every book
published in the course of the last seventeen years of a writer's life
I give a longer term of copyright than my noble friend gives; and I
am confident that no person versed in literary history will deny
this,--that in general the most valuable works of an author are
published in the course of the last seventeen years of his life. I will
rapidly enumerate a few, and but a few, of the great works of English
writers to which my plan is more favourable than my noble friend's plan.
To Lear, to Macbeth, to Othello, to the Fairy Queen, to the Paradise
Lost, to Bacon's Novum Organum and De Augmentis, to Locke's Essay on
the Human Understanding, to Clarendon's History, to Hume's History, to
Gibbon's History, to Smith's Wealth of Nations, to Addison's Spectators,
to almost all the great works of Burke, to Clarissa and Sir Charles
Grandison, to Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones and Amelia, and, with the single
exception of Waverley, to all the novels of Sir Walter Scott, I give a
longer term of copyright than my noble friend gives. Can he match that
list? Does not that list contain what England has produced greatest in
many various ways--poetry, philosophy, history, eloquence, wit, skilful
portraiture of life and manners? I confidently therefore call on the
Committee to take my plan in preference to the plan of my noble friend.
I have shown that the protection which he proposes to give to letters is
unequal, and unequal in the worst way. I have shown that his plan is to
give protection to books in inverse proportion to their merit. I shall
move when we come to the third clause of the bill to omit the words
"twenty-five years," and in a subsequent part of the same clause I
shall move to substitute for the words "twenty-eight years" the words
"forty-two years." I earnestly hope that the Committee will adopt these
amendments; and I feel the firmest conviction that my noble friend's
bill, so amended, will confer a great boon on men of letters with the
smallest possible inconvenience to the public.



On the second of May 1842, Mr Thomas Duncombe, Member for Finsbury,
presented a petition, very numerously signed, of which the prayer was as

"Your petitioners, therefore, exercising their just constitutional
right, demand that your Honourable House, to remedy the many gross
and manifest evils of which your petitioners complain, do immediately,
without alteration, deduction, or addition, pass into a law the document
entitled the People's Charter."

On the following day Mr Thomas Duncombe moved that the petitioners
should be heard by themselves or their Counsel at the Bar of the House.
The following Speech was made in opposition to the motion.

The motion was rejected by 287 votes to 49.

Mr Speaker,--I was particularly desirous to catch your eye this evening,
because, when the motion of the honourable Member of Rochdale (Mr
Sharman Crawford.) was under discussion, I was unable to be in my place.
I understand that, on that occasion, the absence of some members of
the late Government was noticed in severe terms, and was attributed to
discreditable motives. As for myself, Sir, I was prevented from coming
down to the House by illness: a noble friend of mine, to whom particular
allusion was made, was detained elsewhere by pure accident; and I am
convinced that no member of the late administration was withheld by any
unworthy feeling from avowing his opinions. My own opinions I could have
no motive for disguising. They have been frequently avowed, and avowed
before audiences which were not likely to regard them with much favour.

I should wish, Sir, to say what I have to say in the temperate tone
which has with so much propriety been preserved by the right honourable
Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department (Sir James Graham.);
but, if I should use any warm expression, I trust that the House will
attribute it to the strength of my convictions and to my solicitude
for the public interests. No person who knows me will, I am quite sure,
suspect me of regarding the hundreds of thousands who have signed the
petition which we are now considering, with any other feeling than
cordial goodwill.

Sir, I cannot conscientiously assent to this motion. And yet I must
admit that the honourable Member for Finsbury (Mr Thomas Duncombe.) has
framed it with considerable skill. He has done his best to obtain the
support of all those timid and interested politicians who think much
more about the security of their seats than about the security of their
country. It would be very convenient to me to give a silent vote with
him. I should then have it in my power to say to the Chartists of
Edinburgh, "When your petition was before the House I was on your side:
I was for giving you a full hearing." I should at the same time be able
to assure my Conservative constituents that I never had supported and
never would support the Charter. But, Sir, though this course would be
very convenient, it is one which my sense of duty will not suffer me
to take. When questions of private right are before us, we hear, and
we ought to hear, the arguments of the parties interested in those
questions. But it has never been, and surely it ought not to be, our
practice to grant a hearing to persons who petition for or against a law
in which they have no other interest than that which is common between
them and the whole nation. Of the many who petitioned against slavery,
against the Roman Catholic claims, against the corn laws, none was
suffered to harangue us at the bar in support of his views. If in the
present case we depart from a general rule which everybody must admit to
be a very wholesome one, what inference can reasonably be drawn from
our conduct, except this, that we think the petition which we are now
considering entitled to extraordinary respect, and that we have not
fully made up our minds to refuse what the petitioners ask? Now, Sir, I
have fully made up my mind to resist to the last the change which they
urge us to make in the constitution of the kingdom. I therefore think
that I should act disingenuously if I gave my voice for calling in
orators whose eloquence, I am certain, will make no alteration in my
opinion. I think too that if, after voting for hearing the petitioners,
I should then vote against granting their prayer, I should give them
just ground for accusing me of having first encouraged and then deserted
them. That accusation, at least, they shall never bring against me.

The honourable Member for Westminster (Mr Leader.) has expressed a
hope that the language of the petition will not be subjected to severe
criticism. If he means literary criticism, I entirely agree with him.
The style of this composition is safe from any censure of mine; but the
substance it is absolutely necessary that we should closely examine.
What the petitioners demand is this, that we do forthwith pass what is
called the People's Charter into a law without alteration, diminution,
or addition. This is the prayer in support of which the honourable
Member for Finsbury would have us hear an argument at the bar. Is it
then reasonable to say, as some gentlemen have said, that, in voting for
the honourable Member's motion, they mean to vote merely for an inquiry
into the causes of the public distress? If any gentleman thinks that an
inquiry into the causes of the public distress would be useful, let him
move for such an inquiry. I will not oppose it. But this petition does
not tell us to inquire. It tells us that we are not to inquire. It
directs us to pass a certain law word for word, and to pass it without
the smallest delay.

I shall, Sir, notwithstanding the request or command of the petitioners,
venture to exercise my right of free speech on the subject of the
People's Charter. There is, among the six points of the Charter, one for
which I have voted. There is another of which I decidedly approve. There
are others as to which, though I do not agree with the petitioners, I
could go some way to meet them. In fact, there is only one of the six
points on which I am diametrically opposed to them: but unfortunately
that point happens to be infinitely the most important of the six.

One of the six points is the ballot. I have voted for the ballot; and I
have seen no reason to change my opinion on that subject.

Another point is the abolition of the pecuniary qualification for
members of this House. On that point I cordially agree with the
petitioners. You have established a sufficient pecuniary qualification
for the elector; and it therefore seems to me quite superfluous to
require a pecuniary qualification from the representative. Everybody
knows that many English members have only fictitious qualifications, and
that the members for Scotch cities and boroughs are not required to
have any qualification at all. It is surely absurd to admit the
representatives of Edinburgh and Glasgow without any qualification, and
at the same time to require the representative of Finsbury or Marylebone
to possess a qualification or the semblance of one. If the qualification
really be a security for respectability, let that security be
demanded from us who sit here for Scotch towns. If, as I believe, the
qualification is no security at all, why should we require it from
anybody? It is no part of the old constitution of the realm. It was
first established in the reign of Anne. It was established by a bad
parliament for a bad purpose. It was, in fact, part of a course of
legislation which, if it had not been happily interrupted, would have
ended in the repeal of the Toleration Act and of the Act of Settlement.

The Chartists demand annual parliaments. There, certainly, I differ from
them; but I might, perhaps, be willing to consent to some compromise. I
differ from them also as to the expediency of paying the representatives
of the people, and of dividing the country into electoral districts.
But I do not consider these matters as vital. The kingdom might, I
acknowledge, be free, great, and happy, though the members of this house
received salaries, and though the present boundaries of counties and
boroughs were superseded by new lines of demarcation. These, Sir,
are subordinate questions. I do not of course mean that they are not
important. But they are subordinate when compared with that question
which still remains to be considered. The essence of the Charter is
universal suffrage. If you withhold that, it matters not very much what
else you grant. If you grant that, it matters not at all what else you
withhold. If you grant that, the country is lost.

I have no blind attachment to ancient usages. I altogether disclaim what
has been nicknamed the doctrine of finality. I have said enough to-night
to show that I do not consider the settlement made by the Reform Bill
as one which can last for ever. I certainly do think that an extensive
change in the polity of a nation must be attended with serious evils.
Still those evils may be overbalanced by advantages: and I am perfectly
ready, in every case, to weigh the evils against the advantages, and to
judge as well as I can which scale preponderates. I am bound by no tie
to oppose any reform which I think likely to promote the public good. I
will go so far as to say that I do not quite agree with those who think
that they have proved the People's Charter to be absurd when they have
proved that it is incompatible with the existence of the throne and
of the peerage. For, though I am a faithful and loyal subject of Her
Majesty, and though I sincerely wish to see the House of Lords powerful
and respected, I cannot consider either monarchy or aristocracy as the
ends of government. They are only means. Nations have flourished without
hereditary sovereigns or assemblies of nobles; and, though I should be
very sorry to see England a republic, I do not doubt that she might, as
a republic, enjoy prosperity, tranquillity, and high consideration.
The dread and aversion with which I regard universal suffrage would be
greatly diminished, if I could believe that the worst effect which it
would produce would be to give us an elective first magistrate and a
senate instead of a Queen and a House of Peers. My firm conviction is
that, in our country, universal suffrage is incompatible, not with this
or that form of government, but with all forms of government, and with
everything for the sake of which forms of government exist; that it is
incompatible with property, and that it is consequently incompatible
with civilisation.

It is not necessary for me in this place to go through the arguments
which prove beyond dispute that on the security of property civilisation
depends; that, where property is insecure, no climate however delicious,
no soil however fertile, no conveniences for trade and navigation, no
natural endowments of body or of mind, can prevent a nation from sinking
into barbarism; that where, on the other hand, men are protected in
the enjoyment of what has been created by their industry and laid up
by their self-denial, society will advance in arts and in wealth
notwithstanding the sterility of the earth and the inclemency of the
air, notwithstanding heavy taxes and destructive wars. Those persons who
say that England has been greatly misgoverned, that her legislation is
defective, that her wealth has been squandered in unjust and impolitic
contests with America and with France, do in fact bear the strongest
testimony to the truth of my doctrine. For that our country has made and
is making great progress in all that contributes to the material comfort
of man is indisputable. If that progress cannot be ascribed to
the wisdom of the Government, to what can we ascribe it but to the
diligence, the energy, the thrift of individuals? And to what can we
ascribe that diligence, that energy, that thrift, except to the security
which property has during many generations enjoyed here? Such is the
power of this great principle that, even in the last war, the most
costly war, beyond all comparison, that ever was waged in this world,
the Government could not lavish wealth so fast as the productive classes
created it.

If it be admitted that on the institution of property the wellbeing
of society depends, it follows surely that it would be madness to give
supreme power in the state to a class which would not be likely to
respect that institution. And, if this be conceded, it seems to me to
follow that it would be madness to grant the prayer of this petition. I
entertain no hope that, if we place the government of the kingdom in the
hands of the majority of the males of one-and-twenty told by the head,
the institution of property will be respected. If I am asked why I
entertain no such hope, I answer, because the hundreds of thousands of
males of twenty-one who have signed this petition tell me to entertain
no such hope; because they tell me that, if I trust them with power, the
first use which they will make of it will be to plunder every man in the
kingdom who has a good coat on his back and a good roof over his head.
God forbid that I should put an unfair construction on their language!
I will read their own words. This petition, be it remembered, is an
authoritative declaration of the wishes of those who, if the Charter
ever becomes law, will return the great majority of the House of
Commons; and these are their words: "Your petitioners complain, that
they are enormously taxed to pay the interest of what is called the
national debt, a debt amounting at present to eight hundred millions,
being only a portion of the enormous amount expended in cruel and
expensive wars for the suppression of all liberty by men not authorised
by the people, and who consequently had no right to tax posterity
for the outrages committed by them upon mankind." If these words mean
anything, they mean that the present generation is not bound to pay the
public debt incurred by our rulers in past times, and that a national
bankruptcy would be both just and politic. For my part, I believe it to
be impossible to make any distinction between the right of a fundholder
to his dividends and the right of a landowner to his rents. And, to do
the petitioners justice, I must say that they seem to be much of the
same mind. They are for dealing with fundholder and landowner alike.
They tell us that nothing will "unshackle labour from its misery, until
the people possess that power under which all monopoly and oppression
must cease; and your petitioners respectfully mention the existing
monopolies of the suffrage, of paper money, of machinery, of land, of
the public press, of religion, of the means of travelling and transit,
and a host of other evils too numerous to mention, all arising from
class legislation." Absurd as this hubbub of words is, part of it is
intelligible enough. What can the monopoly of land mean, except property
in land? The only monopoly of land which exists in England is this, that
nobody can sell an acre of land which does not belong to him. And what
can the monopoly of machinery mean but property in machinery? Another
monopoly which is to cease is the monopoly of the means of travelling.
In other words all the canal property and railway property in the
kingdom is to be confiscated. What other sense do the words bear? And
these are only specimens of the reforms which, in the language of the
petition, are to unshackle labour from its misery. There remains,
it seems, a host of similar monopolies too numerous to mention; the
monopoly I presume, which a draper has of his own stock of cloth; the
monopoly which a hatter has of his own stock of hats; the monopoly
which we all have of our furniture, bedding, and clothes. In short, the
petitioners ask you to give them power in order that they may not leave
a man of a hundred a year in the realm.

I am far from wishing to throw any blame on the ignorant crowds which
have flocked to the tables where this petition was exhibited. Nothing
is more natural than that the labouring people should be deceived by the
arts of such men as the author of this absurd and wicked composition.
We ourselves, with all our advantages of education, are often very
credulous, very impatient, very shortsighted, when we are tried by
pecuniary distress or bodily pain. We often resort to means of immediate
relief which, as Reason tells us, if we would listen to her, are certain
to aggravate our sufferings. Men of great abilities and knowledge have
ruined their estates and their constitutions in this way. How then
can we wonder that men less instructed than ourselves, and tried by
privations such as we have never known, should be easily misled
by mountebanks who promise impossibilities? Imagine a well-meaning
laborious mechanic, fondly attached to his wife and children. Bad times
come. He sees the wife whom he loves grow thinner and paler every day.
His little ones cry for bread, and he has none to give them. Then come
the professional agitators, the tempters, and tell him that there is
enough and more than enough for everybody, and that he has too little
only because landed gentlemen, fundholders, bankers, manufacturers,
railway proprietors, shopkeepers have too much. Is it strange that the
poor man should be deluded, and should eagerly sign such a petition as
this? The inequality with which wealth is distributed forces itself
on everybody's notice. It is at once perceived by the eye. The reasons
which irrefragably prove this inequality to be necessary to the
wellbeing of all classes are not equally obvious. Our honest working man
has not received such an education as enables him to understand that the
utmost distress that he has ever known is prosperity when compared with
the distress which he would have to endure if there were a single month
of general anarchy and plunder. But you say, it is not the fault of the
labourer that he is not well educated. Most true. It is not his fault.
But, though he has no share in the fault, he will, if you are foolish
enough to give him supreme power in the state, have a very large share
of the punishment. You say that, if the Government had not culpably
omitted to establish a good system of public instruction, the
petitioners would have been fit for the elective franchise. But is that
a reason for giving them the franchise when their own petition proves
that they are not fit for it; when they give us fair notice that, if we
let them have it, they will use it to our ruin and their own? It is not
necessary now to inquire whether, with universal education, we could
safely have universal suffrage. What we are asked to do is to give
universal suffrage before there is universal education. Have I any
unkind feeling towards these poor people? No more than I have to a
sick friend who implores me to give him a glass of iced water which the
physician has forbidden. No more than a humane collector in India has
to those poor peasants who in a season of scarcity crowd round the
granaries and beg with tears and piteous gestures that the doors may be
opened and the rice distributed. I would not give the draught of water,
because I know that it would be poison. I would not give up the keys of
the granary, because I know that, by doing so, I should turn a scarcity
into a famine. And in the same way I would not yield to the importunity
of multitudes who, exasperated by suffering and blinded by ignorance,
demand with wild vehemence the liberty to destroy themselves.

But it is said, You must not attach so much importance to this petition.
It is very foolish, no doubt, and disgraceful to the author, be he who
he may. But you must not suppose that those who signed it approve of
it. They have merely put their names or their marks without weighing the
sense of the document which they subscribed. Surely, Sir, of all reasons
that ever were given for receiving a petition with peculiar honours, the
strangest is that it expresses sentiments diametrically opposed to
the real sentiments of those who have signed it. And it is a not less
strange reason for giving men supreme power in a state that they sign
political manifestoes of the highest importance without taking the
trouble to know what the contents are. But how is it possible for us to
believe that, if the petitioners had the power which they demand,
they would not use it as they threaten? During a long course of years,
numerous speakers and writers, some of them ignorant, others dishonest,
have been constantly representing the Government as able to do, and
bound to do, things which no Government can, without great injury to the
country, attempt to do. Every man of sense knows that the people support
the Government. But the doctrine of the Chartist philosophers is that it
is the business of the Government to support the people. It is supposed
by many that our rulers possess, somewhere or other, an inexhaustible
storehouse of all the necessaries and conveniences of life, and, from
mere hardheartedness, refuse to distribute the contents of this magazine
among the poor. We have all of us read speeches and tracts in which it
seemed to be taken for granted that we who sit here have the power of
working miracles, of sending a shower of manna on the West Riding,
of striking the earth and furnishing all the towns of Lancashire with
abundance of pure water, of feeding all the cotton-spinners and weavers
who are out of work with five loaves and two fishes. There is not a
working man who has not heard harangues and read newspapers in which
these follies are taught. And do you believe that as soon as you give
the working men absolute and irresistible power they will forget all
this? Yes, Sir, absolute and irresistible power. The Charter would
give them no less. In every constituent body throughout the empire
the working men will, if we grant the prayer of this petition, be an
irresistible majority. In every constituent body capital will be placed
at the feet of labour; knowledge will be borne down by ignorance; and is
it possible to doubt what the result must be? The honourable Member for
Bath and the honourable Member for Rochdale are now considered as very
democratic members of Parliament. They would occupy a very different
position in a House of Commons elected by universal suffrage, if they
succeeded in obtaining seats. They would, I believe, honestly oppose
every attempt to rob the public creditor. They would manfully say,
"Justice and the public good require that this sum of thirty millions
a year should be paid;" and they would immediately be reviled as
aristocrats, monopolists, oppressors of the poor, defenders of old
abuses. And as to land, is it possible to believe that the millions who
have been so long and loudly told that the land is their estate, and is
wrongfully kept from them, should not, when they have supreme power, use
that power to enforce what they think their rights? What could follow
but one vast spoliation? One vast spoliation! That would be bad enough.
That would be the greatest calamity that ever fell on our country. Yet
would that a single vast spoliation were the worst! No, Sir; in the
lowest deep there would be a lower deep. The first spoliation would not
be the last. How could it? All the causes which had produced the first
spoliation would still operate. They would operate more powerfully than
before. The distress would be far greater than before. The fences which
now protect property would all have been broken through, levelled, swept
away. The new proprietors would have no title to show to anything that
they held except recent robbery. With what face then could they complain
of being robbed? What would be the end of these things? Our experience,
God be praised, does not enable us to predict it with certainty. We can
only guess. My guess is that we should see something more horrible than
can be imagined--something like the siege of Jerusalem on a far larger
scale. There would be many millions of human beings, crowded in a narrow
space, deprived of all those resources which alone had made it possible
for them to exist in so narrow a space; trade gone; manufactures gone;
credit gone. What could they do but fight for the mere sustenance
of nature, and tear each other to pieces till famine, and pestilence
following in the train of famine, came to turn the terrible commotion
into a more terrible repose? The best event, the very best event, that I
can anticipate,--and what must the state of things be, if an Englishman
and a Whig calls such an event the very best?--the very best event,
I say, that I can anticipate is that out of the confusion a strong
military despotism may arise, and that the sword, firmly grasped by some
rough hand, may give a sort of protection to the miserable wreck of all
that immense prosperity and glory. But, as to the noble institutions
under which our country has made such progress in liberty, in wealth,
in knowledge, in arts, do not deceive yourselves into the belief that
we should ever see them again. We should never see them again. We should
not deserve to see them. All those nations which envy our greatness
would insult our downfall, a downfall which would be all our own work;
and the history of our calamities would be told thus: England had
institutions which, though imperfect, yet contained within themselves
the means of remedying every imperfection; those institutions her
legislators wantonly and madly threw away; nor could they urge in their
excuse even the wretched plea that they were deceived by false promises;
for, in the very petition with the prayer of which they were weak enough
to comply, they were told, in the plainest terms, that public ruin would
be the effect of their compliance.

Thinking thus, Sir, I will oppose, with every faculty which God has
given me, every motion which directly or indirectly tends to the
granting of universal suffrage. This motion I think, tends that way.
If any gentleman here is prepared to vote for universal suffrage with a
full view of all the consequences of universal suffrage as they are set
forth in this petition, he acts with perfect consistency in voting for
this motion. But, I must say, I heard with some surprise the honourable
baronet the Member for Leicester (Sir John Easthope.) say that, though
he utterly disapproves of the petition, though he thinks of it just as
I do, he wishes the petitioners to be heard at the bar in explanation
of their opinions. I conceive that their opinions are quite sufficiently
explained already; and to such opinions I am not disposed to pay any
extraordinary mark of respect. I shall give a clear and conscientious
vote against the motion of the honourable Member for Finsbury; and I
conceive that the petitioners will have much less reason to complain
of my open hostility than of the conduct of the honourable Member, who
tries to propitiate them by consenting to hear their oratory, but has
fully made up his mind not to comply with their demands.



On the ninth of March 1843, Mr Vernon Smith, Member for Northampton,
made the following motion:

"That this House, having regard to the high and important functions
of the Governor General of India, the mixed character of the native
population, and the recent measures of the Court of Directors for
discontinuing any seeming sanction to idolatry in India, is of opinion
that the conduct of Lord Ellenborough in issuing the General Orders of
the sixteenth of November 1842, and in addressing the letter of the same
date to all the chiefs, princes, and people of India, respecting the
restoration of the gates of a temple to Somnauth, is unwise, indecorous,
and reprehensible."

Mr Emerson Tennent, Secretary of the Board of Control, opposed the
motion. In reply to him the following Speech was made.

The motion was rejected by 242 votes to 157.

Mr Speaker,--If the practice of the honourable gentleman, the Secretary
of the Board of Control, had been in accordance with his precepts, if he
had not, after exhorting us to confine ourselves strictly to the subject
before us, rambled far from that subject, I should have refrained from
all digression. For and truth there is abundance to be said touching
both the substance and the style of this Proclamation. I cannot,
however, leave the honourable gentleman's peroration entirely unnoticed.
But I assure him that I do not mean to wander from the question before
us to any great distance or for any long time.

I cannot but wonder, Sir, that he who has, on this, as on former
occasions, exhibited so much ability and acuteness, should have gravely
represented it as a ground of complaint, that my right honourable
friend the Member for Northampton has made this motion in the Governor
General's absence. Does the honourable gentleman mean that this House
is to be interdicted from ever considering in what manner Her Majesty's
Asiatic subjects, a hundred millions in number, are governed? And how
can we consider how they are governed without considering the conduct
of him who is governing them? And how can we consider the conduct of him
who is governing them, except in his absence? For my own part, I can say
for myself, and I may, I doubt not, say for my right honourable friend
the Member for Northampton, that we both of us wish, with all our hearts
and souls, that we were discussing this question in the presence of
Lord Ellenborough. Would to heaven, Sir, for the sake of the credit of
England, and of the interests of India, that the noble lord were at this
moment under our gallery! But, Sir, if there be any Governor who has
no right to complain of remarks made on him in his absence, it is that
Governor who, forgetting all official decorum, forgetting how important
it is that, while the individuals who serve the State are changed, the
State should preserve its identity, inserted in a public proclamation
reflections on his predecessor, a predecessor of whom, on the present
occasion, I will only say that his conduct had deserved a very different
return. I am confident that no enemy of Lord Auckland, if Lord Auckland
has an enemy in the House, will deny that, whatever faults he may
have committed, he was faultless with respect to Lord Ellenborough. No
brother could have laboured more assiduously for the interests and
the honour of a brother than Lord Auckland laboured to facilitate Lord
Ellenborough's arduous task, to prepare for Lord Ellenborough the
means of obtaining success and glory. And what was the requital? A
proclamation by Lord Ellenborough, stigmatising the conduct of Lord
Auckland. And, Sir, since the honourable gentleman the Secretary of the
Board of Control has thought fit to divert the debate from its proper
course, I will venture to request that he, or the honourable director
who sits behind him (Sir James Hogg.), will vouchsafe to give us some
explanations on an important point to which allusion has been made.
Lord Ellenborough has been accused of having publicly announced that our
troops were about to evacuate Afghanistan before he had ascertained that
our captive countrymen and countrywomen had been restored to liberty.
This accusation, which is certainly a serious one, the honourable
gentleman, the Secretary of the Board of Control, pronounces to be a
mere calumny. Now, Sir, the proclamation which announces the withdrawing
of the troops bears date the first of October 1842. What I wish to know
is, whether any member of the Government, or of the Court of Directors,
will venture to affirm that on the first of October 1842, the Governor
General knew that the prisoners had been set at liberty? I believe that
no member either of the Government or of the Court of Directors will
venture to affirm any such thing. It seems certain that on the first
of October the Governor General could not know that the prisoners were
safe. Nevertheless, the honourable gentleman the Secretary of the Board
of Control assures us that, when the proclamation was drawn up, the
Governor General did know that the prisoners were safe. What is the
inevitable consequence? It is this, that the date is a false date, that
the proclamation was written after the first of October, and antedated?
And for what reason was it antedated? I am almost ashamed to tell
the House what I believe to have been the reason. I believe that Lord
Ellenborough affixed the false date of the first of October to his
proclamation because Lord Auckland's manifesto against Afghanistan was
dated on the first of October. I believe that Lord Ellenborough wished
to make the contrast between his own success and his predecessor's
failure more striking, and that for the sake of this paltry, this
childish, triumph, he antedated his proclamation, and made it appear to
all Europe and all Asia that the English Government was indifferent
to the fate of Englishmen and Englishwomen who were in a miserable
captivity. If this be so, and I shall be surprised to hear any person
deny that it is so, I must say that by this single act, by writing those
words, the first of October, the Governor General proved himself to be a
man of an ill-regulated mind, a man unfit for high public trust.

I might, Sir, if I chose to follow the example of the honourable
gentleman the Secretary of the Board of Control, advert to many other
matters. I might call the attention of the House to the systematic
manner in which the Governor General has exerted himself to lower
the character and to break the spirit of that civil service on the
respectability and efficiency of which chiefly depends the happiness of
a hundred millions of human beings. I might say much about the financial
committee which he appointed in the hope of finding out blunders of his
predecessor, but which at last found out no blunders except his own.
But the question before us demands our attention. That question has two
sides, a serious and a ludicrous side. Let us look first at the serious
side. Sir, I disclaim in the strongest manner all intention of raising
any fanatical outcry or of lending aid to any fanatical project. I would
very much rather be the victim of fanaticism than its tool. If Lord
Ellenborough were called in question for having given an impartial
protection to the professors of different religions, or for restraining
unjustifiable excesses into which Christian missionaries might have been
hurried by their zeal, I would, widely as I have always differed from
him in politics, have stood up in his defence, though I had stood up
alone. But the charge against Lord Ellenborough is that he has insulted
the religion of his own country and the religion of millions of the
Queen's Asiatic subjects in order to pay honour to an idol. And this the
right honourable gentleman the Secretary of the Board of Control calls a
trivial charge. Sir, I think it a very grave charge. Her Majesty is the
ruler of a larger heathen population than the world ever saw collected
under the sceptre of a Christian sovereign since the days of the Emperor
Theodosius. What the conduct of rulers in such circumstances ought to be
is one of the most important moral questions, one of the most important
political questions, that it is possible to conceive. There are subject
to the British rule in Asia a hundred millions of people who do not
profess the Christian faith. The Mahometans are a minority: but their
importance is much more than proportioned to their number: for they are
an united, a zealous, an ambitious, a warlike class. The great majority
of the population of India consists of idolaters, blindly attached
to doctrines and rites which, considered merely with reference to the
temporal interests of mankind, are in the highest degree pernicious. In
no part of the world has a religion ever existed more unfavourable to
the moral and intellectual health of our race. The Brahminical mythology
is so absurd that it necessarily debases every mind which receives it
as truth; and with this absurd mythology is bound up an absurd system of
physics, an absurd geography, an absurd astronomy. Nor is this form
of Paganism more favourable to art than to science. Through the whole
Hindoo Pantheon you will look in vain for anything resembling those
beautiful and majestic forms which stood in the shrines of ancient
Greece. All is hideous, and grotesque, and ignoble. As this superstition
is of all superstitions the most irrational, and of all superstitions
the most inelegant, so is it of all superstitions the most immoral.
Emblems of vice are objects of public worship. Acts of vice are acts of
public worship. The courtesans are as much a part of the establishment
of the temple, as much ministers of the god, as the priests. Crimes
against life, crimes against property, are not only permitted but
enjoined by this odious theology. But for our interference human victims
would still be offered to the Ganges, and the widow would still be laid
on the pile with the corpse of her husband, and burned alive by her own
children. It is by the command and under the especial protection of one
of the most powerful goddesses that the Thugs join themselves to the
unsuspecting traveller, make friends with him, slip the noose round his
neck, plunge their knives in his eyes, hide him in the earth, and divide
his money and baggage. I have read many examinations of Thugs; and I
particularly remember an altercation which took place between two
of those wretches in the presence of an English officer. One Thug
reproached the other for having been so irreligious as to spare the life
of a traveller when the omens indicated that their patroness required
a victim. "How could you let him go? How can you expect the goddess
to protect us if you disobey her commands? That is one of your North
country heresies." Now, Sir, it is a difficult matter to determine
in what way Christian rulers ought to deal with such superstitions as
these. We might have acted as the Spaniards acted in the New World. We
might have attempted to introduce our own religion by force. We might
have sent missionaries among the natives at the public charge. We might
have held out hopes of public employment to converts, and have imposed
civil disabilities on Mahometans and Pagans. But we did none of these
things; and herein we judged wisely. Our duty, as rulers, was to
preserve strict neutrality on all questions merely religious: and I
am not aware that we have ever swerved from strict neutrality for the
purpose of making proselytes to our own faith. But we have, I am
sorry to say, sometimes deviated from the right path in the opposite
direction. Some Englishmen, who have held high office in India, seem to
have thought that the only religion which was not entitled to toleration
and to respect was Christianity. They regarded every Christian
missionary with extreme jealousy and disdain; and they suffered the
most atrocious crimes, if enjoined by the Hindoo superstition, to be
perpetrated in open day. It is lamentable to think how long after our
power was firmly established in Bengal, we, grossly neglecting the first
and plainest duty of the civil magistrate, suffered the practices of
infanticide and Suttee to continue unchecked. We decorated the temples
of the false gods. We provided the dancing girls. We gilded and painted
the images to which our ignorant subjects bowed down. We repaired and
embellished the car under the wheels of which crazy devotees flung
themselves at every festival to be crushed to death. We sent guards of
honour to escort pilgrims to the places of worship. We actually made
oblations at the shrines of idols. All this was considered, and is
still considered, by some prejudiced Anglo-Indians of the old school, as
profound policy. I believe that there never was so shallow, so senseless
a policy. We gained nothing by it. We lowered ourselves in the eyes of
those whom we meant to flatter. We led them to believe that we attached
no importance to the difference between Christianity and heathenism.
Yet how vast that difference is! I altogether abstain from alluding to
topics which belong to divines. I speak merely as a politician anxious
for the morality and the temporal well-being of society. And, so
speaking, I say that to countenance the Brahminical idolatry, and to
discountenance that religion which has done so much to promote justice,
and mercy, and freedom, and arts, and sciences, and good government, and
domestic happiness, which has struck off the chains of the slave, which
has mitigated the horrors of war, which has raised women from servants
and playthings into companions and friends, is to commit high treason
against humanity and civilisation.

Gradually a better system was introduced. A great man whom we have
lately lost, Lord Wellesley, led the way. He prohibited the immolation
of female children; and this was the most unquestionable of all his
titles to the gratitude of his country. In the year 1813 Parliament
gave new facilities to persons who were desirous to proceed to India
as missionaries. Lord William Bentinck abolished the Suttee. Shortly
afterwards the Home Government sent out to Calcutta the important and
valuable despatch to which reference has been repeatedly made in the
course of this discussion. That despatch Lord Glenelg wrote,--I was then
at the Board of Control, and can attest the fact,--with his own hand.
One paragraph, the sixty-second, is of the highest moment. I know that
paragraph so well that I could repeat it word for word. It contains in
short compass an entire code of regulations for the guidance of British
functionaries in matters relating to the idolatry of India. The orders
of the Home Government were express, that the arrangements of the
temples should be left entirely to the natives. A certain discretion
was of course left to the local authorities as to the time and manner
of dissolving that connection which had long existed between the English
Government and the Brahminical superstition. But the principle was laid
down in the clearest manner. This was in February 1833. In the year 1838
another despatch was sent, which referred to the sixty-second paragraph
in Lord Glenelg's despatch, and enjoined the Indian Government to
observe the rules contained in that paragraph. Again, in the year 1841,
precise orders were sent out on the same subject, orders which Lord
Ellenborough seems to me to have studied carefully for the express
purpose of disobeying them point by point, and in the most direct
manner. You murmur: but only look at the orders of the Directors and at
the proclamation of the Governor General. The orders are, distinctly and
positively, that the British authorities in India shall have nothing
to do with the temples of the natives, shall make no presents to those
temples, shall not decorate those temples, shall not pay any military
honour to those temples. Now, Sir, the first charge which I bring
against Lord Ellenborough is, that he has been guilty of an act of gross
disobedience, that he has done that which was forbidden in the strongest
terms by those from whom his power is derived. The Home Government says,
Do not interfere in the concerns of heathen temples. Is it denied that
Lord Ellenborough has interfered in the concerns of a heathen temple?
The Home Government says, Make no presents to heathen temples. Is
it denied that Lord Ellenborough has proclaimed to all the world his
intention to make a present to a heathen temple? The Home Government
says, Do not decorate heathen temples. Is it denied that Lord
Ellenborough has proclaimed to all the world his intention to decorate
a heathen temple? The Home Government says, Do not send troops to do
honour to heathen temples. Is it denied that Lord Ellenborough sent a
body of troops to escort these gates to a heathen temple? To be sure,
the honourable gentleman the Secretary of the Board of Control tries to
get rid of this part of the case in rather a whimsical manner. He says
that it is impossible to believe that, by sending troops to escort the
gates, Lord Ellenborough can have meant to pay any mark of respect to
an idol. And why? Because, says the honourable gentleman, the Court of
Directors had given positive orders that troops should not be employed
to pay marks of respect to idols. Why, Sir, undoubtedly, if it is to be
taken for granted that Lord Ellenborough is a perfect man, if all our
reasonings are to proceed on the supposition that he cannot do wrong,
then I admit the force of the honourable gentleman's argument. But it
seems to me a strange and dangerous thing to infer a man's innocence
merely from the flagrancy of his guilt. It is certain that the Home
authorities ordered the Governor General not to employ the troops in the
service of a temple. It is certain that Lord Ellenborough employed the
troops to escort a trophy, an oblation, which he sent to the restored
temple of Somnauth. Yes, the restored temple of Somnauth. Those are his
lordship's words. They have given rise to some discussion, and seem not
to be understood by everybody in the same sense. We all know that this
temple is an ruins. I am confident that Lord Ellenborough knew it to be
in ruins, and that his intention was to rebuild it at the public charge.
That is the obvious meaning of his words. But, as this meaning is so
monstrous that nobody here can venture to defend it, his friends pretend
that he believed the temple to have been already restored, and that he
had no thought of being himself the restorer. How can I believe this?
How can I believe that, when he issued this proclamation, he knew
nothing about the state of the temple to which he proposed to make an
offering of such importance? He evidently knew that it had once been in
ruins; or he would not have called it the restored temple. Why am I to
suppose that he imagined it to have been rebuilt? He had people about
him who knew it well, and who could have told him that it was in ruins
still. To say that he was not aware that it was in ruins is to say that
he put forth his proclamation without taking the trouble to ask a single
question of those who were close at hand and were perfectly competent to
give him information. Why, Sir, this defence is itself an accusation. I
defy the honourable gentleman the Secretary of the Board of Control, I
defy all human ingenuity, to get his lordship clear off from both the
horns of this dilemma. Either way, he richly deserves a parliamentary
censure. Either he published this proclamation in the recklessness of
utter ignorance without making the smallest inquiry; or else he, an
English and a Christian Governor, meant to build a temple to a heathen
god at the public charge, in direct defiance of the commands of his
official superiors. Turn and twist the matter which way you will, you
can make nothing else of it. The stain is like the stain of Blue Beard's
key, in the nursery tale. As soon as you have scoured one side clean,
the spot comes out on the other.

So much for the first charge, the charge of disobedience. It is fully
made out: but it is not the heaviest charge which I bring against Lord
Ellenborough. I charge him with having done that which, even if it had
not been, as it was, strictly forbidden by the Home authorities, it
would still have been a high crime to do. He ought to have known,
without any instructions from home, that it was his duty not to take
part in disputes among the false religions of the East; that it was his
duty, in his official character, to show no marked preference for any of
those religions, and to offer no marked insult to any. But, Sir, he has
paid unseemly homage to one of those religions; he has grossly insulted
another; and he has selected as the object of his homage the very worst
and most degrading of those religions, and as the object of his insults
the best and purest of them. The homage was paid to Lingamism. The
insult was offered to Mahometanism. Lingamism is not merely idolatry,
but idolatry in its most pernicious form. The honourable gentleman the
Secretary of the Board of Control seemed to think that he had achieved
a great victory when he had made out that his lordship's devotions had
been paid, not to Vishnu, but to Siva. Sir, Vishnu is the preserving
Deity of the Hindoo Mythology; Siva is the destroying Deity; and, as far
as I have any preference for one of your Governor General's gods over
another, I confess that my own tastes would lead me to prefer the
preserving to the destroying power. Yes, Sir; the temple of Somnauth
was sacred to Siva; and the honourable gentleman cannot but know by what
emblem Siva is represented, and with what rites he is adored. I will say
no more. The Governor General, Sir, is in some degree protected by the
very magnitude of his offence. I am ashamed to name those things
to which he is not ashamed to pay public reverence. This god of
destruction, whose images and whose worship it would be a violation of
decency to describe, is selected as the object of homage. As the object
of insult is selected a religion which has borrowed much of its theology
and much of its morality from Christianity, a religion which in the
midst of Polytheism teaches the unity of God, and, in the midst of
idolatry, strictly proscribes the worship of images. The duty of our
Government is, as I said, to take no part in the disputes between
Mahometans and idolaters. But, if our Government does take a part, there
cannot be a doubt that Mahometanism is entitled to the preference. Lord
Ellenborough is of a different opinion. He takes away the gates from a
Mahometan mosque, and solemnly offers them as a gift to a Pagan temple.
Morally, this is a crime. Politically, it is a blunder. Nobody who knows
anything of the Mahometans of India can doubt that this affront to their
faith will excite their fiercest indignation. Their susceptibility on
such points is extreme. Some of the most serious disasters that have
ever befallen us in India have been caused by that susceptibility.
Remember what happened at Vellore in 1806, and more recently at
Bangalore. The mutiny of Vellore was caused by a slight shown to the
Mahometan turban; the mutiny of Bangalore, by disrespect said to have
been shown to a Mahometan place of worship. If a Governor General had
been induced by his zeal for Christianity to offer any affront to a
mosque held in high veneration by Mussulmans, I should think that he had
been guilty of indiscretion such as proved him to be unfit for his
post. But to affront a mosque of peculiar dignity, not from zeal for
Christianity, but for the sake of this loathsome god of destruction, is
nothing short of madness. Some temporary popularity Lord Ellenborough
may no doubt gain in some quarters. I hear, and I can well believe, that
some bigoted Hindoos have hailed this proclamation with delight, and
have begun to entertain a hope that the British Government is about to
take their worship under its peculiar protection. But how long will that
hope last? I presume that the right honourable Baronet the First Lord of
the Treasury does not mean to suffer India to be governed on Brahminical
principles. I presume that he will not allow the public revenue to be
expended in rebuilding temples, adorning idols, and hiring courtesans.
I have no doubt that there is already on the way to India such an
admonition as will prevent Lord Ellenborough from persisting in the
course on which he has entered. The consequence will be that the
exultation of the Brahmins will end in mortification and anger. See
then of what a complication of faults the Governor General is guilty.
In order to curry favour with the Hindoos he has offered an inexpiable
insult to the Mahometans; and now, in order to quiet the English, he
is forced to disappoint and disgust the Hindoos. But, apart from the
irritating effect which these transactions must produce on every part of
the native population, is it no evil to have this continual wavering and
changing? This is not the only case in which Lord Ellenborough has, with
great pomp, announced intentions which he has not been able to carry
into effect. It is his Lordship's habit. He put forth a notification
that his Durbar was to be honoured by the presence of Dost Mahomed.
Then came a notification that Dost Mahomed would not make his appearance
there. In the proclamation which we are now considering his lordship
announced to all the princes of India his resolution to set up these
gates at Somnauth. The gates, it is now universally admitted, will
not be set up there. All India will see that the Governor General has
changed his mind. The change may be imputed to mere fickleness and
levity. It may be imputed to the disapprobation with which his conduct
has been regarded here. In either case he appears in a light in which it
is much to be deplored that a Governor General should appear.

So much for the serious side of this business; and now for the ludicrous
side. Even in our mirth, however, there is sadness; for it is no light
thing that he who represents the British nation in India should be a
jest to the people of India. We have sometimes sent them governors whom
they loved, and sometimes governors whom they feared; but they never
before had a governor at whom they laughed. Now, however, they laugh;
and how can we blame them for laughing, when all Europe and all America
are laughing too? You see, Sir, that the gentlemen opposite cannot keep
their countenances. And no wonder. Was such a State paper ever seen in
our language before? And what is the plea set up for all this bombast?
Why, the honourable gentleman the Secretary of the Board of Control
brings down to the House some translations of Persian letters from
native princes. Such letters, as everybody knows, are written in a most
absurd and turgid style. The honourable gentleman forces us to hear
a good deal of this detestable rhetoric; and then he asks why, if the
secretaries of the Nizam and the King of Oude use all these tropes and
hyperboles, Lord Ellenborough should not indulge in the same sort
of eloquence? The honourable gentleman might as well ask why Lord
Ellenborough should not sit cross-legged, why he should not let his
beard grow to his waist, why he should not wear a turban, why he should
not hang trinkets all about his person, why he should not ride about
Calcutta on a horse jingling with bells and glittering with false
pearls. The native princes do these things; and why should not he? Why,
Sir, simply because he is not a native prince, but an English Governor
General. When the people of India see a Nabob or a Rajah in all his
gaudy finery, they bow to him with a certain respect. They know that
the splendour of his garb indicates superior rank and wealth. But if Sir
Charles Metcalfe had so bedizened himself, they would have thought
that he was out of his wits. They are not such fools as the honourable
gentleman takes them for. Simplicity is not their fashion. But they
understand and respect the simplicity of our fashions. Our plain
clothing commands far more reverence than all the jewels which the most
tawdry Zemindar wears; and our plain language carries with it far more
weight than the florid diction of the most ingenious Persian scribe. The
plain language and the plain clothing are inseparably associated in the
minds of our subjects with superior knowledge, with superior energy,
with superior veracity, with all the high and commanding qualities which
erected, and which still uphold, our empire. Sir, if, as the speech of
the honourable gentleman the Secretary of the Board of Control seems to
indicate, Lord Ellenborough has adopted this style on principle, if it
be his lordship's deliberate intention to mimic, in his State papers,
the Asiatic modes of thought and expression, that alone would be a
reason for recalling him. But the honourable gentlemen is mistaken in
thinking that this proclamation is in the Oriental taste. It bears no
resemblance to the very bad Oriental compositions which he has read
to us, nor to any other Oriental compositions that I ever saw. It is
neither English nor Indian. It is not original, however; and I will tell
the House where the Governor General found his models. He has apparently
been studying the rants of the French Jacobins during the period of
their ascendency, the Carmagnoles of the Convention, the proclamations
issued by the Directory and its Proconsuls: and he has been seized with
a desire to imitate those compositions. The pattern which he seems to
have especially proposed to himself is the rhodomontade in which it was
announced that the modern Gauls were marching to Rome in order to avenge
the fate of Dumnorix and Vercingetorex. Everybody remembers those lines
in which revolutionary justice is described by Mr Canning:--

     "Not she in British courts who takes her stand,
     The dawdling balance dangling in her hand;
     But firm, erect, with keen reverted glance,
     The avenging angel of regenerate France,
     Who visits ancient sins on modern times,
     And punishes the Pope for Caesar's crimes."

In the same spirit and in the same style our Governor General has
proclaimed his intention to retaliate on the Mussulmans beyond the
mountains the insults which their ancestors, eight hundred years ago,
offered to the idolatry of the Hindoos. To do justice to the Jacobins,
however, I must say that they had an excuse which was wanting to the
noble lord. The revolution had made almost as great a change in literary
tastes as in political institutions. The old masters of French eloquence
had shared the fate of the old states and of the old parliaments. The
highest posts in the administration were filled by persons who had
no experience of affairs, who in the general confusion had raised
themselves by audacity and quickness of natural parts, uneducated men,
or half educated men, who had no notion that the style in which they had
heard the heroes and villains of tragedies declaim on the stage was
not the style of real warriors and statesmen. But was it for an English
gentleman, a man of distinguished abilities and cultivated mind, a man
who had sate many years in parliament, and filled some of the highest
posts in the State, to copy the productions of such a school?

But, it is said, what does it matter if the noble lord has written
a foolish rhapsody which is neither prose nor verse? Is affected
phraseology a subject for parliamentary censure? What great ruler can be
named who has not committed errors much more serious than the penning of
a few sentences of turgid nonsense? This, I admit, sounds plausible.
It is quite true that very eminent men, Lord Somers, for example, Sir
Robert Walpole, Lord Chatham and his son, all committed faults which did
much more harm than any fault of style can do. But I beg the House to
observe this, that an error which produces the most serious consequences
may not necessarily prove that the man who has committed it is not a
very wise man; and that, on the other hand, an error which directly
produces no important consequences may prove the man who has committed
it to be quite unfit for public trust. Walpole committed a ruinous
error when he yielded to the public cry for war with Spain. But,
notwithstanding that error, he was an eminently wise man. Caligula, on
the other hand, when he marched his soldiers to the beach, made them
fill their helmets with cockle-shells, and sent the shells to be placed
in the Capitol as trophies of his conquests, did no great harm to
anybody; but he surely proved that he was quite incapable of governing
an empire. Mr Pitt's expedition to Quiberon was most ill judged, and
ended in defeat and disgrace. Yet Mr Pitt was a statesman of a very high
order. On the other hand, such ukases as those by which the Emperor
Paul used to regulate the dress of the people of Petersburg, though they
caused much less misery than the slaughter at Quiberon, proved that
the Emperor Paul could not safely be trusted with power over his
fellow-creatures. One day he forbade the wearing of pantaloons. Another
day he forbade his subjects to comb their hair over their foreheads.
Then he proscribed round hats. A young Englishman, the son of a
merchant, thought to evade this decree by going about the city in a
hunting cap. Then came out an edict which made it penal to wear on the
head a round thing such as the English merchant's son wore. Now, Sir,
I say that, when I examine the substance of Lord Ellenborough's
proclamation, and consider all the consequences which that paper is
likely to produce, I am forced to say that he has committed a grave
moral and political offence. When I examine the style, I see that he
has committed an act of eccentric folly, much of the same kind with
Caligula's campaign against the cockles, and with the Emperor Paul's
ukase against round hats. Consider what an extravagant selfconfidence,
what a disdain for the examples of his great predecessors and for the
opinions of the ablest and most experienced men who are now to be found
in the Indian services, this strange document indicates. Surely it might
have occurred to Lord Ellenborough that, if this kind of eloquence had
been likely to produce a favourable impression on the minds of Asiatics,
such Governors as Warren Hastings, Mr Elphinstone, Sir Thomas Munro,
and Sir Charles Metcalfe, men who were as familiar with the language and
manners of the native population of India as any man here can be
with the language and manners of the French, would not have left the
discovery to be made by a new comer who did not know any Eastern tongue.
Surely, too, it might have occurred to the noble lord that, before he
put forth such a proclamation, he would do well to ask some person who
knew India intimately what the effect both on the Mahometans and Hindoos
was likely to be. I firmly believe that the Governor General either did
not ask advice or acted in direct opposition to advice. Mr Maddock was
with his lordship as acting Secretary. Now I know enough of Mr Maddock
to be quite certain that he never counselled the Governor General to
publish such a paper. I will pawn my life that he either was never
called upon to give an opinion, or that he gave an opinion adverse to
the course which has been taken. No Governor General who was on good
terms with the civil service would have been, I may say, permitted to
expose himself thus. Lord William Bentinck and Lord Auckland were, to be
sure, the last men in the world to think of doing such a thing as this.
But if either of those noble lords, at some unlucky moment when he was
not quite himself, when his mind was thrown off the balance by the pride
and delight of an extraordinary success, had proposed to put forth such
a proclamation, he would have been saved from committing so great a
mistake by the respectful but earnest remonstrances of those in whom
he placed confidence, and who were solicitous for his honour. From the
appearance of this proclamation, therefore, I infer that the terms on
which Lord Ellenborough is with the civil servants of the Company are
such that those servants could not venture to offer him counsel when he
most needed it.

For these reasons, Sir, I think the noble lord unfit for high public
trust. Let us, then, consider the nature of the public trust which
is now reposed in him. Are gentlemen aware that, even when he is at
Calcutta, surrounded by his councillors, his single voice can carry any
resolution concerning the executive administration against them all?
They can object: they can protest: they can record their opinions
in writing, and can require him to give in writing his reasons for
persisting in his own course: but they must then submit. On the most
important questions, on the question whether a war shall be declared,
on the question whether a treaty shall be concluded, on the question
whether the whole system of land revenue established in a great province
shall be changed, his single vote weighs down the votes of all who
sit at the Board with him. The right honourable Baronet opposite is a
powerful minister, a more powerful minister than any that we have seen
during many years. But I will venture to say that his power over the
people of England is nothing when compared with the power which the
Governor General possesses over the people of India. Such is Lord
Ellenborough's power when he is with his council, and is to some extent
held in check. But where is he now? He has given his council the slip.
He is alone. He has near him no person who is entitled and bound to
offer advice, asked or unasked: he asks no advice: and you cannot expect
men to outstep the strict line of their official duty by obtruding
advice on a superior by whom it would be ungraciously received. The
danger of having a rash and flighty Governor General is sufficiently
serious at the very best. But the danger of having such a Governor
General up the country, eight or nine hundred miles from any person who
has a right to remonstrate with him, is fearful indeed. Interests so
vast, that the most sober language in which they can be described sounds
hyperbolical, are entrusted to a single man; to a man who, whatever
his parts may be, and they are doubtless considerable, has shown an
indiscretion and temerity almost beyond belief; to a man who has been
only a few months in India; to a man who takes no counsel with those who
are well acquainted with India.

I cannot sit down without addressing myself to those Directors of the
East India Company who are present. I exhort them to consider the heavy
responsibility which rests on them. They have the power to recall Lord
Ellenborough; and I trust that they will not hesitate to exercise that
power. This is the advice of one who has been their servant, who has
served them loyally, and who is still sincerely anxious for their credit
and for the welfare of the empire of which they are the guardians. But
if, from whatever cause, they are unwilling to recall the noble lord,
then I implore them to take care that he be immediately ordered to
return to Calcutta. Who can say what new freak we may hear of by the
next mail? I am quite confident that neither the Court of Directors nor
Her Majesty's Ministers can look forward to the arrival of that mail
without great uneasiness. Therefore I say, send Lord Ellenborough back
to Calcutta. There at least he will find persons who have a right to
advise him and to expostulate with him, and who will, I doubt not, have
also the spirit to do so. It is something that he will be forced to
record his reasons for what he does. It is something that he will be
forced to hear reasons against his propositions. It is something that a
delay, though only of twenty-four hours, will be interposed between the
first conception of a wild scheme and the execution. I am afraid that
these checks will not be sufficient to prevent much evil: but they are
not absolutely nugatory. I entreat the Directors to consider in what
a position they will stand if, in consequence of their neglect, some
serious calamity should befall the country which is confided to their
care. I will only say, in conclusion, that, if there be any use in
having a Council of India, if it be not meant that the members of
Council should draw large salaries for doing nothing, if they are really
appointed for the purpose of assisting and restraining the Governor,
it is to the last degree absurd that their powers should be in abeyance
when there is a Governor who, of all the Governors that ever England
sent to the East, stands most in need both of assistance and of



On the thirteenth of February 1844, Lord John Russell moved for a
Committee of the whole House to take into consideration the state of
Ireland. After a discussion of nine nights the motion was rejected by
324 votes to 225. On the fifth night of the debate the following Speech
was made.

I cannot refrain, Sir, from congratulating you and the House that I
did not catch your eye when I rose before. I should have been extremely
sorry to have prevented any Irish member from addressing the House on a
question so interesting to Ireland, but peculiarly sorry to have stood
in the way of the honourable gentleman who to-night pleaded the cause of
his country with so much force and eloquence. (Mr J. O'Brien.)

I am sorry to say that I cannot reconcile it to my conscience to follow
the advice which has been just given me by my honourable friend the
Member for Pomfret (Mr R. Milnes.), with all the authority which, as he
has reminded us, belongs to his venerable youth. I cannot at all agree
with him in thinking that the wisest thing that we can do is to suffer
Her Majesty's Ministers to go on in their own way, seeing that the
way in which they have long been going on is an exceedingly bad one. I
support the motion of my noble friend for these plain reasons.

First, I hold that Ireland is in a most unsatisfactory, indeed in a most
dangerous, state.

Secondly, I hold that for the state in which Ireland is Her Majesty's
Ministers are in a great measure accountable, and that they have not
shown, either as legislators, or as administrators, that they are
capable of remedying the evils which they have caused.

Now, Sir, if I make out these two propositions, it will follow that
it is the constitutional right and duty of the representatives of the
nation to interfere; and I conceive that my noble friend, by moving
for a Committee of the whole House, has proposed a mode of interference
which is both parliamentary and convenient.

My first proposition, Sir, will scarcely be disputed. Both sides of the
House are fully agreed in thinking that the condition of Ireland may
well excite great anxiety and apprehension. That island, in extent about
one fourth of the United Kingdom, in population more than one-fourth,
superior probably in natural fertility to any area of equal size in
Europe, possessed of natural facilities for trade such as can nowhere
else be found in an equal extent of coast, an inexhaustible nursery of
gallant soldiers, a country far more important to the prosperity,
the strength, the dignity of this great empire than all our distant
dependencies together, than the Canadas and the West Indies added to
Southern Africa, to Australasia, to Ceylon, and to the vast dominions
of the Moguls, that island, Sir, is acknowledged by all to be so ill
affected and so turbulent that it must, in any estimate of our power,
be not added but deducted. You admit that you govern that island, not as
you govern England and Scotland, but as you govern your new conquests in
Scinde; not by means of the respect which the people feel for the laws,
but by means of bayonets, of artillery, of entrenched camps.

My first proposition, then, I take to be conceded. Ireland is in a
dangerous state. The question which remains to be considered is, whether
for the state in which Ireland is Her Majesty's Ministers are to be held

Now, Sir, I at once admit that the distempers of Ireland must in part be
attributed to causes for which neither Her Majesty's present Ministers
nor any public men now living can justly be held accountable. I will not
trouble the House with a long dissertation on those causes. But it is
necessary, I think, to take at least a rapid glance at them: and in
order to do so, Sir, we must go back to a period not only anterior to
the birth of the statesmen who are now arrayed against each other on
the right and left of your chair, but anterior to the birth even of the
great parties of which those statesmen are the leaders; anterior to the
days when the names of Tory and Whig, of court party and country party,
of cavalier and roundhead, came into use; anterior to the existence
of those Puritans to whom the honourable Member for Shrewsbury (Mr
Disraeli.), in a very ingenious speech, ascribed all the calamities of

The primary cause is, no doubt, the manner in which Ireland became
subject to the English crown. The annexation was effected by conquest,
and by conquest of a peculiar kind. It was not a conquest such as we
have been accustomed to see in modern Europe. It was not a conquest
like that which united Artois and Franche Comte to France, or Silesia
to Prussia. It was the conquest of a race by a race, such a conquest as
that which established the dominion of the Spaniard over the American
Indian, or of the Mahratta over the peasant of Guzerat or Tanjore. Of
all forms of tyranny, I believe that the worst is that of a nation over
a nation. Populations separated by seas and mountain ridges may call
each other natural enemies, may wage long wars with each other, may
recount with pride the victories which they have gained over each other,
and point to the flags, the guns, the ships which they have won from
each other. But no enmity that ever existed between such populations
approaches in bitterness the mutual enmity felt by populations which
are locally intermingled, but which have never morally and politically
amalgamated; and such were the Englishry and the Irishry. Yet it might
have been hoped that the lapse of time and the progress of civilisation
would have effaced the distinction between the oppressors and the
oppressed. Our island had suffered cruelly from the same evil. Here the
Saxon had trampled on the Celt, the Dane on the Saxon, the Norman on
Celt, Saxon, and Dane. Yet in the course of ages all the four races had
been fused together to form the great English people. A similar fusion
would probably have taken place in Ireland, but for the Reformation. The
English settlers adopted the Protestant doctrines which were received
in England. The Aborigines alone, among all the nations of the north
of Europe, adhered to the ancient faith. Thus the line of demarcation
between the two populations was deepened and widened. The old enmity
was reinforced by a new enmity stronger still. Then came those events
to which the honourable Member for Shrewsbury referred. The spirit of
liberty in England was closely allied with the spirit of Puritanism, and
was mortally hostile to the Papacy. Such men as Hampden, Vane, Milton,
Locke, though zealous generally for civil and spiritual freedom, yet
held that the Roman Catholic worship had no claim to toleration. On the
other hand, all the four kings of the House of Stuart showed far
more favour to Roman Catholics than to any class of Protestant
nonconformists. James the First at one time had some hopes of effecting
a reconciliation with the Vatican. Charles the First entered into secret
engagements to grant an indulgence to Roman Catholics. Charles the
Second was a concealed Roman Catholic. James the Second was an avowed
Roman Catholic. Consequently, through the whole of the seventeenth
century, the freedom of Ireland and the slavery of England meant the
same thing. The watchwords, the badges, the names, the places, the days,
which in the mind of an Englishman were associated with deliverance,
prosperity, national dignity, were in the mind of an Irishman associated
with bondage, ruin, and degradation. The memory of William the Third,
the anniversary of the battle of the Boyne, are instances. I was much
struck by a circumstance which occurred on a day which I have every
reason to remember with gratitude and pride, the day on which I had the
high honour of being declared one of the first two members for the great
borough of Leeds. My chair was covered with orange ribands. The horses
which drew it could hardly be seen for the profusion of orange-coloured
finery with which they were adorned. Orange cockades were in all the
hats; orange favours at all the windows. And my supporters, I need
not say, were men who had, like myself, been zealous for Catholic
emancipation. I could not help remarking that the badge seemed rather
incongruous. But I was told that the friends of Catholic emancipation
in Yorkshire had always rallied under the orange banner, that orange was
the colour of Sir George Savile, who brought in that bill which caused
the No Popery riots of 1780, and that the very chair in which I sate
was the chair in which Lord Milton, now Earl Fitzwilliam, had triumphed
after the great victory which he won in 1807 over the No Popery party,
then headed by the house of Harewood. I thought how different an effect
that procession would have produced at Limerick or Cork, with what howls
of rage and hatred the Roman Catholic population of those cities
would have pursued that orange flag which, to every Roman Catholic in
Yorkshire, was the memorial of contests maintained in favour of his own
dearest rights. This circumstance, however slight, well illustrates
the singular contrast between the history of England and the history of

Well, Sir, twice during the seventeenth century the Irish rose up
against the English colony. Twice they were completely put down; and
twice they were severely chastised. The first rebellion was crushed by
Oliver Cromwell; the second by William the Third. Those great men did
not use their victory exactly in the same way. The policy of Cromwell
was wise, and strong, and straightforward, and cruel. It was comprised
in one word, which, as Clarendon tells us, was often in the mouths of
the Englishry of that time. That word was extirpation. The object of
Cromwell was to make Ireland thoroughly Anglo-Saxon and Protestant. If
he had lived twenty years longer he might perhaps have accomplished that
work: but he died while it was incomplete; and it died with him.
The policy of William, or to speak more correctly, of those whose
inclinations William was under the necessity of consulting, was less
able, less energetic, and, though more humane in seeming, perhaps not
more humane in reality. Extirpation was not attempted. The Irish Roman
Catholics were permitted to live, to be fruitful, to replenish the
earth: but they were doomed to be what the Helots were in Sparta, what
the Greeks were under the Ottoman, what the blacks now are at New York.
Every man of the subject caste was strictly excluded from public trust.
Take what path he might in life, he was crossed at every step by some
vexatious restriction. It was only by being obscure and inactive that
he could, on his native soil, be safe. If he aspired to be powerful
and honoured, he must begin by being an exile. If he pined for military
glory, he might gain a cross or perhaps a Marshal's staff in the
armies of France or Austria. If his vocation was to politics, he might
distinguish himself in the diplomacy of Italy or Spain. But at home he
was a mere Gibeonite, a hewer of wood and a drawer of water. The statute
book of Ireland was filled with enactments which furnish to the Roman
Catholics but too good a ground for recriminating on us when we talk
of the barbarities of Bonner and Gardiner; and the harshness of those
odious laws was aggravated by a more odious administration. For, bad as
the legislators were, the magistrates were worse still. In those evil
times originated that most unhappy hostility between landlord and
tenant, which is one of the peculiar curses of Ireland. Oppression and
turbulence reciprocally generated each other. The combination of rustic
tyrants was resisted by gangs of rustic banditti. Courts of law and
juries existed only for the benefit of the dominant sect. Those priests
who were revered by millions as their natural advisers and guardians,
as the only authorised expositors of Christian truth, as the only
authorised dispensers of the Christian sacraments, were treated by the
squires and squireens of the ruling faction as no good-natured man would
treat the vilest beggar. In this manner a century passed away. Then came
the French Revolution and the great awakening of the mind of Europe. It
would have been wonderful indeed if, when the happiest and most tranquil
nations were agitated by vague discontents and vague hopes, Ireland had
remained at rest. Jacobinism, it is true, was not a very natural ally
of the Roman Catholic religion. But common enmities produce strange
coalitions; and a strange coalition was formed. There was a third great
rising of the aboriginal population of the island against English and
Protestant ascendency. That rising was put down by the sword; and it
became the duty of those who were at the head of affairs to consider how
the victory should be used.

I shall not be suspected of being partial to the memory of Mr Pitt. But
I cannot refuse to him the praise both of wisdom and of humanity, when I
compare the plan which he formed in that hour of triumph with the plans
of those English rulers who had before him governed Ireland. Of Mr
Pitt's plan the Union was a part, an excellent and an essential part
indeed, but still only a part. We shall do great injustice both to his
head and to his heart, if we forget that he was permitted to carry
into effect only some unconnected portions of a comprehensive and
well-concerted scheme. He wished to blend, not only the parliaments, but
the nations, and to make the two islands one in interest and affection.
With that view the Roman Catholic disabilities were to be removed: the
Roman Catholic priests were to be placed in a comfortable and honourable
position; and measures were to be taken for the purpose of giving to
Roman Catholics the benefits of liberal education. In truth, Mr Pitt's
opinions on those subjects had, to a great extent, been derived from a
mind even more powerful and capacious than his own, from the mind of Mr
Burke. If the authority of these two great men had prevailed, I believe
that the Union with Ireland would now have been as secure, and as
much beyond the reach of agitation, as the Union with Scotland. The
Parliament in College Green would have been remembered as what it was,
the most tyrannical, the most venal, the most unprincipled assembly
that ever sate on the face of this earth. I do not think that, by saying
this, I can give offence to any gentleman from Ireland, however zealous
for Repeal he may be: for I only repeat the language of Wolfe Tone.
Wolfe Tone said that he had seen more deliberative assemblies than most
men; that he had seen the English Parliament, the American Congress,
the French Council of Elders and Council of Five Hundred, the Batavian
Convention; but that he had nowhere found anything like the baseness and
impudence of the scoundrels, as he called them, at Dublin. If Mr Pitt's
whole plan had been carried into execution, that infamous parliament,
that scandal to the name of parliament, would have perished unregretted;
and the last day of its existence would have been remembered by the
Roman Catholics of Ireland as the first day of their civil and religious
liberty. The great boon which he would have conferred on them would have
been gratefully received, because it could not have been ascribed to
fear, because it would have been a boon bestowed by the powerful on the
weak, by the victor on the vanquished. Unhappily, of all his projects
for the benefit of Ireland the Union alone was carried into effect; and
therefore that Union was an Union only in name. The Irish found that
they had parted with at least the name and show of independence, and
that for this sacrifice of national pride they were to receive no
compensation. The Union, which ought to have been associated in their
minds with freedom and justice, was associated only with disappointed
hopes and forfeited pledges. Yet it was not even then too late. It was
not too late in 1813. It was not too late in 1821. It was not too late
in 1825. Yes: if, even in 1825, some men who then were, as they now are,
high in the service of the crown, could have made up their minds to
do what they were forced to do four years later, that great work of
conciliation which Mr Pitt had meditated might have been accomplished.
The machinery of agitation was not yet fully organized: the Government
was under no strong pressure; and therefore concession might still
have been received with thankfulness. That opportunity was suffered to
escape; and it never returned.

In 1829, at length, concessions were made, were made largely, were made
without the conditions which Mr Pitt would undoubtedly have demanded,
and to which, if demanded by Mr Pitt, the whole body of Roman
Catholics would have eagerly assented. But those concessions were made
reluctantly, made ungraciously, made under duress, made from the mere
dread of civil war. How then was it possible that they should produce
contentment and repose? What could be the effect of that sudden and
profuse liberality following that long and obstinate resistance to the
most reasonable demands, except to teach the Irishman that he could
obtain redress only by turbulence? Could he forget that he had been,
during eight and twenty years, supplicating Parliament for justice,
urging those unanswerable arguments which prove that the rights of
conscience ought to be held sacred, claiming the performance of promises
made by ministers and princes, and that he had supplicated, argued,
claimed the performance of promises in vain? Could he forget that two
generations of the most profound thinkers, the most brilliant wits, the
most eloquent orators, had written and spoken for him in vain? Could he
forget that the greatest statesman who took his part had paid dear for
their generosity? Mr Pitt endeavoured to redeem his pledge; and he was
driven from office. Lord Grey and Lord Grenville endeavoured to do but
a very small part of what Mr Pitt had thought right and expedient; and
they were driven from office. Mr Canning took the same side; and his
reward was to be worried to death by the party of which he was the
brightest ornament. At length, when he was gone, the Roman Catholics
began to look, not to cabinets and parliaments, but to themselves. They
displayed a formidable array of physical force, and yet kept within,
just within, the limits of the law. The consequence was that, in two
years, more than any prudent friend had ventured to demand for them was
granted to them by their enemies. Yes; within two years after Mr Canning
had been laid in the transept near us, all that he would have done, and
more than he could have done, was done by his persecutors. How was it
possible that the whole Roman Catholic population of Ireland should not
take up the notion that from England, or at least from the party which
then governed and which now governs England, nothing is to be got
by reason, by entreaty, by patient endurance, but everything by
intimidation? That tardy repentance deserved no gratitude, and obtained
none. The whole machinery of agitation was complete and in perfect
order. The leaders had tasted the pleasures of popularity; the multitude
had tasted the pleasures of excitement. Both the demagogue and his
audience felt a craving for the daily stimulant. Grievances enough
remained, God knows, to serve as pretexts for agitation: and the whole
conduct of the Government had led the sufferers to believe that by
agitation alone could any grievance be removed.

Such, Sir, is the history of the rise and progress of the disorders of
Ireland. Misgovernment, lasting without interruption from the reign
of Henry the Second to the reign of William the Fourth, has left us an
immense mass of discontent, which will, no doubt, in ordinary times,
make the task of any statesman whom the Queen may call to power
sufficiently difficult. But though this be true, it is not less true,
that the immediate causes of the extraordinary agitation which alarms us
at this moment is to be found in the misconduct of Her Majesty's present
advisers. For, Sir, though Ireland is always combustible, Ireland is not
always on fire. We must distinguish between the chronic complaints which
are to be attributed to remote causes, and the acute attack which
is brought on by recent imprudence. For though there is always a
predisposition to disease in that unhappy society, the violent paroxysms
come only at intervals. I must own that I am indebted for some of my
imagery to the right honourable Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury.
When he sate on this bench, and was only a candidate for the great place
which he now fills, he compared himself to a medical man at the bedside
of a patient. Continuing his metaphor, I may say that his prognosis, his
diagnosis, his treatment, have all been wrong. I do not deny that the
case was difficult. The sufferer was of a very ill habit of body, and
had formerly suffered many things of many physicians, and, among others,
I must say, of the right honourable Baronet himself. Still the malady
had, a very short time ago, been got under, and kept under by the
judicious use of lenitives; and there was reason to hope that if that
salutary regimen had been steadily followed, there would have been
a speedy improvement in the general health. Unhappily, the new State
hygeist chose to apply irritants which have produced a succession of
convulsive fits, each more violent than that which preceded it. To drop
the figure, it is impossible to doubt that Lord Melbourne's government
was popular with the great body of the Roman Catholics of Ireland. It is
impossible to doubt that the two Viceroys whom he sent to Ireland were
more loved and honoured by the Irish people than any Viceroys before
whom the sword of state has ever been borne. Under the late Government,
no doubt, the empire was threatened by many dangers; but, to whatever
quarter the Ministers might look with uneasy apprehension, to Ireland
they could always look with confidence. When bad men raised disturbances
here, when a Chartist rabble fired on the Queen's soldiers, numerous
regiments could, without the smallest risk, be spared from Ireland. When
a rebellion broke out in one of our colonies,--a rebellion too which it
might have been expected that the Irish would regard with favour, for it
was a rebellion of Roman Catholics against Protestant rulers,--even then
Ireland was true to the general interests of the empire, and troops were
sent from Munster and Connaught to put down insurrection in Canada. No
person will deny that if, in 1840, we had unhappily been forced
into war, and if a hostile army had landed in Bantry Bay, the whole
population of Cork and Tipperary would have risen up to defend the
throne of Her Majesty, and would have offered to the invaders a
resistance as determined as would have been offered by the men of Kent
or Norfolk. And by what means was this salutary effect produced? Not by
great legislative reforms: for, unfortunately, that Government, though
it had the will, had not the power to carry such reforms against the
sense of a strong minority in this House, and of a decided majority
of the Peers. No, Sir; this effect was produced merely by the wisdom,
justice, and humanity with which the existing law, defective as it might
be, was administered. The late Government, calumniated and thwarted at
every turn, contending against the whole influence of the Established
Church, and of the great body of the nobility and landed gentry, yet did
show a disposition to act kindly and fairly towards Ireland, and did, to
the best of its power, treat Protestants and Roman Catholics alike. If
we had been as strong as our successors in parliamentary support, if we
had been able to induce the two Houses to follow in legislation the same
principles by which we were guided in administration, the Union with
Ireland would now have been as secure from the assaults of agitators
as the Union with Scotland. But this was not to be. During six years an
opposition, formidable in numbers, formidable in ability, selected as
the especial object of the fiercest and most pertinacious attacks
those very acts of the Government which had, after centuries of mutual
animosity, half reconciled the two islands. Those Lords Lieutenant who,
in Ireland, were venerated as no preceding Lord Lieutenant had ever been
venerated, were here reviled as no preceding Lord Lieutenant had ever
been reviled. Every action, every word which was applauded by the nation
committed to their care, was here imputed to them as a crime. Every
bill framed by the advisers of the Crown for the benefit of Ireland was
either rejected or mutilated. A few Roman Catholics of distinguished
merit were appointed to situations which were indeed below their just
claims, but which were higher than any member of their Church had filled
during many generations. Two or three Roman Catholics were sworn of
the Council; one took his seat at the Board of Treasury; another at the
Board of Admiralty. There was great joy in Ireland; and no wonder.
What had been done was not much; but the ban had been taken off; the
Emancipation Act, which had been little more than a dead letter, was at
length a reality. But in England all the underlings of the great Tory
party set up a howl of rage and hatred worthy of Lord George Gordon's
No Popery mob. The right honourable Baronet now at the head of the
Treasury, with his usual prudence, abstained from joining in the cry,
and was content to listen to it, to enjoy it, and to profit by it. But
some of those who ranked next to him among the chiefs of the opposition,
did not imitate his politic reserve. One great man denounced the Irish
as aliens. Another called them minions of Popery. Those teachers of
religion to whom millions looked up with affection and reverence were
called by the Protestant press demon priests and surpliced ruffians, and
were denounced from the Protestant pulpit as pontiffs of Baal, as false
prophets who were to be slain with the sword. We were reminded that a
Queen of the chosen people had in the old time patronised the ministers
of idolatry, and that her blood had been given to the dogs. Not content
with throwing out or frittering down every law beneficial to Ireland,
not content with censuring in severe terms every act of the executive
government which gave satisfaction in Ireland, you, yes you, who now
fill the great offices of state, assumed the offensive. From obstruction
you proceeded to aggression. You brought in a bill which you called a
Bill for the Registration of Electors in Ireland. We then told you that
it was a bill for the wholesale disfranchisement of the electors
of Ireland. We then proved incontrovertibly that, under pretence of
reforming the law of procedure, you were really altering the substantive
law; that, by making it impossible for any man to vindicate his right to
vote without trouble, expense, and loss of time, you were really taking
away the votes of tens of thousands. You denied all this then. You very
coolly admit it all now. Am I to believe that you did know it as well
in 1841 as in 1844? Has one new fact been brought to light? Has one
argument been discovered which was not, three or four years ago, urged
twenty, thirty, forty times in this House? Why is it that you have,
when in power, abstained from proposing that change in the mode of
registration which, when you were out of power, you represented
as indispensable? You excuse yourselves by saying that now the
responsibilities of office are upon you. In plain words, your trick
has served its purpose. Your object,--for I will do justice to your
patriotism,--your object was not to ruin your country, but to get in;
and you are in. Such public virtue deserved such a reward, a reward
which has turned out a punishment, a reward which ought to be, while the
world lasts, a warning to unscrupulous ambition. Many causes contributed
to place you in your present situation. But the chief cause was, beyond
all doubt, the prejudice which you excited amongst the English against
the just and humane manner in which the late Ministers governed Ireland.
In your impatience for office, you called up the devil of religious
intolerance, a devil more easily evoked than dismissed. He did your
work; and he holds your bond. You once found him an useful slave: but
you have since found him a hard master. It was pleasant, no doubt, to be
applauded by high churchmen and low churchmen, by the Sheldonian Theatre
and by Exeter Hall. It was pleasant to be described as the champions
of the Protestant faith, as the men who stood up for the Gospel against
that spurious liberality which made no distinction between truth and
falsehood. It was pleasant to hear your opponents called by every
nickname that is to be found in the foul vocabulary of the Reverend
Hugh Mcneill. It was pleasant to hear that they were the allies of
Antichrist, that they were the servants of the man of sin, that they
were branded with the mark of the Beast. But when all this slander
and scurrility had raised you to power, when you found that you had
to manage millions of those who had been, year after year, constantly
insulted and defamed by yourselves and your lacqueys, your hearts began
to fail you. Now you tell us that you have none but kind and respectful
feelings towards the Irish Roman Catholics, that you wish to conciliate
them, that you wish to carry the Emancipation Act into full effect,
that nothing would give you more pleasure than to place on the bench of
justice a Roman Catholic lawyer of conservative politics, that nothing
would give you more pleasure than to place at the Board of Treasury, or
at the Board of Admiralty, some Roman Catholic gentleman of conservative
politics, distinguished by his talents for business or debate. Your only
reason, you assure us, for not promoting Roman Catholics is that all the
Roman Catholics are your enemies; and you ask whether any Minister can
be expected to promote his enemies. For my part I do not doubt that you
would willingly promote Roman Catholics: for, as I have said, I give
you full credit for not wishing to do your country more harm than is
necessary for the purpose of turning out and keeping out the Whigs.
I also fully admit that you cannot be blamed for not promoting your
enemies. But what I want to know is, how it happens that all the Roman
Catholics in the United Kingdom are your enemies. Was such a thing
ever heard of before? Here are six or seven millions of people of all
professions, of all trades, of all grades of rank, fortune, intellect,
education. Begin with the premier Peer, the Earl Marshal of the realm,
the chief of the Howards, the heir of the Mowbrays and Fitzalans, and
go down through earls, barons, baronets, lawyers, and merchants, to the
very poorest peasant that eats his potatoes without salt in Mayo; and
all these millions to a man are arrayed against the Government. How
do you explain this? Is there any natural connection between the Roman
Catholic theology and the political theories held by Whigs and by
reformers more democratical than the Whigs? Not only is there no natural
connection, but there is a natural opposition. Of all Christian sects
the Roman Catholic Church holds highest the authority of antiquity, of
tradition, of immemorial usage. Her spirit is eminently conservative,
nay, in the opinion of all Protestants, conservative to an unreasonable
and pernicious extent. A man who has been taught from childhood to
regard with horror all innovation in religion is surely less likely than
another man to be a bold innovator in politics. It is probable that a
zealous Roman Catholic, if there were no disturbing cause, would be a
Tory; and the Roman Catholics were all Tories till you persecuted them
into Whiggism and Radicalism. In the civil war, how many Roman Catholics
were there in Fairfax's army? I believe, not one. They were all under
the banner of Charles the First. When a reward of five thousand pounds
was offered for Charles the Second alive or dead, when to conceal
him was to run a most serious risk of the gallows, it was among
Roman Catholics that he found shelter. It has been the same in other
countries. When everything else in France was prostrate before the
Jacobins, the Roman Catholic peasantry of Brittany and Poitou still
stood up for the House of Bourbon. Against the gigantic power of
Napoleon, the Roman Catholic peasantry of the Tyrol maintained unaided
the cause of the House of Hapsburg. It would be easy to multiply
examples. And can we believe, in defiance of all reason and of all
history, that, if the Roman Catholics of the United Kingdom had been
tolerably well governed, they would not have been attached to the
Government? In my opinion the Tories never committed so great an error
as when they scourged away and spurned away the Roman Catholics. Mr
Burke understood this well. The sentiment which, towards the close
of his life, held the entire possession of his mind, was a horror,--a
morbid horror it at last became,--of Jacobinism, and of everything that
seemed to him to tend towards Jacobinism, and, like a great statesman
and philosopher,--for such he was even in his errors,--he perceived, and
he taught Mr Pitt to perceive, that, in the war against Jacobinism, the
Roman Catholics were the natural allies of royalty and aristocracy.
But the help of these allies was contumeliously rejected by those
politicians who make themselves ridiculous by carousing on Mr Pitt's
birthday, while they abjure all Mr Pitt's principles. The consequence
is, as you are forced to own, that there is not in the whole kingdom
a Roman Catholic of note who is your friend. Therefore, whatever your
inclinations may be, you must intrust power in Ireland to Protestants,
to Ultra-Protestants, to men who, whether they belong to Orange lodges
or not, are in spirit Orangemen. Every appointment which you make
increases the discontent of the Roman Catholics. The more discontented
they are, the less you can venture to employ them. The way in which
you treated them while you were in opposition has raised in them such a
dislike and distrust of you that you cannot carry the Emancipation Act
into effect, though, as you tell us, and as I believe, you sincerely
desire to do so. As respects the offices of which you dispose, that Act
is null and void. Of all the boons which that Act purports to bestow on
Roman Catholics they really enjoy only one, admission to Parliament: and
that they would not enjoy if you had been able three years ago to carry
your Irish Registration Bill. You have wounded national feeling: you
have wounded religious feeling: and the animosity which you have roused
shows itself in a hundred ways, some of which I abhor, some of which I
lament, but at none of which I can wonder. They are the natural effects
of insult and injury on quick and ill regulated sensibility. You, for
your own purposes, inflamed the public mind of England against Ireland;
and you have no right to be surprised by finding that the public mind
of Ireland is inflamed against England. You called a fourth part of the
people of the United Kingdom aliens: and you must not blame them for
feeling and acting like aliens. You have filled every public department
with their enemies. What then could you expect but that they would
set up against your Lord Lieutenant and your official hierarchy a more
powerful chief and a more powerful organization of their own? They
remember, and it would be strange indeed if they had forgotten, what
under the same chief, and by a similar organization, they extorted from
you in 1829; and they are determined to try whether you are bolder and
more obstinate now than then.

Such are the difficulties of this crisis. To a great extent they are
of your own making. And what have you done in order to get out of them?
Great statesmen have sometimes committed great mistakes, and yet have by
wisdom and firmness extricated themselves from the embarrassments which
those mistakes had caused. Let us see whether you are entitled to rank
among such statesmen. And first, what,--commanding, as you do, a great
majority in this and in the other House of Parliament,--what have you
done in the way of legislation? The answer is very short and simple. The
beginning and end of all your legislation for Ireland will be found in
the Arms Act of last session. You will hardly call that conciliation;
and I shall not call it coercion. It was mere petty annoyance. It
satisfied nobody. We called on you to redress the wrongs of Ireland.
Many of your own friends called on you to stifle her complaints. One
noble and learned person was so much disgusted by your remissness that
he employed his own great abilities and his own valuable time in framing
a new coercion bill for you. You were deaf alike to us and to him.
The whole fruit of your legislative wisdom was this one paltry teasing
police regulation.

Your executive administration through the whole recess has been one long
blunder. The way in which your Lord Lieutenant and his advisers acted
about the Clontarf meeting would alone justify a severe vote of censure.
The noble lord, the Secretary for the Colonies (Lord Stanley.), has told
us that the Government did all that was possible to caution the people
against attending that meeting, and that it would be unreasonable to
censure men for not performing impossibilities. Now, Sir, the ministers
themselves acknowledge that, as early as the morning of the Friday which
preceded the day fixed for the meeting, the Lord Lieutenant determined
to put forth a proclamation against the meeting. Yet the proclamation
was not published in Dublin and the suburbs till after nightfall on
Saturday. The meeting was fixed for the Sunday morning. Will any
person have the hardihood to assert that it was impossible to have a
proclamation drawn up, printed and circulated, in twenty-four hours, nay
in six hours? It is idle to talk of the necessity of weighing well the
words of such a document. The Lord Lieutenant should have weighed well
the value of the lives of his royal mistress's subjects. Had he done so,
there can be no doubt that the proclamation might have been placarded on
every wall in and near Dublin early in the forenoon of the Saturday. The
negligence of the Government would probably have caused the loss of many
lives but for the interposition of the man whom you are persecuting.
Fortune stood your friend; and he stood your friend; and thus a
slaughter more terrible than that which took place twenty-five years ago
at Manchester was averted.

But you were incorrigible. No sooner had you, by strange good luck,
got out of one scrape, than you made haste to get into another, out of
which, as far as I can see, you have no chance of escape. You instituted
the most unwise, the most unfortunate of all state prosecutions. You
seem not to have at all known what you were doing. It appears never to
have occurred to you that there was any difference between a criminal
proceeding which was certain to fix the attention of the whole civilised
world and an ordinary qui tam action for a penalty. The evidence was
such and the law such that you were likely to get a verdict and a
judgment; and that was enough for you. Now, Sir, in such a case as this,
the probability of getting the verdict and the judgment is only a part,
and a very small part, of what a statesman ought to consider. Before you
determined to bring the most able, the most powerful, the most popular
of your opponents to the bar as a criminal, on account of the manner in
which he had opposed you, you ought to have asked yourselves whether
the decision which you expected to obtain from the tribunals would be
ratified by the voice of your own country, of foreign countries, of
posterity; whether the general opinion of mankind might not be that,
though you were legally in the right, you were morally in the wrong. It
was no common person that you were bent on punishing. About that person
I feel, I own, considerable difficulty in saying anything. He is placed
in a situation which would prevent generous enemies, which has prevented
all the members of this House, with one ignominious exception, from
assailing him acrimoniously. I will try, in speaking of him, to pay the
respect due to eminence and to misfortune without violating the respect
due to truth. I am convinced that the end which he is pursuing is not
only mischievous but unattainable: and some of the means which he has
stooped to use for the purpose of attaining that end I regard with deep
disapprobation. But it is impossible for me not to see that the place
which he holds in the estimation of his countrymen is such as no popular
leader in our history, I might perhaps say in the history of the world,
has ever attained. Nor is the interest which he inspires confined to
Ireland or to the United Kingdom. Go where you will on the Continent:
visit any coffee house: dine at any public table: embark on board of any
steamboat: enter any diligence, any railway carriage: from the moment
that your accent shows you to be an Englishman, the very first question
asked by your companions, be they what they may, physicians, advocates,
merchants, manufacturers, or what we should call yeomen, is certain to
be "What will be done with Mr O'Connell?" Look over any file of French
journals; and you will see what a space he occupies in the eyes of the
French people. It is most unfortunate, but it is a truth, and a
truth which we ought always to bear in mind, that there is among our
neighbours a feeling about the connection between England and Ireland
not very much unlike the feeling which exists here about the connection
between Russia and Poland. All the sympathies of all continental
politicians are with the Irish. We are regarded as the oppressors, and
the Irish as the oppressed. An insurrection in Ireland would have the
good wishes of a great majority of the people of Europe. And, Sir, it is
natural that it should be so. For the cause of the Irish repealers has
two different aspects, a democratic aspect, and a Roman Catholic aspect,
and is therefore regarded with favour by foreigners of almost
every shade of opinion. The extreme left,--to use the French
nomenclature,--wishes success to a great popular movement against
the throne and the aristocracy. The extreme right wishes success to a
movement headed by the bishops and priests of the true Church against a
heretical government and a heretical hierarchy. The consequence is that,
in a contest with Ireland, you will not have, out of this island,
a single well-wisher in the world. I do not say this in order to
intimidate you. But I do say that, on an occasion on which all
Christendom was watching your conduct with an unfriendly and suspicious
eye, you should have carefully avoided everything that looked like foul
play. Unhappily you were too much bent on gaining the victory; and you
have gained a victory more disgraceful and disastrous than any defeat.
Mr O'Connell has been convicted: but you cannot deny that he has been
wronged: you cannot deny that irregularities have been committed, or
that the effect of those irregularities has been to put you in a better
situation and him in a worse situation than the law contemplated. It is
admitted that names which ought to have been in the jury-list were not
there. It is admitted that all, or almost all, the names which were
wrongfully excluded were the names of Roman Catholics. As to the
number of those who were wrongfully excluded there is some dispute. An
affidavit has been produced which puts the number at twenty-seven. The
right honourable gentleman, the Recorder of Dublin, who of course puts
the number as low as he conscientiously can, admits twenty-four.
But some gentlemen maintain that this irregularity, though doubtless
blamable, cannot have had any effect on the event of the trial. What,
they ask, are twenty or twenty-seven names in seven hundred and twenty?
Why, Sir, a very simple arithmetical calculation will show that the
irregularity was of grave importance. Of the seven hundred and twenty,
forty-eight were to be selected by lot, and then reduced by alternate
striking to twelve. The forty-eighth part of seven hundred and twenty is
fifteen. If, therefore, there had been fifteen more Roman Catholics in
the jury-list, it would have been an even chance that there would have
been one Roman Catholic more among the forty-eight. If there had been
twenty-seven more Roman Catholics in the list, it would have been almost
an even chance that there would have been two Roman Catholics more among
the forty-eight. Is it impossible, is it improbable that, but for this
trick or this blunder,--I will not now inquire which,--the result of the
trial might have been different? For, remember the power which the law
gives to a single juror. He can, if his mind is fully made up, prevent
a conviction. I heard murmurs when I used the word trick. Am I not
justified in feeling a doubt which it is quite evident that Mr Justice
Perrin feels? He is reported to have said,--and I take the report of
newspapers favourable to the Government,--he is reported to have said
that there had been great carelessness, great neglect of duty, that
there were circumstances which raised grave suspicion, and that he was
not prepared to say that the irregularity was accidental. The noble lord
the Secretary for the Colonies has admonished us to pay respect to the
judges. I am sure that I pay the greatest respect to everything that
falls from Mr Justice Perrin. He must know much better than I, much
better than any Englishman, what artifices are likely to be employed by
Irish functionaries for the purpose of packing a jury; and he tells us
that he is not satisfied that this irregularity was the effect of mere
inadvertence. But, says the right honourable Baronet, the Secretary for
the Home Department, "I am not responsible for this irregularity." Most
true: and nobody holds the right honourable Baronet responsible for it.
But he goes on to say, "I lament this irregularity most sincerely: for
I believe that it has raised a prejudice against the administration of
justice." Exactly so. That is just what I say. I say that a prejudice
has been created against the administration of justice. I say that
a taint of suspicion has been thrown on the verdict which you have
obtained. And I ask whether it is right and decent in you to avail
yourselves of a verdict on which such a taint has been thrown? The only
wise, the only honourable course open to you was to say, "A mistake has
been committed: that mistake has given us an unfair advantage; and of
that advantage we will not make use." Unhappily, the time when you might
have taken this course, and might thus to a great extent have repaired
your former errors, has been suffered to elapse.

Well, you had forty-eight names taken by lot from this mutilated
jury-list: and then came the striking. You struck out all the Roman
Catholic names: and you give us your reasons for striking out these
names, reasons which I do not think it worth while to examine. The real
question which you should have considered was this: Can a great issue
between two hostile religions,--for such the issue was,--be tried in a
manner above all suspicion by a jury composed exclusively of men of one
of those religions? I know that in striking out the Roman Catholics
you did nothing that was not according to technical rules. But my great
charge against you is that you have looked on this whole case in a
technical point of view, that you have been attorneys when you should
have been statesmen. The letter of the law was doubtless with you; but
not the noble spirit of the law. The jury de medietate linguae is of
immemorial antiquity among us. Suppose that a Dutch sailor at Wapping is
accused of stabbing an Englishman in a brawl. The fate of the culprit is
decided by a mixed body, by six Englishmen and six Dutchmen. Such were
the securities which the wisdom and justice of our ancestors gave to
aliens. You are ready enough to call Mr O'Connell an alien when it
serves your purposes to do so. You are ready enough to inflict on the
Irish Roman Catholic all the evils of alienage. But the one privilege,
the one advantage of alienage, you deny him. In a case which of all
cases most require a jury de medietate, in a case which sprang out of
the mutual hostility of races and sects, you pack a jury all of one
race and all of one sect. Why, if you were determined to go on with this
unhappy prosecution, not have a common jury? There was no difficulty
in having such a jury; and among the jurors might have been some
respectable Roman Catholics who were not members of the Repeal
Association. A verdict of Not Guilty from such a jury would have done
you infinitely less harm than the verdict of Guilty which you have
succeeded in obtaining. Yes, you have obtained a verdict of Guilty;
but you have obtained that verdict from twelve men brought together by
illegal means, and selected in such a manner that their decision can
inspire no confidence. You have obtained that verdict by the help of a
Chief Justice of whose charge I can hardly trust myself to speak. To do
him right, however, I will say that his charge was not, as it has been
called, unprecedented; for it bears a very close resemblance to some
charges which may be found in the state trials of the reign of Charles
the Second. However, with this jury-list, with this jury, with this
judge, you have a verdict. And what have you gained by it? Have you
pacified Ireland? No doubt there is just at the present moment an
apparent tranquillity; but it is a tranquillity more alarming than
turbulence. The Irish will be quiet till you begin to put the sentence
of imprisonment into execution, because, feeling the deepest interest in
the fate of their persecuted Tribune, they will do nothing that can be
prejudicial to him. But will they be quiet when the door of a gaol has
been closed on him? Is it possible to believe that an agitator, whom
they adored while his agitation was a source of profit to him, will lose
his hold on their affections by being a martyr in what they consider as
their cause? If I, who am strongly attached to the Union, who believe
that the Repeal of the Union would be fatal to the empire, and who think
Mr O'Connell's conduct highly reprehensible, cannot conscientiously say
that he has had a fair trial, if the prosecutors themselves are forced
to own that things have happened which have excited a prejudice against
the verdict and the judgment, what must be the feelings of the people of
Ireland, who believe not merely that he is guiltless, but that he is the
best friend that they ever had? He will no longer be able to harangue
them: but his wrongs will stir their blood more than his eloquence ever
did; nor will he in confinement be able to exercise that influence which
has so often restrained them, even in their most excited mood, from
proceeding to acts of violence.

Turn where we will, the prospect is gloomy; and that which of all things
most disturbs me is this, that your experience, sharp as it has been,
does not seem to have made you wiser. All that I have been able to
collect from your declarations leads me to apprehend that, while you
continue to hold power, the future will be of a piece with the past. As
to your executive administration, you hold out no hope that it will
be other than it has been. If we look back, your only remedies for the
disorders of Ireland have been an impolitic state prosecution, an unfair
state trial, barracks and soldiers. If we look forward, you promise
us no remedies but an unjust sentence, the harsh execution of that
sentence, more barracks and more soldiers.

You do indeed try to hold out hopes of one or two legislative reforms
beneficial to Ireland; but these hopes, I am afraid, will prove
delusive. You hint that you have prepared a Registration bill, of which
the effect will be to extend the elective franchise. What the provisions
of that bill may be we do not know. But this we know, that the matter
is one about which it is utterly impossible for you to do anything that
shall be at once honourable to yourselves and useful to the country.
Before we see your plan, we can say with perfect confidence that it must
either destroy the last remnant of the representative system in Ireland,
or the last remnant of your own character for consistency.

About the much agitated question of land tenure you acknowledge that
you have at present nothing to propose. We are to have a report, but you
cannot tell us when.

The Irish Church, as at present constituted and endowed, you are fully
determined to uphold. On some future occasion, I hope to be able to
explain at large my views on that subject. To-night I have exhausted
my own strength, and I have exhausted also, I am afraid, the kind
indulgence of the House. I will therefore only advert very briefly to
some things which have been said about the Church in the course of the
present debate.

Several gentlemen opposite have spoken of the religious discord which is
the curse of Ireland in language which does them honour; and I am only
sorry that we are not to have their votes as well as their speeches.
But from the Treasury bench we have heard nothing but this, that the
Established Church is there, and that there it must and shall remain. As
to the speech of the noble lord the Secretary for the Colonies, really
when we hear such a pitiable defence of a great institution from a
man of such eminent abilities, what inference can we draw but that the
institution is altogether indefensible? The noble lord tells us that the
Roman Catholics, in 1757, when they were asking to be relieved from the
penal laws, and in 1792, when they were asking to be relieved from civil
disabilities, professed to be quite willing that the Established Church
should retain its endowments. What is it to us, Sir, whether they did or
not? If you can prove this Church to be a good institution, of course
it ought to be maintained. But do you mean to say that a bad institution
ought to be maintained because some people who have been many years in
their graves said that they did not complain of it? What if the Roman
Catholics of the present generation hold a different language on
this subject from the Roman Catholics of the last generation? Is this
inconsistency, which appears to shock the noble lord, anything but the
natural and inevitable progress of all reform? People who are oppressed,
and who have no hope of obtaining entire justice, beg to be relieved
from the most galling part of what they suffer. They assure the
oppressor that if he will only relax a little of his severity they shall
be quite content; and perhaps, at the time, they believe that they shall
be content. But are expressions of this sort, are mere supplications
uttered under duress, to estop every person who utters them, and all
his posterity to the end of time, from asking for entire justice? Am I
debarred from trying to recover property of which I have been robbed,
because, when the robber's pistol was at my breast, I begged him to take
everything that I had and to spare my life? The noble lord knows
well that, while the slave trade existed, the great men who exerted
themselves to put an end to that trade disclaimed all thought of
emancipating the negroes. In those days, Mr Pitt, Mr Fox, Lord
Grenville, Lord Grey, and even my dear and honoured friend of whom I can
never speak without emotion, Mr Wilberforce, always said that it was a
calumny to accuse them of intending to liberate the black population of
the sugar islands. In 1807 the present Duke of Northumberland, then
Lord Percy, in the generous enthusiasm of youth, rose to propose in
this House the abolition of slavery. Mr Wilberforce interposed, nay, I
believe, almost pulled Lord Percy down. Nevertheless in 1833 the
noble lord the Secretary for the Colonies brought in a bill to abolish
slavery. Suppose that when he resumed his seat, after making that most
eloquent speech in which he explained his plan to us, some West Indian
planter had risen, and had said that in 1792, in 1796, in 1807, all the
leading philanthropists had solemnly declared that they had no intention
of emancipating the negroes; would not the noble lord have answered that
nothing that had been said by anybody in 1792 or 1807 could bind us not
to do what was right in 1833?

This is not the only point on which the noble lord's speech is quite at
variance with his own conduct. He appeals to the fifth article of the
Treaty of Union. He says that, if we touch the revenues and privileges
of the Established Church, we shall violate that article; and to violate
an article of the Treaty of Union is, it seems, a breach of public faith
of which he cannot bear to think. But, Sir, why is the fifth article
to be held more sacred than the fourth, which fixes the number of Irish
members who are to sit in this House? The fourth article, we all
know, has been altered. And who brought in the bill which altered that
article? The noble lord himself.

Then the noble lord adverts to the oath taken by Roman Catholic members
of this House. They bind themselves, he says, not to use their power
for the purpose of injuring the Established Church. I am sorry that the
noble lord is not at this moment in the House. Had he been here I should
have made some remarks which I now refrain from making on one or two
expressions which fell from him. But, Sir, let us allow to his argument
all the weight which he can himself claim for it. What does it prove?
Not that the Established Church of Ireland is a good institution; not
that it ought to be maintained; but merely this, that, when we are about
to divide on the question whether it shall be maintained, the Roman
Catholic members ought to walk away to the library. The oath which they
have taken is nothing to me and to the other Protestant members who have
not taken it. Suppose then our Roman Catholic friends withdrawn. Suppose
that we, the six hundred and twenty or thirty Protestant members remain
in the House. Then there is an end of this argument about the oath. Will
the noble lord then be able to give us any reason for maintaining the
Church of Ireland on the present footing?

I hope, Sir, that the right honourable Baronet the first Lord of the
Treasury will not deal with this subject as his colleagues have dealt
with it. We have a right to expect that a man of his capacity, placed
at the head of government, will attempt to defend the Irish Church in
a manly and rational way. I would beg him to consider these
questions:--For what ends do Established Churches exist? Does the
Established Church of Ireland accomplish those ends or any one of those
ends? Can an Established Church which has no hold on the hearts of the
body of the people be otherwise than useless, or worse than useless? Has
the Established Church of Ireland any hold on the hearts of the body
of the people? Has it been successful in making proselytes? Has it been
what the Established Church of England has been with justice called,
what the Established Church of Scotland was once with at least equal
justice called, the poor man's Church? Has it trained the great body
of the people to virtue, consoled them in affliction, commanded their
reverence, attached them to itself and to the State? Show that these
questions can be answered in the affirmative; and you will have
made, what I am sure has never yet been made, a good defence of the
Established Church of Ireland. But it is mere mockery to bring us
quotations from forgotten speeches, and from mouldy petitions presented
to George the Second at a time when the penal laws were still in full

And now, Sir, I must stop. I have said enough to justify the vote which
I shall give in favour of the motion of my noble friend. I have shown,
unless I deceive myself, that the extraordinary disorders which now
alarm us in Ireland have been produced by the fatal policy of the
Government. I have shown that the mode in which the Government is now
dealing with those disorders is far more likely to inflame than to allay
them. While this system lasts, Ireland can never be tranquil; and till
Ireland is tranquil, England can never hold her proper place among the
nations of the world. To the dignity, to the strength, to the safety of
this great country, internal peace is indispensably necessary. In every
negotiation, whether with France on the right of search, or with America
on the line of boundary, the fact that Ireland is discontented is
uppermost in the minds of the diplomatists on both sides, making the
representative of the British Crown timorous, and making his adversary
bold. And no wonder. This is indeed a great and splendid empire, well
provided with the means both of annoyance and of defence. England can do
many things which are beyond the power of any other nation in the world.
She has dictated peace to China. She rules Caffraria and Australasia.
She could again sweep from the ocean all commerce but her own. She could
again blockade every port from the Baltic to the Adriatic. She is able
to guard her vast Indian dominions against all hostility by land or
sea. But in this gigantic body there is one vulnerable spot near to the
heart. At that spot forty-six years ago a blow was aimed which narrowly
missed, and which, if it had not missed, might have been deadly. The
government and the legislature, each in its own sphere, is deeply
responsible for the continuance of a state of things which is fraught
with danger to the State. From my share of that responsibility I shall
clear myself by the vote which I am about to give; and I trust that the
number and the respectability of those in whose company I shall go into
the lobby will be such as to convince the Roman Catholics of Ireland
that they need not yet relinquish all hope of obtaining relief from the
wisdom and justice of an Imperial Parliament.



An attempt having been made to deprive certain dissenting congregations
of property which they had long enjoyed, on the ground that they did not
hold the same religious opinions that had been held by the purchasers
from whom they derived their title to that property, the Government of
Sir Robert Peel brought in a bill fixing a time of limitation in such
cases. The time fixed was twenty-five years.

The bill, having passed the Lords, came down to the House of Commons.
On the sixth of June 1844, the second reading was moved by the Attorney
General, Sir William Follett. Sir Robert Inglis, Member for the
University of Oxford, moved that the bill should be read a second time
that day six months: and the amendment was seconded by Mr Plumptre,
Member for Kent. Early in the debate the following Speech was made.

The second reading was carried by 307 votes to 117.

If, Sir, I should unhappily fail in preserving that tone in which the
question before us ought to be debated, it will assuredly not be for
want either of an example or of a warning. The honourable and learned
Member who moved the second reading has furnished me with a model which
I cannot too closely imitate; and from the honourable Member for Kent,
if I can learn nothing else, I may at least learn what temper and what
style I ought most carefully to avoid.

I was very desirous, Sir, to catch your eye, not because I was so
presumptuous as to hope that I should be able to add much to the
powerful and luminous argument of the honourable and learned gentleman
who has, to our great joy, again appeared among us to-night; but because
I thought it desirable that, at an early period in the debate, some
person whose seat is on this side of the House, some person strongly
opposed to the policy of the present Government, should say, what I
now say with all my heart, that this is a bill highly honourable to
the Government, a bill framed on the soundest principles, and evidently
introduced from the best and purest motives. This praise is a tribute
due to Her Majesty's Ministers; and I have great pleasure in paying it.

I have great pleasure also in bearing my testimony to the humanity, the
moderation, and the decorum with which my honourable friend the Member
for the University of Oxford has expressed his sentiments. I must
particularly applaud the resolution which he announced, and to which he
strictly adhered, of treating this question as a question of meum and
tuum, and not as a question of orthodoxy and heterodoxy. With him it is
possible to reason. But how am I to reason with the honourable Member
for Kent, who has made a speech without one fact, one argument, one
shadow of an argument, a speech made up of nothing but vituperation? I
grieve to say that the same bitterness of theological animosity which
characterised that speech may be discerned in too many of the petitions
with which, as he boasts, our table has been heaped day after day. The
honourable Member complains that those petitions have not been treated
with proper respect. Sir, they have been treated with much more respect
than they deserved. He asks why we are to suppose that the petitioners
are not competent to form a judgment on this question? My answer is,
that they have certified their incompetence under their own hands. They
have, with scarcely one exception, treated this question as a question
of divinity, though it is purely a question of property: and when I see
men treat a question of property as if it were a question of divinity, I
am certain that, however numerous they may be, their opinion is entitled
to no consideration. If the persons whom this bill is meant to relieve
are orthodox, that is no reason for our plundering anybody else in
order to enrich them. If they are heretics, that is no reason for our
plundering them in order to enrich others. I should not think myself
justified in supporting this bill, if I could not with truth declare
that, whatever sect had been in possession of these chapels, my conduct
would have been precisely the same. I have no peculiar sympathy with
Unitarians. If these people, instead of being Unitarians, had been Roman
Catholics, or Wesleyan Methodists, or General Baptists, or Particular
Baptists, or members of the Old Secession Church of Scotland, or members
of the Free Church of Scotland, I should speak as I now speak, and vote
as I now mean to vote.

Sir, the whole dispute is about the second clause of this bill. I can
hardly conceive that any gentleman will vote against the bill on account
of the error in the marginal note on the third clause. To the first
clause my honourable friend the Member for the University of Oxford
said, if I understood him rightly, that he had no objection; and indeed
a man of his integrity and benevolence could hardly say less after
listening to the lucid and powerful argument of the Attorney General. It
is therefore on the second clause that the whole question turns.

The second clause, Sir, rests on a principle simple, well-known, and
most important to the welfare of all classes of the community. That
principle is this, that prescription is a good title to property, that
there ought to be a time of limitation, after which a possessor,
in whatever way his possession may have originated, must not be
dispossessed. Till very lately, Sir, I could not have imagined that,
in any assembly of reasonable, civilised, of educated men, it could be
necessary for me to stand up in defence of that principle. I should have
thought it as much a waste of the public time to make a speech on such
a subject as to make a speech against burning witches, against trying
writs of right by wager of battle, or against requiring a culprit to
prove his innocence by walking over red-hot ploughshares. But I find
that I was in error. Certain sages, lately assembled in conclave at
Exeter Hall, have done me the honour to communicate to me the fruits of
their profound meditations on the science of legislation. They have,
it seems, passed a resolution declaring that the principle, which I had
supposed that no man out of Bedlam would ever question, is an untenable
principle, and altogether unworthy of a British Parliament. They have
been pleased to add, that the present Government cannot, without gross
inconsistency, call on Parliament to pass a statute of limitation.
And why? Will the House believe it? Because the present Government has
appointed two new Vice Chancellors.

Really, Sir, I do not know whether the opponents of this bill shine
more as logicians or as jurists. Standing here as the advocate of
prescription, I ought not to forget that prescriptive right of talking
nonsense which gentlemen who stand on the platform of Exeter Hall are
undoubtedly entitled to claim. But, though I recognise the right, I
cannot but think that it may be abused, and that it has been abused on
the present occasion. One thing at least is clear, that, if Exeter Hall
be in the right, all the masters of political philosophy, all the great
legislators, all the systems of law by which men are and have been
governed in all civilised countries, from the earliest times, must be
in the wrong. How indeed can any society prosper, or even exist, without
the aid of this untenable principle, this principle unworthy of a
British legislature? This principle was found in the Athenian law. This
principle was found in the Roman law. This principle was found in the
laws of all those nations of which the jurisprudence was derived from
Rome. This principle was found in the law administered by the Parliament
of Paris; and, when that Parliament and the law which it administered
had been swept away by the revolution, this principle reappeared in
the Code Napoleon. Go westward, and you find this principle recognised
beyond the Mississippi. Go eastward, and you find it recognised beyond
the Indus, in countries which never heard the name of Justinian, in
countries to which no translation of the Pandects ever found its way.
Look into our own laws, and you will see that the principle, which is
now designated as unworthy of Parliament, has guided Parliament ever
since Parliament existed. Our first statute of limitation was enacted
at Merton, by men some of whom had borne a part in extorting the Great
Charter and the Forest Charter from King John. From that time to this
it has been the study of a succession of great lawyers and statesmen to
make the limitation more and more stringent. The Crown and the Church
indeed were long exempted from the general rule. But experience fully
proved that every such exemption was an evil; and a remedy was at last
applied. Sir George Savile, the model of English country gentlemen, was
the author of the Act which barred the claims of the Crown. That eminent
magistrate, the late Lord Tenterden, was the author of the Act which
barred the claims of the Church. Now, Sir, how is it possible to believe
that the Barons, whose seals are upon our Great Charter, would
have perfectly agreed with the great jurists who framed the Code of
Justinian, with the great jurists who framed the Code of Napoleon, with
the most learned English lawyers of the nineteenth century, and with the
Pundits of Benares, unless there had been some strong and clear reason
which necessarily led men of sense in every age and country to the same
conclusion? Nor is it difficult to see what the reason was. For it is
evident that the principle which silly and ignorant fanatics have called
untenable is essential to the institution of property, and that, if you
take away that principle, you will produce evils resembling those which
would be produced by a general confiscation. Imagine what would follow
if the maxims of Exeter Hall were introduced into Westminster Hall.
Imagine a state of things in which one of us should be liable to be sued
on a bill of exchange indorsed by his grandfather in 1760. Imagine a
man possessed of an estate and manor house which had descended to him
through ten or twelve generations of ancestors, and yet liable to be
ejected because some flaw had been detected in a deed executed three
hundred years ago, in the reign of Henry the Eighth. Why, Sir, should
we not all cry out that it would be better to live under the rule of
a Turkish Pasha than under such a system. Is it not plain that the
enforcing of an obsolete right is the inflicting of a wrong? Is it
not plain that, but for our statutes of limitation, a lawsuit would be
merely a grave, methodical robbery? I am ashamed to argue a point so

And if this be the general rule, why should the case which we are
now considering be an exception to that rule? I have done my best
to understand why. I have read much bad oratory, and many foolish
petitions. I have heard with attention the reasons of my honourable
friend the Member for the University of Oxford; and I should have heard
the reasons of the honourable Member for Kent, if there had been any to
hear. Every argument by which my honourable friend the Member for the
University of Oxford tried to convince us that this case is an exception
to the general rule, will be found on examination to be an argument
against the general rule itself. He says that the possession which we
propose to sanction was originally a wrongful possession. Why, Sir, all
the statutes of limitation that ever were made sanction possession which
was originally wrongful. It is for the protection of possessors who are
not in condition to prove that their possession was originally rightful
that statutes of limitation are passed. Then my honourable friend
says that this is an ex post facto law. Why, Sir, so are all our great
statutes of limitation. Look at the Statute of Merton, passed in 1235;
at the Statute of Westminster, passed in 1275; at the Statute of James
the First, passed in 1623; at Sir George Savile's Act, passed in the
last century; at Lord Tenterden's Act, passed in our own time. Every one
of those Acts was retrospective. Every one of them barred claims arising
out of past transactions. Nor was any objection ever raised to what
was so evidently just and wise, till bigotry and chicanery formed that
disgraceful league against which we are now contending. But, it is said,
it is unreasonable to grant a boon to men because they have been many
years doing wrong. The length of the time during which they have enjoyed
property not rightfully their own, is an aggravation of the injury which
they have committed, and is so far from being a reason for letting them
enjoy that property for ever, that it is rather a reason for compelling
them to make prompt restitution. With this childish sophistry the
petitions on our table are filled. Is it possible that any man can be
so dull as not to perceive that, if this be a reason, it is a reason
against all our statutes of limitation? I do a greater wrong to my
tailor if I withhold payment of his bill during six years than if I
withhold payment only during two years. Yet the law says that at the
end of two years he may bring an action and force me to pay him with
interest, but that after the lapse of six years he cannot force me to
pay him at all. It is much harder that a family should be kept out of
its hereditary estate during five generations than during five days.
But if you are kept out of your estate five days you have your action of
ejectment; and, after the lapse of five generations, you have no remedy.
I say, therefore, with confidence, that every argument which has been
urged against this bill is an argument against the great principle of
prescription. I go further, and I say that, if there be any case which,
in an especial manner, calls for the application of the principle of
prescription, this is that case. For the Unitarian congregations have
laid out so much on these little spots of ground that it is impossible
to take the soil from them without taking from them property which is of
much greater value than the mere soil, and which is indisputably their
own. This is not the case of a possessor who has been during many years,
receiving great emoluments from land to which he had not a good title.
It is the case of a possessor who has, from resources which were
undoubtedly his own, expended on the land much more than it was
originally worth. Even in the former case, it has been the policy of all
wise lawgivers to fix a time of limitation. A fortiori, therefore, there
ought to be a time of limitation in the latter case.

And here, Sir, I cannot help asking gentlemen to compare the petitions
for this bill with the petitions against it. Never was there such a
contrast. The petitions against the bill are filled with cant, rant,
scolding, scraps of bad sermons. The petitions in favour of the bill
set forth in the simplest manner great practical grievances. Take, for
instance, the case of Cirencester. The meeting house there was built in
1730. It is certain that the Unitarian doctrines were taught there as
early as 1742. That was only twelve years after the chapel had been
founded. Many of the original subscribers must have been living. Many
of the present congregation are lineal descendants of the original
subscribers. Large sums have from time to time been laid out in
repairing, enlarging, and embellishing the edifice; and yet there are
people who think it just and reasonable that this congregation should,
after the lapse of more than a century, be turned out. At Norwich,
again, a great dissenting meeting house was opened in 1688. It is not
easy to say how soon Anti-Trinitarian doctrines were taught there. The
change of sentiment in the congregation seems to have been gradual: but
it is quite certain that, in 1754, ninety years ago, both pastor and
flock were decidedly Unitarian. Round the chapel is a cemetery filled
with the monuments of eminent Unitarians. Attached to the chapel are a
schoolhouse and a library, built and fitted up by Unitarians. And now
the occupants find that their title is disputed. They cannot venture to
build; they cannot venture to repair; and they are anxiously awaiting
our decision. I do not know that I have cited the strongest cases. I
am giving you the ordinary history of these edifices. Go to Manchester.
Unitarianism has been taught there at least seventy years in a chapel
on which the Unitarians have expended large sums. Go to Leeds. Four
thousand pounds have been subscribed for the repairing of the Unitarian
chapel there, the chapel where, near eighty years ago, Priestly, the
great Doctor of the sect, officiated. But these four thousand pounds are
lying idle. Not a pew can be repaired till it is known whether this bill
will become law. Go to Maidstone. There Unitarian doctrines have been
taught during at least seventy years; and seven hundred pounds have
recently been laid out by the congregation in repairing the chapel.
Go to Exeter. It matters not where you go. But go to Exeter. There
Unitarian doctrines have been preached more than eighty years; and two
thousand pounds have been laid out on the chapel. It is the same
at Coventry, at Bath, at Yarmouth, everywhere. And will a British
Parliament rob the possessors of these buildings? I can use no other
word. How should we feel if it were proposed to deprive any other class
of men of land held during so long a time, and improved at so large a
cost? And, if this property should be transferred to those who covet it,
what would they gain in comparison with what the present occupants would
lose? The pulpit of Priestley, the pulpit of Lardner, are objects
of reverence to congregations which hold the tenets of Priestley and
Lardner. To the intruders those pulpits will be nothing; nay, worse than
nothing; memorials of heresiarchs. Within these chapels and all around
them are the tablets which the pious affection of four generations
has placed over the remains of dear mothers and sisters, wives and
daughters, of eloquent preachers, of learned theological writers. To
the Unitarian, the building which contains these memorials is a hallowed
building. To the intruder it is of no more value than any other room
in which he can find a bench to sit on and a roof to cover him. If,
therefore, we throw out this bill, we do not merely rob one set of
people in order to make a present to another set. That would be bad
enough. But we rob the Unitarians of that which they regard as a most
precious treasure; of that which is endeared to them by the strongest
religious and the strongest domestic associations; of that which cannot
be wrenched from them without inflicting on them the bitterest pain and
humiliation. To the Trinitarians we give that which can to them be of
little or no value except as a trophy of a most inglorious victory won
in a most unjust war.

But, Sir, an imputation of fraud has been thrown on the Unitarians;
not, indeed, here, but in many other places, and in one place of which
I would always wish to speak with respect. The Unitarians, it has
been said, knew that the original founders of these chapels were
Trinitarians; and to use, for the purpose of propagating Unitarian
doctrine, a building erected for the purpose of propagating Trinitarian
doctrine was grossly dishonest. One very eminent person (The Bishop
of London.) has gone so far as to maintain that the Unitarians cannot
pretend to any prescription of more than sixty-three years; and he
proves his point thus:--Till the year 1779, he says, no dissenting
teacher was within the protection of the Toleration Act unless he
subscribed those articles of the Church of England which affirm
the Athanasian doctrine. It is evident that no honest Unitarian can
subscribe those articles. The inference is, that the persons who
preached in these chapels down to the year 1779 must have been either
Trinitarians or rogues. Now, Sir, I believe that they were neither
Trinitarians nor rogues; and I cannot help suspecting that the great
prelate who brought this charge against them is not so well read in the
history of the nonconformist sects as in the history of that Church of
which he is an ornament. The truth is that, long before the year 1779,
the clause of the Toleration Act which required dissenting ministers
to subscribe thirty-five or thirty-six of our thirty-nine articles
had almost become obsolete. Indeed, that clause had never been rigidly
enforced. From the very first there were some dissenting ministers who
refused to subscribe, and yet continued to preach. Calany was one; and
he was not molested. And if this could be done in the year in which the
Toleration Act passed, we may easily believe that, at a later period,
the law would not have been very strictly observed. New brooms, as
the vulgar proverb tells us, sweep clean; and no statute is so rigidly
enforced as a statute just made. But, Sir, so long ago as the year 1711,
the provisions of the Toleration Act on this subject were modified. In
that year the Whigs, in order to humour Lord Nottingham, with whom
they had coalesced against Lord Oxford, consented to let the Occasional
Conformity Bill pass; but they insisted on inserting in the bill a
clause which was meant to propitiate the dissenters. By this clause
it was enacted that, if an information were laid against a dissenting
minister for having omitted to subscribe the articles, the defendant
might, by subscribing at any stage of the proceedings anterior to
the judgment, defeat the information, and throw all the costs on the
informer. The House will easily believe that, when such was the state of
the law, informers were not numerous. Indeed, during the discussions of
1773, it was distinctly affirmed, both in Parliament and in manifestoes
put forth by the dissenting body, that the majority of nonconformist
ministers then living had never subscribed. All arguments, therefore,
grounded on the insincerity which has been rashly imputed to the
Unitarians of former generations, fall at once to the ground.

But, it is said, the persons who, in the reigns of James the Second, of
William the Third, and of Anne, first established these chapels, held
the doctrine of the Trinity; and therefore, when, at a later period, the
preachers and congregations departed from the doctrine of the Trinity,
they ought to have departed from the chapels too. The honourable and
learned gentleman, the Attorney General, has refuted this argument so
ably that he has scarcely left anything for me to say about it. It is
well-known that the change which, soon after the Revolution, began to
take place in the opinions of a section of the old Puritan body, was a
gradual, an almost imperceptible change. The principle of the English
Presbyterians was to have no confession of faith and no form of prayer.
Their trust deeds contained no accurate theological definitions.
Nonsubscription was in truth the very bond which held them together.
What, then, could be more natural than that, Sunday by Sunday,
the sermons should have become less and less like those of the old
Calvinistic divines, that the doctrine of the Trinity should have been
less and less frequently mentioned, that at last it should have ceased
to be mentioned, and that thus, in the course of years, preachers and
hearers should, by insensible degrees, have become first Arians, then,
perhaps, Socinians. I know that this explanation has been treated
with disdain by people profoundly ignorant of the history of English
nonconformity. I see that my right honourable friend near me (Mr Fox
Maule.) does not assent to it. Will he permit me to refer him to an
analogous case with which he cannot but be well acquainted? No person
in the House is more versed than he in the ecclesiastical history of
Scotland; and he will, I am sure, admit that some of the doctrines now
professed by the Scotch sects which sprang from the secessions of 1733
and 1760 are such as the seceders of 1733 and the seceders of 1760 would
have regarded with horror. I have talked with some of the ablest, most
learned, and most pious of the Scotch dissenters of our time; and they
all fully admitted that they held more than one opinion which their
predecessors would have considered as impious. Take the question of the
connection between Church and State. The seceders of 1733 thought that
the connection ought to be much closer than it is. They blamed the
legislature for tolerating heresy. They maintained that the Solemn
league and covenant was still binding on the kingdom. They considered
it as a national sin that the validity of the Solemn League and Covenant
was not recognised at the time of the Revolution. When George Whitfield
went to Scotland, though they approved of his Calvinistic opinions, and
though they justly admired that natural eloquence which he possessed in
so wonderful a degree, they would hold no communion with him because he
would not subscribe the Solemn League and Covenant. Is that the doctrine
of their successors? Are the Scotch dissenters now averse to toleration?
Are they not zealous for the voluntary system? Is it not their constant
cry that it is not the business of the civil magistrate to encourage any
religion, false or true? Does any Bishop now abhor the Solemn League
and Covenant more than they? Here is an instance in which numerous
congregations have, retaining their identity, passed gradually from one
opinion to another opinion. And would it be just, would it be decent in
me, to impute dishonesty to them on that account? My right honourable
friend may be of opinion that the question touching the connection
between the Church and State is not a vital question. But was that the
opinion of the divines who drew up the Secession Testimony? He well
knows that in their view a man who denied that it was the duty of the
government to defend religious truth with the civil sword was as much a
heretic as a man who denied the doctrine of the Trinity.

Again, Sir, take the case of the Wesleyan Methodists. They are zealous
against this bill. They think it monstrous that a chapel originally
built for people holding one set of doctrines should be occupied by
people holding a different set of doctrines. I would advise them to
consider whether they cannot find in the history of their own body
reasons for being a little more indulgent. What were the opinions of
that great and good man, their founder, on the question whether men not
episcopally ordained could lawfully administer the Eucharist? He told
his followers that lay administration was a sin which he never could
tolerate. Those were the very words which he used; and I believe that,
during his lifetime, the Eucharist never was administered by laymen
in any place of worship which was under his control. After his death,
however, the feeling in favour of lay administration became strong and
general among his disciples. The Conference yielded to that feeling. The
consequence is that now, in every chapel which belonged to Wesley, those
who glory in the name of Wesleyans commit, every Sacrament Sunday, what
Wesley declared to be a sin which he would never tolerate. And yet these
very persons are not ashamed to tell us in loud and angry tones that it
is fraud, downright fraud, in a congregation which has departed from its
original doctrines to retain its original endowments. I believe, Sir,
that, if you refuse to pass this bill, the Courts of Law will soon have
to decide some knotty questions which, as yet, the Methodists little
dream of.

It has, I own, given me great pain to observe the unfair and acrimonious
manner in which too many of the Protestant nonconformists have
opposed this bill. The opposition of the Established Church has been
comparatively mild and moderate; and yet from the Established Church we
had less right to expect mildness and moderation. It is certainly
not right, but it is very natural, that a church, ancient and richly
endowed, closely connected with the Crown and the aristocracy, powerful
in parliament, dominant in the universities, should sometimes forget
what is due to poorer and humbler Christian societies. But when I hear
a cry for what is nothing less than persecution set up by men who have
been, over and over again within my own memory, forced to invoke in
their own defence the principles of toleration, I cannot but feel
astonishment mingled with indignation. And what above all excites both
my astonishment and my indignation is this, that the most noisy among
the noisy opponents of the bill which we are considering are some
sectaries who are at this very moment calling on us to pass another
bill of just the same kind for their own benefit. I speak of those Irish
Presbyterians who are asking for an ex post facto law to confirm their
marriages. See how exact the parallel is between the case of those
marriages and the case of these chapels. The Irish Presbyterians have
gone on marrying according to their own forms during a long course of
years. The Unitarians have gone on occupying, improving, embellishing
certain property during a long course of years. In neither case did any
doubt as to the right arise in the most honest, in the most scrupulous
mind. At length, about the same time, both the validity of the
Presbyterian marriages and the validity of the title by which the
Unitarians held their chapels were disputed. The two questions came
before the tribunals. The tribunals, with great reluctance, with great
pain, pronounced that, neither in the case of the marriages nor in the
case of the chapels, can prescription be set up against the letter
of the law. In both cases there is a just claim to relief such as the
legislature alone can afford. In both the legislature is willing to
grant that relief. But this will not satisfy the orthodox Presbyterian.
He demands with equal vehemence two things, that he shall be relieved,
and that nobody else shall be relieved. In the same breath he tells us
that it would be most iniquitous not to pass a retrospective law for his
benefit, and that it would be most iniquitous to pass a retrospective
law for the benefit of his fellow sufferers. I never was more amused
than by reading, the other day, a speech made by a person of great note
among the Irish Presbyterians on the subject of these marriages. "Is it
to be endured," he says, "that the mummies of old and forgotten laws are
to be dug up and unswathed for the annoyance of dissenters?" And yet a
few hours later, this eloquent orator is himself hard at work in digging
up and unswathing another set of mummies for the annoyance of another
set of dissenters. I should like to know how he and such as he would
look if we Churchmen were to assume the same tone towards them which
they think it becoming to assume towards the Unitarian body; if we were
to say, "You and those whom you would oppress are alike out of our pale.
If they are heretics in your opinion, you are schismatics in ours. Since
you insist on the letter of the law against them, we will insist on the
letter of the law against you. You object to ex post facto statutes; and
you shall have none. You think it reasonable that men should, in spite
of a prescription of eighty or ninety years, be turned out of a chapel
built with their own money, and a cemetery where their own kindred lie,
because the original title was not strictly legal. We think it equally
reasonable that those contracts which you have imagined to be marriages,
but which are now adjudged not to be legal marriages, should be
treated as nullities." I wish from my soul that some of these orthodox
dissenters would recollect that the doctrine which they defend with so
much zeal against the Unitarians is not the whole sum and substance of
Christianity, and that there is a text about doing unto others as you
would that they should do unto you.

To any intelligent man who has no object except to do justice, the
Trinitarian dissenter and the Unitarian dissenter who are now asking us
for relief will appear to have exactly the same right to it. There
is, however, I must own, one distinction between the two cases. The
Trinitarian dissenters are a strong body, and especially strong among
the electors of towns. They are of great weight in the State. Some of
us may probably, by voting to-night against their wishes, endanger
our seats in this House. The Unitarians, on the other hand, are few in
number. Their creed is unpopular. Their friendship is likely to injure
a public man more than their enmity. If therefore there be among us
any person of a nature at once tyrannical and cowardly, any person who
delights in persecution, but is restrained by fear from persecuting
powerful sects, now is his time. He never can have a better opportunity
of gratifying his malevolence without risk of retribution. But, for my
part, I long ago espoused the cause of religious liberty, not because
that cause was popular, but because it was just; and I am not disposed
to abandon the principles to which I have been true through my whole
life in deference to a passing clamour. The day may come, and may come
soon, when those who are now loudest in raising that clamour may again
be, as they have formerly been, suppliants for justice. When that day
comes I will try to prevent others from oppressing them, as I now try
to prevent them from oppressing others. In the meantime I shall
contend against their intolerance with the same spirit with which I may
hereafter have to contend for their rights.



On the twenty-sixth of February, 1845, on the question that the order of
the day for going into Committee of Ways and Means should be read, Lord
John Russell moved the following amendment:--"That it is the opinion
of this House that the plan proposed by Her Majesty's Government,
in reference to the Sugar Duties, professes to keep up a distinction
between foreign free labour sugar and foreign slave labour sugar, which
is impracticable and illusory; and, without adequate benefit to the
consumer, tends so greatly to impair the revenue as to render the
removal of the Income and Property Tax at the end of three years
extremely uncertain and improbable." The amendment was rejected by 236
votes to 142. In the debate the following Speech was made.

Sir, if the question now at issue were merely a financial or a
commercial question, I should be unwilling to offer myself to your
notice: for I am well aware that there are, both on your right and on
your left hand, many gentlemen far more deeply versed in financial and
commercial science than myself; and I should think that I discharged
my duty better by listening to them than by assuming the office of
a teacher. But, Sir, the question on which we are at issue with Her
Majesty's Ministers is neither a financial nor a commercial question.
I do not understand it to be disputed that, if we were to pronounce our
decision with reference merely to fiscal and mercantile considerations,
we should at once adopt the plan recommended by my noble friend. Indeed
the right honourable gentleman, the late President of the Board of
Trade (Mr Gladstone.), has distinctly admitted this. He says that
the Ministers of the Crown call upon us to sacrifice great pecuniary
advantages and great commercial facilities, for the purpose of
maintaining a moral principle. Neither in any former debate nor in
the debate of this night has any person ventured to deny that, both as
respects the public purse and as respects the interests of trade,
the course recommended by my noble friend is preferable to the course
recommended by the Government.

The objections to my noble friend's amendment, then, are purely moral
objections. We lie, it seems, under a moral obligation to make a
distinction between the produce of free labour and the produce of slave
labour. Now I should be very unwilling to incur the imputation of being
indifferent to moral obligations. I do, however, think that it is in
my power to show strong reasons for believing that the moral obligation
pleaded by the Ministers has no existence. If there be no such moral
obligation, then, as it is conceded on the other side that all fiscal
and commercial arguments are on the side of my noble friend, it follows
that we ought to adopt his amendment.

The right honourable gentleman, the late President of the Board of
Trade, has said that the Government does not pretend to act with perfect
consistency as to this distinction between free labour and slave labour.
It was, indeed, necessary that he should say this; for the policy of the
Government is obviously most inconsistent. Perfect consistency, I admit,
we are not to expect in human affairs. But, surely, there is a decent
consistency which ought to be observed; and of this the right honourable
gentleman himself seems to be sensible; for he asks how, if we admit
sugar grown by Brazilian slaves, we can with decency continue to stop
Brazilian vessels engaged in the slave trade. This argument, whatever
be its value, proceeds on the very correct supposition that the test
of sincerity in individuals, in parties, and in governments, is
consistency. The right honourable gentleman feels, as we must all feel,
that it is impossible to give credit for good faith to a man who on one
occasion pleads a scruple of conscience as an excuse for not doing a
certain thing, and who on other occasions, where there is no essential
difference of circumstances, does that very thing without any scruple
at all. I do not wish to use such a word as hypocrisy, or to impute that
odious vice to any gentleman on either side of the House. But whoever
declares one moment that he feels himself bound by a certain moral rule,
and the next moment, in a case strictly similar, acts in direct defiance
of that rule, must submit to have, if not his honesty, yet at least his
power of discriminating right from wrong very gravely questioned.

Now, Sir, I deny the existence of the moral obligation pleaded by the
Government. I deny that we are under any moral obligation to turn our
fiscal code into a penal code, for the purpose of correcting vices in
the institutions of independent states. I say that, if you suppose such
a moral obligation to be in force, the supposition leads to consequences
from which every one of us would recoil, to consequences which would
throw the whole commercial and political system of the world into
confusion. I say that, if such a moral obligation exists, our financial
legislation is one mass of injustice and inhumanity. And I say more
especially that, if such a moral obligation exists, the right honourable
Baronet's Budget is one mass of injustice and inhumanity.

Observe, I am not disputing the paramount authority of moral
obligation. I am not setting up pecuniary considerations against
moral considerations. I know that it would be not only a wicked but
a shortsighted policy, to aim at making a nation like this great and
prosperous by violating the laws of justice. To those laws, enjoin what
they may, I am prepared to submit. But I will not palter with them: I
will not cite them to-day in order to serve one turn, and quibble them
away to-morrow in order to serve another. I will not have two standards
of right; one to be applied when I wish to protect a favourite interest
at the public cost; and another to be applied when I wish to replenish
the Exchequer, and to give an impulse to trade. I will not have two
weights or two measures. I will not blow hot and cold, play fast and
loose, strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. Can the Government say as
much? Are gentlemen opposite prepared to act in conformity with their
own principle? They need not look long for opportunities. The Statute
Book swarms with enactments directly opposed to the rule which they
profess to respect. I will take a single instance from our existing
laws, and propound it to the gentlemen opposite as a test, if I must not
say of their sincerity, yet of their power of moral discrimination. Take
the article of tobacco. Not only do you admit the tobacco of the United
States which is grown by slaves; not only do you admit the tobacco of
Cuba which is grown by slaves, and by slaves, as you tell us, recently
imported from Africa; but you actually interdict the free labourer
of the United Kingdom from growing tobacco. You have long had in your
Statute Book laws prohibiting the cultivation of tobacco in England, and
authorising the Government to destroy all tobacco plantations except a
few square yards, which are suffered to exist unmolested in botanical
gardens, for purposes of science. These laws did not extend to Ireland.
The free peasantry of Ireland began to grow tobacco. The cultivation
spread fast. Down came your legislation upon it; and now, if the Irish
freeman dares to engage in competition with the slaves of Virginia and
Havannah, you exchequer him; you ruin him; you grub up his plantation.
Here, then, we have a test by which we may try the consistency of the
gentlemen opposite. I ask you, are you prepared, I do not say to exclude
the slave grown tobacco, but to take away from slave grown tobacco the
monopoly which you now give to it, and to permit the free labourer of
the United Kingdom to enter into competition on equal terms, on any
terms, with the negro who works under the lash? I am confident that
the three right honourable gentleman opposite, the First Lord of the
Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the late President of
the Board of Trade, will all with one voice answer "No." And why not?
"Because," say they, "it will injure the revenue. True it is," they will
say, "that the tobacco imported from abroad is grown by slaves, and by
slaves many of whom have been recently carried across the Atlantic in
defiance, not only of justice and humanity, but of law and treaty. True
it is that the cultivators of the United Kingdom are freemen. But then
on the imported tobacco we are able to raise at the Custom House a duty
of six hundred per cent., sometimes indeed of twelve hundred per cent.:
and, if tobacco were grown here, it would be difficult to get an excise
duty of even a hundred per cent. We cannot submit to this loss of
revenue; and therefore we must give a monopoly to the slaveholder, and
make it penal in the freeman to evade that monopoly." You may be
right; but, in the name of common sense, be consistent. If this moral
obligation of which you talk so much be one which may with propriety
yield to fiscal considerations, let us have Brazilian sugars. If it be
paramount to all fiscal considerations, let us at least have British
snuff and cigars.

The present Ministers may indeed plead that they are not the authors of
the laws which prohibit the cultivation of tobacco in Great Britain
and Ireland. That is true. The present Government found those laws in
existence: and no doubt there is good sense in the Conservative doctrine
that many things which ought not to have been set up ought not, when
they have been set up, to be hastily and rudely pulled down. But what
will the right honourable Baronet urge in vindication of his own new
budget? He is not content with maintaining laws which he finds already
existing in favour of produce grown by slaves. He introduces a crowd
of new laws to the same effect. He comes down to the House with a
proposition for entirely taking away the duties on the importation of
raw cotton. He glories in this scheme. He tells us that it is in strict
accordance with the soundest principles of legislation. He tells us that
it will be a blessing to the country. I agree with him, and I intend
to vote with him. But how is all this cotton grown? Is it not grown by
slaves? Again I say, you may be right; but, in the name of common
sense, be consistent. I saw, with no small amusement, a few days ago, a
paragraph by one of the right honourable Baronet's eulogists, which was
to the following effect:--"Thus has this eminent statesman given to the
English labourer a large supply of a most important raw material, and
has manfully withstood those ravenous Whigs who wished to inundate our
country with sugar dyed in negro blood." With what I should like to
know, is the right honourable Baronet's cotton dyed?

Formerly, indeed, an attempt was made to distinguish between the
cultivation of cotton and the cultivation of sugar. The cultivation of
sugar, it was said, was peculiarly fatal to the health and life of
the slave. But that plea, whatever it may have been worth, must now be
abandoned; for the right honourable Baronet now proposes to reduce, to
a very great extent, the duty on slave grown sugar imported from the
United States.

Then a new distinction is set up. The United States, it is said, have
slavery; but they have no slave trade. I deny that assertion. I say that
the sugar and cotton of the United States are the fruits, not only of
slavery, but of the slave trade. And I say further that, if there be on
the surface of this earth a country which, before God and man, is more
accountable than any other for the misery and degradation of the
African race, that country is not Brazil, the produce of which the right
honourable Baronet excludes, but the United States, the produce of
which he proposes to admit on more favourable terms than ever. I have
no pleasure in going into an argument of this nature. I do not conceive
that it is the duty of a member of the English Parliament to discuss
abuses which exist in other societies. Such discussion seldom tends to
produce any reform of such abuses, and has a direct tendency to wound
national pride, and to inflame national animosities. I would willingly
avoid this subject; but the right honourable Baronet leaves me no
choice. He turns this House into a Court of Judicature for the purpose
of criticising and comparing the institutions of independent States. He
tells us that our Tariff is to be made an instrument for rewarding the
justice and humanity of some Foreign Governments, and for punishing
the barbarity of others. He binds up the dearest interests of my
constituents with questions with which otherwise I should, as a Member
of Parliament, have nothing to do. I would gladly keep silence on such
questions. But it cannot be. The tradesmen and the professional men
whom I represent say to me, "Why are we to be loaded, certainly for some
years, probably for ever, with a tax, admitted by those who impose it to
be grievous, unequal, inquisitorial? Why are we to be loaded in time of
peace with burdens heretofore reserved for the exigencies of war?" The
paper manufacturer, the soap manufacturer, say, "Why, if the Income Tax
is to be continued, are our important and suffering branches of industry
to have no relief?" And the answer is, "Because Brazil does not behave
so well as the United States towards the negro race." Can I then avoid
instituting a comparison? Am I not bound to bring to the test the truth
of an assertion pregnant with consequences so momentous to those who
have sent me hither? I must speak out; and, if what I say gives offence
and produces inconvenience, for that offence and for that inconvenience
the Government is responsible.

I affirm, then, that there exists in the United States a slave trade,
not less odious or demoralising, nay, I do in my conscience believe,
more odious and more demoralising than that which is carried on between
Africa and Brazil. North Carolina and Virginia are to Louisiana and
Alabama what Congo is to Rio Janeiro. The slave States of the Union are
divided into two classes, the breeding States, where the human beasts of
burden increase and multiply and become strong for labour, and the sugar
and cotton States to which those beasts of burden are sent to be worked
to death. To what an extent the traffic in man is carried on we may
learn by comparing the census of 1830 with the census of 1840. North
Carolina and Virginia are, as I have said, great breeding States. During
the ten years from 1830 to 1840 the slave population of North Carolina
was almost stationary. The slave population of Virginia positively
decreased. Yet, both in North Carolina and Virginia propagation was,
during those ten years, going on fast. The number of births among the
slaves in those States exceeded by hundreds of thousands the number of
the deaths. What then became of the surplus? Look to the returns from
the Southern States, from the States whose produce the right honourable
Baronet proposes to admit with reduced duty or with no duty at all; and
you will see. You will find that the increase in the breeding States
was barely sufficient to meet the demand of the consuming States. In
Louisiana, for example, where we know that the negro population is
worn down by cruel toil, and would not, if left to itself, keep up its
numbers, there were, in 1830, one hundred and seven thousand slaves; in
1840, one hundred and seventy thousand. In Alabama, the slave population
during those ten years much more than doubled; it rose from one hundred
and seventeen thousand to two hundred and fifty-three thousand. In
Mississippi it actually tripled. It rose from sixty-five thousand to one
hundred and ninety-five thousand. So much for the extent of this slave
trade. And as to its nature, ask any Englishman who has ever travelled
in the Southern States. Jobbers go about from plantation to plantation
looking out for proprietors who are not easy in their circumstances,
and who are likely to sell cheap. A black boy is picked up here; a black
girl there. The dearest ties of nature and of marriage are torn asunder
as rudely as they were ever torn asunder by any slave captain on the
coast of Guinea. A gang of three or four hundred negroes is made up;
and then these wretches, handcuffed, fettered, guarded by armed men,
are driven southward, as you would drive,--or rather as you would not
drive,--a herd of oxen to Smithfield, that they may undergo the deadly
labour of the sugar mill near the mouth of the Mississippi. A very
few years of that labour in that climate suffice to send the stoutest
African to his grave. But he can well be spared. While he is fast
sinking into premature old age, negro boys in Virginia are growing up as
fast into vigorous manhood to supply the void which cruelty is making in
Louisiana. God forbid that I should extenuate the horrors of the slave
trade in any form! But I do think this its worst form. Bad enough is it
that civilised men should sail to an uncivilised quarter of the world
where slavery exists, should there buy wretched barbarians, and should
carry them away to labour in a distant land: bad enough! But that a
civilised man, a baptized man, a man proud of being a citizen of a free
state, a man frequenting a Christian church, should breed slaves for
exportation, and, if the whole horrible truth must be told, should even
beget slaves for exportation, should see children, sometimes his own
children, gambolling around him from infancy, should watch their growth,
should become familiar with their faces, and should then sell them for
four or five hundred dollars a head, and send them to lead in a remote
country a life which is a lingering death, a life about which the best
thing that can be said is that it is sure to be short; this does, I own,
excite a horror exceeding even the horror excited by that slave trade
which is the curse of the African coast. And mark: I am not speaking of
any rare case, of any instance of eccentric depravity. I am speaking of
a trade as regular as the trade in pigs between Dublin and Liverpool, or
as the trade in coals between the Tyne and the Thames.

There is another point to which I must advert. I have no wish to
apologise for slavery as it exists in Brazil; but this I say, that
slavery, as it exists in Brazil, though a fearful evil, seems to me a
much less hopeless evil than slavery as it exists in the United States.
In estimating the character of negro slavery we must never forget one
most important ingredient; an ingredient which was wanting to slavery as
it was known to the Greeks and Romans; an ingredient which was wanting
to slavery as it appeared in Europe during the middle ages; I mean the
antipathy of colour. Where this antipathy exists in a high degree, it is
difficult to conceive how the white masters and the black labourers can
ever be mingled together, as the lords and villeins in many parts of
the Old World have been, in one free community. Now this antipathy is
notoriously much stronger in the United States than in the Brazils.
In the Brazils the free people of colour are numerous. They are not
excluded from honourable callings. You may find among them merchants,
physicians, lawyers: many of them bear arms; some have been admitted to
holy orders. Whoever knows what dignity, what sanctity, the Church
of Rome ascribes to the person of a priest, will at once perceive the
important consequences which follow from this last circumstance. It
is by no means unusual to see a white penitent kneeling before the
spiritual tribunal of a negro, confessing his sins to a negro, receiving
absolution from a negro. It is by no means unusual to see a negro
dispensing the Eucharist to a circle of whites. I need not tell the
House what emotions of amazement and of rage such a spectacle would
excite in Georgia or South Carolina. Fully admitting, therefore, as I
do, that Brazilian slavery is a horrible evil, I yet must say that, if
I were called upon to declare whether I think the chances of the African
race on the whole better in Brazil or in the United States, I should at
once answer that they are better in Brazil. I think it not improbable
that in eighty or a hundred years the black population of Brazil may
be free and happy. I see no reasonable prospect of such a change in the
United States.

The right honourable gentleman, the late President of the Board of
Trade, has said much about that system of maritime police by which we
have attempted to sweep slave trading vessels from the great highway of
nations. Now what has been the conduct of Brazil, and what has been the
conduct of the United States, as respects that system of police? Brazil
has come into the system; the United States have thrown every impediment
in the way of the system. What opinion Her Majesty's Ministers entertain
respecting the Right of Search we know from a letter of my Lord Aberdeen
which has, within a few days, been laid on our table. I believe that I
state correctly the sense of that letter when I say that the noble Earl
regards the Right of Search as an efficacious means, and as the only
efficacious means, of preventing the maritime slave trade. He expresses
most serious doubts whether any substitute can be devised. I think that
this check would be a most valuable one, if all nations would submit
to it; and I applaud the humanity which has induced successive British
administrations to exert themselves for the purpose of obtaining the
concurrence of foreign Powers in so excellent a plan. Brazil consented
to admit the Right of Search; the United States refused, and by refusing
deprived the Right of Search of half its value. Not content with
refusing to admit the Right of Search, they even disputed the right of
visit, a right which no impartial publicist in Europe will deny to be
in strict conformity with the Law of Nations. Nor was this all. In every
part of the Continent of Europe the diplomatic agents of the Cabinet of
Washington have toiled to induce other nations to imitate the example of
the United States. You cannot have forgotten General Cass's letter. You
cannot have forgotten the terms in which his Government communicated to
him its approbation of his conduct. You know as well as I do that, if
the United States had submitted to the Right of Search, there would have
been no outcry against that right in France. Nor do I much blame the
French. It is but natural that, when one maritime Power makes it a point
of honour to refuse us this right, other maritime Powers should think
that they cannot, without degradation, take a different course. It is
but natural that a Frenchman, proud of his country, should ask why the
tricolor is to be less respected then the stars and stripes. The right
honourable gentleman says that, if we assent to my noble friend's
amendment, we shall no longer be able to maintain the Right of Search.
Sir, he need not trouble himself about that right. It is already gone.
We have agreed to negotiate on the subject with France. Everybody knows
how that negotiation will end. The French flag will be exempted from
search: Spain will instantly demand, if she has not already demanded,
similar exemption; and you may as well let her have it with a good
grace, and without wrangling. For a Right of Search, from which the
flags of France and America are exempted, is not worth a dispute.
The only system, therefore, which, in the opinion of Her Majesty's
Ministers, has yet been found efficacious for the prevention of the
maritime slave trade, is in fact abandoned. And who is answerable for
this? The United States of America. The chief guilt even of the slave
trade between Africa and Brazil lies, not with the Government of Brazil,
but with that of the United States. And yet the right honourable Baronet
proposes to punish Brazil for the slave trade, and in the same breath
proposes to show favour to the United States, because the United States
are pure from the crime of slave trading. I thank the right honourable
gentleman, the late President of the Board of Trade, for reminding me of
Mr Calhoun's letter. I could not have wished for a better illustration
of my argument. Let anybody who has read that letter say what is the
country which, if we take on ourselves to avenge the wrongs of Africa,
ought to be the first object of our indignation. The Government of the
United States has placed itself on a bad eminence to which Brazil never
aspired, and which Brazil, even if aspiring to it, never could attain.
The Government of the United States has formally declared itself the
patron, the champion of negro slavery all over the world, the evil
genius, the Arimanes of the African race, and seems to take pride in
this shameful and odious distinction. I well understand that an American
statesman may say, "Slavery is a horrible evil; but we were born to it,
we see no way at present to rid ourselves of it: and we must endure it
as we best may." Good and enlightened men may hold such language;
but such is not the language of the American Cabinet. That Cabinet is
actuated by a propagandist spirit, and labours to spread servitude and
barbarism with an ardour such as no other Government ever showed in
the cause of freedom and civilisation. Nay more; the doctrine held at
Washington is that this holy cause sanctifies the most unholy means.
These zealots of slavery think themselves justified in snatching away
provinces on the right hand and on the left, in defiance of public
faith and international law, from neighbouring countries which have
free institutions, and this avowedly for the purpose of diffusing over
a wider space the greatest curse that afflicts humanity. They put
themselves at the head of the slavedriving interest throughout the
world, just as Elizabeth put herself at the head of the Protestant
interest; and wherever their favourite institution is in danger, are
ready to stand by it as Elizabeth stood by the Dutch. This, then, I hold
to be demonstrated, that of all societies now existing, the Republic of
the United States is by far the most culpable as respects slavery and
the slave trade.

Now then I come to the right honourable Baronet's Budget. He tells us,
that he will not admit Brazilian sugar, because the Brazilian Government
tolerates slavery and connives at the slave trade; and he tells us at
the same time, that he will admit the slave grown cotton and the slave
grown sugar of the United States. I am utterly at a loss to understand
how he can vindicate his consistency. He tells us that if we adopt my
noble friend's proposition, we shall give a stimulus to the slave trade
between Africa and Brazil. Be it so. But is it not equally clear that,
if we adopt the right honourable Baronet's own propositions, we shall
give a stimulus to the slave trade between Virginia and Louisiana? I
have not the least doubt that, as soon as the contents of his Budget
are known on the other side of the Atlantic, the slave trade will become
more active than it is at this moment; that the jobbers in human flesh
and blood will be more busy than ever; that the droves of manacled
negroes, moving southward to their doom, will be more numerous on
every road. These will be the fruits of the right honourable Baronet's
measure. Yet he tells us that this part of his Budget is framed on sound
principles and will greatly benefit the country; and he tells us truth.
I mean to vote with him; and I can perfectly, on my own principles,
reconcile to my conscience the vote which I shall give. How the right
honourable Baronet can reconcile the course which he takes to his
conscience, I am at a loss to conceive, and am not a little curious to
know. No man is more capable than he of doing justice to any cause which
he undertakes; and it would be most presumptuous in me to anticipate the
defence which he means to set up. But I hope that the House will suffer
me, as one who feels deeply on this subject, now to explain the
reasons which convince me that I ought to vote for the right honourable
Baronet's propositions respecting the produce of the United States. In
explaining those reasons, I at the same time explain the reasons which
induce me to vote with my noble friend to-night.

I say then, Sir, that I fully admit the paramount authority of moral
obligations. But it is important that we should accurately understand
the nature and extent of those obligations. We are clearly bound
to wrong no man. Nay, more, we are bound to regard all men with
benevolence. But to every individual, and to every society, Providence
has assigned a sphere within which benevolence ought to be peculiarly
active; and if an individual or a society neglects what lies within that
sphere in order to attend to what lies without, the result is likely to
be harm and not good.

It is thus in private life. We should not be justified in injuring a
stranger in order to benefit ourselves or those who are dearest to us.
Every stranger is entitled, by the laws of humanity, to claim from us
certain reasonable good offices. But it is not true that we are bound
to exert ourselves to serve a mere stranger as we are bound to exert
ourselves to serve our own relations. A man would not be justified in
subjecting his wife and children to disagreeable privations, in order to
save even from utter ruin some foreigner whom he never saw. And if a
man were so absurd and perverse as to starve his own family in order
to relieve people with whom he had no acquaintance, there can be
little doubt that his crazy charity would produce much more misery than

It is the same with nations. No statesmen ought to injure other
countries in order to benefit his own country. No statesman ought to
lose any fair opportunity of rendering to foreign nations such good
offices as he can render without a breach of the duty which he owes to
the society of which he is a member. But, after all, our country is our
country, and has the first claim on our attention. There is nothing, I
conceive, of narrow-mindedness in this patriotism. I do not say that we
ought to prefer the happiness of one particular society to the happiness
of mankind; but I say that, by exerting ourselves to promote the
happiness of the society with which we are most nearly connected, and
with which we are best acquainted, we shall do more to promote the
happiness of mankind than by busying ourselves about matters which we do
not fully understand, and cannot efficiently control.

There are great evils connected with the factory system in this country.
Some of those evils might, I am inclined to think, be removed or
mitigated by legislation. On that point many of my friends differ
from me; but we all agree in thinking that it is the duty of a British
Legislator to consider the subject attentively, and with a serious sense
of responsibility. There are also great social evils in Russia. The
peasants of that empire are in a state of servitude. The sovereign of
Russia is bound by the most solemn obligations to consider whether he
can do anything to improve the condition of that large portion of his
subjects. If we watch over our factory children, and he watches over
his peasants, much good may be done. But would any good be done if
the Emperor of Russia and the British Parliament were to interchange
functions; if he were to take under his patronage the weavers of
Lancashire, if we were to take under our patronage the peasants of the
Volga; if he were to say, "You shall send no cotton to Russia till you
pass a ten Hours' Bill;" if we were to say, "You shall send no hemp or
tallow to England till you emancipate your serfs?"

On these principles, Sir, which seem to me to be the principles of plain
common sense, I can, without resorting to any casuistical subtilties,
vindicate to my own conscience, and, I hope, to my country, the whole
course which I have pursued with respect to slavery. When I first came
into Parliament, slavery still existed in the British dominions. I had,
as it was natural that I should have, a strong feeling on the subject.
I exerted myself, according to my station and to the measure of my
abilities, on the side of the oppressed. I shrank from no personal
sacrifice in that cause. I do not mention this as matter of boast. It
was no more than my duty. The right honourable gentleman, the Secretary
of State for the Home Department, knows that, in 1833, I disapproved
of one part of the measure which Lord Grey's Government proposed on the
subject of slavery. I was in office; and office was then as important
to me as it could be to any man. I put my resignation into the hands of
Lord Spencer, and both spoke and voted against the Administration. To my
surprise, Lord Grey and Lord Spencer refused to accept my resignation,
and I remained in office; but during some days I considered myself as
out of the service of the Crown. I at the same time heartily joined in
laying a heavy burden on the country for the purpose of compensating the
planters. I acted thus, because, being a British Legislator, I thought
myself bound, at any cost to myself and to my constituents, to remove a
foul stain from the British laws, and to redress the wrongs endured by
persons who, as British subjects, were placed under my guardianship. But
my especial obligations in respect of negro slavery ceased when slavery
itself ceased in that part of the world for the welfare of which I, as
a member of this House, was accountable. As for the blacks in the United
States, I feel for them, God knows. But I am not their keeper. I do not
stand in the same relation to the slaves of Louisiana and Alabama in
which I formerly stood to the slaves of Demerara and Jamaica. I am
bound, on the other hand, by the most solemn obligations, to promote the
interests of millions of my own countrymen, who are indeed by no means
in a state so miserable and degraded as that of the slaves in the United
States, but who are toiling hard from sunrise to sunset in order to
obtain a scanty subsistence; who are often scarcely able to procure the
necessaries of life; and whose lot would be alleviated if I could open
new markets to them, and free them from taxes which now press heavily
on their industry. I see clearly that, by excluding the produce of slave
labour from our ports, I should inflict great evil on my fellow-subjects
and constituents. But the good which, by taking such a course, I should
do to the negroes in the United States seems to me very problematical.
That by admitting slave grown cotton and slave grown sugar we do, in
some sense, encourage slavery and the Slave Trade, may be true. But
I doubt whether, by turning our fiscal code into a penal code for
restraining the cruelty of the American planters, we should not, on
the whole, injure the negroes rather than benefit them. No independent
nation will endure to be told by another nation, "We are more virtuous
than you; we have sate in judgment on your institutions; we find them
to be bad; and, as a punishment for your offences, we condemn you to pay
higher duties at our Custom House than we demand from the rest of the
world." Such language naturally excites the resentment of foreigners.
I can make allowance for their susceptibility. For I myself sympathise
with them, I know that Ireland has been misgoverned; and I have done,
and purpose to do, my best to redress her grievances. But when I take up
a New York journal, and read there the rants of President Tyler's son, I
feel so much disgusted by such insolent absurdity that I am for a moment
inclined to deny that Ireland has any reason whatever to complain. It
seems to me that if ever slavery is peaceably extinguished in the United
States, that great and happy change must be brought about by the efforts
of those enlightened and respectable American citizens who hate slavery
as much as we hate it. Now I cannot help fearing that, if the British
Parliament were to proclaim itself the protector and avenger of the
American slave, the pride of those excellent persons would take the
alarm. It might become a point of national honour with them to stand by
an institution which they have hitherto regarded as a national disgrace.
We should thus confer no benefit on the negro; and we should at the same
time inflict cruel suffering on our own countrymen.

On these grounds, Sir, I can, with a clear conscience, vote for the
right honourable Baronet's propositions respecting the cotton and sugar
of the United States. But on exactly the same grounds I can, with a
clear conscience, vote for the amendment of my noble friend. And I
confess that I shall be much surprised if the right honourable Baronet
shall be able to point out any distinction between the cases.

I have detained you too long, Sir; yet there is one point to which I
must refer; I mean the refining. Was such a distinction ever heard of?
Is there anything like it in all Pascal's Dialogues with the old Jesuit?
Not for the world are we to eat one ounce of Brazilian sugar. But we
import the accursed thing; we bond it; we employ our skill and machinery
to render it more alluring to the eye and to the palate; we export it
to Leghorn and Hamburg; we send it to all the coffee houses of Italy
and Germany: we pocket a profit on all this; and then we put on a
Pharisaical air, and thank God that we are not like those wicked
Italians and Germans who have no scruple about swallowing slave grown
sugar. Surely this sophistry is worthy only of the worst class of false
witnesses. "I perjure myself! Not for the world. I only kissed my thumb;
I did not put my lips to the calf-skin." I remember something very like
the right honourable Baronet's morality in a Spanish novel which I
read long ago. I beg pardon of the House for detaining them with such a
trifle; but the story is much to the purpose. A wandering lad, a sort
of Gil Blas, is taken into the service of a rich old silversmith, a most
pious man, who is always telling his beads, who hears mass daily,
and observes the feasts and fasts of the church with the utmost
scrupulosity. The silversmith is always preaching honesty and piety.
"Never," he constantly repeats to his young assistant, "never touch what
is not your own; never take liberties with sacred things." Sacrilege, as
uniting theft with profaneness, is the sin of which he has the deepest
horror. One day, while he is lecturing after his usual fashion, an
ill-looking fellow comes into the shop with a sack under his arm. "Will
you buy these?" says the visitor, and produces from the sack some church
plate and a rich silver crucifix. "Buy them!" cries the pious man. "No,
nor touch them; not for the world. I know where you got them. Wretch
that you are, have you no care for your soul?" "Well then," says the
thief, "if you will not buy them, will you melt them down for me?" "Melt
them down!" answers the silver smith, "that is quite another matter."
He takes the chalices and the crucifix with a pair of tongs; the silver,
thus in bond, is dropped into the crucible, melted, and delivered to the
thief, who lays down five pistoles and decamps with his booty. The
young servant stares at this strange scene. But the master very
gravely resumes his lecture. "My son," he says, "take warning by that
sacrilegious knave, and take example by me. Think what a load of guilt
lies on his conscience. You will see him hanged before long. But as to
me, you saw that I would not touch the stolen property. I keep these
tongs for such occasions. And thus I thrive in the fear of God, and
manage to turn an honest penny." You talk of morality. What can be more
immoral than to bring ridicule on the very name of morality, by drawing
distinctions where there are no differences? Is it not enough that this
dishonest casuistry has already poisoned our theology? Is it not enough
that a set of quibbles has been devised, under cover of which a divine
may hold the worst doctrines of the Church of Rome, and may hold with
them the best benefice of the Church of England? Let us at least keep
the debates of this House free from the sophistry of Tract Number

And then the right honourable gentleman, the late President of the Board
of Trade, wonders that other nations consider our abhorrence of slavery
and the Slave Trade as sheer hypocrisy. Why, Sir, how should it be
otherwise? And, if the imputation annoys us, whom have we to thank for
it? Numerous and malevolent as our detractors are, none of them was ever
so absurd as to charge us with hypocrisy because we took slave grown
tobacco and slave grown cotton, till the Government began to affect
scruples about admitting slave grown sugar. Of course, as soon as our
Ministers ostentatiously announced to all the world that our fiscal
system was framed on a new and sublime moral principle, everybody
began to inquire whether we consistently adhered to that principle. It
required much less acuteness and much less malevolence than that of our
neighbours to discover that this hatred of slave grown produce was mere
grimace. They see that we not only take tobacco produced by means of
slavery and of the Slave Trade, but that we positively interdict freemen
in this country from growing tobacco. They see that we not only take
cotton produced by means of slavery and of the Slave Trade, but that we
are about to exempt this cotton from all duty. They see that we are at
this moment reducing the duty on the slave grown sugar of Louisiana.
How can we expect them to believe that it is from a sense of justice and
humanity that we lay a prohibitory duty on the sugar of Brazil? I care
little for the abuse which any foreign press or any foreign tribune may
throw on the Machiavelian policy of perfidious Albion. What gives me
pain is, not that the charge of hypocrisy is made, but that I am unable
to see how it is to be refuted.

Yet one word more. The right honourable gentleman, the late President
of the Board of Trade, has quoted the opinions of two persons, highly
distinguished by the exertions which they made for the abolition of
slavery, my lamented friend, Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, and Sir Stephen
Lushington. It is most true that those eminent persons did approve of
the principle laid down by the right honourable Baronet opposite in
1841. I think that they were in error; but in their error I am sure
that they were sincere, and I firmly believe that they would have been
consistent. They would have objected, no doubt, to my noble friend's
amendment; but they would have objected equally to the right honourable
Baronet's budget. It was not prudent, I think, in gentlemen opposite
to allude to those respectable names. The mention of those names
irresistibly carries the mind back to the days of the great struggle for
negro freedom. And it is but natural that we should ask where, during
that struggle, were those who now profess such loathing for slave grown
sugar? The three persons who are chiefly responsible for the financial
and commercial policy of the present Government I take to be the right
honourable Baronet at the head of the Treasury, the right honourable
gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the right honourable
gentleman the late President of the Board of Trade. Is there anything
in the past conduct of any one of the three which can lead me to believe
that his sensibility to the evils of slavery is greater than mine? I am
sure that the right honourable Baronet the first Lord of the Treasury
would think that I was speaking ironically if I were to compliment him
on his zeal for the liberty of the negro race. Never once, during the
whole of the long and obstinate conflict which ended in the abolition of
slavery in our colonies, did he give one word, one sign of encouragement
to those who suffered and laboured for the good cause. The whole weight
of his great abilities and influence was in the other scale. I well
remember that, so late as 1833, he declared in this House that he could
give his assent neither to the plan of immediate emancipation proposed
by my noble friend who now represents Sunderland (Lord Howick.), nor to
the plan of gradual emancipation proposed by Lord Grey's government.
I well remember that he said, "I shall claim no credit hereafter on
account of this bill; all that I desire is to be absolved from the
responsibility." As to the other two right honourable gentlemen whom
I have mentioned, they are West Indians; and their conduct was that
of West Indians. I do not wish to give them pain, or to throw any
disgraceful imputation on them. Personally I regard them with feelings
of goodwill and respect. I do not question their sincerity; but I know
that the most honest men are but too prone to deceive themselves into
the belief that the path towards which they are impelled by their own
interests and passions is the path of duty. I am conscious that this
might be my own case; and I believe it to be theirs. As the right
honourable gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has left the
House, I will only say that, with respect to the question of slavery,
he acted after the fashion of the class to which he belonged. But as the
right honourable gentleman, the late President of the Board of Trade,
is in his place, he must allow me to bring to his recollection the part
which he took in the debates of 1833. He then said, "You raise a great
clamour about the cultivation of sugar. You say that it is a species of
industry fatal to the health and life of the slave. I do not deny that
there is some difference between the labour of a sugar plantation and
the labour of a cotton plantation, or a coffee plantation. But the
difference is not so great as you think. In marshy soils, the slaves who
cultivate the sugar cane suffer severely. But in Barbadoes, where the
air is good, they thrive and multiply." He proceeded to say that, even
at the worst, the labour of a sugar plantation was not more unhealthy
than some kinds of labour in which the manufacturers of England are
employed, and which nobody thinks of prohibiting. He particularly
mentioned grinding. "See how grinding destroys the health, the sight,
the life. Yet there is no outcry against grinding." He went on to say
that the whole question ought to be left by Parliament to the West
Indian Legislature. [Mr Gladstone: "Really I never said so. You are not
quoting me at all correctly."] What, not about the sugar cultivation and
the grinding? [Mr Gladstone: "That is correct; but I never recommended
that the question should be left to the West Indian Legislatures."] I
have quoted correctly. But since my right honourable friend disclaims
the sentiment imputed to him by the reporters, I shall say no more about
it. I have no doubt that he is quite right, and that what he said was
misunderstood. What is undisputed is amply sufficient for my purpose.
I see that the persons who now show so much zeal against slavery in
foreign countries, are the same persons who formerly countenanced
slavery in the British Colonies. I remember a time when they maintained
that we were bound in justice to protect slave grown sugar against the
competition of free grown sugar, and even of British free grown sugar.
I now hear them calling on us to protect free grown sugar against the
competition of slave grown sugar. I remember a time when they extenuated
as much as they could the evils of the sugar cultivation. I now hear
them exaggerating those evils. But, devious as their course has been,
there is one clue by which I can easily track them through the whole
maze. Inconstant in everything else, they are constant in demanding
protection for the West Indian planter. While he employs slaves, they
do their best to apologise for the evils of slavery. As soon as he is
forced to employ freemen, they begin to cry up the blessings of freedom.
They go round the whole compass, and yet to one point they steadfastly
adhere: and that point is the interest of the West Indian proprietors.
I have done, Sir; and I thank the House most sincerely for the patience
and indulgence with which I have been heard. I hope that I have at
least vindicated my own consistency. How Her Majesty's Ministers will
vindicate their consistency, how they will show that their conduct has
at all times been guided by the same principles, or even that their
conduct at the present time is guided by any fixed principle at all, I
am unable to conjecture.


THE 14TH OF APRIL, 1845.

On Saturday the eleventh of April, 1845, Sir Robert Peel moved the
second reading of the Maynooth College Bill. After a debate of six
nights the motion was carried by 323 votes to 176. On the second night
the following Speech was made.

I do not mean, Sir, to follow the honourable gentleman who has just sate
down into a discussion on an amendment which is not now before us. When
my honourable friend the Member for Sheffield shall think it expedient
to make a motion on that important subject to which he has repeatedly
called the attention of the House, I may, perhaps, ask to be heard.
At present I shall content myself with explaining the reasons which
convince me that it is my duty to vote for the second reading of this
bill; and I cannot, I think, better explain those reasons than by
passing in review, as rapidly as I can, the chief objections which have
been made to the bill here and elsewhere.

The objectors, Sir, may be divided into three classes. The first class
consists of those persons who object, not to the principle of the grant
to Maynooth College, but merely to the amount. The second class consists
of persons who object on principle to all grants made to a church which
they regard as corrupt. The third class consists of persons who object
on principle to all grants made to churches, whether corrupt or pure.

Now, Sir, of those three classes the first is evidently that which
takes the most untenable ground. How any person can think that Maynooth
College ought to be supported by public money, and yet can think
this bill too bad to be suffered to go into Committee, I do not well
understand. I am forced however to believe that there are many such
persons. For I cannot but remember that the old annual vote attracted
scarcely any notice; and I see that this bill has produced violent
excitement. I cannot but remember that the old annual vote used to pass
with very few dissentients; and I see that great numbers of gentlemen,
who never were among those dissentients, have crowded down to the House
in order to divide against this bill. It is indeed certain that a large
proportion, I believe a majority, of those members who cannot, as
they assure us, conscientiously support the plan proposed by the right
honourable Baronet at the head of the Government, would without the
smallest scruple have supported him if he had in this, as in former
years, asked us to give nine thousand pounds for twelve months. So it
is: yet I cannot help wondering that it should be so. For how can
any human ingenuity turn a question between nine thousand pounds and
twenty-six thousand pounds, or between twelve months and an indefinite
number of months, into a question of principle? Observe: I am not now
answering those who maintain that nothing ought to be given out of
the public purse to a corrupt church; nor am I now answering those who
maintain that nothing ought to be given out of the public purse to
any church whatever. They, I admit, oppose this bill on principle. I
perfectly understand, though I do not myself hold, the opinion of the
zealous voluntary who says, "Whether the Roman Catholic Church teaches
truth or error, she ought to have no assistance from the State." I also
perfectly understand, though I do not myself hold, the opinion of the
zealous Protestant who says, "The Roman Catholic Church teaches error,
and therefore ought to have no assistance from the State." But I cannot
understand the reasoning of the man who says, "In spite of the errors
of the Roman Catholic Church, I think that she ought to have some
assistance from the State; but I am bound to mark my abhorrence of her
errors by doling out to her a miserable pittance. Her tenets are so
absurd and noxious that I will pay the professor who teaches them wages
less than I should offer to my groom. Her rites are so superstitious
that I will take care that they shall be performed in a chapel with a
leaky roof and a dirty floor. By all means let us keep her a college,
provided only that it be a shabby one. Let us support those who are
intended to teach her doctrines and to administer her sacraments to the
next generation, provided only that every future priest shall cost us
less than a foot soldier. Let us board her young theologians; but let
their larder be so scantily supplied that they may be compelled to break
up before the regular vacation from mere want of food. Let us lodge
them; but let their lodging be one in which they may be packed like pigs
in a stye, and be punished for their heterodoxy by feeling the snow and
the wind through the broken panes." Is it possible to conceive anything
more absurd or more disgraceful? Can anything be clearer than this, that
whatever it is lawful to do it is lawful to do well? If it be right that
we should keep up this college at all, it must be right that we should
keep it up respectably. Our national dignity is concerned. For this
institution, whether good or bad, is, beyond all dispute, a very
important institution. Its office is to form the character of those who
are to form the character of millions. Whether we ought to extend any
patronage to such an institution is a question about which wise and
honest men may differ. But that, as we do extend our patronage to such
an institution, our patronage ought to be worthy of the object, and
worthy of the greatness of our country, is a proposition from which I am
astonished to hear any person dissent.

It is, I must say, with a peculiarly bad grace that one of the members
for the University to which I have the honour to belong (The Honourable
Charles Law, Member for the University of Cambridge.), a gentleman who
never thought himself bound to say a word or to give a vote against
the grant of nine thousand pounds, now vehemently opposes the grant
of twenty-six thousand pounds as exorbitant. When I consider how
munificently the colleges of Cambridge and Oxford are endowed, and with
what pomp religion and learning are there surrounded; when I call to
mind the long streets of palaces, the towers and oriels, the venerable
cloisters, the trim gardens, the organs, the altar pieces, the solemn
light of the stained windows, the libraries, the museums, the galleries
of painting and sculpture; when I call to mind also the physical
comforts which are provided both for instructors and for pupils; when I
reflect that the very sizars and servitors are far better lodged and fed
than those students who are to be, a few years hence, the priests and
bishops of the Irish people; when I think of the spacious and stately
mansions of the heads of houses, of the commodious chambers of the
fellows and scholars, of the refectories, the combination rooms, the
bowling greens, the stabling, of the state and luxury of the great feast
days, of the piles of old plate on the tables, of the savoury steam of
the kitchens, of the multitudes of geese and capons which turn at once
on the spits, of the oceans of excellent ale in the butteries; and when
I remember from whom all this splendour and plenty is derived; when I
remember what was the faith of Edward the Third and of Henry the Sixth,
of Margaret of Anjou and Margaret of Richmond, of William of Wykeham and
William of Waynefleet, of Archbishop Chicheley and Cardinal Wolsey; when
I remember what we have taken from the Roman Catholics, King's College,
New College, Christ Church, my own Trinity; and when I look at the
miserable Dotheboys Hall which we have given them in exchange, I feel,
I must own, less proud than I could wish of being a Protestant and a
Cambridge man.

Some gentlemen, it is true, have made an attempt to show that there is
a distinction of principle between the old grant which they have always
supported and the larger grant which they are determined to oppose. But
never was attempt more unsuccessful. They say that, at the time of the
Union, we entered into an implied contract with Ireland to keep up this
college. We are therefore, they argue, bound by public faith to continue
the old grant; but we are not bound to make any addition to that grant.
Now, Sir, on this point, though on no other, I do most cordially agree
with those petitioners who have, on this occasion, covered your
table with such huge bales of spoiled paper and parchment. I deny the
existence of any such contract. I think myself perfectly free to vote
for the abolition of this college, if I am satisfied that it is a
pernicious institution; as free as I am to vote against any item of
the ordnance estimates; as free as I am to vote for a reduction of the
number of marines. It is strange, too, that those who appeal to this
imaginary contract should not perceive that, even if their fiction be
admitted as true, it will by no means get them out of their difficulty.
Tell us plainly what are the precise terms of the contract which you
suppose Great Britain to have made with Ireland about this college.
Whatever the terms be, they will not serve your purpose. Was the
contract this, that the Imperial Parliament would do for the college
what the Irish Parliament had been used to do? Or was the contract this,
that the Imperial Parliament would keep the college in a respectable and
efficient state? If the former was the contract, nine thousand pounds
would be too much. If the latter was the contract, you will not, I
am confident, be able to prove that twenty-six thousand pounds is too

I have now, I think, said quite as much as need be said in answer to
those who maintain that we ought to give support to this college, but
that the support ought to be niggardly and precarious. I now come to
another and a much more formidable class of objectors. Their objections
may be simply stated thus. No man can justifiably, either as
an individual or as a trustee for the public, contribute to the
dissemination of religious error. But the church of Rome teaches
religious error. Therefore we cannot justifiably contribute to the
support of an institution of which the object is the dissemination of
the doctrines of the Church of Rome. Now, Sir, I deny the major of this
syllogism. I think that there are occasions on which we are bound to
contribute to the dissemination of doctrines with which errors are
inseparably intermingled. Let me be clearly understood. The question is
not whether we should teach truth or teach error, but whether we should
teach truth adulterated with error, or teach no truth at all. The
constitution of the human mind is such that it is impossible to provide
any machinery for the dissemination of truth which shall not, with the
truth, disseminate some error. Even those rays which come down to us
from the great source of light, pure as they are in themselves, no
sooner enter that gross and dark atmosphere in which we dwell than the
they are so much refracted, discoloured, and obscured, that they too
often lead us astray. It will be generally admitted that, if religious
truth can be anywhere found untainted by error, it is in the Scriptures.
Yet is there actually on the face of the globe a single copy of the
Scriptures of which it can be said that it contains truth absolutely
untainted with error? Is there any manuscript, any edition of the Old or
New Testament in the original tongues, which any scholar will pronounce
faultless? But to the vast majority of Christians the original tongues
are and always must be unintelligible. With the exception of perhaps one
man in ten thousand, we must be content with translations. And is there
any translation in which there are not numerous mistakes? Are there not
numerous mistakes even in our own authorised version, executed as that
version was with painful diligence and care, by very able men, and under
very splendid patronage? Of course mistakes must be still more numerous
in those translations which pious men have lately made into Bengalee,
Hindostanee, Tamul, Canarese, and other Oriental tongues. I admire the
zeal, the industry, the energy of those who, in spite of difficulties
which to ordinary minds would seem insurmountable, accomplished that
arduous work. I applaud those benevolent societies which munificently
encouraged that work. But I have been assured by good judges that the
translations have many faults. And how should it have been otherwise?
How should an Englishman produce a faultless translation from the Hebrew
into the Cingalese? I say, therefore, that even the Scriptures, in every
form in which men actually possess them, contain a certain portion of
error. And, if this be so, how can you look for pure undefecated truth
in any other composition? You contribute, without any scruple, to the
printing of religious tracts, to the establishing of Sunday Schools, to
the sending forth of missionaries. But are your tracts perfect? Are your
schoolmasters infallible? Are your missionaries inspired? Look at the
two churches which are established in this island. Will you say that
they both teach truth without any mixture of error? That is impossible.
For they teach different doctrines on more than one important subject.
It is plain therefore, that if, as you tell us, it be a sin in a state
to patronise an institution which teaches religious error, either the
Church of England or the Church of Scotland ought to be abolished.
But will anybody even venture to affirm that either of those churches
teaches truth without any mixture of error? Have there not long been in
the Church of Scotland two very different schools of theology? During
many years, Dr Robertson, the head of the moderate party, and Dr
Erskine, the head of the Calvinistic party, preached under the same
roof, one in the morning, the other in the evening. They preached
two different religions, so different that the followers of Robertson
thought the followers of Erskine fanatics, and the followers of Erskine
thought the followers of Robertson Arians or worse. And is there no
mixture of error in the doctrine taught by the clergy of the Church of
England? Is not the whole country at this moment convulsed by disputes
as to what the doctrine of the Church on some important subjects really
is? I shall not take on myself to say who is right and who is wrong.
But this I say with confidence, that, whether the Tractarians or the
Evangelicals be in the right, many hundreds of those divines who every
Sunday occupy the pulpits of our parish churches must be very much in
the wrong.

Now, Sir, I see that many highly respectable persons, who think it a sin
to contribute to the teaching of error at Maynooth College, think it not
merely lawful, but a sacred duty, to contribute to the teaching of error
in the other cases which I have mentioned. They know that our version of
the Bible contains some error. Yet they subscribe to the Bible Society.
They know that the Serampore translations contain a still greater
quantity of error. Yet they give largely towards the printing and
circulating of those translations. My honourable friend the Member for
the University of Oxford will not deny that there is among the clergy of
the Church of England a Puritan party, and also an Anti-puritan
party, and that one of these parties must teach some error. Yet he is
constantly urging us to grant to this Church an additional endowment of
I know not how many hundreds of thousands of pounds. He would doubtless
defend himself by saying that nothing on earth is perfect; that the
purest religious society must consist of human beings, and must have
those defects which arise from human infirmities; and that the truths
held by the established clergy, though not altogether unalloyed with
error, are so precious, that it is better that they should be imparted
to the people with the alloy than that they should not be imparted at
all. Just so say I. I am sorry that we cannot teach pure truth to the
Irish people. But I think it better that they should have important and
salutary truth, polluted by some error, than that they should remain
altogether uninstructed. I heartily wish that they were Protestants. But
I had rather that they should be Roman Catholics than that they should
have no religion at all. Would you, says one gentleman, teach the people
to worship Jugernaut or Kalee? Certainly not. My argument leads to
no such conclusion. The worship of Jugernaut and Kalee is a curse to
mankind. It is much better that people should be without any religion
than that they should believe in a religion which enjoins prostitution,
suicide, robbery, assassination. But will any Protestant deny that it
is better that the Irish should be Roman Catholics than that they should
live and die like the beasts of the field, indulge their appetites
without any religious restraint, suffer want and calamity without any
religious consolation, and go to their graves without any religious
hope? These considerations entirely satisfy my mind. Of course I would
not propagate error for its own sake. To do so would be not merely
wicked, but diabolical. But, in order that I may be able to propagate
truth, I consent to propagate that portion of error which adheres to
truth, and which cannot be separated from truth. I wish Christianity to
have a great influence on the peasantry of Ireland. I see no probability
that Christianity will have that influence except in one form. That form
I consider as very corrupt. Nevertheless, the good seems to me greatly
to predominate over the evil; and therefore, being unable to get the
good alone, I am content to take the good and the evil together.

I now come to the third class of our opponents. I mean those who take
their stand on the voluntary principle. I will not, on this occasion,
inquire whether they are right in thinking that governments ought not to
contribute to the support of any religion, true or false. For it seems
to me that, even if I were to admit that the general rule is correctly
laid down by them, the present case would be an exception to that rule.
The question on which I am about to vote is not whether the State shall
or shall not give any support to religion in Ireland. The State does
give such support, and will continue to give such support, whatever may
be the issue of this debate. The only point which we have now to decide
is whether, while such support is given, it shall be given exclusively
to the religion of the minority. Here is an island with a population of
near eight millions, and with a wealthy established church, the members
of which are little more than eight hundred thousand. There is an
archbishop with ten thousand a year. If I recollect rightly, seventy
thousand pounds are divided among twelve prelates. At the same time the
Protestant dissenters in the north of Ireland receive, in another form,
support from the State. But the great majority of the population, the
poorest part of the population, the part of the population which is most
in need of assistance, the part of the population which holds that faith
for the propagation of which the tithes were originally set apart, and
the church lands originally given, is left to maintain its own priests.
Now is not this a case which stands quite by itself? And may not even
those who hold the general proposition, that every man ought to pay
his own spiritual pastor, yet vote, without any inconsistency, for this
bill? I was astonished to hear the honourable Member for Shrewsbury (Mr
Disraeli.) tell us that, if we make this grant, it will be impossible
for us to resist the claims of any dissenting sect. He particularly
mentioned the Wesleyan Methodists. Are the cases analogous? Is there the
slightest resemblance between them? Let the honourable gentleman show
me that of the sixteen millions of people who inhabit England thirteen
millions are Wesleyan Methodists. Let him show me that the members of
the Established Church in England are only one tenth of the population.
Let him show me that English dissenters who are not Wesleyan Methodists
receive a Regium Donum. Let him show me that immense estates bequeathed
to John Wesley for the propagation of Methodism have, by Act of
Parliament, been taken from the Methodists and given to the Church.
If he can show me this, I promise him that, whenever the Wesleyan
Methodists shall ask for twenty-six thousand pounds a year to educate
their ministers, I shall be prepared to grant their request. But neither
the case of the Methodists nor any other case which can be mentioned,
resembles the case with which we have to do. Look round Europe, round
the world, for a parallel; and you will look in vain. Indeed the state
of things which exists in Ireland never could have existed had not
Ireland been closely connected with a country, which possessed a great
superiority of power, and which abused that superiority. The burden
which we are now, I hope, about to lay on ourselves is but a small
penalty for a great injustice. Were I a staunch voluntary, I should
still feel that, while the church of eight hundred thousand people
retains its great endowments, I should not be justified in refusing this
small boon to the church of eight millions.

To sum up shortly what I have said; it is clear to me in the first place
that, if we have no religious scruple about granting to this College
nine thousand pounds for one year, we ought to have no religious scruple
about granting twenty-six thousand pounds a year for an indefinite term.

Secondly, it seems to me that those persons who tell us that we ought
never in any circumstances to contribute to the propagation of error do
in fact lay down a rule which would altogether interdict the propagation
of truth.

Thirdly, it seems to me that, even on the hypothesis that the voluntary
principle is the sound principle, the present case is an excepted case,
to which it would be unjust and unwise to apply that principle.

So much, Sir, as to this bill; and now let me add a few words about
those by whom it has been framed and introduced. We were exhorted,
on the first night of this debate, to vote against the bill, without
inquiring into its merits, on the ground that, good or bad, it was
proposed by men who could not honestly and honourably propose it. A
similar appeal has been made to us this evening. In these circumstances,
Sir, I must, not I hope from party spirit, not, I am sure, from personal
animosity, but from a regard for the public interest, which must be
injuriously affected by everything which tends to lower the character
of public men, say plainly what I think of the conduct of Her Majesty's
Ministers. Undoubtedly it is of the highest importance that we should
legislate well. But it is also of the highest importance that those who
govern us should have, and should be known to have, fixed principles,
and should be guided by those principles both in office and in
opposition. It is of the highest importance that the world should not be
under the impression that a statesman is a person who, when he is out,
will profess and promise anything in order to get in, and who, when he
is in, will forget all that he professed and promised when he was out.
I need not, I suppose, waste time in proving that a law may be in itself
an exceedingly good law, and yet that it may be a law which, when viewed
in connection with the former conduct of those who proposed it, may
prove them to be undeserving of the confidence of their country. When
this is the case, our course is clear. We ought to distinguish between
the law and its authors. The law we ought, on account of its intrinsic
merits, to support. Of the authors of the law, it may be our duty to
speak in terms of censure.

In such terms I feel it to be my duty to speak of Her Majesty's
present advisers. I have no personal hostility to any of them; and that
political hostility which I do not disavow has never prevented me from
doing justice to their abilities and virtues. I have always admitted,
and I now most willingly admit, that the right honourable Baronet at the
head of the Government possesses many of the qualities of an excellent
minister, eminent talents for debate, eminent talents for business,
great experience, great information, great skill in the management of
this House. I will go further, and say that I give him full credit for
a sincere desire to promote the welfare of his country. Nevertheless,
it is impossible for me to deny that there is too much ground for the
reproaches of those who, having, in spite of a bitter experience, a
second time trusted him, now find themselves a second time deluded.
I cannot but see that it has been too much his practice, when in
opposition, to make use of passions with which he has not the slightest
sympathy, and of prejudices which he regards with profound contempt. As
soon as he is in power a change takes place. The instruments which have
done his work are flung aside. The ladder by which he has climbed is
kicked down. I am forced to say that the right honourable Baronet acts
thus habitually and on system. The instance before us is not a solitary
instance. I do not wish to dwell on the events which took place
seventeen or eighteen years ago, on the language which the right
honourable Baronet held about the Catholic question when he was out of
power in 1827, and on the change which twelve months of power produced.
I will only say that one such change was quite enough for one life.
Again the right honourable Baronet was in opposition; and again he
employed his old tactics. I will not minutely relate the history of the
manoeuvres by which the Whig Government was overthrown. It is enough
to say that many powerful interests were united against that Government
under the leading of the right honourable Baronet, and that of
those interests there is not one which is not now disappointed and
complaining. To confine my remarks to the subject immediately before
us--can any man deny that, of all the many cries which were raised
against the late administration, that which most strongly stirred the
public mind was the cry of No Popery? Is there a single gentleman in the
House who doubts that, if, four years ago, my noble friend the Member
for the City of London had proposed this bill, he would have been
withstood by every member of the present Cabinet? Four years ago, Sir,
we were discussing a very different bill. The party which was then in
opposition, and which is now in place, was attempting to force through
Parliament a law, which bore indeed a specious name, but of which the
effect would have been to disfranchise the Roman Catholic electors of
Ireland by tens of thousands. It was in vain that we argued, that we
protested, that we asked for the delay of a single session, for delay
till an inquiry could be made, for delay till a Committee should report.
We were told that the case was one of extreme urgency, that every hour
was precious, that the House must, without loss of time, be purged of
the minions of Popery. These arts succeeded. A change of administration
took place. The right honourable Baronet came into power. He has now
been near four years in power. He has had a Parliament which would,
beyond all doubt, have passed eagerly and gladly that Registration
Bill which he and his colleagues had pretended that they thought
indispensable to the welfare of the State. And where is that bill now?
Flung away; condemned by its own authors; pronounced by them to be so
oppressive, so inconsistent with all the principles of representative
government, that, though they had vehemently supported it when they
were on your left hand, they could not think of proposing it from the
Treasury Bench. And what substitute does the honourable Baronet give his
followers to console them for the loss of their favourite Registration
Bill? Even this bill for the endowment of Maynooth College. Was such a
feat of legerdemain ever seen? And can we wonder that the eager, honest,
hotheaded Protestants, who raised you to power in the confident hope
that you would curtail the privileges of the Roman Catholics, should
stare and grumble when you propose to give public money to the Roman
Catholics? Can we wonder that, from one end of the country to the other,
everything should be ferment and uproar, that petitions should, night
after night, whiten all our benches like a snowstorm? Can we wonder that
the people out of doors should be exasperated by seeing the very men
who, when we were in office, voted against the old grant to Maynooth,
now pushed and pulled into the House by your whippers-in to vote for
an increased grant? The natural consequences follow. All those fierce
spirits, whom you hallooed on to harass us, now turn round and begin to
worry you. The Orangeman raises his war-whoop: Exeter Hall sets up its
bray: Mr Macneile shudders to see more costly cheer than ever provided
for the priests of Baal at the table of the Queen; and the Protestant
operatives of Dublin call for impeachments in exceedingly bad English.
But what did you expect? Did you think, when, to serve your turn, you
called the Devil up, that it was as easy to lay him as to raise him?
Did you think, when you went on, session after session, thwarting and
reviling those whom you knew to be in the right, and flattering all the
worst passions of those whom you knew to be in the wrong, that the day
of reckoning would never come? It has come. There you sit, doing penance
for the disingenuousness of years. If it be not so, stand up manfully
and clear your fame before the House and the country. Show us that some
steady principle has guided your conduct with respect to Irish affairs.
Show us how, if you are honest in 1845, you can have been honest in
1841. Explain to us why, after having goaded Ireland to madness for the
purpose of ingratiating yourselves with the English, you are now setting
England on fire for the purpose of ingratiating yourselves with the
Irish. Give us some reason which shall prove that the policy which you
are following, as Ministers, is entitled to support, and which shall
not equally prove you to have been the most factious and unprincipled
opposition that ever this country saw.

But, Sir, am I, because I think thus of the conduct of Her Majesty's
Ministers, to take the counsel of the honourable member for Shrewsbury
and to vote against their bill? Not so. I know well that the fate of
this bill and the fate of the administration are in our hands. But
far be it from us to imitate the arts by which we were overthrown. The
spectacle exhibited on the bench opposite will do quite mischief enough.
That mischief will not be lessened, but doubled, if there should be an
answering display of inconsistency on this side of the House. If this
bill, having been introduced by Tories, shall be rejected by Whigs, both
the great parties in the State will be alike discredited. There will
be one vast shipwreck of all the public character in the country.
Therefore, making up my mind to sacrifices which are not unattended with
pain, and repressing some feelings which stir strongly within me, I have
determined to give my strenuous support to this bill. Yes, Sir, to this
bill, and to every bill which shall seem to me likely to promote
the real Union of Great Britain and Ireland, I will give my support,
regardless of obloquy, regardless of the risk which I may run of losing
my seat in Parliament. For such obloquy I have learned to consider as
true glory; and as to my seat I am determined that it never shall be
held by an ignominious tenure; and I am sure that it can never be lost
in a more honourable cause.



On the twenty-third of April 1845, the order of the day for going into
Committee on the Maynooth College Bill was read. On the motion that the
Speaker should leave the chair, Mr Ward, Member for Sheffield, proposed
the following amendment:--

"That it is the opinion of this House that any provision to be made
for the purposes of the present Bill ought to be taken from the funds
already applicable to ecclesiastical purposes in Ireland."

After a debate of two nights the amendment was rejected by 322 votes to
148. On the first night the following Speech was made.

I was desirous, Sir, to catch your eye this evening, because it happens
that I have never yet found an opportunity of fully explaining my views
on the important subject of the Irish Church. Indeed, I was not in this
country when that subject for a time threw every other into the
shade, disturbed the whole political world, produced a schism in the
Administration of Lord Grey, and overthrew the short Administration of
the right honourable Baronet opposite. The motion now before us opens,
I conceive, the whole question. My honourable friend the Member for
Sheffield, indeed, asks us only to transfer twenty-six thousand pounds a
year from the Established Church of Ireland to the College of Maynooth.
But this motion, I think, resembles an action of ejectment brought for
a single farm, with the view of trying the title to a large estate.
Whoever refuses to assent to what is now proposed must be considered as
holding the opinion that the property of the Irish Church ought to be
held inviolate: and I can scarcely think that any person will vote for
what is now proposed, who is not prepared to go very much farther. The
point at issue, I take, therefore, to be this; whether the Irish Church,
as now constituted, shall be maintained or not?

Now, Sir, when a legislator is called up to decide whether an
institution shall be maintained or not, it seems to me that he ought in
the first place to examine whether it be a good or a bad institution.
This may sound like a truism; but if I am to judge by the speeches
which, on this and former occasions, have been made by gentlemen
opposite, it is no truism, but an exceedingly recondite truth. I, Sir,
think the Established Church of Ireland a bad institution. I will go
farther. I am not speaking in anger, or with any wish to excite anger in
others; I am not speaking with rhetorical exaggeration: I am calmly and
deliberately expressing, in the only appropriate terms, an opinion which
I formed many years ago, which all my observations and reflections have
confirmed, and which I am prepared to support by reasons, when I say
that, of all the institutions now existing in the civilised world, the
Established Church of Ireland seems to me the most absurd.

I cannot help thinking that the speeches of those who defend this Church
suffice of themselves to prove that my views are just. For who ever
heard anybody defend it on its merits? Has any gentleman to-night
defended it on its merits? We are told of the Roman Catholic oath; as
if that oath, whatever be its meaning, whatever be the extent of the
obligation which it lays on the consciences of those who take it, could
possibly prove this Church to be a good thing. We are told that Roman
Catholics of note, both laymen and divines, fifty years ago, declared
that, if they were relieved from the disabilities under which they then
lay, they should willingly see the Church of Ireland in possession of
all its endowments: as if anything that anybody said fifty years ago
could absolve us from the plain duty of doing what is now best for the
country. We are told of the Fifth Article of Union; as if the Fifth
Article of Union were more sacred than the Fourth. Surely, if there be
any article of the Union which ought to be regarded as inviolable, it is
the Fourth, which settles the number of members whom Great Britain and
Ireland respectively are to send to Parliament. Yet the provisions of
the Fourth Article have been altered with the almost unanimous assent of
all parties in the State. The change was proposed by the noble lord
who is now Secretary for the Colonies. It was supported by the right
honourable Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, and by other
members of the present Administration. And so far were the opponents of
the Reform Bill from objecting to this infraction of the Treaty of Union
that they were disposed to go still farther. I well remember the night
on which we debated the question, whether Members should be given to
Finsbury, Marylebone, Lambeth, and the Tower Hamlets. On that occasion,
the Tories attempted to seduce the Irish Reformers from us by promising
that Ireland should have a share of the plunder of the metropolitan
districts. After this, Sir, I must think it childish in gentlemen
opposite to appeal to the Fifth Article of the Union. With still greater
surprise, did I hear the right honourable gentleman the Secretary for
Ireland say that, if we adopt this amendment, we shall make all landed
and funded property insecure. I am really ashamed to answer such an
argument. Nobody proposes to touch any vested interest; and surely
it cannot be necessary for me to point out to the right honourable
gentleman the distinction between property in which some person has a
vested interest, and property in which no person has a vested interest.
That distinction is part of the very rudiments of political science.
Then the right honourable gentleman quarrels with the form of the
amendment. Why, Sir, perhaps a more convenient form might have been
adopted. But is it by cavils like these that a great institution should
be defended? And who ever heard the Established Church of Ireland
defended except by cavils like these? Who ever heard any of her
advocates speak a manly and statesmanlike language? Who ever heard any
of her advocates say, "I defend this institution because it is a good
institution: the ends for which an Established Church exists are such
and such: and I will show you that this Church attains those ends?"
Nobody says this. Nobody has the hardihood to say it. What divine,
what political speculator who has written in defence of ecclesiastical
establishments, ever defended such establishments on grounds which will
support the Church of Ireland? What panegyric has ever been pronounced
on the Churches of England and Scotland, which is not a satire on the
Church of Ireland? What traveller comes among us who is not moved to
wonder and derision by the Church of Ireland? What foreign writer on
British affairs, whether European or American, whether Protestant or
Catholic, whether Conservative or Liberal, whether partial to England or
prejudiced against England, ever mentions the Church of Ireland without
expressing his amazement that such an establishment should exist among
reasonable men?

And those who speak thus of this Church speak justly. Is there anything
else like it? Was there ever anything else like it? The world is full
of ecclesiastical establishments: but such a portent as this Church
of Ireland is nowhere to be found. Look round the Continent of Europe.
Ecclesiastical establishments from the White Sea to the Mediterranean:
ecclesiastical establishments from the Wolga to the Atlantic: but
nowhere the Church of a small minority enjoying exclusive establishment.
Look at America. There you have all forms of Christianity, from
Mormonism, if you call Mormonism Christianity, to Romanism. In some
places you have the voluntary system. In some you have several religions
connected with the state. In some you have the solitary ascendency of a
single Church. But nowhere, from the Arctic Circle to Cape Horn, do you
find the Church of a small minority exclusively established. Look round
our own empire. We have an Established Church in England; it is the
Church of the majority. There is an Established Church in Scotland. When
it was set up, it was the Church of the majority. A few months ago, it
was the Church of the majority. I am not quite sure that, even after
the late unhappy disruption, it is the Church of the minority. In our
colonies the State does much for the support of religion; but in no
colony, I believe, do we give exclusive support to the religion of the
minority. Nay, even in those parts of empire where the great body of the
population is attached to absurd and immoral superstitions, you have not
been guilty of the folly and injustice of calling on them to pay for a
Church which they do not want. We have not portioned out Bengal and the
Carnatic into parishes, and scattered Christian rectors, with stipends
and glebes, among millions of Pagans and Mahometans. We keep, indeed,
a small Christian establishment, or rather three small Christian
establishments, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Catholic. But we keep them
only for the Christians in our civil and military services; and we leave
untouched the revenues of the mosques and temples. In one country alone
is to be seen the spectacle of a community of eight millions of
human beings, with a Church which is the Church of only eight hundred

It has been often said, and has been repeated to-night by the honourable
Member for Radnor, that this Church, though it includes only a tenth
part of the population, has more than half the wealth of Ireland. But
is that an argument in favour of the present system? Is it not the
strongest argument that can be urged in favour of an entire change?
It is true that there are many cases in which it is fit that property
should prevail over number. Those cases may, I think, be all arranged in
two classes. One class consists of those cases in which the preservation
or improvement of property is the object in view. Thus, in a railway
company, nothing can be more reasonable than that one proprietor who
holds five hundred shares should have more power than five proprietors
who hold one share each. The other class of cases in which property may
justly confer privileges is where superior intelligence is required.
Property is indeed but a very imperfect test of intelligence. But, when
we are legislating on a large scale, it is perhaps the best which we
can apply. For where there is no property, there can very seldom be any
mental cultivation. It is on this principle that special jurors, who
have to try causes of peculiar nicety, are taken from a wealthier order
than that which furnishes common jurors. But there cannot be a more
false analogy than to reason from these cases to the case of an
Established Church. So far is it from being true that, in establishing
a Church, we ought to pay more regard to one rich man than to five poor
men, that the direct reverse is the sound rule. We ought to pay more
regard to one poor man than to five rich men. For, in the first place,
the public ordinances of religion are of far more importance to the poor
man than to the rich man. I do not mean to say that a rich man may not
be the better for hearing sermons and joining in public prayers. But
these things are not indispensable to him; and, if he is so situated
that he cannot have them, he may find substitutes. He has money to buy
books, time to study them, understanding to comprehend them. Every
day he may commune with the minds of Hooker, Leighton, and Barrow. He
therefore stands less in need of the oral instruction of a divine than a
peasant who cannot read, or who, if he can read, has no money to procure
books, or leisure to peruse them. Such a peasant, unless instructed by
word of mouth, can know no more of Christianity than a wild Hottentot.
Nor is this all. The poor man not only needs the help of a minister of
religion more than the rich man, but is also less able to procure it.
If there were no Established Church, people in our rank of life would
always be provided with preachers to their mind at an expense which
they would scarcely feel. But when a poor man, who can hardly give his
children their fill of potatoes, has to sell his pig in order to pay
something to his priest, the burden is a heavy one. This is, in fact,
the strongest reason for having an established church in any country. It
is the one reason which prevents me from joining with the partisans of
the voluntary system. I should think their arguments unanswerable if the
question regarded the upper and middle classes only. If I would keep up
the Established Church of England, it is not for the sake of lords, and
baronets, and country gentlemen of five thousand pounds a-year, and rich
bankers in the city. I know that such people will always have churches,
aye, and cathedrals, and organs, and rich communion plate. The person
about whom I am uneasy is the working man; the man who would find it
difficult to pay even five shillings or ten shillings a-year out of his
small earnings for the ministrations of religion. What is to become
of him under the voluntary system? Is he to go without religious
instruction altogether? That we should all think a great evil to
himself, and a great evil to society. Is he to pay for it out of his
slender means? That would be a heavy tax. Is he to be dependent on
the liberality of others? That is a somewhat precarious and a somewhat
humiliating dependence. I prefer, I own, that system under which there
is, in the rudest and most secluded district, a house of God, where
public worship is performed after a fashion acceptable to the great
majority of the community, and where the poorest may partake of the
ordinances of religion, not as an alms, but as a right. But does
this argument apply to a Church like the Church of Ireland? It is not
necessary on this occasion to decide whether the arguments in favour
of the ecclesiastical establishments, or the arguments in favour of the
voluntary system, be the stronger. There are weighty considerations on
both sides. Balancing them as well as I can, I think that, as respects
England, the preponderance is on the side of the Establishment. But,
as respects Ireland, there is no balancing. All the weights are in one
scale. All the arguments which incline us against the Church of England,
and all the arguments which incline us in favour of the Church of
England, are alike arguments against the Church of Ireland; against the
Church of the few; against the Church of the wealthy; against the Church
which, reversing every principle on which a Christian Church should be
founded, fills the rich with its good things, and sends the hungry empty

One view which has repeatedly, both in this House and out of it, been
taken of the Church of Ireland, seems to deserve notice. It is admitted,
as indeed it could not well be denied, that this Church does not
perform the functions which are everywhere else expected from similar
institutions; that it does not instruct the body of the people; that
it does not administer religious consolation to the body of the people.
But, it is said, we must regard this Church as an aggressive Church,
a proselytising Church, a Church militant among spiritual enemies. Its
office is to spread Protestantism over Munster and Connaught. I remember
well that, eleven years ago, when Lord Grey's Government proposed to
reduce the number of Irish bishoprics, this language was held. It was
acknowledged that there were more bishops than the number of persons
then in communion with the Established Church required. But that number,
we were assured, would not be stationary; and the hierarchy, therefore,
ought to be constituted with a view to the millions of converts who
would soon require the care of Protestant pastors. I well remember
the strong expression which was then used by my honourable friend, the
Member for the University of Oxford. We must, he said, make allowance
for the expansive force of Protestantism. A few nights ago a noble lord
for whom I, in common with the whole House, feel the greatest respect,
the Member for Dorsetshire (Lord Ashley.), spoke of the missionary
character of the Church of Ireland. Now, Sir, if such language had been
held at the Council Board of Queen Elizabeth when the constitution of
this Church was first debated there, there would have been no cause for
wonder. Sir William Cecil or Sir Nicholas Bacon might very naturally
have said, "There are few Protestants now in Ireland, it is true. But
when we consider how rapidly the Protestant theology has spread, when
we remember that it is little more than forty years since Martin Luther
began to preach against indulgences, and when we see that one half of
Europe is now emancipated from the old superstition, we may reasonably
expect that the Irish will soon follow the example of the other nations
which have embraced the doctrines of the Reformation." Cecil, I say,
and his colleagues might naturally entertain this expectation, and might
without absurdity make preparations for an event which they regarded
as in the highest degree probable. But we, who have seen this system in
full operation from the year 1560 to the year 1845, ought to have been
taught better, unless indeed we are past all teaching. Two hundred and
eighty-five years has this Church been at work. What could have been
done for it in the way of authority, privileges, endowments, which has
not been done? Did any other set of bishops and priests in the world
ever receive so much for doing so little? Nay, did any other set of
bishops and priests in the world ever receive half as much for doing
twice as much? And what have we to show for all this lavish expenditure?
What but the most zealous Roman Catholic population on the face of the
earth? Where you were one hundred years ago, where you were two hundred
years ago, there you are still, not victorious over the domain of the
old faith, but painfully and with dubious success defending your own
frontier, your own English pale. Sometimes a deserter leaves you.
Sometimes a deserter steals over to you. Whether your gains or losses
of this sort be the greater I do not know; nor is it worth while to
inquire. On the great solid mass of the Roman Catholic population you
have made no impression whatever. There they are, as they were ages ago,
ten to one against the members of your Established Church. Explain this
to me. I speak to you, the zealous Protestants on the other side of the
House. Explain this to me on Protestant principles. If I were a Roman
Catholic, I could easily account for the phenomena. If I were a Roman
Catholic, I should content myself with saying that the mighty hand and
the outstretched arm had been put forth, according to the promise, in
defence of the unchangeable Church; that He who in the old time turned
into blessings the curses of Balaam, and smote the host of Sennacherib,
had signally confounded the arts of heretic statesmen. But what is
a Protestant to say? He holds that, through the whole of this long
conflict, during which ten generations of men have been born and have
died, reason and Scripture have been on the side of the Established
Clergy. Tell us then what we are to say of this strange war, in which,
reason and Scripture backed by wealth, by dignity, by the help of the
civil power, have been found no match for oppressed and destitute error?
The fuller our conviction that our doctrines are right, the fuller, if
we are rational men, must be our conviction that our tactics have been
wrong, and that we have been encumbering the cause which we meant to

Observe, it is not only the comparative number of Roman Catholics
and Protestants that may justly furnish us with matter for serious
reflection. The quality as well as the quantity of Irish Romanism
deserves to be considered. Is there any other country inhabited by a
mixed population of Catholics and Protestants, any other country in
which Protestant doctrines have long been freely promulgated from the
press and from the pulpit, where the Roman Catholics spirit is so strong
as in Ireland? I believe not. The Belgians are generally considered as
very stubborn and zealous Roman Catholics. But I do not believe that
either in stubbornness or in zeal they equal the Irish. And this is
the fruit of three centuries of Protestant archbishops, bishops,
archdeacons, deans, and rectors. And yet where is the wonder? Is this
a miracle that we should stand aghast at it? Not at all. It is a result
which human prudence ought to have long ago foreseen and long ago
averted. It is the natural succession of effect to cause. If you do not
understand it, it is because you do not understand what the nature and
operation of a church is. There are parts of the machinery of Government
which may be just as efficient when they are hated as when they are
loved. An army, a navy, a preventive service, a police force, may do
their work whether the public feeling be with them or against them.
Whether we dislike the corn laws or not, your custom houses and your
coast guard keep out foreign corn. The multitude at Manchester was not
the less effectually dispersed by the yeomanry, because the interference
of the yeomanry excited the bitterest indignation. There the object was
to produce a material effect; the material means were sufficient; and
nothing more was required. But a Church exists for moral ends. A Church
exists to be loved, to be reverenced, to be heard with docility,
to reign in the understandings and hearts of men. A Church which is
abhorred is useless or worse than useless; and to quarter a hostile
Church on a conquered people, as you would quarter a soldiery, is
therefore the most absurd of mistakes. This mistake our ancestors
committed. They posted a Church in Ireland just as they posted garrisons
in Ireland. The garrisons did their work. They were disliked. But that
mattered not. They had their forts and their arms; and they kept down
the aboriginal race. But the Church did not do its work. For to that
work the love and confidence of the people were essential.

I may remark in passing that, even under more favourable circumstances
a parochial priesthood is not a good engine for the purpose of making
proselytes. The Church of Rome, whatever we may think of her ends, has
shown no want of sagacity in the choice of means; and she knows this
well. When she makes a great aggressive movement,--and many such
movements she has made with signal success,--she employs, not her
parochial clergy, but a very different machinery. The business of her
parish priests is to defend and govern what has been won. It is by
the religious orders, and especially by the Jesuits, that the great
acquisitions have been made. In Ireland your parochial clergy lay under
two great disadvantages. They were endowed, and they were hated; so
richly endowed that few among them cared to turn missionaries; so
bitterly hated that those few had but little success. They long
contented themselves with receiving the emoluments arising from their
benefices, and neglected those means to which, in other parts of Europe,
Protestantism had owed its victory. It is well known that of all the
instruments employed by the Reformers of Germany, of England, and of
Scotland, for the purpose of moving the public mind, the most powerful
was the Bible translated into the vernacular tongues. In Ireland the
Protestant Church had been established near half a century before the
New Testament was printed in Erse. The whole Bible was not printed
in Erse till this Church had existed more than one hundred and twenty
years. Nor did the publication at last take place under the patronage
of the lazy and wealthy hierarchy. The expense was defrayed by a layman,
the illustrious Robert Boyle. So things went on century after century.
Swift, more than a hundred years ago, described the prelates of his
country as men gorged with wealth and sunk in indolence, whose chief
business was to bow and job at the Castle. The only spiritual function,
he says, which they performed was ordination; and, when he saw what
persons they ordained, he doubted whether it would not be better that
they should neglect that function as they neglected every other. Those,
Sir, are now living who can well remember how the revenues of
the richest see in Ireland were squandered on the shores of the
Mediterranean by a bishop, whose epistles, very different compositions
from the epistles of Saint Peter and Saint John, may be found in the
correspondence of Lady Hamilton. Such abuses as these called forth
no complaint, no reprimand. And all this time the true pastors of the
people, meanly fed and meanly clothed, frowned upon by the law,
exposed to the insults of every petty squire who gloried in the name
of Protestant, were to be found in miserable cabins, amidst filth, and
famine, and contagion, instructing the young, consoling the miserable,
holding up the crucifix before the eyes of the dying. Is it strange
that, in such circumstances, the Roman Catholic religion should have
been constantly becoming dearer and dearer to an ardent and sensitive
people, and that your Established Church should have been constantly
sinking lower and lower in their estimation? I do not of course hold
the living clergy of the Irish Church answerable for the faults of
their predecessors. God forbid! To do so would be the most flagitious
injustice. I know that a salutary change has taken place. I have no
reason to doubt that in learning and regularity of life the Protestant
clergy of Ireland are on a level with the clergy of England. But in the
way of making proselytes they do as little as those who preceded them.
An enmity of three hundred years separates the nation from those who
should be its teachers. In short, it is plain that the mind of Ireland
has taken its ply, and is not to be bent in a different direction, or,
at all events, is not to be so bent by your present machinery.

Well, then, this Church is inefficient as a missionary Church. But there
is yet another end which, in the opinion of some eminent men, a Church
is meant to serve. That end has been often in the minds of practical
politicians. But the first speculative politician who distinctly pointed
it out was Mr Hume. Mr Hume, as might have been expected from his known
opinions, treated the question merely as it related to the temporal
happiness of mankind; and, perhaps, it may be doubted whether he took
quite a just view of the manner in which even the temporal happiness of
mankind is affected by the restraints and consolations of religion. He
reasoned thus:--It is dangerous to the peace of society that the public
mind should be violently excited on religious subjects. If you adopt the
voluntary system, the public mind will always be so excited. For every
preacher, knowing that his bread depends on his popularity, seasons his
doctrine high, and practises every art for the purpose of obtaining an
ascendency over his hearers. But when the Government pays the minister
of religion, he has no pressing motive to inflame the zeal of his
congregation. He will probably go through his duties in a somewhat
perfunctory manner. His power will not be very formidable; and, such
as it is, it will be employed in support of that order of things under
which he finds himself so comfortable. Now, Sir, it is not necessary to
inquire whether Mr Hume's doctrine be sound or unsound. For, sound or
unsound, it furnishes no ground on which you can rest the defence of
the institution which we are now considering. It is evident that by
establishing in Ireland the Church of the minority in connection with
the State, you have produced, in the very highest degree, all those
evils which Mr Hume considered as inseparable from the voluntary system.
You may go all over the world without finding another country where
religious differences take a form so dangerous to the peace of society;
where the common people are so much under the influence of their
priests; or where the priests who teach the common people are so
completely estranged from the civil Government.

And now, Sir, I will sum up what I have said. For what end does the
Church of Ireland exist? Is that end the instruction and solace of the
great body of the people? You must admit that the Church of Ireland has
not attained that end. Is the end which you have in view the conversion
of the great body of the people from the Roman Catholic religion to a
purer form of Christianity? You must admit that the Church of Ireland
has not attained that end. Or do you propose to yourselves the end
contemplated by Mr Hume, the peace and security of civil society? You
must admit that the Church of Ireland has not attained that end. In
the name of common sense, then, tell us what good end this Church has
attained; or suffer us to conclude, as I am forced to conclude, that it
is emphatically a bad institution.

It does not, I know, necessarily follow that, because an institution
is bad, it is therefore to be immediately destroyed. Sometimes a bad
institution takes a strong hold on the hearts of mankind, intertwines
its roots with the very foundations of society, and is not to be removed
without serious peril to order, law, and property. For example, I hold
polygamy to be one of the most pernicious practises that exist in the
world. But if the Legislative Council of India were to pass an Act
prohibiting polygamy, I should think that they were out of their senses.
Such a measure would bring down the vast fabric of our Indian Empire
with one crash. But is there any similar reason for dealing tenderly
with the Established Church of Ireland? That Church, Sir, is not one
of those bad institutions which ought to be spared because they are
popular, and because their fall would injure good institutions. It is,
on the contrary, so odious, and its vicinage so much endangers valuable
parts of our polity, that, even if it were in itself a good institution,
there would be strong reasons for giving it up.

The honourable gentleman who spoke last told us that we cannot touch
this Church without endangering the Legislative Union. Sir, I have given
my best attention to this important point; and I have arrived at a very
different conclusion. The question to be determined is this:--What is
the best way of preserving political union between countries in which
different religions prevail? With respect to this question we have,
I think, all the light which history can give us. There is no sort of
experiment described by Lord Bacon which we have not tried. Inductive
philosophy is of no value if we cannot trust to the lessons derived from
the experience of more than two hundred years. England has long been
closely connected with two countries less powerful than herself,
and differing from herself in religion. The Scottish people are
Presbyterians; the Irish people are Roman Catholics. We determined to
force the Anglican system on both countries. In both countries great
discontent was the result. At length Scotland rebelled. Then Ireland
rebelled. The Scotch and Irish rebellions, taking place at a time when
the public mind of England was greatly and justly excited, produced the
Great Rebellion here, and the downfall of the Monarchy, of the Church,
and of the Aristocracy. After the Restoration we again tried the old
system. During twenty-eight years we persisted in the attempt to
force Prelacy on the Scotch; and the consequence was, during those
twenty-eight years Scotland exhibited a frightful spectacle of misery
and depravity. The history of that period is made up of oppression and
resistance, of insurrections, barbarous punishments, and assassinations.
One day a crowd of zealous rustics stand desperately on their defence,
and repel the dragoons. Next day the dragoons scatter and hew down the
flying peasantry. One day the kneebones of a wretched Covenanter are
beaten flat in that accursed boot. Next day the Lord Primate is dragged
out of his carriage by a band of raving fanatics, and, while screaming
for mercy, is butchered at the feet of his own daughter. So things went
on, till at last we remembered that institutions are made for men,
and not men for institutions. A wise Government desisted from the vain
attempt to maintain an Episcopal Establishment in a Presbyterian nation.
From that moment the connection between England and Scotland became
every year closer and closer. There were still, it is true, many causes
of animosity. There was an old antipathy between the nations, the
effect of many blows given and received on both sides. All the greatest
calamities that had befallen Scotland had been inflicted by England.
The proudest events in Scottish history were victories obtained over
England. Yet all angry feelings died rapidly away. The union of the
nations became complete. The oldest man living does not remember to have
heard any demagogue breathe a wish for separation. Do you believe that
this would have happened if England had, after the Revolution, persisted
in attempting to force the surplice and the Prayer Book on the Scotch?
I tell you that, if you had adhered to the mad scheme of having a
religious union with Scotland, you never would have had a cordial
political union with her. At this very day you would have had monster
meetings on the north of the Tweed, and another Conciliation Hall, and
another repeal button, with the motto, "Nemo me impune lacessit." In
fact, England never would have become the great power that she is. For
Scotland would have been, not an addition to the effective strength of
the Empire, but a deduction from it. As often as there was a war with
France or Spain, there would have been an insurrection in Scotland. Our
country would have sunk into a kingdom of the second class. One such
Church as that about which we are now debating is a serious encumbrance
to the greatest empire. Two such Churches no empire could bear. You
continued to govern Ireland during many generations as you had governed
Scotland in the days of Lauderdale and Dundee. And see the result.
Ireland has remained, indeed, a part of your Empire. But you know her
to be a source of weakness rather than of strength. Her misery is a
reproach to you. Her discontent doubles the dangers of war. Can you,
with such facts before you, doubt about the course which you ought to
take? Imagine a physician with two patients, both afflicted with the
same disease. He applies the same sharp remedies to both. Both become
worse and worse with the same inflammatory symptoms. Then he changes
his treatment of one case, and gives soothing medicines. The sufferer
revives, grows better day by day, and is at length restored to perfect
health. The other patient is still subjected to the old treatment, and
becomes constantly more and more disordered. How would a physician act
in such a case? And are not the principles of experimental philosophy
the same in politics as in medicine?

Therefore, Sir, I am fully prepared to take strong measures with regard
to the Established Church of Ireland. It is not necessary for me to say
precisely how far I would go. I am aware that it may be necessary,
in this as in other cases, to consent to a compromise. But the more
complete the reform which may be proposed, provided always that vested
rights be, as I am sure they will be, held strictly sacred, the more
cordially shall I support it.

That some reform is at hand I cannot doubt. In a very short time we
shall see the evils which I have described mitigated, if not entirely
removed. A Liberal Administration would make this concession to Ireland
from a sense of justice. A Conservative Administration will make it from
a sense of danger. The right honourable Baronet has given the Irish a
lesson which will bear fruit. It is a lesson which rulers ought to be
slow to teach; for it is one which nations are but too apt to learn.
We have repeatedly been told by acts--we are now told almost in express
words--that agitation and intimidation are the means which ought to be
employed by those who wish for redress of grievances from the party now
in power. Such indeed has too long been the policy of England towards
Ireland; but it was surely never before avowed with such indiscreet
frankness. Every epoch which is remembered with pleasure on the other
side of St George's Channel coincides with some epoch which we here
consider as disastrous and perilous. To the American war and the
volunteers the Irish Parliament owed its independence. To the French
revolutionary war the Irish Roman Catholics owed the elective franchise.
It was in vain that all the great orators and statesmen of two
generations exerted themselves to remove the Roman Catholic
disabilities, Burke, Fox, Pitt, Windham, Grenville, Grey, Plunkett,
Wellesley, Grattan, Canning, Wilberforce. Argument and expostulation
were fruitless. At length pressure of a stronger kind was boldly and
skilfully applied; and soon all difficulties gave way. The Catholic
Association, the Clare election, the dread of civil war, produced the
Emancipation Act. Again, the cry of No Popery was raised. That cry was
successful. A faction which had reviled in the bitterest terms the mild
administration of Whig Viceroys, and which was pledged to the wholesale
disfranchisement of the Roman Catholics, rose to power. One leading
member of that faction had drawn forth loud cheers by declaiming against
the minions of Popery. Another had designated six millions of Irish
Catholics as aliens. A third had publicly declared his conviction, that
a time was at hand when all Protestants of every persuasion would find
it necessary to combine firmly against the encroachments of Romanism.
From such men we expected nothing but oppression and intolerance. We are
agreeably disappointed to find that a series of conciliatory bills is
brought before us. But, in the midst of our delight, we cannot refrain
from asking for some explanation of so extraordinary a change. We are
told in reply, that the monster meetings of 1843 were very formidable,
and that our relations with America are in a very unsatisfactory state.
The public opinion of Ireland is to be consulted, the religion of
Ireland is to be treated with respect, not because equity and humanity
plainly enjoin that course; for equity and humanity enjoined that
course as plainly when you were calumniating Lord Normanby, and hurrying
forward your Registration Bill; but because Mr O'Connell and Mr Polk
have between them made you very uneasy. Sir, it is with shame, with
sorrow, and, I will add, with dismay, that I listen to such language.
I have hitherto disapproved of the monster meetings of 1843. I have
disapproved of the way in which Mr O'Connell and some other Irish
representatives have seceded from this House. I should not have chosen
to apply to those gentlemen the precise words which were used on a
former occasion by the honourable and learned Member for Bath. But I
agreed with him in substance. I thought it highly to the honour of my
right honourable friend the Member for Dungarvon, and of my honourable
friends the Members for Kildare, for Roscommon, and for the city of
Waterford, that they had the moral courage to attend the service of this
House, and to give us the very valuable assistance which they are, in
various ways, so well qualified to afford. But what am I to say now? How
can I any longer deny that the place where an Irish gentleman may best
serve his country is Conciliation Hall? How can I expect that any Irish
Roman Catholic can be very sorry to learn that our foreign relations are
in an alarming state, or can rejoice to hear that all danger of war has
blown over? I appeal to the Conservative Members of this House. I ask
them whither we are hastening? I ask them what is to be the end of a
policy of which it is the principle to give nothing to justice,
and everything to fear? We have been accused of truckling to Irish
agitators. But I defy you to show us that we ever made or are now making
to Ireland a single concession which was not in strict conformity with
our known principles. You may therefore trust us, when we tell you
that there is a point where we will stop. Our language to the Irish is
this:--"You ask for emancipation: it was agreeable to our principles
that you should have it; and we assisted you to obtain it. You wished
for a municipal system, as popular as that which exists in England: we
thought your wish reasonable, and did all in our power to gratify it.
This grant to Maynooth is, in our opinion, proper; and we will do our
best to obtain it for you, though it should cost us our popularity and
our seats in Parliament. The Established Church in your island, as now
constituted, is a grievance of which you justly complain. We will strive
to redress that grievance. The Repeal of the Union we regard as fatal to
the empire: and we never will consent to it; never, though the country
should be surrounded by dangers as great as those which threatened her
when her American colonies, and France, and Spain, and Holland, were
leagued against her, and when the armed neutrality of the Baltic
disputed her maritime rights; never, though another Bonaparte should
pitch his camp in sight of Dover Castle; never, till all has been staked
and lost; never, till the four quarters of the world have been convulsed
by the last struggle of the great English people for their place
among the nations." This, Sir, is the true policy. When you give, give
frankly. When you withhold, withhold resolutely. Then what you give is
received with gratitude; and, as for what you withhold, men, seeing that
to wrest it from you is no safe or easy enterprise, cease to hope
for it, and, in time, cease to wish for it. But there is a way of so
withholding as merely to excite desire, and of so giving as merely to
excite contempt; and that way the present ministry has discovered. Is it
possible for me to doubt that in a few months the same machinery which
sixteen years ago extorted from the men now in power the Emancipation
Act, and which has now extorted from them the bill before us, will again
be put in motion? Who shall say what will be the next sacrifice? For my
own part I firmly believe that, if the present Ministers remain in power
five years longer, and if we should have,--which God avert!--a war with
France or America, the Established Church of Ireland will be given
up. The right honourable Baronet will come down to make a proposition
conceived in the very spirit of the Motions which have repeatedly been
made by my honourable friend the Member for Sheffield. He will again
be deserted by his followers; he will again be dragged through his
difficulties by his opponents. Some honest Lord of the Treasury may
determine to quit his office rather than belie all the professions of a
life. But there will be little difficulty in finding a successor ready
to change all his opinions at twelve hours' notice. I may perhaps, while
cordially supporting the bill, again venture to say something about
consistency, and about the importance of maintaining a high standard
of political morality. The right honourable Baronet will again tell me,
that he is anxious only for the success of his measure, and that he does
not choose to reply to taunts. And the right honourable gentleman the
Chancellor of the Exchequer will produce Hansard, will read to the House
my speech of this night, and will most logically argue that I ought not
to reproach the Ministers with their inconsistency, seeing that I had,
from my knowledge of their temper and principles, predicted to a tittle
the nature and extent of that inconsistency.

Sir, I have thought it my duty to brand with strong terms of
reprehension the practice of conceding, in time of public danger, what
is obstinately withheld in time of public tranquillity. I am prepared,
and have long been prepared, to grant much, very much, to Ireland. But
if the Repeal Association were to dissolve itself to-morrow, and if the
next steamer were to bring news that all our differences with the United
States were adjusted in the most honourable and friendly manner, I would
grant to Ireland neither more nor less than I would grant if we were on
the eve of a rebellion like that of 1798; if war were raging all along
the Canadian frontier; and if thirty French sail of the line were
confronting our fleet in St George's Channel. I give my vote from my
heart and soul for the amendment of my honourable friend. He calls on
us to make to Ireland a concession, which ought in justice to have been
made long ago, and which may be made with grace and dignity even now. I
well know that you will refuse to make it now. I know as well that you
will make it hereafter. You will make it as every concession to Ireland
has been made. You will make it when its effect will be, not to appease,
but to stimulate agitation. You will make it when it will be regarded,
not as a great act of national justice, but as a confession of national
weakness. You will make it in such a way, and at such a time, that there
will be but too much reason to doubt whether more mischief has been done
by your long refusal, or by your tardy and enforced compliance.



On the first of May, 1845, Mr Rutherford, Member for Leith, obtained
leave to bring in a bill to regulate admission to the Secular Chairs
in the Universities of Scotland. On the morning of the sixth of May the
bill was read a first time, and remained two months on the table of the
House. At length the second reading was fixed for the ninth of July. Mr
Rutherfurd was unable to attend on that day: and it was necessary that
one of his friends should supply his place. Accordingly, as soon as the
Order of the Day had been read, the following Speech was made.

On a division the bill was rejected by 116 votes to 108. But, in the
state in which parties then were, this defeat was generally considered
as a victory.

Mr Speaker,--I have been requested by my honourable and learned friend,
the Member for Leith, to act as his substitute on this occasion. I am
truly sorry that any substitute should be necessary. I am truly sorry
that he is not among us to take charge of the bill which he not long ago
introduced with one of the most forcible and luminous speeches that I
ever had the pleasure of hearing. His audience was small; but the few
who formed that audience cannot have forgotten the effect which his
arguments and his eloquence produced. The Ministers had come down to
resist his motion: but their courage failed them: they hesitated: they
conferred together: at last they consented that he should have leave
to bring in his bill. Such, indeed, was the language which they held on
that and on a subsequent occasion, that both my honourable and learned
friend and myself gave them more credit than they deserved. We really
believed that they had resolved to offer no opposition to a law which it
was quite evident that they perceived to be just and beneficial. But
we have been disappointed. It has been notified to us that the whole
influence of the Government is to be exerted against our bill. In such
discouraging circumstances it is that I rise to move the second reading.

Yet, Sir, I do not altogether despair of success. When I consider what
strong, what irresistible reasons we have to urge, I can hardly think
it possible that the mandate of the most powerful administration can
prevail against them. Nay, I should consider victory, not merely
as probable, but as certain, if I did not know how imperfect is the
information which English gentlemen generally possess concerning Scotch
questions. It is because I know this that I think it my duty to depart
from the ordinary practice, and, instead of simply moving the second
reading, to explain at some length the principles on which this bill has
been framed. I earnestly entreat those English Members who were not so
fortunate as to hear the speech of my honourable and learned friend, the
Member for Leith to favour me with their attention. They will, I think,
admit, that I have a right to be heard with indulgence. I have been sent
to this house by a great city which was once a capital, the abode of a
Sovereign, the place where the Estates of a realm held their sittings.
For the general good of the empire, Edinburgh descended from that high
eminence. But, ceasing to be a political metropolis, she became an
intellectual metropolis. For the loss of a Court, of a Privy Council, of
a Parliament, she found compensation in the prosperity and splendour of
an University renowned to the farthest ends of the earth as a school of
physical and moral science. This noble and beneficent institution is now
threatened with ruin by the folly of the Government, and by the violence
of an ecclesiastical faction which is bent on persecution without having
the miserable excuse of fanaticism. Nor is it only the University of
Edinburgh that is in danger. In pleading for that University, I plead
for all the great academical institutions of Scotland. The fate of all
depends on the event of this debate; and, in the name of all, I demand
the attention of every man who loves either learning or religious

The first question which we have to consider is, whether the principles
of the bill be sound. I believe that they are sound; and I am quite
confident that nobody who sits on the Treasury Bench will venture to
pronounce them unsound. It does not lie in the mouths of the Ministers
to say that literary instruction and scientific instruction are
inseparably connected with religious instruction. It is not for them to
rail against Godless Colleges. It is not for them to talk with horror of
the danger of suffering young men to listen to the lectures of an Arian
professor of Botany or of a Popish professor of Chemistry. They are
themselves at this moment setting up in Ireland a system exactly
resembling the system which we wish to set up in Scotland. Only a few
hours have elapsed since they were themselves labouring to prove that,
in a country in which a large proportion of those who require a liberal
education are dissenters from the Established Church, it is desirable
that there should be schools without theological tests. The right
honourable Baronet at the head of the Government proposes that in the
new colleges which he is establishing at Belfast, Cork, Limerick, and
Galway, the professorships shall be open to men of every creed: and
he has strenuously defended that part of his plan against attacks from
opposite quarters, against the attacks of zealous members of the Church
of England, and of zealous members of the Church of Rome. Only the day
before yesterday the honourable Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir
Thomas Acland.) ventured to suggest a test as unobjectionable as a test
could well be. He would merely have required the professors to declare
their general belief in the divine authority of the Old and New
Testaments. But even this amendment the First Lord of the Treasury
resisted, and I think quite rightly. He told us that it was quite
unnecessary to institute an inquisition into the religious opinions of
people whose business was merely to teach secular knowledge, and that it
was absurd to imagine that any man of learning would disgrace and ruin
himself by preaching infidelity from the Greek chair or the Mathematical

Some members of this House certainly held very different language: but
their arguments made as little impression on Her Majesty's Ministers as
on me. We were told with the utmost earnestness that secular knowledge,
unaccompanied by a sound religious faith, and unsanctified by religious
feeling, was not only useless, but positively noxious, a curse to the
possessor, a curse to society. I feel the greatest personal kindness and
respect for some gentlemen who hold this language. But they must pardon
me if I say that the proposition which they have so confidently laid
down, however well it may sound in pious ears while it is expressed in
general terms, to be too monstrous, too ludicrous, for grave refutation.
Is it seriously meant that, if the Captain of an Indiaman is a Socinian,
it would be better for himself, his crew, and his passengers, that he
should not know how to use his quadrant and his chronometers? Is it
seriously meant that, if a druggist is a Swedenborgian, it would
be better for himself and his customers that he should not know the
difference between Epsom salts and oxalic acid? A hundred millions of
the Queen's Asiatic subjects are Mahometans and Pagans. Is it seriously
meant that it is desirable that they should be as ignorant as the
aboriginal inhabitants of New South Wales, that they should have no
alphabet, that they should have no arithmetic, that they should not know
how to build a bridge, how to sink a well, how to irrigate a field? If
it be true that secular knowledge, unsanctified by true religion, is
a positive evil, all these consequences follow. Yet surely they are
consequences from which every sane mind must recoil. It is a great evil,
no doubt, that a man should be a heretic or an atheist. But I am quite
at a loss to understand how this evil is mitigated by his not knowing
that the earth moves round the sun, that by the help of a lever, a small
power will lift a great weight, that Virginia is a republic, or that
Paris is the capital of France.

On these grounds, Sir, I have cordially supported the Irish Colleges
Bill. But the principle of the Irish Colleges and the principle of the
bill which I hold in my hand are exactly the same: and the House and the
country have a right to know why the authors of the former bill are the
opponents of the latter bill. One distinction there is, I admit, between
Ireland and Scotland. It is true that in Scotland there is no clamour
against the Union with England. It is true that in Scotland no demagogue
can obtain applause and riches by slandering and reviling the English
people. It is true that in Scotland there is no traitor who would dare
to say that he regards the enemies of the state as his allies. In every
extremity the Scottish nation will be found faithful to the common cause
of the empire. But Her Majesty's Ministers will hardly I think, venture
to say that this is their reason for refusing to Scotland the boon which
they propose to confer on Ireland. And yet, if this be not their reason,
what reason can we find? Observe how strictly analogous the cases are.
You give it as a reason for establishing in Ireland colleges without
tests that the Established Church of Ireland is the Church of the
minority. Unhappily it may well be doubted whether the Established
Church of Scotland, too, be not now, thanks to your policy, the Church
of the minority. It is true that the members of the Established Church
of Scotland are about a half of the whole population of Scotland; and
that the members of the Established Church of Ireland are not much more
than a tenth of the whole population of Ireland. But the question now
before us does not concern the whole population. It concerns only the
class which requires academical education: and I do not hesitate to say
that, in the class which requires academical education, in the class for
the sake of which universities exist, the proportion of persons who
do not belong to the Established Church is as great in Scotland as in
Ireland. You tell us that sectarian education in Ireland is an evil. Is
it less an evil in Scotland? You tell us that it is desirable that the
Protestant and the Roman Catholic should study together at Cork. Is it
less desirable that the son of an elder of the Established Church
and the son of an elder of the Free Church should study together at
Edinburgh? You tell us that it is not reasonable to require from a
Professor of Astronomy or Surgery in Connaught a declaration that
he believes in the Gospels. On what ground, then, can you think it
reasonable to require from every Professor in Scotland a declaration
that he approves of the Presbyterian form of church government? I defy
you, with all your ingenuity, to find one argument, one rhetorical
topic, against our bill which may not be used with equal effect against
your own Irish Colleges Bill.

Is there any peculiarity in the academical system of Scotland which
makes these tests necessary? Certainly not. The academical system of
Scotland has its peculiarities; but they are peculiarities which are not
in harmony with these tests, peculiarities which jar with these tests.
It is an error to imagine that, by passing this bill, we shall establish
a precedent which will lead to a change in the constitution of the
Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. Whether such a change be or be not
desirable is a question which must be decided on grounds quite distinct
from those on which we rest our case. I entreat English gentlemen not to
be misled by the word University. That word means two different things
on the two different sides of the Tweed. The academical authorities at
Cambridge and Oxford stand in a parental relation to the student. They
undertake, not merely to instruct him in philology, geometry, natural
philosophy, but to form his religious opinions, and to watch over his
morals. He is to be bred a Churchman. At Cambridge, he cannot graduate,
at Oxford, I believe, he cannot matriculate, without declaring himself
a Churchman. The College is a large family. An undergraduate is lodged
either within the gates, or in some private house licensed and regulated
by the academical authorities. He is required to attend public worship
according to the forms of the Church of England several times every
week. It is the duty of one officer to note the absence of young men
from divine service, of another to note their absence from the public
table, of another to report those who return home at unseasonably late
hours. An academical police parade the streets at night to seize upon
any unlucky reveller who may be found drunk or in bad company. There are
punishments of various degrees for irregularities of conduct. Sometimes
the offender has to learn a chapter of the Greek Testament; sometimes
he is confined to his college; sometimes he is publicly reprimanded:
for grave offences he is rusticated or expelled. Now, Sir, whether this
system be good or bad, efficient or inefficient, I will not now inquire.
This is evident; that religious tests are perfectly in harmony with such
a system. Christ Church and King's College undertake to instruct every
young man who goes to them in the doctrines of the Church of England,
and to see that he regularly attends the worship of the Church of
England. Whether this ought to be so, I repeat, I will not now inquire:
but, while it is so, nothing can be more reasonable than to require from
the rulers of Christ Church and King's College some declaration that
they are themselves members of the Church of England.

The character of the Scotch universities is altogether different. There
you have no functionaries resembling the Vice-Chancellors and Proctors,
the Heads of Houses, Tutors and Deans, whom I used to cap at Cambridge.
There is no chapel; there is no academical authority entitled to ask a
young man whether he goes to the parish church or the Quaker meeting, to
synagogue or to mass. With his moral conduct the university has nothing
to do. The Principal and the whole Academical Senate cannot put any
restraint, or inflict any punishment, on a lad whom they may see lying
dead drunk in the High Street of Edinburgh. In truth, a student at a
Scotch university is in a situation closely resembling that of a medical
student in London. There are great numbers of youths in London who
attend St George's Hospital, or St Bartholomew's Hospital. One of these
youths may also go to Albermarle Street to hear Mr Faraday lecture on
chemistry, or to Willis's rooms to hear Mr Carlyle lecture on German
literature. On the Sunday he goes perhaps to church, perhaps to the
Roman Catholic chapel, perhaps to the Tabernacle, perhaps nowhere. None
of the gentlemen whose lectures he has attended during the week has the
smallest right to tell him where he shall worship, or to punish him for
gambling in hells, or tippling in cider cellars. Surely we must all feel
that it would be the height of absurdity to require Mr Faraday and Mr
Carlyle to subscribe a confession of faith before they lecture; and
in what does their situation differ from the situation of the Scotch

In the peculiar character of the Scotch universities, therefore, I find
a strong reason for the passing of this bill. I find a reason stronger
still when I look at the terms of the engagements which exist between
the English and Scotch nations.

Some gentlemen, I see, think that I am venturing on dangerous ground. We
have been told, in confident tones, that, if we pass this bill, we shall
commit a gross breach of public faith, we shall violate the Treaty
of Union, and the Act of Security. With equal confidence, and with
confidence much better grounded, I affirm that the Treaty of Union and
the Act of Security not only do not oblige us to reject this bill, but
do oblige us to pass this bill, or some bill nearly resembling this.

This proposition seems to be regarded by the Ministers as paradoxical:
but I undertake to prove it by the plainest and fairest argument. I
shall resort to no chicanery. If I did think that the safety of the
commonwealth required that we should violate the Treaty of Union,
I would violate it openly, and defend my conduct on the ground of
necessity. It may, in an extreme case, be our duty to break our
compacts. It never can be our duty to quibble them away. What I say
is that the Treaty of Union, construed, not with the subtlety of a
pettifogger, but according to the spirit, binds us to pass this bill or
some similar bill.

By the Treaty of Union it was covenanted that no person should be a
teacher or office-bearer in the Scotch Universities who should not
declare that he conformed to the worship and polity of the Established
Church of Scotland. What Church was meant by the two contracting
parties? What Church was meant, more especially, by the party to the
side of which we ought always to lean, I mean the weaker party? Surely
the Church established in 1707, when the Union took place. Is then,
the Church of Scotland at the present moment constituted, on all points
which the members of that Church think essential, exactly as it was
constituted in 1707? Most assuredly not.

Every person who knows anything of the ecclesiastical history of
Scotland knows that, ever since the Reformation, the great body of the
Presbyterians of that country have held that congregations ought to have
a share in the appointment of their ministers. This principle is laid
down most distinctly in the First Book of Discipline, drawn up by John
Knox. It is laid down, though not quite so strongly, in the Second Book
of Discipline, drawn up by Andrew Melville. And I beg gentlemen, English
gentlemen, to observe that in Scotland this is not regarded as a matter
of mere expediency. All staunch Presbyterians think that the flock is
entitled, jure divino, to a voice in the appointment of the pastor, and
that to force a pastor on a parish to which he is unacceptable is a sin
as much forbidden by the Word of God as idolatry or perjury. I am quite
sure that I do not exaggerate when I say that the highest of our
high churchmen at Oxford cannot attach more importance to episcopal
government and episcopal ordination than many thousands of Scotchmen,
shrewd men, respectable men, men who fear God and honour the Queen,
attach to this right of the people.

When, at the time of the Revolution, the Presbyterian worship and
discipline were established in Scotland, the question of patronage was
settled by a compromise, which was far indeed from satisfying men of
extreme opinions, but which was generally accepted. An Act, passed
at Edinburgh, in 1690, transferred what we should call in England the
advowsons from the old patrons to parochial councils, composed of the
elders and the Protestant landowners. This system, however imperfect
it might appear to such rigid Covenanters as Davie Deans and Gifted
Gilfillan, worked satisfactorily; and the Scotch nation seems to have
been contented with its ecclesiastical polity when the Treaty of Union
was concluded. By that treaty the ecclesiastical polity of Scotland was
declared to be unalterable. Nothing, therefore, can be more clear
than that the Parliament of Great Britain was bound by the most sacred
obligations not to revive those rights of patronage which the Parliament
of Scotland had abolished.

But, Sir, the Union had not lasted five years when our ancestors were
guilty of a great violation of public faith. The history of that great
fault and of its consequences is full of interest and instruction. The
wrong was committed hastily, and with contumelious levity. The offenders
were doubtless far from foreseeing that their offence would be visited
on the third and fourth generation; that we should be paying in 1845 the
penalty of what they did in 1712.

In 1712, Sir, the Whigs, who were the chief authors of the Union, had
been driven from power. The prosecution of Sacheverell had made them
odious to the nation. The general election of 1710 had gone against
them. Tory statesmen were in office. Tory squires formed more than
five-sixths of this House. The party which was uppermost thought that
England had, in 1707, made a bad bargain, a bargain so bad that it could
hardly be considered as binding. The guarantee so solemnly given to
the Church of Scotland was a subject of loud and bitter complaint.
The Ministers hated that Church much; and their chief supporters, the
country gentlemen and country clergymen of England, hated it still more.
Numerous petty insults were offered to the opinions, or, if you please,
the prejudices of the Presbyterians. At length it was determined to go
further, and to restore to the old patrons those rights which had been
taken away in 1690. A bill was brought into this House, the history
of which you may trace in our Journals. Some of the entries are very
significant. In spite of all remonstrances the Tory majority would not
hear of delay. The Whig minority struggled hard, appealed to the act of
Union and the Act of Security, and insisted on having both those Acts
read at the table. The bill passed this House, however, before the
people of Scotland knew that it had been brought in. For there were then
neither reporters nor railroads; and intelligence from Westminster
was longer in travelling to Cambridge than it now is in travelling
to Aberdeen. The bill was in the House of Lords before the Church
of Scotland could make her voice heard. Then came a petition from a
committee appointed by the General Assembly to watch over the interests
of religion while the General Assembly itself was not sitting. The first
name attached to that petition is the name of Principal Carstairs, a man
who had stood high in the esteem and favour of William the Third, and
who had borne a chief part in establishing the Presbyterian Church in
Scotland. Carstairs and his colleagues appealed to the Act of Union, and
implored the peers not to violate that Act. But party spirit ran high;
public faith was disregarded: patronage was restored. To that breach
of the Treaty of Union are to be directly ascribed all the schisms that
have since rent the Church of Scotland.

I will not detain the House by giving a minute account of those schisms.
It is enough to say that the law of patronage produced, first the
secession of 1733 and the establishment of the Associate Synod, then the
secession of 1752 and the establishment of the Relief Synod, and finally
the great secession of 1843 and the establishment of the Free Church.
Only two years have elapsed since we saw, with mingled admiration and
pity, a spectacle worthy of the best ages of the Church. Four hundred
and seventy ministers resigned their stipends, quitted their manses, and
went forth committing themselves, their wives, their children, to the
care of Providence. Their congregations followed them by thousands, and
listened eagerly to the Word of Life in tents, in barns, or on those
hills and moors where the stubborn Presbyterians of a former generation
had prayed and sung their psalms in defiance of the boot of Lauderdale
and of the sword of Dundee. The rich gave largely of their riches. The
poor contributed with the spirit of her who put her two mites into the
treasury of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, in all the churches of large towns, of
whole counties, the established clergy were preaching to empty benches.
And of these secessions every one may be distinctly traced to that
violation of the Treaty of Union which was committed in 1712.

This, Sir, is the true history of dissent in Scotland: and, this being
so, how can any man have the front to invoke the Treaty of Union and the
Act of Security against those who are devotedly attached to that system
which the Treaty of Union and the Act of Security were designed to
protect, and who are seceders only because the Treaty of Union and the
Act of Security have been infringed? I implore gentlemen to reflect on
the manner in which they and their fathers have acted towards the Scotch
Presbyterians. First you bind yourselves by the most solemn obligations
to maintain unaltered their Church as it was constituted in 1707.
Five years later you alter the constitution of their Church in a point
regarded by them as essential. In consequence of your breach of faith
secession after secession takes place, till at length the Church of
the State ceases to be the Church of the People. Then you begin to be
squeamish. Then those articles of the Treaty of Union which, when they
really were obligatory, you outrageously violated, now when they are
no longer obligatory, now when it is no longer in your power to observe
them according to the spirit, are represented as inviolable. You first,
by breaking your word, turn hundreds of thousands of Churchmen into
Dissenters; and then you punish them for being Dissenters, because,
forsooth, you never break your word. If your consciences really are so
tender, why do you not repeal the Act of 1712? Why do you not put the
Church of Scotland back into the same situation in which she was in
1707. We have had occasion more than once in the course of this session
to admire the casuistical skill of Her Majesty's Ministers. But I must
say that even their scruple about slave-grown sugar, though that scruple
is the laughing-stock of all Europe and all America, is respectable
when compared with their scruple about the Treaty of Union. Is there the
slightest doubt that every compact ought to be construed according to
the sense in which it was understood by those who made it? And is there
the slightest doubt as to the sense in which the compact between England
and Scotland was understood by those who made it? Suppose that we could
call up from their graves the Presbyterian divines who then sate in the
General Assembly. Suppose that we could call up Carstairs; that we could
call up Boston, the author of the Fourfold State; that we could relate
to them the history of the ecclesiastical revolutions which have, since
their time, taken place in Scotland; and that we could then ask them,
"Is the Established Church, or is the Free Church, identical with the
Church which existed at the time of the Union?" Is it not quite certain
what their answer would be? They would say, "Our Church, the Church
which you promised to maintain unalterable, was not the Church which you
protect, but the Church which you oppress. Our Church was the Church of
Chalmers and Brewster, not the Church of Bryce and Muir."

It is true, Sir, that the Presbyterian dissenters are not the only
dissenters whom this bill will relieve. By the law, as it now stands,
all persons who refuse to declare their approbation of the synodical
polity, that is to say, all persons who refuse to declare that they
consider episcopal government and episcopal ordination as, at least,
matters altogether indifferent, are incapable of holding academical
office in Scotland. Now, Sir, will any gentleman who loves the Church
of England vote for maintaining this law? If, indeed, he were bound by
public faith to maintain this law, I admit that he would have no choice.
But I have proved, unless I greatly deceive myself, that he is not
bound by public faith to maintain this law? Can he then conscientiously
support the Ministers to-night? If he votes with them, he votes for
persecuting what he himself believes to be the truth. He holds out
to the members of his own Church lures to tempt them to renounce that
Church, and to join themselves to a Church which he considers as less
pure. We may differ as to the propriety of imposing penalties and
disabilities on heretics. But surely we shall agree in thinking that we
ought not to punish men for orthodoxy.

I know, Sir, that there are many gentlemen who dislike innovation merely
as innovation, and would be glad always to keep things as they are now.
Even to this class of persons I will venture to appeal. I assure them
that we are not the innovators. I assure them that our object is to keep
things as they are and as they have long been. In form, I own, we are
proposing a change; but in truth we are resisting a change. The question
really is, not whether we shall remove old tests, but whether we shall
impose new ones. The law which we seek to repeal has long been obsolete.
So completely have the tests been disused that, only the other day, the
right honourable Baronet, the Secretary for the Home Department,
when speaking in favour of the Irish Colleges Bill, told us that the
Government was not making a rash experiment. "Our plan," he said, "has
already been tried at Edinburgh and has succeeded. At Edinburgh the
tests have been disused near a hundred years." As to Glasgow the
gentlemen opposite can give us full information from their own
experience. For there are at least three members of the Cabinet who have
been Lords Rectors; the First Lord of the Treasury, and the Secretaries
for the Home Department and the Colonial Department. They never took
the test. They probably would not have taken it; for they are all
Episcopalians. In fact, they belong to the very class which the test
was especially meant to exclude. The test was not meant to exclude
Presbyterian dissenters; for the Presbyterian Church was not yet rent
by any serious schism. Nor was the test meant to exclude the Roman
Catholics; for against the Roman Catholics there was already abundant
security. The Protestant Episcopalian was the enemy against whom it was,
in 1707, thought peculiarly necessary to take precautions. That those
precautions have long been disused the three members of the Cabinet whom
I mentioned can certify.

On a sudden the law, which had long slept a deep sleep, has been
awakened, stirred up, and put into vigorous action. These obsolete tests
are now, it seems, to be exacted with severity. And why? Simply because
an event has taken place which makes them ten times as unjust and
oppressive as they would have been formerly. They were not required
while the Established Church was the Church of the majority. They are
to be required solely because a secession has taken place which has made
the Established Church the Church of the minority. While they could have
done little mischief they were suffered to lie neglected. They are now
to be used, because a time has come at which they cannot be used without
fatal consequences.

It is impossible for me to speak without indignation of those who have
taken the lead in the work of persecution. Yet I must give them credit
for courage. They have selected as their object of attack no less a man
than Sir David Brewster, Principal of the University of Saint Andrews.
I hold in my hand the libel, as it is technically called, in which a
Presbytery of the Established Church demands that Sir David, for the
crime of adhering to that ecclesiastical polity which was guaranteed to
his country by the Act of Union, shall be "removed from his office, and
visited with such other censure or punishment as the laws of the
Church enjoin, for the glory of God, the safety of the Church, and
the prosperity of the University, and to deter others holding the same
important office from committing the like offence in all time coming,
but that others may hear and fear the danger and detriment of following
divisive courses." Yes; for the glory of God, the safety of the Church,
and the prosperity of the University. What right, Sir, have the
authors of such an instrument as this to raise their voices against the
insolence and intolerance of the Vatican? The glory of God! As to that,
I will only say that this is not the first occasion on which the glory
of God has been made a pretext for the injustice of man. The safety of
the Church! Sir, if, which God forbid, that Church is really possessed
by the evil spirit which actuates this Presbytery; if that Church,
having recently lost hundreds of able ministers and hundreds of
thousands of devout hearers, shall, instead of endeavouring, by
meekness, and by redoubled diligence, to regain those whom she has
estranged, give them new provocation; if she shall sharpen against them
an old law the edge of which has long rusted off, and which, when it
was first made, was made not for her defence, but for theirs; then I
pronounce the days of that Church numbered. As to the prosperity of the
University, is there a corner of Europe where men of science will not
laugh when they hear that the prosperity of the University of Saint
Andrews is to be promoted by expelling Sir David Brewster on account
of a theological squabble? The professors of Edinburgh know better
than this Presbytery how the prosperity of a seat of learning is to be
promoted. There the Academic Senate is almost unanimous in favour of
the bill. And indeed it is quite certain that, unless this bill, or some
similar bill, be passed, a new college will soon be founded and endowed
with that munificence of which the history of the Free Church furnishes
so many examples. From the day on which such an university arises, the
old universities must decline. Now, they are practically national, and
not sectarian, institutions. And yet, even now, the emoluments of a
professorship are so much smaller than those which ability and industry
can obtain in other ways, that it is difficult to find eminent men to
fill the chairs. And if there be this difficulty now, when students of
all religious persuasions attend the lectures, what is likely to happen
when all the members of the Free Church go elsewhere for instruction?
If there be this difficulty when you have all the world to choose
professors from, what is likely to happen when your choice is narrowed
to less than one-half of Scotland? As the professorships become poorer,
the professors will become less competent. As the professors become
less competent, the classes will become thinner. As the classes become
thinner, the professorships will again become poorer. The decline
will become rapid and headlong. In a short time, the lectures will be
delivered to empty rooms: the grass will grow in the courts: and men
not fit to be village dominies will occupy the chairs of Adam Smith and
Dugald Stewart, of Reid and Black, of Playfair and Jamieson.

How do Her Majesty's Ministers like such a prospect as this! Already
they have, whether by their fault or their misfortune I will not now
inquire, secured for themselves an unenviable place in the history
of Scotland. Their names are already inseparably associated with
the disruption of her Church. Are those names to be as inseparably
associated with the ruin of her Universities?

If the Government were consistent in error, some respect might be
mingled with our disapprobation. But a Government which is guided by no
principle; a Government which, on the gravest questions, does not know
its own mind twenty-four hours together; a Government which is against
tests at Cork, and for tests at Glasgow, against tests at Belfast, and
for tests at Edinburgh, against tests on the Monday, for them on the
Wednesday, against them again on the Thursday--how can such a Government
command esteem or confidence? How can the Ministers wonder that their
uncertain and capricious liberality fails to obtain the applause of
the liberal party? What right have they to complain if they lose the
confidence of half the nation without gaining the confidence of the
other half?

But I do not speak to the Government. I speak to the House. I appeal
to those who, on Monday last, voted with the Ministers against the test
proposed by the honourable Baronet the Member for North Devon. I know
what is due to party ties. But there is a mire so black and so deep
that no leader has a right to drag his followers through it. It is only
forty-eight hours since honourable gentlemen were brought down to the
House to vote against requiring the professors in the Irish Colleges to
make a declaration of belief in the Gospel: and now the same gentlemen
are expected to come down and to vote that no man shall be a professor
in a Scottish college who does not declare himself a Calvinist and a
Presbyterian. Flagrant as is the injustice with which the ministers have
on this occasion treated Scotland, the injustice with which they have
treated their own supporters is more flagrant still. I call on all
who voted with the Government on Monday to consider whether they can
consistently and honourably vote with the Government to-night: I call on
all members of the Church of England to ponder well before they make it
penal to be a member of the Church of England; and, lastly, I call on
every man of every sect and party who loves science and letters, who is
solicitous for the public tranquillity, who respects the public faith,
to stand by us in this our hard struggle to avert the ruin which
threatens the Universities of Scotland. I move that this bill be now
read a second time.



The following Speech was delivered at a public meeting held at Edinburgh
on the second of December, 1845, for the purpose of petitioning Her
Majesty to open the ports of the United Kingdom for the free admission
of corn and other food.

My Lord Provost and Gentlemen,--You will, I hope, believe that I am
deeply sensible of the kindness with which you have received me. I only
beg that you will continue to extend your indulgence to me, if it should
happen that my voice should fail me in the attempt to address you. I
have thought it my duty to obey your summons, though I am hardly equal
to the exertion of public speaking, and though I am so situated that I
can pass only a few hours among you. But it seemed to me that this was
not an ordinary meeting or an ordinary crisis. It seemed to me that
a great era had arrived, and that, at such a conjuncture, you were
entitled to know the opinions and intentions of one who has the honour
of being your representative.

With respect to the past, gentlemen, I have perhaps a little to explain,
but certainly nothing to repent or to retract. My opinions, from the
day on which I entered public life, have never varied. I have always
considered the principle of protection of agriculture as a vicious
principle. I have always thought that this vicious principle took,
in the Act of 1815, in the Act of 1828, and in the Act of 1842, a
singularly vicious form. This I declared twelve years ago, when I stood
for Leeds: this I declared in May 1839, when I first presented myself
before you; and when, a few months later, Lord Melbourne invited me to
become a member of his Government, I distinctly told him that, in office
or out of office, I must vote for the total repeal of the corn laws.

But in the year 1841 a very peculiar crisis arrived. There was reason to
hope that it might be possible to effect a compromise, which would not
indeed wholly remove the evils inseparable from a system of protection,
but which would greatly mitigate them. There were some circumstances in
the financial situation of the country which led those who were then the
advisers of the Crown to hope that they might be able to get rid of
the sliding scale, and to substitute for it a moderate fixed duty. We
proposed a duty of eight shillings a quarter on wheat. The Parliament
refused even to consider our plan. Her Majesty appealed to the people.
I presented myself before you; and you will bear me witness that I
disguised nothing. I said, "I am for a perfectly free trade in corn:
but I think that, situated as we are, we should do well to consent to a
compromise. If you return me to Parliament, I shall vote for the eight
shilling duty. It is for you to determine whether, on those terms, you
will return me or not." You agreed with me. You sent me back to the
House of Commons on the distinct understanding that I was to vote for
the plan proposed by the Government of which I was a member. As soon as
the new Parliament met, a change of administration took place. But it
seemed to me that it was my duty to support, when out of place, that
proposition to which I had been a party when I was in place. I therefore
did not think myself justified in voting for a perfectly free trade,
till Parliament had decided against our fixed duty, and in favour of
Sir Robert Peel's new sliding scale. As soon as that decision had been
pronounced, I conceived that I was no longer bound by the terms of the
compromise which I had, with many misgivings, consented to offer to the
agriculturists, and which the agriculturists had refused to accept. I
have ever since voted in favour of every motion which has been made for
the total abolition of the duties on corn.

There has been, it is true, some difference of opinion between me and
some of you. We belonged to the same camp: but we did not quite agree
as to the mode of carrying on the war. I saw the immense strength of the
interests which were arrayed against us. I saw that the corn monopoly
would last forever if those who defended it were united, while those who
assailed it were divided. I saw that many men of distinguished abilities
and patriotism, such men as Lord John Russell, Lord Howick, Lord
Morpeth, were unwilling to relinquish all hope that the question might
be settled by a compromise such as had been proposed in 1841. It seemed
to me that the help of such men was indispensable to us, and that, if
we drove from us such valuable allies, we should be unable to contend
against the common enemy. Some of you thought that I was timorous, and
others that I was misled by party spirit or by personal friendship.
I still think that I judged rightly. But I will not now argue the
question. It has been set at rest for ever, and in the best possible
way. It is not necessary for us to consider what relations we ought to
maintain with the party which is for a moderate fixed duty. That party
has disappeared. Time, and reflection, and discussion, have produced
their natural effect on minds eminently intelligent and candid. No
intermediate shades of opinion are now left. There is no twilight. The
light has been divided from the darkness. Two parties are ranged in
battle array against each other. There is the standard of monopoly.
Here is the standard of free trade; and by the standard of free trade I
pledge myself to stand firmly.

Gentlemen, a resolution has been put into my hands which I shall move
with the greatest pleasure. That resolution sets forth in emphatic
language a truth of the highest importance, namely, that the present
corn laws press with especial severity on the poor. There was a time,
gentlemen, when politicians were not ashamed to defend the corn laws
merely as contrivances for putting the money of the many into the
pockets of the few. We must,--so these men reasoned,--have a powerful
and opulent class of grandees: that we may have such grandees, the rent
of land must be kept up: and that the rent of land may be kept up, the
price of bread must be kept up. There may still be people who think
thus: but they wisely keep their thoughts to themselves. Nobody now
ventures to say in public that ten thousand families ought to be put on
short allowance of food in order that one man may have a fine stud and
a fine picture gallery. Our monopolists have changed their ground.
They have abandoned their old argument for a new argument much
less invidious, but, I think, rather more absurd. They have turned
philanthropists. Their hearts bleed for the misery of the poor labouring
man. They constantly tell us that the cry against the corn laws has been
raised by capitalists; that the capitalist wishes to enrich himself at
the expense both of the landed gentry and of the working people; that
every reduction of the price of food must be followed by a reduction of
the wages of labour; and that, if bread should cost only half what it
now costs, the peasant and the artisan would be sunk in wretchedness and
degradation, and the only gainers would be the millowners and the money
changers. It is not only by landowners, it is not only by Tories, that
this nonsense has been talked. We have heard it from men of a very
different class, from demagogues who wish to keep up the corn laws,
merely in order that the corn laws may make the people miserable, and
that misery may make the people turbulent. You know how assiduously
those enemies of all order and all property have laboured to deceive the
working man into a belief that cheap bread would be a curse to him. Nor
have they always laboured in vain. You remember that once, even in this
great and enlightened city, a public meeting called to consider the corn
laws was disturbed by a deluded populace. Now, for my own part, whenever
I hear bigots who are opposed to all reform, and anarchists who are bent
on universal destruction, join in the same cry, I feel certain that it
is an absurd and mischievous cry; and surely never was there a cry
so absurd and mischievous as this cry against cheap loaves. It seems
strange that Conservatives, people who profess to hold new theories
in abhorrence, people who are always talking about the wisdom of our
ancestors, should insist on our receiving as an undoubted truth a
strange paradox never heard of from the creation of the world till the
nineteenth century. Begin with the most ancient book extant, the Book of
Genesis, and come down to the parliamentary debates of 1815; and I will
venture to say that you will find that, on this point, the party which
affects profound reverence for antiquity and prescription has against it
the unanimous voice of thirty-three centuries. If there be anything
in which all peoples, nations, and languages, Jews, Greeks, Romans,
Italians, Frenchmen, Englishmen, have agreed, it has been this, that
the dearness of food is a great evil to the poor. Surely, the arguments
which are to counterbalance such a mass of authority ought to be
weighty. What then are those arguments? I know of only one. If any
gentleman is acquainted with any other, I wish that he would communicate
it to us; and I will engage that he shall have a fair and full hearing.
The only argument that I know of is this, that there are some countries
in the world where food is cheaper than in England, and where the people
are more miserable than in England. Bengal has been mentioned. But
Poland is the favourite case. Whenever we ask why there should not be
a free trade in corn between the Vistula and the Thames, the answer
is, "Do you wish our labourers to be reduced to the condition of the
peasants of the Vistula?" Was such reasoning ever heard before? See how
readily it may be turned against those who use it. Corn is cheaper at
Cincinnati than here; but the wages of the labourer are much higher at
Cincinnati than here: therefore, the lower the price of food, the higher
the wages will be. This reasoning is just as good as the reasoning of
our adversaries: that is to say, it is good for nothing. It is not
one single cause that makes nations either prosperous or miserable. No
friend of free trade is such an idiot as to say that free trade is the
only valuable thing in the world; that religion, government, police,
education, the administration of justice, public expenditure, foreign
relations, have nothing whatever to do with the well-being of nations;
that people sunk in superstition, slavery, barbarism, must be happy if
they have only cheap food. These gentlemen take the most unfortunate
country in the world, a country which, while it had an independent
government, had the very worst of independent governments; the sovereign
a mere phantom; the nobles defying him and quarrelling with each other;
the great body of the population in a state of servitude; no middle
class; no manufactures; scarcely any trade, and that in the hands of Jew
pedlars. Such was Poland while it was a separate kingdom. But foreign
invaders came down upon it. It was conquered: it was reconquered: it was
partitioned: it was repartitioned: it is now under a government of which
I will not trust myself to speak. This is the country to which these
gentlemen go to study the effect of low prices. When they wish to
ascertain the effect of high prices, they take our own country; a
country which has been during many generations the best governed in
Europe; a country where personal slavery has been unknown during ages;
a country which enjoys the blessings of a pure religion, of freedom, of
order; a country long secured by the sea against invasion; a country in
which the oldest man living has never seen a foreign flag except as a
trophy. Between these two countries our political philosophers institute
a comparison. They find the Briton better off than the Pole; and they
immediately come to the conclusion that the Briton is so well off
because his bread is dear, and the Pole so ill off because his bread is
cheap. Why, is there a single good which in this way I could not prove
to be an evil, or a single evil which I could not prove to be a good?
Take lameness. I will prove that it is the best thing in the world to
be lame: for I can show you men who are lame, and yet much happier than
many men who have the full use of their legs. I will prove health to be
a calamity. For I can easily find you people in excellent health whose
fortunes have been wrecked, whose character has been blasted, and who
are more wretched than many invalids. But is that the way in which any
man of common sense reasons? No; the question is: Would not the lame man
be happier if you restored to him the use of his limbs? Would not the
healthy man be more wretched if he had gout and rheumatism in addition
to all his other calamities? Would not the Englishman be better off
if food were as cheap here as in Poland? Would not the Pole be more
miserable if food were as dear in Poland as here? More miserable indeed
he would not long be: for he would be dead in a month.

It is evident that the true way of determining the question which we
are considering, is to compare the state of a society when food is cheap
with the state of that same society when food is dear; and this is a
comparison which we can very easily make. We have only to recall to our
memory what we have ourselves seen within the last ten years. Take the
year 1835. Food was cheap then; and the capitalist prospered greatly.
But was the labouring man miserable? On the contrary, it is notorious
that work was plentiful, that wages were high, that the common people
were thriving and contented. Then came a change like that in Pharaoh's
dream. The thin ears had blighted the full ears; the lean kine had
devoured the fat kine; the days of plenty were over; and the days of
dearth had arrived. In 1841 the capitalist was doubtless distressed. But
will anybody tell me that the capitalist was the only sufferer, or the
chief sufferer? Have we forgotten what was the condition of the
working people in that unhappy year? So visible was the misery of the
manufacturing towns that a man of sensibility could hardly bear to pass
through them. Everywhere he found filth and nakedness, and plaintive
voices, and wasted forms, and haggard faces. Politicians who had never
been thought alarmists began to tremble for the very foundations of
society. First the mills were put on short time. Then they ceased to
work at all. Then went to pledge the scanty property of the artisan:
first his little luxuries, then his comforts, then his necessaries. The
hovels were stripped till they were as bare as the wigwam of a Dogribbed
Indian. Alone, amidst the general misery, the shop with the three golden
balls prospered, and was crammed from cellar to garret with the clocks,
and the tables, and the kettles, and the blankets, and the bibles of
the poor. I remember well the effect which was produced in London by the
unwonted sight of the huge pieces of cannon which were going northward
to overawe the starving population of Lancashire. These evil days passed
away. Since that time we have again had cheap bread. The capitalist has
been a gainer. It was fit that he should be a gainer. But has he been
the only gainer? Will those who are always telling us that the Polish
labourer is worse off than the English labourer venture to tell us that
the English labourer was worse off in 1844 than in 1841? Have we not
everywhere seen the goods of the poor coming back from the magazine of
the pawnbroker? Have we not seen in the house of the working man, in his
clothing, in his very looks as he passed us in the streets, that he
was a happier being? As to his pleasures, and especially as to the
most innocent, the most salutary, of his pleasures, ask your own most
intelligent and useful fellow citizen Mr Robert Chambers what sale
popular books had in the year 1841, and what sale they had last year.
I am assured that, in one week of 1845, the sums paid in wages within
twenty miles of Manchester exceeded by a million and a half the sums
paid in the corresponding week of 1841.

Gentlemen, both the capitalist and the labourer have been gainers,
as they ought to have been gainers, by the diminution in the price of
bread. But there is a third party, which ought not to have gained by
that diminution, and yet has gained very greatly by it; and that party
is Her Majesty's present Government. It is for the interest of rulers
that those whom they rule should be prosperous. But the prosperity which
we have lately enjoyed was a prosperity for which we were not indebted
to our rulers. It came in spite of them. It was produced by the
cheapness of that which they had laboured to render dear. Under pretence
of making us independent of foreign supply, they have established a
system which makes us dependent in the worst possible way. As my valued
friend, the Lord Provost (Mr Adam Black.), has justly said, there is
a mutual dependence among nations of which we cannot get rid. That
Providence has assigned different productions to different climates is a
truth with which everybody is familiar. But this is not all. Even in
the same climate different productions belong to different stages of
civilisation. As one latitude is favourable to the vine and another to
the sugar cane, so there is, in the same latitude, a state of society in
which it is desirable that the industry of men should be almost entirely
directed towards the cultivation of the earth, and another state of
society in which it is desirable that a large part of the population
should be employed in manufactures. No dependence can be conceived more
natural, more salutary, more free from everything like degradation
than the mutual dependence which exists between a nation which has a
boundless extent of fertile land, and a nation which has a boundless
command of machinery; between a nation whose business is to turn deserts
into corn fields, and a nation whose business is to increase tenfold by
ingenious processes the value of the fleece and of the rude iron ore.
Even if that dependence were less beneficial than it is, we must
submit to it; for it is inevitable. Make what laws we will, we must be
dependent on other countries for a large part of our food. That point
was decided when England ceased to be an exporting country. For,
gentlemen, it is demonstrable that none but a country which ordinarily
exports food can be independent of foreign supplies. If a manufacturer
determines to produce ten thousand pair of stockings, he will produce
the ten thousand, and neither more nor less. But an agriculturist
cannot determine that he will produce ten thousand quarters of corn,
and neither more nor less. That he may be sure of having ten thousand
quarters in a bad year, he must sow such a quantity of land that he will
have much more than ten thousand in a good year. It is evident that, if
our island does not in ordinary years produce many more quarters than we
want, it will in bad years produce fewer quarters than we want. And it
is equally evident that our cultivators will not produce more quarters
of corn than we want, unless they can export the surplus at a profit.
Nobody ventures to tell us that Great Britain can be ordinarily an
exporting country. It follows that we must be dependent: and the only
question is, Which is the best mode of dependence? That question it is
not difficult to answer. Go to Lancashire; see that multitude of cities,
some of them equal in size to the capitals of large kingdoms. Look at
the warehouses, the machinery, the canals, the railways, the docks.
See the stir of that hive of human beings busily employed in making,
packing, conveying stuffs which are to be worn in Canada and Caffraria,
in Chili and Java. You naturally ask, How is this immense population,
collected on an area which will not yield food for one tenth part of
them, to be nourished? But change the scene. Go beyond the Ohio, and
there you will see another species of industry, equally extensive and
equally flourishing. You will see the wilderness receding fast before
the advancing tide of life and civilisation, vast harvests waving round
the black stumps of what a few months ago was a pathless forest, and
cottages, barns, mills, rising amidst the haunts of the wolf and the
bear. Here is more than enough corn to feed the artisans of our thickly
peopled island; and most gladly would the grower of that corn exchange
it for a Sheffield knife, a Birmingham spoon, a warm coat of Leeds
woollen cloth, a light dress of Manchester cotton. But this exchange our
rulers prohibit. They say to our manufacturing population, "You would
willingly weave clothes for the people of America, and they would gladly
sow wheat for you; but we prohibit this intercourse. We condemn both
your looms and their ploughs to inaction. We will compel you to pay a
high price for a stinted meal. We will compel those who would gladly be
your purveyors and your customers to be your rivals. We will compel them
to turn manufacturers in self-defence; and when, in close imitation of
us, they impose high duties on British goods for the protection of their
own produce, we will, in our speeches and despatches, express wonder and
pity at their strange ignorance of political economy."

Such has been the policy of Her Majesty's Ministers; but it has not yet
been fairly brought to the trial. Good harvests have prevented bad laws
from producing their full effect. The Government has had a run of luck;
and vulgar observers have mistaken luck for wisdom. But such runs of
luck do not last forever. Providence will not always send the rain and
the sunshine just at such a time and in such a quantity as to save
the reputation of shortsighted statesmen. There is too much reason to
believe that evil days are approaching. On such a subject it is a
sacred duty to avoid exaggeration; and I shall do so. I observe that
the writers,--wretched writers they are,--who defend the present
Administration, assert that there is no probability of a considerable
rise in the price of provisions, and that the Whigs and the
Anti-Corn-Law League are busily engaged in circulating false reports for
the vile purpose of raising a panic. Now, gentlemen, it shall not be
in the power of anybody to throw any such imputation on me; for I shall
describe our prospects in the words of the Ministers themselves. I
hold in my hand a letter in which Sir Thomas Freemantle, Secretary for
Ireland, asks for information touching the potato crop in that country.
His words are these. "Her Majesty's Government is seeking to learn the
opinion of judges and well informed persons in every part of Ireland
regarding the probability of the supply being sufficient for the support
of the people during the ensuing winter and spring, provided care be
taken in preserving the stock, and economy used in its consumption."
Here, you will observe, it is taken for granted that the supply is
not sufficient for a year's consumption: it is taken for granted that,
without care and economy, the supply will not last to the end of the
spring; and a doubt is expressed whether, with care and economy, the
supply will last even through the winter. In this letter the Ministers
of the Crown tell us that famine is close at hand; and yet, when this
letter was written, the duty on foreign corn was seventeen shillings
a quarter. Is it necessary to say more about the merits of the sliding
scale? We were assured that this wonderful piece of machinery would
secure us against all danger of scarcity. But unhappily we find that
there is a hitch; the sliding scale will not slide; the Ministers are
crying "Famine," while the index which they themselves devised is still
pointing to "Plenty."

And thus, Sir, I come back to the resolution which I hold in my hand, A
dear year is before us. The price of meal is already, I believe, half as
much again as it was a few months ago. Again, unhappily, we are able
to bring to the test of facts the doctrine, that the dearness of food
benefits the labourer and injures only the capitalist. The price of
food is rising. Are wages rising? On the contrary, they are falling. In
numerous districts the symptoms of distress are already perceptible.
The manufacturers are already beginning to work short time. Warned by
repeated experience, they know well what is coming, and expect that 1846
will be a second 1841.

If these things do not teach us wisdom, we are past all teaching. Twice
in ten years we have seen the price of corn go up; and, as it went up,
the wages of the labouring classes went down. Twice in the same period
we have seen the price of corn go down; and, as it went down, the wages
of the labouring classes went up. Surely such experiments as these would
in any science be considered as decisive.

The prospect, gentlemen, is, doubtless, gloomy. Yet it has its bright
part. I have already congratulated you on the important fact that
Lord John Russell and those who have hitherto acted on this subject in
concert with him, have given up all thoughts of fixed duty. I have to
congratulate you on another fact not less important. I am assured that
the working people of the manufacturing districts have at last come to
understand this question. The sharp discipline which they have undergone
has produced this good effect; that they will never again listen to any
orator who shall have the effrontery to tell them that their wages rise
and fall with the price of the loaf. Thus we shall go into the contest
under such leading and with such a following as we never had before. The
best part of the aristocracy will be at our head. Millions of labouring
men, who had been separated from us by the arts of impostors, will be
in our rear. So led and so followed, we may, I think, look forward to
victory, if not in this, yet in the next Parliament. But, whether our
triumph be near or remote, I assure you that I shall not fail as regards
this question, to prove myself your true representative. I will now, my
Lord, put into your hands this resolution, "That the present corn law
presses with especial severity on the poorer classes."



On the twenty-ninth of April, 1846, Mr Fielden, Member for Oldham, moved
the second reading of a Bill for limiting the labour of young persons
in factories to ten hours a day. The debate was adjourned, and was
repeatedly resumed at long intervals. At length, on the twenty-second of
May the Bill was rejected by 203 votes to 193. On that day the following
Speech was made.

It is impossible, Sir, that I can remain silent after the appeal which
has been made to me in so pointed a manner by my honourable friend, the
Member for Sheffield (Mr Ward.), and even if that appeal had not been
made to me, I should have been very desirous to have an opportunity of
explaining the grounds on which I shall vote for the second reading of
this bill.

It is, I hope, unnecessary for me to assure my honourable friend that
I utterly disapprove of those aspersions which have, both in this House
and out of it, been thrown on the owners of factories. For that valuable
class of men I have no feeling but respect and good will. I am convinced
that with their interests the interests of the whole community, and
especially of the labouring classes, are inseparably bound up. I can
also with perfect sincerity declare that the vote which I shall give
to-night will not be a factious vote. In no circumstances indeed should
I think that the laws of political hostility warranted me in treating
this question as a party question. But at the present moment I would
much rather strengthen than weaken the hands of Her Majesty's Ministers.
It is by no means pleasant to me to be under the necessity of opposing
them. I assure them, I assure my friends on this side of the House with
whom I am so unfortunate as to differ, and especially my honourable
friend the Member for Sheffield, who spoke, I must say, in rather too
plaintive a tone, that I have no desire to obtain credit for humanity at
their expense. I fully believe that their feeling towards the labouring
people is quite as kind as mine. There is no difference between us as
to ends: there is an honest difference of opinion as to means: and we
surely ought to be able to discuss the points on which we differ without
one angry emotion or one acrimonious word.

The details of the bill, Sir, will be more conveniently and more
regularly discussed when we consider it in Committee. Our business at
present is with the principle: and the principle, we are told by many
gentlemen of great authority, is unsound. In their opinion, neither
this bill, nor any other bill regulating the hours of labour, can be
defended. This, they say, is one of those matters about which we ought
not to legislate at all; one of those matters which settle themselves
far better than any government can settle them. Now it is most important
that this point should be fully cleared up. We certainly ought not to
usurp functions which do not properly belong to us: but, on the other
hand, we ought not to abdicate functions which do properly belong to
us. I hardly know which is the greater pest to society, a paternal
government, that is to say a prying, meddlesome government, which
intrudes itself into every part of human life, and which thinks that it
can do everything for everybody better than anybody can do anything for
himself; or a careless, lounging government, which suffers grievances,
such as it could at once remove, to grow and multiply, and which to
all complaint and remonstrance has only one answer: "We must let things
alone: we must let things take their course: we must let things find
their level." There is no more important problem in politics than to
ascertain the just mean between these two most pernicious extremes, to
draw correctly the line which divides those cases in which it is the
duty of the State to interfere from those cases in which it is the duty
of the State to abstain from interference. In old times the besetting
sin of rulers was undoubtedly an inordinate disposition to meddle. The
lawgiver was always telling people how to keep their shops, how to till
their fields, how to educate their children, how many dishes to have
on their tables, how much a yard to give for the cloth which made their
coats. He was always trying to remedy some evil which did not properly
fall within his province: and the consequence was that he increased
the evils which he attempted to remedy. He was so much shocked by
the distress inseparable from scarcity that he made statutes against
forestalling and regrating, and so turned the scarcity into a famine. He
was so much shocked by the cunning and hardheartedness of money-lenders
that he made laws against usury; and the consequence was that the
borrower, who, if he had been left unprotected, would have got money at
ten per cent., could hardly, when protected, get it at fifteen per cent.
Some eminent political philosophers of the last century exposed with
great ability the folly of such legislation, and, by doing so, rendered
a great service to mankind. There has been a reaction, a reaction which
has doubtless produced much good, but which like most reactions, has not
been without evils and dangers. Our statesmen cannot now be accused of
being busybodies. But I am afraid that there is, even in some of the
ablest and most upright among them a tendency to the opposite fault.
I will give an instance of what I mean. Fifteen years ago it became
evident that railroads would soon, in every part of the kingdom,
supersede to a great extent the old highways. The tracing of the
new routes which were to join all the chief cities, ports, and naval
arsenals of the island was a matter of the highest national importance.
But, unfortunately, those who should have acted for the nation, refused
to interfere. Consequently, numerous questions which were really public,
questions which concerned the public convenience, the public prosperity,
the public security, were treated as private questions. That the whole
society was interested in having a good system of internal communication
seemed to be forgotten. The speculator who wanted a large dividend
on his shares, the landowner who wanted a large price for his acres,
obtained a full hearing. But nobody applied to be heard on behalf of
the community. The effects of that great error we feel, and we shall not
soon cease to feel. Unless I am greatly mistaken, we are in danger of
committing to-night an error of the same kind. The honourable member for
Montrose (Mr Hume.) and my honourable friend the Member for Sheffield
think that the question before us is merely a question between the old
and the new theories of commerce. They cannot understand how any
friend of free trade can wish the Legislature to interfere between the
capitalist and the labourer. They say, "You do not make a law to settle
the price of gloves, or the texture of gloves, or the length of credit
which the glover shall give. You leave it to him to determine whether
he will charge high or low prices, whether he will use strong or
flimsy materials, whether he will trust or insist on ready money. You
acknowledge that these are matters which he ought to be left to settle
with his customers, and that we ought not to interfere. It is possible
that he may manage his shop ill. But it is certain that we shall manage
it ill. On the same grounds on which you leave the seller of gloves and
the buyer of gloves to make their own contract, you ought to leave the
seller of labour and the buyer of labour to make their own contract."

I have a great respect, Sir, for those who reason thus: but I cannot see
this matter in the light in which it appears to them; and, though I may
distrust my own judgment, I must be guided by it. I am, I believe, as
strongly attached as any member of this House to the principle of free
trade, rightly understood. Trade, considered merely as trade, considered
merely with reference to the pecuniary interest of the contracting
parties, can hardly be too free. But there is a great deal of trade
which cannot be considered merely as trade, and which affects higher
than pecuniary interests. And to say that Government never ought to
regulate such trade is a monstrous proposition, a proposition at which
Adam Smith would have stood aghast. We impose some restrictions on trade
for purposes of police. Thus, we do not suffer everybody who has a cab
and a horse to ply for passengers in the streets of London. We do not
leave the fare to be determined by the supply and the demand. We do not
permit a driver to extort a guinea for going half a mile on a rainy day
when there is no other vehicle on the stand. We impose some restrictions
on trade for the sake of revenue. Thus, we forbid a farmer to cultivate
tobacco on his own ground. We impose some restrictions on trade for
the sake of national defence. Thus we compel a man who would rather be
ploughing or weaving to go into the militia; and we fix the amount of
pay which he shall receive without asking his consent. Nor is there in
all this anything inconsistent with the soundest political economy. For
the science of political economy teaches us only that we ought not on
commercial grounds to interfere with the liberty of commerce; and we,
in the cases which I have put, interfere with the liberty of commerce on
higher than commercial grounds.

And now, Sir, to come closer to the case with which we have to deal, I
say, first, that where the health of the community is concerned, it may
be the duty of the State to interfere with the contracts of individuals;
and to this proposition I am quite sure that Her Majesty's Government
will cordially assent. I have just read a very interesting report signed
by two members of that Government, the Duke of Buccleuch, and the noble
earl who was lately Chief Commissioner of the Woods and Forests, and
who is now Secretary for Ireland (The Earl of Lincoln.); and, since that
report was laid before the House, the noble earl himself has, with the
sanction of the Cabinet, brought in a bill for the protection of
the public health. By this bill it is provided that no man shall be
permitted to build a house on his own land in any great town without
giving notice to certain Commissioners. No man is to sink a cellar
without the consent of these Commissioners. The house must not be of
less than a prescribed width. No new house must be built without a
drain. If an old house has no drain, the Commissioners may order the
owner to make a drain. If he refuses, they make a drain for him, and
send him in the bill. They may order him to whitewash his house. If he
refuses, they may send people with pails and brushes to whitewash it for
him, at his charge. Now, suppose that some proprietor of houses at Leeds
or Manchester were to expostulate with the Government in the language in
which the Government has expostulated with the supporters of this bill
for the regulation of factories. Suppose he were to say to the noble
earl, "Your lordship professes to be a friend to free trade. Your
lordship's doctrine is that everybody ought to be at liberty to buy
cheap and to sell dear. Why then may not I run up a house as cheap as
I can, and let my rooms as dear as I can? Your lordship does not like
houses without drains. Do not take one of mine then. You think my
bedrooms filthy. Nobody forces you to sleep in them. Use your own
liberty: but do not restrain that of your neighbours. I can find many
a family willing to pay a shilling a week for leave to live in what
you call a hovel. And why am not I to take the shilling which they are
willing to give me? And why are not they to have such shelter as, for
that shilling, I can afford them? Why did you send a man without my
consent to clean my house, and then force me to pay for what I never
ordered? My tenants thought the house clean enough for them; or they
would not have been my tenants; and, if they and I were satisfied,
why did you, in direct defiance of all the principles of free trade,
interfere between us?" This reasoning, Sir, is exactly of a piece
with the reasoning of the honourable Member for Montrose, and of my
honourable friend the Member for Sheffield. If the noble earl will
allow me to make a defence for him, I believe that he would answer the
objection thus: "I hold," he would say, "the sound doctrine of free
trade. But your doctrine of free trade is an exaggeration, a caricature
of the sound doctrine; and by exhibiting such a caricature you bring
discredit on the sound doctrine. We should have nothing to do with the
contracts between you and your tenants, if those contracts affected only
pecuniary interests. But higher than pecuniary interests are at stake.
It concerns the commonwealth that the great body of the people should
not live in a way which makes life wretched and short, which enfeebles
the body and pollutes the mind. If, by living in houses which resemble
hogstyes, great numbers of our countrymen have contracted the tastes
of hogs, if they have become so familiar with filth and stench and
contagion, that they burrow without reluctance in holes which would turn
the stomach of any man of cleanly habits, that is only an additional
proof that we have too long neglected our duties, and an additional
reason for our now performing them."

Secondly, I say that where the public morality is concerned it may be
the duty of the State to interfere with the contracts of individuals.
Take the traffic in licentious books and pictures. Will anybody deny
that the State may, with propriety, interdict that traffic? Or take the
case of lotteries. I have, we will suppose, an estate for which I
wish to get twenty thousand pounds. I announce my intention to issue a
thousand tickets at twenty pounds each. The holder of the number which
is first drawn is to have the estate. But the magistrate interferes; the
contract between me and the purchasers of my tickets is annulled; and
I am forced to pay a heavy penalty for having made such a contract. I
appeal to the principle of free trade, as expounded by the honourable
gentlemen the Members for Montrose and Sheffield. I say to you, the
legislators who have restricted my liberty, "What business have you to
interfere between a buyer and a seller? If you think the speculation
a bad one, do not take tickets. But do not interdict other people from
judging for themselves." Surely you would answer, "You would be right if
this were a mere question of trade: but it is a question of morality.
We prohibit you from disposing of your property in this particular mode,
because it is a mode which tends to encourage a most pernicious habit of
mind, a habit of mind incompatible with all the qualities on which the
well-being of individuals and of nations depends."

It must then, I think, be admitted that, where health is concerned, and
where morality is concerned, the State is justified in interfering with
the contracts of individuals. And, if this be admitted, it follows that
the case with which we now have to do is a case for interference.

Will it be denied that the health of a large part of the rising
generation may be seriously affected by the contracts which this bill
is intended to regulate? Can any man who has read the evidence which is
before us, can any man who has ever observed young people, can any man
who remembers his own sensations when he was young, doubt that twelve
hours a day of labour in a factory is too much for a lad of thirteen?

Or will it be denied that this is a question in which public morality is
concerned? Can any one doubt,--none, I am sure, of my friends around
me doubts,--that education is a matter of the highest importance to
the virtue and happiness of a people? Now we know that there can be no
education without leisure. It is evident that, after deducting from
the day twelve hours for labour in a factory, and the additional hours
necessary for exercise, refreshment, and repose, there will not remain
time enough for education.

I have now, I think, shown that this bill is not in principle
objectionable; and yet I have not touched the strongest part of our
case. I hold that, where public health is concerned, and where public
morality is concerned, the State may be justified in regulating even the
contracts of adults. But we propose to regulate only the contracts of
infants. Now, was there ever a civilised society in which the contracts
of infants were not under some regulation? Is there a single member of
this House who will say that a wealthy minor of thirteen ought to be at
perfect liberty to execute a conveyance of his estate, or to give a bond
for fifty thousand pounds? If anybody were so absurd as to say, "What
has the Legislature to do with the matter? Why cannot you leave trade
free? Why do you pretend to understand the boy's interest better than he
understands it?"--you would answer; "When he grows up, he may squander
his fortune away if he likes: but at present the State is his guardian;
and he shall not ruin himself till he is old enough to know what he
is about." The minors whom we wish to protect have not indeed large
property to throw away: but they are not the less our wards. Their only
inheritance, the only fund to which they must look for their subsistence
through life, is the sound mind in the sound body. And is it not our
duty to prevent them from wasting their most precious wealth before they
know its value?

But, it is said, this bill, though it directly limits only the labour
of infants, will, by an indirect operation, limit also the labour of
adults. Now, Sir, though I am not prepared to vote for a bill directly
limiting the labour of adults, I will plainly say that I do not think
that the limitation of the labour of adults would necessarily produce
all those frightful consequences which we have heard predicted. You
cheer me in very triumphant tones, as if I had uttered some monstrous
paradox. Pray, does it not occur to any of you that the labour of adults
is now limited in this country? Are you not aware that you are living in
a society in which the labour of adults is limited to six days in seven?
It is you, not I, who maintain a paradox opposed to the opinions and
the practices of all nations and ages. Did you ever hear of a single
civilised State since the beginning of the world in which a certain
portion of time was not set apart for the rest and recreation of adults
by public authority? In general, this arrangement has been sanctioned
by religion. The Egyptians, the Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, had their
holidays: the Hindoo has his holidays: the Mussulman has his holidays:
there are holidays in the Greek Church, holidays in the Church of Rome,
holidays in the Church of England. Is it not amusing to hear a gentleman
pronounce with confidence that any legislation which limits the labour
of adults must produce consequences fatal to society, without once
reflecting that in the society in which he lives, and in every
other society that exists, or ever has existed, there has been such
legislation without any evil consequence? It is true that a Puritan
Government in England, and an Atheistical Government in France,
abolished the old holidays as superstitious. But those Governments felt
it to be absolutely necessary to institute new holidays. Civil festivals
were substituted for religious festivals. You will find among the
ordinances of the Long Parliament a law providing that, in exchange for
the days of rest and amusement which the people had been used to enjoy
at Easter, Whitsuntide, and Christmas, the second Tuesday in every month
should be given to the working man, and that any apprentice who was
forced to work on the second Tuesday of any month might have his master
up before a magistrate. The French Jacobins decreed that the Sunday
should no longer be a day of rest; but they instituted another day of
rest, the Decade. They swept away the holidays of the Roman Catholic
Church; but they instituted another set of holidays, the Sansculottides,
one sacred to Genius, one to Industry, one to Opinion, and so on. I say,
therefore, that the practice of limiting by law the time of the labour
of adults is so far from being, as some gentlemen seem to think, an
unheard of and monstrous practice, that it is a practice as universal as
cookery, as the wearing of clothes, as the use of domestic animals.

And has this practice been proved by experience to be pernicious? Let us
take the instance with which we are most familiar. Let us inquire what
has been the effect of those laws which, in our own country, limit the
labour of adults to six days in every seven. It is quite unnecessary to
discuss the question whether Christians be or be not bound by a divine
command to observe the Sunday. For it is evident that, whether our
weekly holiday be of divine or of human institution, the effect on the
temporal interests of Society will be exactly the same. Now, is there a
single argument in the whole Speech of my honourable friend the Member
for Sheffield which does not tell just as strongly against the laws
which enjoin the observance of the Sunday as against the bill on our
table? Surely, if his reasoning is good for hours, it must be equally
good for days.

He says, "If this limitation be good for the working people, rely on it
that they will find it out, and that they will themselves establish it
without any law." Why not reason in the same way about the Sunday? Why
not say, "If it be a good thing for the people of London to shut their
shops one day in seven, they will find it out, and will shut their shops
without a law?" Sir, the answer is obvious. I have no doubt that, if
you were to poll the shopkeepers of London, you would find an immense
majority, probably a hundred to one, in favour of closing shops on the
Sunday; and yet it is absolutely necessary to give to the wish of the
majority the sanction of a law; for, if there were no such law, the
minority, by opening their shops, would soon force the majority to do
the same.

But, says my honourable friend, you cannot limit the labour of adults
unless you fix wages. This proposition he lays down repeatedly,
assures us that it is incontrovertible, and indeed seems to think it
self-evident; for he has not taken the trouble to prove it. Sir, my
answer shall be very short. We have, during many centuries, limited the
labour of adults to six days in seven; and yet we have not fixed the
rate of wages.

But, it is said, you cannot legislate for all trades; and therefore you
had better not legislate for any. Look at the poor sempstress. She works
far longer and harder than the factory child. She sometimes plies her
needle fifteen, sixteen hours in the twenty-four. See how the housemaid
works, up at six every morning, and toiling up stairs and down stairs
till near midnight. You own that you cannot do anything for the
sempstress and the housemaid. Why then trouble yourself about the
factory child? Take care that by protecting one class you do not
aggravate the hardships endured by the classes which you cannot protect.
Why, Sir, might not all this be said, word for word, against the laws
which enjoin the observance of the Sunday? There are classes of people
whom you cannot prevent from working on the Sunday. There are classes of
people whom, if you could, you ought not to prevent from working on the
Sunday. Take the sempstress, of whom so much has been said. You cannot
keep her from sewing and hemming all Sunday in her garret. But you
do not think that a reason for suffering Covent Garden Market, and
Leadenhall Market, and Smithfield Market, and all the shops from Mile
End to Hyde Park to be open all Sunday. Nay, these factories about which
we are debating,--does anybody propose that they shall be allowed to
work all Sunday? See then how inconsistent you are. You think it unjust
to limit the labour of the factory child to ten hours a day, because you
cannot limit the labour of the sempstress. And yet you see no injustice
in limiting the labour of the factory child, aye, and of the factory
man, to six days in the week, though you cannot limit the labour of the

But, you say, by protecting one class we shall aggravate the sufferings
of all the classes which we cannot protect. You say this; but you do not
prove it; and all experience proves the contrary. We interfere on the
Sunday to close the shops. We do not interfere with the labour of the
housemaid. But are the housemaids of London more severely worked on the
Sunday than on other days? The fact notoriously is the reverse. For your
legislation keeps the public feeling in a right state, and thus protects
indirectly those whom it cannot protect directly.

Will my honourable friend the Member for Sheffield maintain that the
law which limits the number of working days has been injurious to the
working population? I am certain that he will not. How then can he
expect me to believe that a law which limits the number of working hours
must necessarily be injurious to the working population? Yet he and
those who agree with him seem to wonder at our dulness because we do
not at once admit the truth of the doctrine which they propound on
this subject. They reason thus. We cannot reduce the number of hours of
labour in factories without reducing the amount of production. We cannot
reduce the amount of production without reducing the remuneration of the
labourer. Meanwhile, foreigners, who are at liberty to work till they
drop down dead at their looms, will soon beat us out of all the markets
of the world. Wages will go down fast. The condition of our working
people will be far worse than it is; and our unwise interference will,
like the unwise interference of our ancestors with the dealings of the
corn factor and the money lender, increase the distress of the very
class which we wish to relieve.

Now, Sir, I fully admit that there might be such a limitation of the
hours of labour as would produce the evil consequences with which we are
threatened; and this, no doubt, is a very good reason for legislating
with great caution, for feeling our way, for looking well to all the
details of this bill. But it is certainly not true that every limitation
of the hours of labour must produce these consequences. And I am, I must
say, surprised when I hear men of eminent ability and knowledge lay down
the proposition that a diminution of the time of labour must be followed
by diminution of the wages of labour, as a proposition universally
true, as a proposition capable of being strictly demonstrated, as
a proposition about which there can be no more doubt than about any
theorem in Euclid. Sir, I deny the truth of the proposition; and for
this plain reason. We have already, by law, greatly reduced the time of
labour in factories. Thirty years ago, the late Sir Robert Peel told the
House that it was a common practice to make children of eight years of
age toil in mills fifteen hours a day. A law has since been made which
prohibits persons under eighteen years of age from working in mills
more than twelve hours a day. That law was opposed on exactly the same
grounds on which the bill before us is opposed. Parliament was told
then, as it is told now, that with the time of labour the quantity of
production would decrease, that with the quantity of production the
wages would decrease, that our manufacturers would be unable to contend
with foreign manufacturers, and that the condition of the labouring
population instead of being made better by the interference of the
Legislature would be made worse. Read over those debates; and you may
imagine that you are reading the debate of this evening. Parliament
disregarded these prophecies. The time of labour was limited. Have wages
fallen? Has the cotton trade left Manchester for France or Germany? Has
the condition of the working people become more miserable? Is it not
universally acknowledged that the evils which were so confidently
predicted have not come to pass? Let me be understood. I am not arguing
that, because a law which reduced the hours of daily labour from fifteen
to twelve did not reduce wages, a law reducing those hours from twelve
to ten or eleven cannot possibly reduce wages. That would be very
inconclusive reasoning. What I say is this, that, since a law which
reduced the hours of daily labour from fifteen to twelve has not reduced
wages, the proposition that every reduction of the hours of labour must
necessarily reduce wages is a false proposition. There is evidently
some flaw in that demonstration which my honourable friend thinks so
complete; and what the flaw is we may perhaps discover if we look at the
analogous case to which I have so often referred.

Sir, exactly three hundred years ago, great religious changes were
taking place in England. Much was said and written, in that inquiring
and innovating age, about the question whether Christians were under a
religious obligation to rest from labour on one day in the week; and it
is well known that the chief Reformers, both here and on the Continent,
denied the existence of any such obligation. Suppose then that, in 1546,
Parliament had made a law that they should thenceforth be no distinction
between the Sunday and any other day. Now, Sir, our opponents, if they
are consistent with themselves, must hold that such a law would have
immensely increased the wealth of the country and the remuneration of
the working man. What an effect, if their principles be sound, must have
been produced by the addition of one sixth to the time of labour! What
an increase of production! What a rise of wages! How utterly unable must
the foreign artisan, who still had his days of festivity and of repose,
have found himself to maintain a competition with a people whose shops
were open, whose markets were crowded, whose spades and axes, and
planes, and hods, and anvils, and looms were at work from morning till
night on three hundred and sixty-five days a year! The Sundays of three
hundred years make up fifty years of our working days. We know what the
industry of fifty years can do. We know what marvels the industry of
the last fifty years has wrought. The arguments of my honourable friend
irresistibly lead us to this conclusion, that if, during the last three
centuries, the Sunday had not been observed as a day of rest, we should
have been a far richer, a far more highly civilised people than we
now are, and that the labouring classes especially would have been far
better off than at present. But does he, does any Member of the House,
seriously believe that this would have been the case? For my own part,
I have not the smallest doubt that, if we and our ancestors had, during
the last three centuries, worked just as hard on the Sunday as on the
week days, we should have been at this moment a poorer people and a less
civilised people than we are; that there would have been less production
than there has been, that the wages of the labourer would have been
lower than they are, and that some other nation would have been now
making cotton stuffs and woollen stuffs and cutlery for the whole world.

Of course, Sir, I do not mean to say that a man will not produce more in
a week by working seven days than by working six days. But I very much
doubt whether, at the end of a year, he will generally have produced
more by working seven days a week than by working six days a week; and
I firmly believe that, at the end of twenty years, he will have produced
much less by working seven days a week than by working six days a week.
In the same manner I do not deny that a factory child will produce more,
in a single day, by working twelve hours than by working ten hours, and
by working fifteen hours than by working twelve hours. But I do deny
that a great society in which children work fifteen, or even twelve
hours a day will, in the lifetime of a generation, produce as much as
if those children had worked less. If we consider man merely in a
commercial point of view, if we consider him merely as a machine for
the production of worsted and calico, let us not forget what a piece of
mechanism he is, how fearfully and wonderfully made. We do not treat a
fine horse or a sagacious dog exactly as we treat a spinning jenny. Nor
will any slaveholder, who has sense enough to know his own interest,
treat his human chattels exactly as he treats his horses and his dogs.
And would you treat the free labourer of England like a mere wheel or
pulley? Rely on it that intense labour, beginning too early in life,
continued too long every day, stunting the growth of the body, stunting
the growth of the mind, leaving no time for healthful exercise, leaving
no time for intellectual culture, must impair all those high qualities
which have made our country great. Your overworked boys will become a
feeble and ignoble race of men, the parents of a more feeble and more
ignoble progeny; nor will it be long before the deterioration of the
labourer will injuriously affect those very interests to which his
physical and moral energies have been sacrificed. On the other hand,
a day of rest recurring in every week, two or three hours of leisure,
exercise, innocent amusement or useful study, recurring every day, must
improve the whole man, physically, morally, intellectually; and the
improvement of the man will improve all that the man produces. Why is
it, Sir, that the Hindoo cotton manufacturer, close to whose door
the cotton grows, cannot, in the bazaar of his own town, maintain
a competition with the English cotton manufacturer, who has to send
thousands of miles for the raw material, and who has then to send the
wrought material thousands of miles to market? You will say that it is
owing to the excellence of our machinery. And to what is the excellence
of our machinery owing? How many of the improvements which have been
made in our machinery do we owe to the ingenuity and patient thought of
working men? Adam Smith tells us in the first chapter of his great work,
that you can hardly go to a factory without seeing some very pretty
machine,--that is his expression,--devised by some labouring man.
Hargraves, the inventor of the spinning jenny, was a common artisan.
Crompton, the inventor of the mule jenny, was a working man. How many
hours of the labour of children would do so much for our manufactures as
one of these improvements has done? And in what sort of society are such
improvements most likely to be made? Surely in a society in which the
faculties of the working people are developed by education. How long
will you wait before any negro, working under the lash in Louisiana,
will contrive a better machinery for squeezing the sugar canes?
My honourable friend seems to me, in all his reasonings about the
commercial prosperity of nations, to overlook entirely the chief cause
on which that prosperity depends. What is it, Sir, that makes the great
difference between country and country? Not the exuberance of soil; not
the mildness of climate; not mines, nor havens, nor rivers. These things
are indeed valuable when put to their proper use by human intelligence:
but human intelligence can do much without them; and they without human
intelligence can do nothing. They exist in the highest degree in regions
of which the inhabitants are few, and squalid, and barbarous, and naked,
and starving; while on sterile rocks, amidst unwholesome marshes, and
under inclement skies, may be found immense populations, well fed, well
lodged, well clad, well governed. Nature meant Egypt and Sicily to be
the gardens of the world. They once were so. Is it anything in the earth
or in the air that makes Scotland more prosperous than Egypt, that makes
Holland more prosperous than Sicily? No; it was the Scotchman that made
Scotland; it was the Dutchman that made Holland. Look at North America.
Two centuries ago the sites on which now arise mills, and hotels, and
banks, and colleges, and churches, and the Senate Houses of flourishing
commonwealths, were deserts abandoned to the panther and the bear. What
has made the change? Was it the rich mould, or the redundant rivers? No:
the prairies were as fertile, the Ohio and the Hudson were as broad
and as full then as now. Was the improvement the effect of some great
transfer of capital from the old world to the new? No, the emigrants
generally carried out with them no more than a pittance; but they
carried out the English heart, and head, and arm; and the English heart
and head and arm turned the wilderness into cornfield and orchard, and
the huge trees of the primeval forest into cities and fleets. Man, man
is the great instrument that produces wealth. The natural difference
between Campania and Spitzbergen is trifling, when compared with the
difference between a country inhabited by men full of bodily and
mental vigour, and a country inhabited by men sunk in bodily and mental
decrepitude. Therefore it is that we are not poorer but richer, because
we have, through many ages, rested from our labour one day in seven.
That day is not lost. While industry is suspended, while the plough lies
in the furrow, while the Exchange is silent, while no smoke ascends from
the factory, a process is going on quite as important to the wealth of
nations as any process which is performed on more busy days. Man,
the machine of machines, the machine compared with which all the
contrivances of the Watts and the Arkwrights are worthless, is repairing
and winding up, so that he returns to his labours on the Monday with
clearer intellect, with livelier spirits, with renewed corporal
vigour. Never will I believe that what makes a population stronger, and
healthier, and wiser, and better, can ultimately make it poorer. You try
to frighten us by telling us, that in some German factories, the young
work seventeen hours in the twenty-four, that they work so hard that
among thousands there is not one who grows to such a stature that he can
be admitted into the army; and you ask whether, if we pass this bill, we
can possibly hold our own against such competition as this? Sir, I laugh
at the thought of such competition. If ever we are forced to yield the
foremost place among commercial nations, we shall yield it, not to a
race of degenerate dwarfs, but to some people pre-eminently vigorous in
body and in mind.

For these reasons, Sir, I approve of the principle of this bill, and
shall, without hesitation, vote for the second reading. To what extent
we ought to reduce the hours of labour is a question of more difficulty.
I think that we are in the situation of a physician who has satisfied
himself that there is a disease, and that there is a specific medicine
for the disease, but who is not certain what quantity of that medicine
the patient's constitution will bear. Such a physician would probably
administer his remedy by small doses, and carefully watch its operation.
I cannot help thinking that, by at once reducing the hours of labour
from twelve to ten, we should hazard too much. The change is great, and
ought to be cautiously and gradually made. Suppose that there should be
an immediate fall of wages, which is not impossible. Might there not
be a violent reaction? Might not the public take up a notion that our
legislation had been erroneous in principle, though, in truth, our error
would have been an error, not of principle, but merely of degree? Might
not Parliament be induced to retrace its steps? Might we not find it
difficult to maintain even the present limitation? The wisest course
would, in my opinion, be to reduce the hours of labour from twelve to
eleven, to observe the effect of that experiment, and if, as I hope
and believe, the result should be satisfactory, then to make a further
reduction from eleven to ten. This is a question, however, which will be
with more advantage considered when we are in Committee.

One word, Sir, before I sit down, in answer to my noble friend near me.
(Lord Morpeth.) He seems to think that this bill is ill timed. I own
that I cannot agree with him. We carried up on Monday last to the bar
of the Lords a bill which will remove the most hateful and pernicious
restriction that ever was laid on trade. Nothing can be more proper
than to apply, in the same week, a remedy to a great evil of a directly
opposite kind. As lawgivers, we have two great faults to confess and to
repair. We have done that which we ought not to have done. We have left
undone that which we ought to have done. We have regulated that which we
should have left to regulate itself. We have left unregulated that which
we were bound to regulate. We have given to some branches of industry
a protection which has proved their bane. We have withheld from public
health and public morals the protection which was their due. We have
prevented the labourer from buying his loaf where he could get it
cheapest; but we have not prevented him from ruining his body and mind
by premature and immoderate toil. I hope that we have seen the last
both of a vicious system of interference and of a vicious system of
non-interference, and that our poorer countrymen will no longer have
reason to attribute their sufferings either to our meddling or to our



I thank you, Gentlemen, for this cordial reception. I have thought it
right to steal a short time from duties not unimportant for the purpose
of lending my aid to a an undertaking calculated, as I think, to raise
the credit and to promote the best interests of the city which has so
many claims on my gratitude.

The Directors of our Institution have requested me to propose to you as
a toast the Literature of Britain. They could not have assigned to me
a more agreeable duty. They chief object of this Institution is, I
conceive, to impart knowledge through the medium of our own language.
Edinburgh is already rich in libraries worthy of her fame as a seat
of literature and a seat of jurisprudence. A man of letters can here
without difficulty obtain access to repositories filled with the wisdom
of many ages and of many nations. But something was still wanting.
We still wanted a library open to that large, that important, that
respectable class which, though by no means destitute of liberal
curiosity or of sensibility to literary pleasures, is yet forced to
be content with what is written in our own tongue. For that class
especially, I do not say exclusively, this library is intended.
Our directors, I hope, will not be satisfied, I, as a member, shall
certainly not be satisfied, till we possess a noble and complete
collection of English books, till it is impossible to seek in vain
on our shelves for a single English book which is valuable either on
account of matter or on account of manner, which throws any light on our
civil, ecclesiastical, intellectual, or social history, which, in short,
can afford either useful instruction or harmless amusement.

From such a collection, placed within the reach of that large and
valuable class which I have mentioned, I am disposed to expect great
good. And when I say this, I do not take into the account those rare
cases to which my valued friend, the Lord Provost (Mr Adam Black.), so
happily alluded. It is indeed not impossible that some man of genius who
may enrich our literature with imperishable eloquence or song, or who
may extend the empire of our race over matter, may feel in our reading
room, for the first time the consciousness of powers yet undeveloped.
It is not impossible that our volumes may suggest the first thought of
something great to some future Burns, or Watt, or Arkwright. But I do
not speak of these extraordinary cases. What I confidently anticipate is
that, through the whole of that class whose benefit we have peculiarly
in view, there will be a moral and an intellectual improvement; that
many hours, which might otherwise be wasted in folly or in vice, will
be employed in pursuits which, while they afford the highest and most
lasting pleasure, are not only harmless, but purifying and elevating.
My own experience, my own observation, justifies me in entertaining this
hope. I have had opportunities, both in this and in other countries, of
forming some estimate of the effect which is likely to be produced by
a good collection of books on a society of young men. There is, I will
venture to say, no judicious commanding officer of a regiment who
will not tell you that the vicinity of a valuable library will improve
perceptibly the whole character of a mess. I well knew one eminent
military servant of the East India Company, a man of great and various
accomplishments, a man honourably distinguished both in war and in
diplomacy, a man who enjoyed the confidence of some of the greatest
generals and statesmen of our time. When I asked him how, having left
his country while still a boy, and having passed his youth at military
stations in India, he had been able to educate himself, his answer was,
that he had been stationed in the neighbourhood of an excellent library,
that he had been allowed free access to the books, and that they had, at
the most critical time of his life, decided his character, and saved him
from being a mere smoking, card-playing, punch-drinking lounger.

Some of the objections which have been made to such institutions as
ours have been so happily and completely refuted by my friend the Lord
Provost, and by the Most Reverend Prelate who has honoured us with his
presence this evening (Archbishop Whateley.), that it would be idle to
say again what has been so well said. There is, however, one objection
which, with your permission, I will notice. Some men, of whom I wish
to speak with great respect, are haunted, as it seems to me, with an
unreasonable fear of what they call superficial knowledge. Knowledge,
they say, which really deserves the name, is a great blessing to
mankind, the ally of virtue, the harbinger of freedom. But such
knowledge must be profound. A crowd of people who have a smattering of
mathematics, a smattering of astronomy, a smattering of chemistry, who
have read a little poetry and a little history, is dangerous to the
commonwealth. Such half-knowledge is worse than ignorance. And then the
authority of Pope is vouched. Drink deep or taste not; shallow draughts
intoxicate: drink largely; and that will sober you. I must confess that
the danger which alarms these gentlemen never seemed to me very serious:
and my reason is this; that I never could prevail on any person who
pronounced superficial knowledge a curse, and profound knowledge a
blessing, to tell me what was his standard of profundity. The argument
proceeds on the supposition that there is some line between profound
and superficial knowledge similar to that which separates truth from
falsehood. I know of no such line. When we talk of men of deep science,
do we mean that they have got to the bottom or near the bottom of
science? Do we mean that they know all that is capable of being known?
Do we mean even that they know, in their own especial department, all
that the smatterers of the next generation will know? Why, if we compare
the little truth that we know with the infinite mass of truth which we
do not know, we are all shallow together; and the greatest philosophers
that ever lived would be the first to confess their shallowness. If we
could call up the first of human beings, if we could call up Newton,
and ask him whether, even in those sciences in which he had no rival, he
considered himself as profoundly knowing, he would have told us that he
was but a smatterer like ourselves, and that the difference between his
knowledge and ours vanished, when compared with the quantity of truth
still undiscovered, just as the distance between a person at the foot of
Ben Lomond and at the top of Ben Lomond vanishes when compared with the
distance of the fixed stars.

It is evident then that those who are afraid of superficial knowledge
do not mean by superficial knowledge knowledge which is superficial when
compared with the whole quantity of truth capable of being known. For,
in that sense, all human knowledge is, and always has been, and always
must be, superficial. What then is the standard? Is it the same two
years together in any country? Is it the same, at the same moment, in
any two countries? Is it not notorious that the profundity of one age
is the shallowness of the next; that the profundity of one nation is the
shallowness of a neighbouring nation? Ramohun Roy passed, among Hindoos,
for a man of profound Western learning; but he would have been but a
very superficial member of this Institute. Strabo was justly entitled
to be called a profound geographer eighteen hundred years ago. But
a teacher of geography, who had never heard of America, would now be
laughed at by the girls of a boarding-school. What would now be thought
of the greatest chemist of 1746, or of the greatest geologist of
1746? The truth is that, in all experimental science, mankind is, of
necessity, constantly advancing. Every generation, of course, has its
front rank and its rear rank; but the rear rank of a later generation
occupies the ground which was occupied by the front rank of a former

You remember Gulliver's adventures. First he is shipwrecked in a country
of little men; and he is a Colossus among them. He strides over the
walls of their capital: he stands higher than the cupola of their great
temple: he tugs after him a royal fleet: he stretches his legs; and a
royal army, with drums beating and colours flying, marches through the
gigantic arch: he devours a whole granary for breakfast, eats a herd of
cattle for dinner, and washes down his meal with all the hogsheads of a
cellar. In his next voyage he is among men sixty feet high. He who, in
Lilliput, used to take people up in his hand in order that he might be
able to hear them, is himself taken up in the hands and held to the
ears of his masters. It is all that he can do to defend himself with his
hanger against the rats and mice. The court ladies amuse themselves with
seeing him fight wasps and frogs: the monkey runs off with him to the
chimney top: the dwarf drops him into the cream jug and leaves him to
swim for his life. Now, was Gulliver a tall or a short man? Why, in his
own house at Rotherhithe, he was thought a man of the ordinary stature.
Take him to Lilliput; and he is Quinbus Flestrin, the Man Mountain. Take
him to Brobdingnag, and he is Grildrig, the little Manikin. It is the
same in science. The pygmies of one society would have passed for giants
in another.

It might be amusing to institute a comparison between one of the
profoundly learned men of the thirteenth century and one of the
superficial students who will frequent our library. Take the great
philosopher of the time of Henry the Third of England, or Alexander the
Third of Scotland, the man renowned all over the island, and even as far
as Italy and Spain, as the first of astronomers and chemists. What is
his astronomy? He is a firm believer in the Ptolemaic system. He never
heard of the law of gravitation. Tell him that the succession of day and
night is caused by the turning of the earth on its axis. Tell him
that, in consequence of this motion, the polar diameter of the earth is
shorter than the equatorial diameter. Tell him that the succession of
summer and winter is caused by the revolution of the earth round the
sun. If he does not set you down for an idiot, he lays an information
against you before the Bishop, and has you burned for a heretic. To do
him justice, however, if he is ill informed on these points, there
are other points on which Newton and Laplace were mere children when
compared with him. He can cast your nativity. He knows what will happen
when Saturn is in the House of Life, and what will happen when Mars is
in conjunction with the Dragon's Tail. He can read in the stars whether
an expedition will be successful, whether the next harvest will be
plentiful, which of your children will be fortunate in marriage, and
which will be lost at sea. Happy the State, happy the family, which
is guided by the counsels of so profound a man! And what but mischief,
public and private, can we expect from the temerity and conceit of
scolists who know no more about the heavenly bodies than what they have
learned from Sir John Herschel's beautiful little volume. But, to speak
seriously, is not a little truth better than a great deal of falsehood?
Is not the man who, in the evenings of a fortnight, has acquired a
correct notion of the solar system, a more profound astronomer than a
man who has passed thirty years in reading lectures about the primum
mobile, and in drawing schemes of horoscopes?

Or take chemistry. Our philosopher of the thirteenth century shall be,
if you please, an universal genius, chemist as well as astronomer.
He has perhaps got so far as to know, that if he mixes charcoal and
saltpetre in certain proportions and then applies fire, there will be
an explosion which will shatter all his retorts and aludels; and he is
proud of knowing what will in a later age be familiar to all the idle
boys in the kingdom. But there are departments of science in which he
need not fear the rivalry of Black, or Lavoisier, or Cavendish, or Davy.
He is in hot pursuit of the philosopher's stone, of the stone that is
to bestow wealth, and health, and longevity. He has a long array of
strangely shaped vessels, filled with red oil and white oil, constantly
boiling. The moment of projection is at hand; and soon all his kettles
and gridirons will be turned into pure gold. Poor Professor Faraday can
do nothing of the sort. I should deceive you if I held out to you the
smallest hope that he will ever turn your halfpence into sovereigns. But
if you can induce him to give at our Institute a course of lectures such
as I once heard him give at the Royal Institution to children in the
Christmas holidays, I can promise you that you will know more about the
effects produced on bodies by heat and moisture than was known to some
alchemists who, in the middle ages, were thought worthy of the patronage
of kings.

As it has been in science so it has been in literature. Compare the
literary acquirements of the great men of the thirteenth century with
those which will be within the reach of many who will frequent our
reading room. As to Greek learning, the profound man of the thirteenth
century was absolutely on a par with the superficial man of the
nineteenth. In the modern languages, there was not, six hundred years
ago, a single volume which is now read. The library of our profound
scholar must have consisted entirely of Latin books. We will suppose
him to have had both a large and a choice collection. We will allow him
thirty, nay forty manuscripts, and among them a Virgil, a Terence, a
Lucan, an Ovid, a Statius, a great deal of Livy, a great deal of Cicero.
In allowing him all this, we are dealing most liberally with him; for it
is much more likely that his shelves were filled with treaties on school
divinity and canon law, composed by writers whose names the world has
very wisely forgotten. But, even if we suppose him to have possessed
all that is most valuable in the literature of Rome, I say with perfect
confidence that, both in respect of intellectual improvement, and in
respect of intellectual pleasures, he was far less favourably situated
than a man who now, knowing only the English language, has a bookcase
filled with the best English works. Our great man of the Middle Ages
could not form any conception of any tragedy approaching Macbeth or
Lear, or of any comedy equal to Henry the Fourth or Twelfth Night. The
best epic poem that he had read was far inferior to the Paradise Lost;
and all the tomes of his philosophers were not worth a page of the Novum

The Novum Organum, it is true, persons who know only English must read
in a translation: and this reminds me of one great advantage which such
persons will derive from our Institution. They will, in our library, be
able to form some acquaintance with the master minds of remote ages and
foreign countries. A large part of what is best worth knowing in ancient
literature, and in the literature of France, Italy, Germany, and Spain,
has been translated into our own tongue. It is scarcely possible that
the translation of any book of the highest class can be equal to the
original. But, though the finer touches may be lost in the copy, the
great outlines will remain. An Englishman who never saw the frescoes in
the Vatican may yet, from engravings, form some notion of the exquisite
grace of Raphael, and of the sublimity and energy of Michael Angelo. And
so the genius of Homer is seen in the poorest version of the Iliad; the
genius of Cervantes is seen in the poorest version of Don Quixote. Let
it not be supposed that I wish to dissuade any person from studying
either the ancient languages or the languages of modern Europe. Far from
it. I prize most highly those keys of knowledge; and I think that no man
who has leisure for study ought to be content until he possesses several
of them. I always much admired a saying of the Emperor Charles the
Fifth. "When I learn a new language," he said, "I feel as if I had got
a new soul." But I would console those who have not time to make
themselves linguists by assuring them that, by means of their own mother
tongue, they may obtain ready access to vast intellectual treasures, to
treasures such as might have been envied by the greatest linguists of
the age of Charles the Fifth, to treasures surpassing those which were
possessed by Aldus, by Erasmus, and by Melancthon.

And thus I am brought back to the point from which I started. I have
been requested to invite you to fill your glasses to the Literature of
Britain; to that literature, the brightest, the purest, the most durable
of all the glories of our country; to that literature, so rich in
precious truth and precious fiction; to that literature which boasts of
the prince of all poets and of the prince of all philosophers; to that
literature which has exercised an influence wider than that of our
commerce, and mightier than that of our arms; to that literature which
has taught France the principles of liberty, and has furnished Germany
with models of art; to that literature which forms a tie closer than the
tie of consanguinity between us and the commonwealths of the valley of
the Mississippi; to that literature before the light of which impious
and cruel superstitions are fast taking flight on the banks of the
Ganges; to that literature which will, in future ages, instruct and
delight the unborn millions who will have turned the Australasian
and Caffrarian deserts into cities and gardens. To the Literature of
Britain, then! And, wherever British literature spreads, may it be
attended by British virtue and by British freedom!



In the year 1847 the Government asked from the House of Commons a grant
of one hundred thousand pounds for the education of the people. On the
nineteenth of April, Lord John Russell, having explained the reasons for
this application, moved the order of the day for a Committee of Supply.
Mr Thomas Duncombe, Member for Finsbury, moved the following amendment:
"That previous to any grant of public money being assented to by this
House, for the purpose of carrying out the scheme of national education,
as developed in the Minutes of the Committee of Council on Education
in August and December last, which minutes have been presented to both
Houses of Parliament by command of Her Majesty, a select Committee be
appointed to inquire into the justice and expediency of such a scheme,
and its probable annual cost; also to inquire whether the regulations
attached thereto do not unduly increase the influence of the Crown,
invade the constitutional functions of Parliament, and interfere with
the religious convictions and civil rights of Her Majesty's subjects."

In opposition to this amendment, the following Speech was made. After
a debate of three nights, Mr Thomas Duncombe obtained permission to
withdraw the latter part of his amendment. The first part was put, and
negatived by 372 votes to 47.

You will not wonder, Sir, that I am desirous to catch your eye this
evening. The first duty which I performed, as a Member of the Committee
of Council which is charged with the superintendence of public
instruction, was to give my hearty assent to the plan which the
honourable Member for Finsbury calls on the House to condemn. I am one
of those who have been accused in every part of the kingdom, and who are
now accused in Parliament, of aiming, under specious pretences, a
blow at the civil and religious liberties of the people. It is natural
therefore that I should seize the earliest opportunity of vindicating
myself from so grave a charge.

The honourable Member for Finsbury must excuse me if, in the remarks
which I have to offer to the House, I should not follow very closely the
order of his speech. The truth is that a mere answer to his speech would
be no defence of myself or of my colleagues. I am surprised, I own, that
a man of his acuteness and ability should, on such an occasion, have
made such a speech. The country is excited from one end to the other by
a great question of principle. On that question the Government has taken
one side. The honourable Member stands forth as the chosen and trusted
champion of a great party which takes the other side. We expected to
hear from him a full exposition of the views of those in whose name he
speaks. But, to our astonishment, he has scarcely even alluded to the
controversy which has divided the whole nation. He has entertained us
with sarcasms and personal anecdotes: he has talked much about matters
of mere detail: but I must say that, after listening with close
attention to all that he has said, I am quite unable to discover
whether, on the only important point which is in issue, he agrees
with us or with that large and active body of Nonconformists which is
diametrically opposed to us. He has sate down without dropping one word
from which it is possible to discover whether he thinks that education
is or that it is not a matter with which the State ought to interfere.
Yet that is the question about which the whole nation has, during
several weeks, been writing, reading, speaking, hearing, thinking,
petitioning, and on which it is now the duty of Parliament to pronounce
a decision. That question once settled, there will be, I believe,
very little room for dispute. If it be not competent to the State to
interfere with the education of the people, the mode of interference
recommended by the Committee of Council must of course be condemned.
If it be the right and the duty of the State to make provision for the
education of the people, the objections made to our plan will, in a very
few words, be shown to be frivolous.

I shall take a course very different from that which has been taken
by the honourable gentleman. I shall in the clearest manner profess
my opinion on that great question of principle which he has studiously
evaded; and for my opinion I shall give what seem to me to be
unanswerable reasons.

I believe, Sir, that it is the right and the duty of the State to
provide means of education for the common people. This proposition seems
to me to be implied in every definition that has ever yet been given of
the functions of a government. About the extent of those functions there
has been much difference of opinion among ingenious men. There are some
who hold that it is the business of a government to meddle with every
part of the system of human life, to regulate trade by bounties and
prohibitions, to regulate expenditure by sumptuary laws, to regulate
literature by a censorship, to regulate religion by an inquisition.
Others go to the opposite extreme, and assign to government a very
narrow sphere of action. But the very narrowest sphere that ever was
assigned to governments by any school of political philosophy is quite
wide enough for my purpose. On one point all the disputants are agreed.
They unanimously acknowledge that it is the duty of every government
to take order for giving security to the persons and property of the
members of the community.

This being admitted, can it be denied that the education of the common
people is a most effectual means of securing our persons and our
property? Let Adam Smith answer that question for me. His authority,
always high, is, on this subject, entitled to peculiar respect, because
he extremely disliked busy, prying, interfering governments. He was for
leaving literature, arts, sciences, to take care of themselves. He was
not friendly to ecclesiastical establishments. He was of opinion, that
the State ought not to meddle with the education of the rich. But he has
expressly told us that a distinction is to be made, particularly in a
commercial and highly civilised society, between the education of the
rich and the education of the poor. The education of the poor, he
says, is a matter which deeply concerns the commonwealth. Just as the
magistrate ought to interfere for the purpose of preventing the leprosy
from spreading among the people, he ought to interfere for the purpose
of stopping the progress of the moral distempers which are inseparable
from ignorance. Nor can this duty be neglected without danger to the
public peace. If you leave the multitude uninstructed, there is serious
risk that religious animosities may produce the most dreadful disorders.
The most dreadful disorders! Those are Adam Smith's own words; and
prophetic words they were. Scarcely had he given this warning to
our rulers when his prediction was fulfilled in a manner never to be
forgotten. I speak of the No Popery riots of 1780. I do not know that I
could find in all history a stronger proof of the proposition, that the
ignorance of the common people makes the property, the limbs, the lives
of all classes insecure. Without the shadow of a grievance, at the
summons of a madman, a hundred thousand people rise in insurrection.
During a whole week, there is anarchy in the greatest and wealthiest
of European cities. The parliament is besieged. Your predecessor sits
trembling in his chair, and expects every moment to see the door beaten
in by the ruffians whose roar he hears all round the house. The peers
are pulled out of their coaches. The bishops in their lawn are forced to
fly over the tiles. The chapels of foreign ambassadors, buildings made
sacred by the law of nations, are destroyed. The house of the Chief
Justice is demolished. The little children of the Prime Minister are
taken out of their beds and laid in their night clothes on the table of
the Horse Guards, the only safe asylum from the fury of the rabble. The
prisons are opened. Highwaymen, housebreakers, murderers, come forth
to swell the mob by which they have been set free. Thirty-six fires are
blazing at once in London. Then comes the retribution. Count up all the
wretches who were shot, who were hanged, who were crushed, who drank
themselves to death at the rivers of gin which ran down Holborn Hill;
and you will find that battles have been lost and won with a smaller
sacrifice of life. And what was the cause of this calamity, a calamity
which, in the history of London, ranks with the great plague and the
great fire? The cause was the ignorance of a population which had been
suffered, in the neighbourhood of palaces, theatres, temples, to grow up
as rude and stupid as any tribe of tattooed cannibals in New Zealand, I
might say as any drove of beasts in Smithfield Market.

The instance is striking: but it is not solitary. To the same cause are
to be ascribed the riots of Nottingham, the sack of Bristol, all the
outrages of Ludd, and Swing, and Rebecca, beautiful and costly machinery
broken to pieces in Yorkshire, barns and haystacks blazing in Kent,
fences and buildings pulled down in Wales. Could such things have been
done in a country in which the mind of the labourer had been opened by
education, in which he had been taught to find pleasure in the exercise
of his intellect, taught to revere his Maker, taught to respect
legitimate authority, and taught at the same time to seek the redress of
real wrongs by peaceful and constitutional means?

This then is my argument. It is the duty of Government to protect our
persons and property from danger. The gross ignorance of the common
people is a principal cause of danger to our persons and property.
Therefore, it is the duty of Government to take care that the common
people shall not be grossly ignorant.

And what is the alternative? It is universally allowed that, by some
means, Government must protect our persons and property. If you take
away education, what means do you leave? You leave means such as only
necessity can justify, means which inflict a fearful amount of pain,
not only on the guilty, but on the innocent who are connected with
the guilty. You leave guns and bayonets, stocks and whipping-posts,
treadmills, solitary cells, penal colonies, gibbets. See then how the
case stands. Here is an end which, as we all agree, governments are
bound to attain. There are only two ways of attaining it. One of those
ways is by making men better, and wiser, and happier. The other way is
by making them infamous and miserable. Can it be doubted which way we
ought to prefer? Is it not strange, is it not almost incredible, that
pious and benevolent men should gravely propound the doctrine that the
magistrate is bound to punish and at the same time bound not to teach?
To me it seems quite clear that whoever has a right to hang has a right
to educate. Can we think without shame and remorse that more than half
of those wretches who have been tied up at Newgate in our time might
have been living happily, that more than half of those who are now in
our gaols might have been enjoying liberty and using that liberty well,
that such a hell on earth as Norfolk Island, need never have existed, if
we had expended in training honest men but a small part of what we have
expended in hunting and torturing rogues.

I would earnestly entreat every gentleman to look at a report which
is contained in the Appendix to the First Volume of the Minutes of
the Committee of Council. I speak of the report made by Mr Seymour
Tremenheare on the state of that part of Monmouthshire which is
inhabited by a population chiefly employed in mining. He found that,
in this district, towards the close of 1839, out of eleven thousand
children who were of an age to attend school, eight thousand never went
to any school at all, and that most of the remaining three thousand
might almost as well have gone to no school as to the squalid hovels in
which men who ought themselves to have been learners pretended to teach.
In general these men had only one qualification for their employment;
and that was their utter unfitness for every other employment. They were
disabled miners, or broken hucksters. In their schools all was stench,
and noise, and confusion. Now and then the clamour of the boys was
silenced for two minutes by the furious menaces of the master; but it
soon broke out again. The instruction given was of the lowest kind. Not
one school in ten was provided with a single map. This is the way in
which you suffered the minds of a great population to be formed. And now
for the effects of your negligence. The barbarian inhabitants of this
region rise in an insane rebellion against the Government. They come
pouring down their valleys to Newport. They fire on the Queen's troops.
They wound a magistrate. The soldiers fire in return; and too many of
these wretched men pay with their lives the penalty of their crime. But
is the crime theirs alone? Is it strange that they should listen to the
only teaching that they had? How can you, who took no pains to instruct
them, blame them for giving ear to the demagogue who took pains to
delude them? We put them down, of course. We punished them. We had no
choice. Order must be maintained; property must be protected; and, since
we had omitted to take the best way of keeping these people quiet, we
were under the necessity of keeping them quiet by the dread of the sword
and the halter. But could any necessity be more cruel? And which of us
would run the risk of being placed under such necessity a second time?

I say, therefore, that the education of the people is not only a means,
but the best means, of attaining that which all allow to be a chief end
of government; and, if this be so, it passes my faculties to understand
how any man can gravely contend that Government has nothing to do with
the education of the people.

My confidence in my opinion is strengthened when I recollect that I hold
that opinion in common with all the greatest lawgivers, statesmen,
and political philosophers of all nations and ages, with all the most
illustrious champions of civil and spiritual freedom, and especially
with those men whose names were once held in the highest veneration
by the Protestant Dissenters of England. I might cite many of the most
venerable names of the old world; but I would rather cite the example
of that country which the supporters of the Voluntary system here are
always recommending to us as a pattern. Go back to the days when the
little society which has expanded into the opulent and enlightened
commonwealth of Massachusetts began to exist. Our modern Dissenters will
scarcely, I think, venture to speak contumeliously of those Puritans
whose spirit Laud and his High Commission Court could not subdue, of
those Puritans who were willing to leave home and kindred, and all the
comforts and refinements of civilised life, to cross the ocean, to
fix their abode in forests among wild beasts and wild men, rather than
commit the sin of performing, in the House of God, one gesture which
they believed to be displeasing to Him. Did those brave exiles think it
inconsistent with civil or religious freedom that the State should take
charge of the education of the people? No, Sir; one of the earliest laws
enacted by the Puritan colonists was that every township, as soon as the
Lord had increased it to the number of fifty houses, should appoint one
to teach all children to write and read, and that every township of a
hundred houses should set up a grammar school. Nor have the descendants
of those who made this law ever ceased to hold that the public
authorities were bound to provide the means of public instruction. Nor
is this doctrine confined to New England. "Educate the people" was
the first admonition addressed by Penn to the colony which he founded.
"Educate the people" was the legacy of Washington to the nation which
he had saved. "Educate the people" was the unceasing exhortation of
Jefferson; and I quote Jefferson with peculiar pleasure, because of all
the eminent men that have ever lived, Adam Smith himself not excepted,
Jefferson was the one who most abhorred everything like meddling on the
part of governments. Yet the chief business of his later years was to
establish a good system of State education in Virginia.

And, against such authority as this, what have you who take the other
side to show? Can you mention a single great philosopher, a single man
distinguished by his zeal for liberty, humanity, and truth, who, from
the beginning of the world down to the time of this present Parliament,
ever held your doctrines? You can oppose to the unanimous voice of all
the wise and good, of all ages, and of both hemispheres, nothing but a
clamour which was first heard a few months ago, a clamour in which you
cannot join without condemning, not only all whose memory you profess to
hold in reverence, but even your former selves.

This new theory of politics has at least the merit of originality. It
may be fairly stated thus. All men have hitherto been utterly in the
wrong as to the nature and objects of civil government. The great truth,
hidden from every preceding generation, and at length revealed, in the
year 1846, to some highly respectable ministers and elders of dissenting
congregations, is this. Government is simply a great hangman. Government
ought to do nothing except by harsh and degrading means. The one
business of Government is to handcuff, and lock up, and scourge, and
shoot, and stab, and strangle. It is odious tyranny in a government to
attempt to prevent crime by informing the understanding and elevating
the moral feeling of a people. A statesman may see hamlets turned, in
the course of one generation, into great seaport towns and manufacturing
towns. He may know that on the character of the vast population which is
collected in those wonderful towns, depends the prosperity, the peace,
the very existence of society. But he must not think of forming that
character. He is an enemy of public liberty if he attempts to prevent
those hundreds of thousands of his countrymen from becoming mere Yahoos.
He may, indeed, build barrack after barrack to overawe them. If they
break out into insurrection, he may send cavalry to sabre them: he may
mow them down with grape shot: he may hang them, draw them, quarter
them, anything but teach them. He may see, and may shudder as he sees,
throughout large rural districts, millions of infants growing up from
infancy to manhood as ignorant, as mere slaves of sensual appetite, as
the beasts that perish. No matter. He is a traitor to the cause of civil
and religious freedom if he does not look on with folded arms, while
absurd hopes and evil passions ripen in that rank soil. He must wait for
the day of his harvest. He must wait till the Jaquerie comes, till farm
houses are burning, till threshing machines are broken in pieces; and
then begins his business, which is simply to send one poor ignorant
savage to the county gaol, and another to the antipodes, and a third to
the gallows.

Such, Sir, is the new theory of government which was first propounded,
in the year 1846, by some men of high note among the Nonconformists of
England. It is difficult to understand how men of excellent abilities
and excellent intentions--and there are, I readily admit, such men
among those who hold this theory--can have fallen into so absurd and
pernicious an error. One explanation only occurs to me. This is, I am
inclined to believe, an instance of the operation of the great law of
reaction. We have just come victorious out of a long and fierce contest
for the liberty of trade. While that contest was undecided, much was
said and written about the advantages of free competition, and about the
danger of suffering the State to regulate matters which should be left
to individuals. There has consequently arisen in the minds of persons
who are led by words, and who are little in the habit of making
distinctions, a disposition to apply to political questions and moral
questions principles which are sound only when applied to commercial
questions. These people, not content with having forced the Government
to surrender a province wrongfully usurped, now wish to wrest from the
Government a domain held by a right which was never before questioned,
and which cannot be questioned with the smallest show of reason. "If,"
they say, "free competition is a good thing in trade, it must surely be
a good thing in education. The supply of other commodities, of sugar,
for example, is left to adjust itself to the demand; and the consequence
is, that we are better supplied with sugar than if the Government
undertook to supply us. Why then should we doubt that the supply of
instruction will, without the intervention of the Government, be found
equal to the demand?"

Never was there a more false analogy. Whether a man is well supplied
with sugar is a matter which concerns himself alone. But whether he is
well supplied with instruction is a matter which concerns his neighbours
and the State. If he cannot afford to pay for sugar, he must go without
sugar. But it is by no means fit that, because he cannot afford to pay
for education, he should go without education. Between the rich and
their instructors there may, as Adam Smith says, be free trade. The
supply of music masters and Italian masters may be left to adjust itself
to the demand. But what is to become of the millions who are too poor
to procure without assistance the services of a decent schoolmaster? We
have indeed heard it said that even these millions will be supplied with
teachers by the free competition of benevolent individuals who will vie
with each other in rendering this service to mankind. No doubt there are
many benevolent individuals who spend their time and money most laudably
in setting up and supporting schools; and you may say, if you please,
that there is, among these respectable persons, a competition to do
good. But do not be imposed upon by words. Do not believe that this
competition resembles the competition which is produced by the desire of
wealth and by the fear of ruin. There is a great difference, be assured,
between the rivalry of philanthropists and the rivalry of grocers. The
grocer knows that, if his wares are worse than those of other grocers,
he shall soon go before the Bankrupt Court, and his wife and children
will have no refuge but the workhouse: he knows that, if his shop
obtains an honourable celebrity, he shall be able to set up a carriage
and buy a villa: and this knowledge impels him to exertions compared
with which the exertions of even very charitable people to serve
the poor are but languid. It would be strange infatuation indeed to
legislate on the supposition that a man cares for his fellow creatures
as much as he cares for himself.

Unless, Sir, I greatly deceive myself, those arguments, which show
that the Government ought not to leave to private people the task
of providing for the national defence, will equally show that the
Government ought not to leave to private people the task of providing
for national education. On this subject, Mr Hume has laid down the
general law with admirable good sense and perspicuity. I mean David
Hume, not the Member for Montrose, though that honourable gentleman
will, I am confident, assent to the doctrine propounded by his
illustrious namesake. David Hume, Sir, justly says that most of the
arts and trades which exist in the world produce so much advantage and
pleasure to individuals, that the magistrate may safely leave it to
individuals to encourage those arts and trades. But he adds that there
are callings which, though they are highly useful, nay, absolutely
necessary to society, yet do not administer to the peculiar pleasure
or profit of any individual. The military calling is an instance. Here,
says Hume, the Government must interfere. It must take on itself to
regulate these callings, and to stimulate the industry of the persons
who follow these callings by pecuniary and honorary rewards.

Now, Sir, it seems to me that, on the same principle on which Government
ought to superintend and to reward the soldier, Government ought to
superintend and to reward the schoolmaster. I mean, of course, the
schoolmaster of the common people. That his calling is useful, that his
calling is necessary, will hardly be denied. Yet it is clear that
his services will not be adequately remunerated if he is left to be
remunerated by those whom he teaches, or by the voluntary contributions
of the charitable. Is this disputed? Look at the facts. You tell us that
schools will multiply and flourish exceedingly, if the Government will
only abstain from interfering with them. Has not the Government long
abstained from interfering with them? Has not everything been left,
through many years, to individual exertion? If it were true that
education, like trade, thrives most where the magistrate meddles least,
the common people of England would now be the best educated in the
world. Our schools would be model schools. Every one would have a well
chosen little library, excellent maps, a small but neat apparatus for
experiments in natural philosophy. A grown person unable to read and
write would be pointed at like Giant O'Brien or the Polish Count.
Our schoolmasters would be as eminently expert in all that relates to
teaching as our cutlers, our cotton-spinners, our engineers are allowed
to be in their respective callings. They would, as a class, be held in
high consideration; and their gains would be such that it would be
easy to find men of respectable character and attainments to fill up

Now, is this the case? Look at the charges of the judges, at the
resolutions of the grand juries, at the reports of public officers,
at the reports of voluntary associations. All tell the same sad and
ignominious story. Take the reports of the Inspectors of Prisons. In
the House of Correction at Hertford, of seven hundred prisoners one half
could not read at all; only eight could read and write well. Of eight
thousand prisoners who had passed through Maidstone Gaol only fifty
could read and write well. In Coldbath Fields Prison, the proportion
that could read and write well seems to have been still smaller. Turn
from the registers of prisoners to the registers of marriages. You will
find that about a hundred and thirty thousand couples were married in
the year 1844. More than forty thousand of the bridegrooms and more than
sixty thousand of the brides did not sign their names, but made their
marks. Nearly one third of the men and nearly one half of the women, who
are in the prime of life, who are to be the parents of the Englishmen of
the next generation, who are to bear a chief part in forming the minds
of the Englishmen of the next generation, cannot write their own names.
Remember, too, that, though people who cannot write their own names must
be grossly ignorant, people may write their own names and yet have very
little knowledge. Tens of thousands who were able to write their names
had in all probability received only the wretched education of a common
day school. We know what such a school too often is; a room crusted with
filth, without light, without air, with a heap of fuel in one corner
and a brood of chickens in another; the only machinery of instruction a
dogeared spelling-book and a broken slate; the masters the refuse of all
other callings, discarded footmen, ruined pedlars, men who cannot work
a sum in the rule of three, men who cannot write a common letter without
blunders, men who do not know whether the earth is a sphere or a cube,
men who do not know whether Jerusalem is in Asia or America. And to such
men, men to whom none of us would entrust the key of his cellar, we have
entrusted the mind of the rising generation, and, with the mind of the
rising generation the freedom, the happiness, the glory of our country.

Do you question the accuracy of this description? I will produce
evidence to which I am sure that you will not venture to take an
exception. Every gentleman here knows, I suppose, how important a
place the Congregational Union holds among the Nonconformists, and
how prominent a part Mr Edward Baines has taken in opposition to State
education. A Committee of the Congregational Union drew up last year
a report on the subject of education. That report was received by the
Union; and the person who moved that it should be received was Mr
Edward Baines. That report contains the following passage: "If it were
necessary to disclose facts to such an assembly as this, as to the
ignorance and debasement of the neglected portions of our population in
towns and rural districts, both adult and juvenile, it could easily
be done. Private information communicated to the Board, personal
observation and investigation of the various localities, with the
published documents of the Registrar General, and the reports of the
state of prisons in England and Wales, published by order of the House
of Commons, would furnish enough to make us modest in speaking of what
has been done for the humbler classes, and make us ashamed that the sons
of the soil of England should have been so long neglected, and should
present to the enlightened traveller from other shores such a sad
spectacle of neglected cultivation, lost mental power, and spiritual
degradation." Nothing can be more just. All the information which I
have been able to obtain bears out the statements of the Congregational
Union. I do believe that the ignorance and degradation of a large
part of the community to which we belong ought to make us ashamed of
ourselves. I do believe that an enlightened traveller from New York,
from Geneva, or from Berlin, would be shocked to see so much barbarism
in the close neighbourhood of so much wealth and civilisation. But is
it not strange that the very gentlemen who tell us in such emphatic
language that the people are shamefully ill-educated, should yet persist
in telling us that under a system of free competition the people are
certain to be excellently educated? Only this morning the opponents of
our plan circulated a paper in which they confidently predict that free
competition will do all that is necessary, if we will only wait with
patience. Wait with patience! Why, we have been waiting ever since the
Heptarchy. How much longer are we to wait? Till the year 2847? Or till
the year 3847? That the experiment has as yet failed you do not deny.
And why should it have failed? Has it been tried in unfavourable
circumstances? Not so: it has been tried in the richest and in the
freest, and in the most charitable country in all Europe. Has it been
tried on too small a scale? Not so: millions have been subjected to it.
Has it been tried during too short a time? Not so: it has been going on
during ages. The cause of the failure then is plain. Our whole system
has been unsound. We have applied the principle of free competition to a
case to which that principle is not applicable.

But, Sir, if the state of the southern part of our island has furnished
me with one strong argument, the state of the northern part furnishes
me with another argument, which is, if possible, still more decisive.
A hundred and fifty years ago England was one of the best governed and
most prosperous countries in the world: Scotland was perhaps the rudest
and poorest country that could lay any claim to civilisation. The name
of Scotchman was then uttered in this part of the island with contempt.
The ablest Scotch statesmen contemplated the degraded state of
their poorer countrymen with a feeling approaching to despair. It is
well-known that Fletcher of Saltoun, a brave and accomplished man, a man
who had drawn his sword for liberty, who had suffered proscription and
exile for liberty, was so much disgusted and dismayed by the misery, the
ignorance, the idleness, the lawlessness of the common people, that he
proposed to make many thousands of them slaves. Nothing, he thought, but
the discipline which kept order and enforced exertion among the negroes
of a sugar colony, nothing but the lash and the stocks, could reclaim
the vagabonds who infested every part of Scotland from their indolent
and predatory habits, and compel them to support themselves by steady
labour. He therefore, soon after the Revolution, published a pamphlet,
in which he earnestly, and, as I believe, from the mere impulse of
humanity and patriotism, recommended to the Estates of the Realm this
sharp remedy, which alone, as he conceived, could remove the evil.
Within a few months after the publication of that pamphlet a very
different remedy was applied. The Parliament which sate at Edinburgh
passed an act for the establishment of parochial schools. What followed?
An improvement such as the world had never seen took place in the moral
and intellectual character of the people. Soon, in spite of the rigour
of the climate, in spite of the sterility of the earth, Scotland became
a country which had no reason to envy the fairest portions of the globe.
Wherever the Scotchman went,--and there were few parts of the world to
which he did not go,--he carried his superiority with him. If he was
admitted into a public office, he worked his way up to the highest post.
If he got employment in a brewery or a factory, he was soon the foreman.
If he took a shop, his trade was the best in the street. If he enlisted
in the army, he became a colour-sergeant. If he went to a colony, he
was the most thriving planter there. The Scotchman of the seventeenth
century had been spoken of in London as we speak of the Esquimaux. The
Scotchman of the eighteenth century was an object, not of scorn, but of
envy. The cry was that, wherever he came, he got more than his share;
that, mixed with Englishmen or mixed with Irishmen, he rose to the top
as surely as oil rises to the top of water. And what had produced this
great revolution? The Scotch air was still as cold, the Scotch rocks
were still as bare as ever. All the natural qualities of the Scotchman
were still what they had been when learned and benevolent men advised
that he should be flogged, like a beast of burden, to his daily task.
But the State had given him an education. That education was not, it is
true, in all respects what it should have been. But such as it was, it
had done more for the bleak and dreary shores of the Forth and the Clyde
than the richest of soils and the most genial of climates had done for
Capua and Tarentum. Is there one member of this House, however strongly
he may hold the doctrine that the Government ought not to interfere
with the education of the people, who will stand up and say that, in his
opinion, the Scotch would now have been a happier and a more enlightened
people if they had been left, during the last five generations, to find
instruction for themselves?

I say then, Sir, that, if the science of Government be an experimental
science, this question is decided. We are in a condition to perform the
inductive process according to the rules laid down in the Novum Organum.
We have two nations closely connected, inhabiting the same island,
sprung from the same blood, speaking the same language, governed by the
same Sovereign and the same Legislature, holding essentially the same
religious faith, having the same allies and the same enemies. Of these
two nations one was, a hundred and fifty years ago, as respects opulence
and civilisation, in the highest rank among European communities, the
other in the lowest rank. The opulent and highly civilised nation leaves
the education of the people to free competition. In the poor and half
barbarous nation the education of the people is undertaken by the State.
The result is that the first are last and the last first. The common
people of Scotland,--it is vain to disguise the truth,--have passed the
common people of England. Free competition, tried with every advantage,
has produced effects of which, as the Congregational Union tells us,
we ought to be ashamed, and which must lower us in the opinion of every
intelligent foreigner. State education, tried under every disadvantage,
has produced an improvement to which it would be difficult to find a
parallel in any age or country. Such an experiment as this would be
regarded as conclusive in surgery or chemistry, and ought, I think, to
be regarded as equally conclusive in politics.

These, Sir, are the reasons which have satisfied me that it is the
duty of the State to educate the people. Being firmly convinced of that
truth, I shall not shrink from proclaiming it here and elsewhere, in
defiance of the loudest clamour that agitators can raise. The remainder
of my task is easy. For, if the great principle for which I have been
contending is admitted, the objections which have been made to the
details of our plan will vanish fast. I will deal with those objections
in the order in which they stand in the amendment moved by the
honourable Member for Finsbury.

First among his objections he places the cost. Surely, Sir, no person
who admits that it is our duty to train the minds of the rising
generation can think a hundred thousand pounds too large a sum for that
purpose. If we look at the matter in the lowest point of view, if we
consider human beings merely as producers of wealth, the difference
between an intelligent and a stupid population, estimated in pounds,
shillings, and pence, exceeds a hundredfold the proposed outlay. Nor
is this all. For every pound that you save in education, you will spend
five in prosecutions, in prisons, in penal settlements. I cannot believe
that the House, having never grudged anything that was asked for the
purpose of maintaining order and protecting property by means of pain
and fear, will begin to be niggardly as soon as it is proposed to effect
the same objects by making the people wiser and better.

The next objection made by the honourable Member to our plan is that it
will increase the influence of the Crown. This sum of a hundred thousand
pounds may, he apprehends, be employed in corruption and jobbing. Those
schoolmasters who vote for ministerial candidates will obtain a share
of the grant: those schoolmasters who vote for opponents of the ministry
will apply for assistance in vain. Sir, the honourable Member never
would have made this objection if he had taken the trouble to understand
the minutes which he has condemned. We propose to place this part of
the public expenditure under checks which must make such abuses as the
honourable Member anticipates morally impossible. Not only will there
be those ordinary checks which are thought sufficient to prevent the
misapplication of the many millions annually granted for the army, the
navy, the ordnance, the civil government: not only must the Ministers of
the Crown come every year to this House for a vote, and be prepared to
render an account of the manner in which they have laid out what had
been voted in the preceding year, but, when they have satisfied the
House, when they have got their vote, they will still be unable to
distribute the money at their discretion. Whatever they may do for any
schoolmaster must be done in concert with those persons who, in the
district where the schoolmaster lives, take an interest in education,
and contribute out of their private means to the expense of education.
When the honourable gentleman is afraid that we shall corrupt
the schoolmasters, he forgets, first, that we do not appoint the
schoolmasters; secondly, that we cannot dismiss the schoolmasters;
thirdly, that managers who are altogether independent of us can, without
our consent, dismiss the schoolmasters; and, fourthly, that without
the recommendation of those managers we can give nothing to the
schoolmasters. Observe, too, that such a recommendation will not be one
of those recommendations which goodnatured easy people are too apt
to give to everybody who asks; nor will it at all resemble those
recommendations which the Secretary of the Treasury is in the habit of
receiving. For every pound which we pay on the recommendation of the
managers, the managers themselves must pay two pounds. They must also
provide the schoolmaster with a house out of their own funds before they
can obtain for him a grant from the public funds. What chance of jobbing
is there here? It is common enough, no doubt, for a Member of Parliament
who votes with Government to ask that one of those who zealously
supported him at the last election may have a place in the Excise or
the Customs. But such a member would soon cease to solicit if the answer
were, "Your friend shall have a place of fifty pounds a year, if you
will give him a house and settle on him an income of a hundred a year."
What chance then, I again ask, is there of jobbing? What, say some of
the dissenters of Leeds, is to prevent a Tory Government, a High
Church Government, from using this parliamentary grant to corrupt
the schoolmasters of our borough, and to induce them to use all their
influence in favour of a Tory and High Church candidate? Why, Sir, the
dissenters of Leeds themselves have the power to prevent it. Let them
subscribe to the schools: let them take a share in the management of the
schools: let them refuse to recommend to the committee of Council any
schoolmaster whom they suspect of having voted at any election from
corrupt motives: and the thing is done. Our plan, in truth, is made
up of checks. My only doubt is whether the checks may not be found too
numerous and too stringent. On our general conduct there is the ordinary
check, the parliamentary check. And, as respects those minute details
which it is impossible that this House can investigate, we shall be
checked, in every town and in every rural district, by boards consisting
of independent men zealous in the cause of education.

The truth is, Sir, that those who clamour most loudly against our plan,
have never thought of ascertaining what it is. I see that a gentleman,
who ought to have known better, has not been ashamed publicly to tell
the world that our plan will cost the nation two millions a year, and
will paralyse all the exertions of individuals to educate the people.
These two assertions are uttered in one breath. And yet, if he who made
them had read our minutes before he railed at them, he would have
seen that his predictions are contradictory; that they cannot both be
fulfilled; that, if individuals do not exert themselves, the country
will have to pay nothing; and that, if the country has to pay two
millions, it will be because individuals have exerted themselves with
such wonderful, such incredible vigour, as to raise four millions by
voluntary contributions.

The next objection made by the honourable Member for Finsbury is that we
have acted unconstitutionally, and have encroached on the functions of
Parliament. The Committee of Council he seems to consider as an unlawful
assembly. He calls it sometimes a self-elected body and sometimes a
self-appointed body. Sir, these are words without meaning. The Committee
is no more a self-elected body than the Board of Trade. It is a body
appointed by the Queen; and in appointing it Her Majesty has exercised,
under the advice of her responsible Ministers, a prerogative as old as
the monarchy. But, says the honourable Member, the constitutional course
would have been to apply for an Act of Parliament. On what ground?
Nothing but an Act of Parliament can legalise that which is illegal.
But whoever heard of an Act of Parliament to legalise what was already
beyond all dispute legal? Of course, if we wished to send aliens out
of the country, or to retain disaffected persons in custody without
bringing them to trial, we must obtain an Act of Parliament empowering
us to do so. But why should we ask for an Act of Parliament to empower
us to do what anybody may do, what the honourable Member for Finsbury
may do? Is there any doubt that he or anybody else may subscribe to a
school, give a stipend to a monitor, or settle a retiring pension on a
preceptor who has done good service? What any of the Queen's subjects
may do the Queen may do. Suppose that her privy purse were so large that
she could afford to employ a hundred thousand pounds in this beneficent
manner; would an Act of Parliament be necessary to enable her to do so?
Every part of our plan may lawfully be carried into execution by any
person, Sovereign or subject, who has the inclination and the money.
We have not the money; and for the money we come, in a strictly
constitutional manner, to the House of Commons. The course which we
have taken is in conformity with all precedent, as well as with
all principle. There are military schools. No Act of Parliament was
necessary to authorise the establishing of such schools. All that
was necessary was a grant of money to defray the charge. When I was
Secretary at War it was my duty to bring under Her Majesty's notice the
situation of the female children of her soldiers. Many such children
accompanied every regiment, and their education was grievously
neglected. Her Majesty was graciously pleased to sign a warrant by which
a girls' school was attached to each corps. No Act of Parliament was
necessary. For to set up a school where girls might be taught to read,
and write, and sew, and cook, was perfectly legal already. I might have
set it up myself, if I had been rich enough. All that I had to ask from
Parliament was the money. But I ought to beg pardon for arguing a point
so clear.

The next objection to our plans is that they interfere with the
religious convictions of Her Majesty's subjects. It has been sometimes
insinuated, but it has never been proved, that the Committee of Council
has shown undue favour to the Established Church. Sir, I have carefully
read and considered the minutes; and I wish that every man who has
exerted his eloquence against them had done the same. I say that I have
carefully read and considered them, and that they seem to me to have
been drawn up with exemplary impartiality. The benefits which we offer
we offer to people of all religious persuasions alike. The dissenting
managers of schools will have equal authority with the managers who
belong to the Church. A boy who goes to meeting will be just as eligible
to be a monitor, and will receive just as large a stipend, as if he
went to the cathedral. The schoolmaster who is a nonconformist and the
schoolmaster who is a conformist will enjoy the same emoluments, and
will, after the same term of service, obtain, on the same conditions,
the same retiring pension. I wish that some gentleman would, instead
of using vague phrases about religious liberty and the rights of
conscience, answer this plain question. Suppose that in one of our large
towns there are four schools, a school connected with the Church, a
school connected with the Independents, a Baptist school, and a Wesleyan
school; what encouragement, pecuniary or honorary, will, by our plan, be
given to the school connected with the Church, and withheld from any of
the other three schools? Is it not indeed plain that, if by neglect or
maladministration the Church school should get into a bad state, while
the dissenting schools flourish, the dissenting schools will receive
public money and the Church school will receive none?

It is true, I admit, that in rural districts which are too poor to
support more than one school, the religious community to which
the majority belongs will have an advantage over other religious
communities. But this is not our fault. If we are as impartial as it
is possible to be, you surely do not expect more. If there should be a
parish containing nine hundred churchmen and a hundred dissenters, if
there should, in that parish, be a school connected with the Church,
if the dissenters in that parish should be too poor to set up another
school, undoubtedly the school connected with the Church will, in that
parish, get all that we give; and the dissenters will get nothing. But
observe that there is no partiality to the Church, as the Church, in
this arrangement. The churchmen get public money, not because they
are churchmen, but because they are the majority. The dissenters get
nothing, not because they are dissenters, but because they are a small
minority. There are districts where the case will be reversed, where
there will be dissenting schools, and no Church schools. In such cases
the dissenters will get what we have to give, and the churchmen will get

But, Sir, I ought not to say that a churchman gets nothing by a system
which gives a good education to dissenters, or that a dissenter gets
nothing by a system which gives a good education to churchmen. We are
not, I hope, so much conformists, or so much nonconformists, as to
forget that we are Englishmen and Christians. We all, Churchmen,
Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, Methodists, have an interest in
this, that the great body of the people should be rescued from ignorance
and barbarism. I mentioned Lord George Gordon's mob. That mob began,
it is true, with the Roman Catholics: but, long before the tumults were
over, there was not a respectable Protestant in London who was not in
fear for his house, for his limbs, for his life, for the lives of those
who were dearest to him. The honourable Member for Finsbury says that we
call on men to pay for an education from which they derive no benefit.
I deny that there is one honest and industrious man in the country who
derives no benefit from living among honest and industrious neighbours
rather than among rioters and vagabonds. This matter is as much a matter
of common concern as the defence of our coast. Suppose that I were
to say, "Why do you tax me to fortify Portsmouth? If the people of
Portsmouth think that they cannot be safe without bastions and ravelins,
let the people of Portsmouth pay the engineers and masons. Why am I to
bear the charge of works from which I derive no advantage?" You would
answer, and most justly, that there is no man in the island who does
not derive advantage from these works, whether he resides within them or
not. And, as every man, in whatever part of the island he may live, is
bound to contribute to the support of those arsenals which are necessary
for our common security, so is every man, to whatever sect he may
belong, bound to contribute to the support of those schools on which,
not less than on our arsenals, our common security depends.

I now come to the last words of the amendment. The honourable Member
for Finsbury is apprehensive that our plan may interfere with the
civil rights of Her Majesty's subjects. How a man's civil rights can be
prejudiced by his learning to read and write, to multiply and divide, or
even by his obtaining some knowledge of history and geography, I do
not very well apprehend. One thing is clear, that persons sunk in that
ignorance in which, as we are assured by the Congregational Union, great
numbers of our countrymen are sunk, can be free only in name. It is
hardly necessary for us to appoint a Select Committee for the purpose of
inquiring whether knowledge be the ally or the enemy of liberty. He is,
I must say, but a short-sighted friend of the common people who is eager
to bestow on them a franchise which would make them all-powerful, and
yet would withhold from them that instruction without which their power
must be a curse to themselves and to the State.

This, Sir, is my defence. From the clamour of our accusers I appeal with
confidence to the country to which we must, in no long time, render
an account of our stewardship. I appeal with still more confidence
to future generations, which, while enjoying all the blessings of an
impartial and efficient system of public instruction, will find it
difficult to believe that the authors of that system should have had
to struggle with a vehement and pertinacious opposition, and still more
difficult to believe that such an opposition was offered in the name of
civil and religious freedom.



At the election of Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow, in
November, 1848, the votes stood thus: Mr Macaulay, 255; Colonel Mure,
203. The installation took place on the twenty-first of March, 1849;
and after that ceremony had been performed, the following Speech was

My first duty, Gentlemen, is to return you my thanks for the honour
which you have conferred on me. You well know that it was wholly
unsolicited; and I can assure you that it was wholly unexpected. I
may add that, if I had been invited to become a candidate for your
suffrages, I should respectfully have declined the invitation. My
predecessor, whom I am so happy as to be able to call my friend,
declared from this place last year in language which well became him,
that he would not have come forward to displace so eminent a statesman
as Lord John Russell. I can with equal truth affirm that I would
not have come forward to displace so estimable a gentleman and so
accomplished a scholar as Colonel Mure. But Colonel Mure felt last
year that it was not for him, and I now feel that it is not for me,
to question the propriety of your decision on a point of which, by the
constitution of your body, you are the judges. I therefore gratefully
accept the office to which I have been called, fully purposing to use
whatever powers belong to it with a single view to the welfare and
credit of your society.

I am not using a mere phrase of course, when I say that the feelings
with which I bear apart in the ceremony of this day are such as I find
it difficult to utter in words. I do not think it strange that, when
that great master of eloquence, Edmund Burke, stood where I now stand,
he faltered and remained mute. Doubtless the multitude of thoughts which
rushed into his mind was such as even he could not easily arrange or
express. In truth there are few spectacles more striking or affecting
than that which a great historical place of education presents on a
solemn public day. There is something strangely interesting in the
contrast between the venerable antiquity of the body and the fresh and
ardent youth of the great majority of the members. Recollections and
hopes crowd upon us together. The past and the future are at once
brought close to us. Our thoughts wander back to the time when the
foundations of this ancient building were laid, and forward to the
time when those whom it is our office to guide and to teach will be the
guides and teachers of our posterity. On the present occasion we may,
with peculiar propriety, give such thoughts their course. For it has
chanced that my magistracy has fallen on a great secular epoch. This
is the four hundredth year of the existence of your University. At such
jubilees, jubilees of which no individual sees more than one, it is
natural, and it is good, that a society like this, a society which
survives all the transitory parts of which it is composed, a society
which has a corporate existence and a perpetual succession, should
review its annals, should retrace the stages of its growth from infancy
to maturity, and should try to find, in the experience of generations
which have passed away, lessons which may be profitable to generations
yet unborn.

The retrospect is full of interest and instruction. Perhaps it may be
doubted whether, since the Christian era, there has been any point of
time more important to the highest interests of mankind than that at
which the existence of your University commenced. It was at the moment
of a great destruction and of a great creation. Your society was
instituted just before the empire of the East perished; that strange
empire which, dragging on a languid life through the great age of
darkness, connected together the two great ages of light; that empire
which, adding nothing to our stores of knowledge, and producing not one
man great in letters, in science, or in art, yet preserved, in the midst
of barbarism, those masterpieces of Attic genius, which the highest
minds still contemplate, and long will contemplate, with admiring
despair. And at that very time, while the fanatical Moslem were
plundering the churches and palaces of Constantinople, breaking in
pieces Grecian sculptures, and giving to the flames piles of Grecian
eloquence, a few humble German artisans, who little knew that they were
calling into existence a power far mightier than that of the victorious
Sultan, were busied in cutting and setting the first types. The
University came into existence just in time to witness the disappearance
of the last trace of the Roman empire, and to witness the publication of
the earliest printed book.

At this conjuncture, a conjuncture of unrivalled interest in the history
of letters, a man, never to be mentioned without reverence by every
lover of letters, held the highest place in Europe. Our just attachment
to that Protestant faith to which our country owes so much must not
prevent us from paying the tribute which, on this occasion, and in this
place, justice and gratitude demand, to the founder of the University
of Glasgow, the greatest of the restorers of learning, Pope Nicholas the
Fifth. He had sprung from the common people; but his abilities and his
erudition had early attracted the notice of the great. He had studied
much and travelled far. He had visited Britain, which, in wealth and
refinement, was to his native Tuscany what the back settlements of
America now are to Britain. He had lived with the merchant princes of
Florence, those men who first ennobled trade by making trade the ally
of philosophy, of eloquence, and of taste. It was he who, under the
protection of the munificent and discerning Cosmo, arranged the first
public library that Modern Europe possessed. From privacy your founder
rose to a throne; but on the throne he never forgot the studies which
had been his delight in privacy. He was the centre of an illustrious
group, composed partly of the last great scholars of Greece, and partly
of the first great scholars of Italy, Theodore Gaza and George
of Trebizond, Bessarion and Filelfo, Marsilio Ficino and Poggio
Bracciolini. By him was founded the Vatican library, then and long after
the most precious and the most extensive collection of books in the
world. By him were carefully preserved the most valuable intellectual
treasures which had been snatched from the wreck of the Byzantine
empire. His agents were to be found everywhere, in the bazaars of the
farthest East, in the monasteries of the farthest West, purchasing or
copying worm-eaten parchments, on which were traced words worthy of
immortality. Under his patronage were prepared accurate Latin versions
of many precious remains of Greek poets and philosophers. But no
department of literature owes so much to him as history. By him were
introduced to the knowledge of Western Europe two great and unrivalled
models of historical composition, the work of Herodotus and the work of
Thucydides. By him, too, our ancestors were first made acquainted with
the graceful and lucid simplicity of Xenophon and with the manly good
sense of Polybius.

It was while he was occupied with cares like these that his attention
was called to the intellectual wants of this region, a region now
swarming with population, rich with culture, and resounding with the
clang of machinery, a region which now sends forth fleets laden with its
admirable fabrics to the lands of which, in his days, no geographer had
ever heard, then a wild, a poor, a half barbarous tract, lying on the
utmost verge of the known world. He gave his sanction to the plan of
establishing a University at Glasgow, and bestowed on the new seat of
learning all the privileges which belonged to the University of Bologna.
I can conceive that a pitying smile passed over his face as he named
Bologna and Glasgow together. At Bologna he had long studied. No spot
in the world had been more favoured by nature or by art. The surrounding
country was a fruitful and sunny country, a country of cornfields and
vineyards. In the city, the house of Bentivoglo bore rule, a house which
vied with the house of Medici in taste and magnificence, which has
left to posterity noble palaces and temples, and which gave a splendid
patronage to arts and letters. Glasgow your founder just knew to be a
poor, a small, a rude town, a town, as he would have thought, not likely
ever to be great and opulent; for the soil, compared with the rich
country at the foot of the Apennines, was barren, and the climate was
such that an Italian shuddered at the thought of it. But it is not on
the fertility of the soil, it is not on the mildness of the atmosphere,
that the prosperity of nations chiefly depends. Slavery and superstition
can make Campania a land of beggars, and can change the plain of Enna
into a desert. Nor is it beyond the power of human intelligence and
energy, developed by civil and spiritual freedom, to turn sterile rocks
and pestilential marshes into cities and gardens. Enlightened as your
founder was, he little knew that he was himself a chief agent in a great
revolution, physical and moral, political and religious, in a revolution
destined to make the last first and the first last, in a revolution
destined to invert the relative positions of Glasgow and Bologna. We
cannot, I think, better employ a few minutes than in reviewing the
stages of this great change in human affairs.

The review shall be short. Indeed I cannot do better than pass rapidly
from century to century. Look at the world, then, a hundred years after
the seal of Nicholas had been affixed to the instrument which
called your College into existence. We find Europe, we find Scotland
especially, in the agonies of that great revolution which we
emphatically call the Reformation. The liberal patronage which
Nicholas, and men like Nicholas, had given to learning, and of which
the establishment of this seat of learning is not the least remarkable
instance, had produced an effect which they had never contemplated.
Ignorance was the talisman on which their power depended; and that
talisman they had themselves broken. They had called in Knowledge as a
handmaid to decorate Superstition, and their error produced its natural
effect. I need not tell you what a part the votaries of classical
learning, and especially the votaries of Greek learning, the Humanists,
as they were then called, bore in the great movement against spiritual
tyranny. They formed, in fact, the vanguard of that movement. Every
one of the chief Reformers--I do not at this moment remember a single
exception--was a Humanist. Almost every eminent Humanist in the north of
Europe was, according to the measure of his uprightness and courage, a
Reformer. In a Scottish University I need hardly mention the names of
Knox, of Buchanan, of Melville, of Secretary Maitland. In truth, minds
daily nourished with the best literature of Greece and Rome necessarily
grew too strong to be trammelled by the cobwebs of the scholastic
divinity; and the influence of such minds was now rapidly felt by the
whole community; for the invention of printing had brought books within
the reach even of yeomen and of artisans. From the Mediterranean to the
Frozen Sea, therefore, the public mind was everywhere in a ferment; and
nowhere was the ferment greater than in Scotland. It was in the midst
of martyrdoms and proscriptions, in the midst of a war between power
and truth, that the first century of the existence of your University

Pass another hundred years; and we are in the midst of another
revolution. The war between Popery and Protestantism had, in this
island, been terminated by the victory of Protestantism. But from that
war another war had sprung, the war between Prelacy and Puritanism.
The hostile religious sects were allied, intermingled, confounded with
hostile political parties. The monarchical element of the constitution
was an object of almost exclusive devotion to the Prelatist. The popular
element of the constitution was especially dear to the Puritan. At
length an appeal was made to the sword. Puritanism triumphed; but
Puritanism was already divided against itself. Independency and
Republicanism were on one side, Presbyterianism and limited Monarchy on
the other. It was in the very darkest part of that dark time, it was
in the midst of battles, sieges, and executions, it was when the whole
world was still aghast at the awful spectacle of a British King standing
before a judgment seat, and laying his neck on a block, it was when the
mangled remains of the Duke of Hamilton had just been laid in the tomb
of his house, it was when the head of the Marquess of Montrose had just
been fixed on the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, that your University completed
her second century.

A hundred years more; and we have at length reached the beginning of a
happier period. Our civil and religious liberties had indeed been bought
with a fearful price. But they had been bought. The price had been
paid. The last battle had been fought on British ground. The last black
scaffold had been set up on Tower Hill. The evil days were over. A
bright and tranquil century, a century of religious toleration, of
domestic peace, of temperate freedom, of equal justice, was beginning.
That century is now closing. When we compare it with any equally long
period in the history of any other great society, we shall find abundant
cause for thankfulness to the Giver of all good. Nor is there any place
in the whole kingdom better fitted to excite this feeling than the place
where we are now assembled. For in the whole kingdom we shall find no
district in which the progress of trade, of manufactures, of wealth,
and of the arts of life, has been more rapid than in Clydesdale. Your
University has partaken largely of the prosperity of this city and of
the surrounding region. The security, the tranquillity, the liberty,
which have been propitious to the industry of the merchant and of the
manufacturer, have been also propitious to the industry of the scholar.
To the last century belong most of the names of which you justly boast.
The time would fail me if I attempted to do justice to the memory of all
the illustrious men who, during that period, taught or learned wisdom
within these ancient walls; geometricians, anatomists, jurists,
philologists, metaphysicians, poets: Simpson and Hunter, Millar and
Young, Reid and Stewart; Campbell, whose coffin was lately borne to a
grave in that renowned transept which contains the dust of Chaucer,
of Spenser, and of Dryden; Black, whose discoveries form an era in the
history of chemical science; Adam Smith, the greatest of all the masters
of political science; James Watt, who perhaps did more than any single
man has done, since the New Atlantis of Bacon was written, to accomplish
that glorious prophecy. We now speak the language of humility when we
say that the University of Glasgow need not fear a comparison with the
University of Bologna.

A fifth secular period is about to commence. There is no lack of
alarmists who will tell you that it is about to commence under evil
auspices. But from me you must expect no such gloomy prognostications.
I have heard them too long and too constantly to be scared by them. Ever
since I began to make observations on the state of my country, I have
been seeing nothing but growth, and hearing of nothing but decay. The
more I contemplate our noble institutions, the more convinced I am that
they are sound at heart, that they have nothing of age but its dignity,
and that their strength is still the strength of youth. The hurricane,
which has recently overthrown so much that was great and that seemed
durable, has only proved their solidity. They still stand, august and
immovable, while dynasties and churches are lying in heaps of ruin all
around us. I see no reason to doubt that, by the blessing of God on
a wise and temperate policy, on a policy of which the principle is
to preserve what is good by reforming in time what is evil, our civil
institutions may be preserved unimpaired to a late posterity, and that,
under the shade of our civil institutions, our academical institutions
may long continue to flourish.

I trust, therefore, that, when a hundred years more have run out, this
ancient College will still continue to deserve well of our country and
of mankind. I trust that the installation of 1949 will be attended by a
still greater assembly of students than I have the happiness now to see
before me. That assemblage, indeed, may not meet in the place where we
have met. These venerable halls may have disappeared. My successor may
speak to your successors in a more stately edifice, in a edifice which,
even among the magnificent buildings of the future Glasgow, will still
be admired as a fine specimen of the architecture which flourished in
the days of the good Queen Victoria. But, though the site and the walls
may be new, the spirit of the institution will, I hope, be still the
same. My successor will, I hope, be able to boast that the fifth century
of the University has even been more glorious than the fourth. He will
be able to vindicate that boast by citing a long list of eminent men,
great masters of experimental science, of ancient learning, of our
native eloquence, ornaments of the senate, the pulpit and the bar. He
will, I hope, mention with high honour some of my young friends who now
hear me; and he will, I also hope, be able to add that their talents
and learning were not wasted on selfish or ignoble objects, but were
employed to promote the physical and moral good of their species, to
extend the empire of man over the material world, to defend the cause
of civil and religious liberty against tyrants and bigots, and to defend
the cause of virtue and order against the enemies of all divine and
human laws.

I have now given utterance to a part, and to a part only, of the
recollections and anticipations of which, on this solemn occasion, my
mind is full. I again thank you for the honour which you have bestowed
on me; and I assure you that, while I live, I shall never cease to take
a deep interest in the welfare and fame of the body with which, by your
kindness, I have this day become connected.



At the General Election of 1852 the votes for the City of Edinburgh
stood thus:

     Mr Macaulay ...............1872
     Mr Cowan ..................1754
     The Lord Provost ..........1559
     Mr Bruce ..................1066
     Mr Campbell ............... 686

On the second of November the Electors assembled in the Music Hall to
meet the representative whom they had, without any solicitation on his
part, placed at the head of the poll. On this occasion the following
Speech was delivered.

Gentlemen,--I thank you from my heart for this kind reception. In truth,
it has almost overcome me. Your good opinion and your good will were
always very valuable to me, far more valuable than any vulgar object
of ambition, far more valuable than any office, however lucrative or
dignified. In truth, no office, however lucrative or dignified, would
have tempted me to do what I have done at your summons, to leave
again the happiest and most tranquil of all retreats for the bustle
of political life. But the honour which you have conferred upon me, an
honour of which the greatest men might well be proud, an honour which it
is in the power only of a free people to bestow, has laid on me such
an obligation that I should have thought it ingratitude, I should have
thought it pusillanimity, not to make at least an effort to serve you.

And here, Gentlemen, we meet again in kindness after a long separation.
It is more than five years since I last stood in this very place; a
large part of human life. There are few of us on whom those five years
have not set their mark, few circles from which those five years have
not taken away what can never be replaced. Even in this multitude of
friendly faces I look in vain for some which would on this day have been
lighted up with joy and kindness. I miss one venerable man, who, before
I was born, in evil times, in times of oppression and of corruption,
had adhered, with almost solitary fidelity, to the cause of freedom, and
whom I knew in advanced age, but still in the full vigour of mind and
body, enjoying the respect and gratitude of his fellow citizens. I
should, indeed, be most ungrateful if I could, on this day, forget Sir
James Craig, his public spirit, his judicious counsel, his fatherly
kindness to myself. And Jeffrey--with what an effusion of generous
affection he would on this day, have welcomed me back to Edinburgh! He
too is gone; but the remembrance of him is one of the many ties which
bind me to the city once dear to his heart, and still inseparably
associated with his fame.

But, Gentlemen, it is not only here that, on entering again, at your
call, a path of life which I believed that I had quitted forever, I
shall be painfully reminded of the changes which the last five years
have produced. In Parliament I shall look in vain for virtues which I
loved, and for abilities which I admired. Often in debate, and never
more than when we discuss those questions of colonial policy which are
every day acquiring a new interest, I shall remember with regret how
much eloquence and wit, how much acuteness and knowledge, how many
engaging qualities, how many fair hopes, are buried in the grave of poor
Charles Buller. There were other men, men with whom I had no political
connection and little personal connection, men to whom I was, during a
great part of my public life, honestly opposed, but of whom I cannot
now think without grieving that their wisdom, their experience, and the
weight of their great names can never more, in the hour of need, bring
help to the nation or to the throne. Such were those two eminent men
whom I left at the height, one of civil, the other of military fame; one
the oracle of the House of Commons, the other the oracle of the House
of Lords. There were parts of their long public life which they would
themselves, I am persuaded, on a calm retrospect, have allowed to be
justly censurable. But it is impossible to deny that each in his own
department saved the State; that one brought to a triumphant close the
most formidable conflict in which this country was ever engaged with a
foreign enemy; and that the other, at an immense sacrifice of personal
feeling and personal ambition, freed us from an odious monopoly, which
could not have existed many years longer without producing fearful
intestine discords. I regret them both: but I peculiarly regret him who
is associated in my mind with the place to which you have sent me. I
shall hardly know the House of Commons without Sir Robert Peel. On the
first evening on which I took my seat in that House, more than two and
twenty years ago, he held the highest position among the Ministers
of the Crown who sate there. During all the subsequent years of my
parliamentary service I scarcely remember one important discussion in
which he did not bear a part with conspicuous ability. His figure is now
before me: all the tones of his voice are in my ears; and the pain with
which I think that I shall never hear them again would be embittered by
the recollection of some sharp encounters which took place between us,
were it not that at last there was an entire and cordial reconciliation,
and that, only a very few days before his death, I had the pleasure of
receiving from him marks of kindness and esteem of which I shall always
cherish the recollection.

But, Gentlemen, it is not only by those changes which the natural law of
mortality produces, it is not only by the successive disappearances of
eminent men that the face of the world has been changed during the five
years which have elapsed since we met here last. Never since the origin
of our race have there been five years more fertile of great events,
five years which have left behind them a more awful lesson. We have
lived many lives in that time. The revolutions of ages have been
compressed into a few months. France, Germany, Hungary, Italy,--what
a history has theirs been! When we met here last, there was in all of
those countries an outward show of tranquillity; and there were few,
even of the wisest among us, who imagined what wild passions, what wild
theories, were fermenting under that peaceful exterior. An obstinate
resistance to a reasonable reform, a resistance prolonged but for
one day beyond the time, gave the signal for the explosion; and in an
instant, from the borders of Russia to the Atlantic Ocean, everything
was confusion and terror. The streets of the greatest capitals of Europe
were piled up with barricades, and were streaming with civil blood. The
house of Orleans fled from France: the Pope fled from Rome: the Emperor
of Austria was not safe at Vienna. There were popular institutions in
Florence; popular institutions at Naples. One democratic convention sat
at Berlin; another democratic convention at Frankfort. You remember, I
am sure, but too well, how some of the wisest and most honest friends of
liberty, though inclined to look with great indulgence on the excesses
inseparable from revolutions, began first to doubt and then to despair
of the prospects of mankind. You remember how all sorts of animosity,
national, religious, and social, broke forth together. You remember
how with the hatred of discontented subjects to their governments was
mingled the hatred of race to race and of class to class. For myself, I
stood aghast; and though naturally of a sanguine disposition, I did for
one moment doubt whether the progress of society was not about to be
arrested, nay, to be suddenly and violently turned back; whether we
were not doomed to pass in one generation from the civilisation of the
nineteenth century to the barbarism of the fifth. I remembered that Adam
Smith and Gibbon had told us that the dark ages were gone, never more
to return, that modern Europe was in no danger of the fate which had
befallen the Roman empire. That flood, they said, would no more return
to cover the earth: and they seemed to reason justly: for they compared
the immense strength of the enlightened part of the world with the
weakness of the part which remained savage; and they asked whence were
to come the Huns and the Vandals, who should again destroy civilisation?
It had not occurred to them that civilisation itself might engender the
barbarians who should destroy it. It had not occurred to them that
in the very heart of great capitals, in the neighbourhood of splendid
palaces, and churches, and theatres, and libraries, and museums, vice
and ignorance might produce a race of Huns fiercer than those who
marched under Attila, and of Vandals more bent on destruction than those
who followed Genseric. Such was the danger. It passed by. Civilisation
was saved, but at what a price! The tide of popular feeling turned and
ebbed almost as fast as it had risen. Imprudent and obstinate opposition
to reasonable demands had brought on anarchy; and as soon as men had
a near view of anarchy they fled in terror to crouch at the feet of
despotism. To the dominion of mobs armed with pikes succeeded the
sterner and more lasting dominion of disciplined armies. The Papacy
rose from its debasement; rose more intolerant and insolent than before;
intolerant and insolent as in the days of Hildebrand; intolerant and
insolent to a degree which dismayed and disappointed those who had
fondly cherished the hope that the spirit which had animated the
Crusaders and the Inquisitors had been mitigated by the lapse of years
and by the progress of knowledge. Through all that vast region, where
little more than four years ago we looked in vain for any stable
authority, we now look in vain for any trace of constitutional freedom.
And we, Gentlemen, in the meantime, have been exempt from both those
calamities which have wrought ruin all around us. The madness of 1848
did not subvert the British throne. The reaction which followed has not
destroyed British liberty.

And why is this? Why has our country, with all the ten plagues raging
around her, been a land of Goshen? Everywhere else was the thunder and
the fire running along the ground,--a very grievous storm,--a storm such
as there was none like it since man was on the earth; yet everything
tranquil here; and then again thick night, darkness that might be felt;
and yet light in all our dwellings. We owe this singular happiness,
under the blessing of God, to a wise and noble constitution, the work of
many generations of great men. Let us profit by experience; and let us
be thankful that we profit by the experience of others, and not by our
own. Let us prize our constitution: let us purify it: let us amend it;
but let us not destroy it. Let us shun extremes, not only because each
extreme is in itself a positive evil, but also because each extreme
necessarily engenders its opposite. If we love civil and religious
freedom, let us in the day of danger uphold law and order. If we are
zealous for law and order, let us prize, as the best safeguard of law
and order, civil and religious freedom.

Yes, Gentlemen; if I am asked why we are free with servitude all around
us, why our Habeas Corpus Act has not been suspended, why our press
is still subject to no censor, why we still have the liberty of
association, why our representative institutions still abide in all
their strength, I answer, It is because in the year of revolutions we
stood firmly by our Government in its peril; and, if I am asked why
we stood by our Government in its peril, when men all around us were
engaged in pulling Governments down, I answer, It was because we knew
that though our Government was not a perfect Government, it was a good
Government, that its faults admitted of peaceable and legal remedies,
that it had never inflexibly opposed just demands, that we had obtained
concessions of inestimable value, not by beating the drum, not by
ringing the tocsin, not by tearing up the pavement, not by running to
the gunsmiths' shops to search for arms, but by the mere force of reason
and public opinion. And, Gentlemen, preeminent among those pacific
victories of reason and public opinion, the recollection of which
chiefly, I believe, carried us safely through the year of revolutions
and through the year of counter-revolutions, I would place two great
reforms, inseparably associated, one with the memory of an illustrious
man, who is now beyond the reach of envy, the other with the name of
another illustrious man, who is still, and, I hope, long will be, a
living mark for distinction. I speak of the great commercial reform of
1846, the work of Sir Robert Peel, and of the great parliamentary reform
of 1832, the work of many eminent statesmen, among whom none was more
conspicuous than Lord John Russell. I particularly call your attention
to those two great reforms, because it will, in my opinion, be the
especial duty of that House of Commons in which, by your distinguished
favour, I have a seat, to defend the commercial reform of Sir Robert
Peel, and to perfect and extend the parliamentary reform of Lord John

With respect to the commercial reform, though I say it will be a sacred
duty to defend it, I do not apprehend that we shall find the task very
difficult. Indeed, I doubt whether we have any reason to apprehend a
direct attack upon the system now established. From the expressions used
during the last session, and during the late elections, by the Ministers
and their adherents, I should, I confess, find it utterly impossible to
draw any inference whatever. They have contradicted each other; and they
have contradicted themselves. Nothing would be easier than to select
from their speeches passages which would prove them to be Freetraders,
and passages which would prove them to be protectionists. But, in truth,
the only inference which can properly be drawn from a speech of one of
these gentlemen in favour of Free Trade is, that, when he spoke, he was
standing for a town; and the only inference which can be drawn from the
speech of another in favour of Protection is, that, when he spoke,
he was standing for a county. I quitted London in the heat of the
elections. I left behind me a Tory candidate for Westminster and a Tory
candidate for Middlesex, loudly proclaiming themselves Derbyites and
Freetraders. All along my journey through Berkshire and Wiltshire I
heard nothing but the cry of Derby and Protection; but when I got to
Bristol, the cry was Derby and Free Trade again. On one side of the
Wash, Lord Stanley, the Under-Secretary of State for the Foreign
Department, a young nobleman of great promise, a young nobleman who
appears to me to inherit a large portion of his father's ability and
energy, held language which was universally understood to indicate that
the Government had altogether abandoned all thought of Protection. Lord
Stanley was addressing the inhabitants of a town. Meanwhile, on the
other side of the Wash, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was
haranguing the farmers of Lincolnshire; and, when somebody took it upon
him to ask, "What will you do, Mr Christopher, if Lord Derby abandons
Protection?" the Chancellor of the Duchy refused to answer a question so
monstrous, so insulting to Lord Derby. "I will stand by Lord Derby," he
said, "because I know that Lord Derby will stand by Protection." Well,
these opposite declarations of two eminent persons, both likely to know
the mind of Lord Derby on the subject, go forth, and are taken up
by less distinguished adherents of the party. The Tory candidate for
Leicestershire says, "I put faith in Mr Christopher: while you see Mr
Christopher in the Government, you may be assured that agriculture will
be protected." But, in East Surrey, which is really a suburb of London,
I find the Tory candidate saying, "Never mind Mr Christopher. I trust to
Lord Stanley. What should Mr Christopher know on the subject? He is not
in the Cabinet: he can tell you nothing about it." Nay, these tactics
were carried so far that Tories who had formerly been for Free Trade,
turned Protectionists if they stood for counties; and Tories, who had
always been furious Protectionists, declared for Free Trade, without
scruple or shame, if they stood for large towns. Take for example
Lord Maidstone. He was once one of the most vehement Protectionists
in England, and put forth a small volume, which, as I am an elector of
Westminster, and as he was a candidate for Westminster, I thought it my
duty to buy, in order to understand his opinions. It is entitled Free
Trade Hexameters. Of the poetical merits of Lord Maidstone's hexameters
I shall not presume to give an opinion. You may all form an opinion for
yourselves by ordering copies. They may easily be procured: for I was
assured, when I bought mine in Bond Street, that the supply on hand
was still considerable. But of the political merits of Lord Maidstone's
hexameters I can speak with confidence; and it is impossible to
conceive a fiercer attack, according to the measure of the power of
the assailant, than that which his lordship made on Sir Robert Peel's
policy. On the other hand, Sir Fitzroy Kelly, who is now Solicitor
General, and who was Solicitor General under Sir Robert Peel, voted
steadily with Sir Robert Peel, doubtless from a regard to the public
interest, which would have suffered greatly by the retirement of so able
a lawyer from the service of the Crown. Sir Fitzroy did not think it
necessary to lay down his office even when Sir Robert Peel brought in
the bill which established a free trade in corn. But unfortunately,
Lord Maidstone becomes a candidate for the City of Westminster, and Sir
Fitzroy Kelly stands for an agricultural county. Instantly, therefore,
Lord Maidstone forgets his verses, and Sir Fitzroy Kelly forgets his
votes. Lord Maidstone declares himself a convert to the opinions of Sir
Robert Peel; and Sir Robert Peel's own Solicitor General lifts up his
head intrepidly, and makes a speech, apparently composed out of Lord
Maidstone's hexameters.

It is therefore, Gentlemen, utterly impossible for me to pretend to
infer, from the language held by the members of the Government,
and their adherents, what course they will take on the subject of
Protection. Nevertheless, I confidently say that the system established
by Sir Robert Peel is perfectly safe. The law which repealed the Corn
Laws stands now on a much firmer foundation than when it was first
passed. We are stronger than ever in reason; and we are stronger than
ever in numbers. We are stronger than ever in reason, because what was
only prophecy is now history. No person can now question the salutary
effect which the repeal of the Corn Laws has had on our trade and
industry. We are stronger than ever in numbers. You, I am sure,
recollect the time when a formidable opposition to the repeal of the
Corn Laws was made by a class which was most deeply interested in that
repeal; I mean the labouring classes. You recollect that, in many large
towns, ten years ago, the friends of Free Trade could not venture to
call meetings for the purpose of petitioning against the Corn Laws, for
fear of being interrupted by a crowd of working people, who had been
taught by a certain class of demagogues to say that the question was
one in which working people had no interest, that it was purely a
capitalist's question, that, if the poor man got a large loaf instead of
a small one, he would get from the capitalist only a sixpence instead
of a shilling. I never had the slightest faith in those doctrines.
Experience even then seemed to me completely to confute them. I compared
place with place; and I found that, though bread was dearer in England
than in Ohio, wages were higher in Ohio than in England. I compared
time with time; and I saw that those times when bread was cheapest
in England, within my own memory, were also the times in which the
condition of the labouring classes was the happiest. But now the
experiment has been tried in a manner which admits of no dispute. I
should be glad to know, if there were now an attempt made to impose a
tax on corn, what demagogue would be able to bring a crowd of working
men to hold up their hands in favour of such a tax. Thus strong,
Gentlemen, in reason, and thus strong in numbers, we need, I believe,
apprehend no direct attack on the principles of Free Trade. It will,
however, be one of the first duties of your representatives to be
vigilant that no indirect attack shall be made on these principles; and
to take care that in our financial arrangements no undue favour shall be
shown to any class.

With regard to the other question which I have mentioned, the question
of Parliamentary Reform, I think that the time is at hand when that
question will require the gravest consideration, when it will be
necessary to reconsider the Reform Act of 1832, and to amend it
temperately and cautiously, but in a large and liberal spirit. I confess
that, in my opinion, this revision cannot be made with advantage, except
by the Ministers of the Crown. I greatly doubt whether it will be found
possible to carry through any plan of improvement if we have not the
Government heartily with us; and I must say that from the present
Administration I can, as to that matter, expect nothing good. What
precisely I am to expect from them I do not know, whether the most
obstinate opposition to every change, or the most insanely violent
change. If I look to their conduct, I find the gravest reasons for
apprehending that they may at one time resist the most just demands,
and at another time, from the merest caprice, propose the wildest
innovations. And I will tell you why I entertain this opinion. I am
sorry that, in doing so, I must mention the name of a gentleman for
whom, personally, I have the highest respect; I mean Mr Walpole, the
Secretary of State for the Home Department. My own acquaintance with him
is slight; but I know him well by character; and I believe him to be
an honourable, an excellent, an able man. No man is more esteemed in
private life: but of his public conduct I must claim the right to speak
with freedom; and I do so with the less scruple because he has himself
set me an example of that freedom, and because I am really now standing
on the defensive. Mr Walpole lately made a speech to the electors of
Midhurst; and in that speech he spoke personally of Lord John Russell
as one honourable man should speak of another, and as, I am sure, I
wish always to speak of Mr Walpole. But in Lord John's public conduct Mr
Walpole found many faults. Chief among those faults was this, that
his lordship had re-opened the question of reform. Mr Walpole declared
himself to be opposed on principle to organic change. He justly said
that if, unfortunately, organic change should be necessary, whatever
was done ought to be done with much deliberation and with caution almost
timorous; and he charged Lord John with having neglected these plain
rules of prudence. I was perfectly thunderstruck when I read the speech:
for I could not but recollect that the most violent and democratic
change that ever was proposed within the memory of the oldest man had
been proposed but a few weeks before by this same Mr Walpole, as the
organ of the present Government. Do you remember the history of the
Militia Bill? In general, when a great change in our institutions is
to be proposed from the Treasury Bench, the Minister announces his
intention some weeks before. There is a great attendance: there is
the most painful anxiety to know what he is going to recommend. I well
remember,--for I was present,--with what breathless suspense six hundred
persons waited, on the first of March, 1831, to hear Lord John Russell
explain the principles of his Reform Bill. But what was his Reform Bill
to the Reform Bill of the Derby Administration? At the end of a night,
in the coolest way possible, without the smallest notice, Mr Walpole
proposed to add to the tail of the Militia Bill a clause to the effect,
that every man who had served in the militia for two years should have
a vote for the county. What is the number of those voters who were to be
entitled to vote in this way for counties? The militia of England is to
consist of eighty thousand men; and the term of service is to be five
years. In ten years the number will be one hundred and sixty thousand;
in twenty years, three hundred and twenty thousand; and in twenty-five
years, four hundred thousand. Some of these new electors will, of
course, die off in twenty-five years, though the lives are picked lives,
remarkably good lives. What the mortality is likely to be I do not
accurately know; but any actuary will easily calculate it for you. I
should say, in round numbers, that you will have, when the system has
been in operation for a generation, an addition of about three hundred
thousand to the county constituent bodies; that is to say, six thousand
voters on the average will be added to every county in England
and Wales. That is surely an immense addition. And what is the
qualification? Why, the first qualification is youth. These electors
are not to be above a certain age; but the nearer you can get them to
eighteen the better. The second qualification is poverty. The elector
is to be a person to whom a shilling a-day is an object. The third
qualification is ignorance; for I venture to say that, if you take the
trouble to observe the appearance of those young fellows who follow the
recruiting sergeant in the streets, you will at once say that, among our
labouring classes, they are not the most educated, they are not the
most intelligent. That they are brave, stout lads, I fully believe. Lord
Hardinge tells me that he never saw a finer set of young men; and I have
not the slightest doubt that, if necessary, after a few weeks' training,
they will be found standing up for our firesides against the best
disciplined soldiers that the Continent can produce. But these are not
the qualifications which fit men to choose legislators. A young man who
goes from the ploughtail into the army is generally rather thoughtless
and disposed to idleness. Oh! but there is another qualification which I
had forgotten: the voter must be five feet two. There is a qualification
for you! Only think of measuring a man for the franchise! And this is
the work of a Conservative Government, this plan which would swamp all
the counties in England with electors who possess the Derby-Walpole
qualifications; that is to say, youth, poverty, ignorance, a roving
disposition, and five feet two. Why, what right have people who have
proposed such a change as this to talk about--I do not say Lord John
Russell's imprudence--but the imprudence of Ernest Jones or of any other
Chartist? The Chartists, to do them justice, would give the franchise to
wealth as well as to poverty, to knowledge as well as to ignorance, to
mature age as well as to youth. But to make a qualification compounded
of disqualifications is a feat of which the whole glory belongs to our
Conservative rulers. This astounding proposition was made, I believe, in
a very thin House: but the next day the House was full enough, everybody
having come down to know what was going to happen. One asked, why not
this? and another, why not that? Are all the regular troops to have
the franchise? all the policemen? all the sailors? for, if you give the
franchise to ploughboys of twenty-one, what class of honest Englishmen
and Scotchmen can you with decency exclude? But up gets the Home
Secretary, and informs the House that the plan had not been sufficiently
considered, that some of his colleagues were not satisfied, and that
he would not press his proposition. Now, if it had happened to me to
propose such a reform at one sitting of the House, and at the next
sitting to withdraw it, because it had not been well considered, I do
think that, to the end of my life, I never should have talked about the
exceeding imprudence of reopening the question of reform; I should never
have ventured to read any other man a lecture about the caution with
which all plans of organic change ought to be framed. I repeat that,
if I am to judge from the language of the present Ministers, taken in
connection with this solitary instance of their legislative skill in the
way of reform, I am utterly at a loss what to expect. On the whole, what
I do expect is that they will offer a pertinacious, vehement, provoking
opposition to safe and reasonable change, and that then, in some moment
of fear or caprice, they will bring in, and fling on the table, in a
fit of desperation or levity, some plan which will loosen the very
foundations of society.

For my own part, I think that the question of Parliamentary Reform is
one which must soon be taken up; but it ought to be taken up by the
Government; and I hope, before long, to see in office a Ministry which
will take it up in earnest. I dare say that you will not suspect me of
saying so from any interested feeling. In no case whatever shall I again
be a member of any Ministry. During what may remain of my public life,
I shall be the servant of none but you. I have nothing to ask of any
government, except that protection which every government owes to a
faithful and loyal subject of the Queen. But I do hope to see in office
before long a Ministry which will treat this great question as it
should be treated. It will be the duty of that Ministry to revise the
distribution of power. It will be the duty of that Ministry to consider
whether small constituent bodies, notoriously corrupt, and proved to
be corrupt, such, for example, as Harwich, ought to retain the power of
sending me