Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

told, by his mischievous seducer, that all his distress arises from an imperfect representation in Parliament. If this assertion means any thing, it must mean this—that Parliament, as at present constituted, encourages unnecessary wars; that unnecessary wars produce extravagant expenditure; that extravagant expenditure produces exorbitant taxation; and that exorbitant taxation produces overwhelming misery. Now what is the inference of the parliamentary reformers? Is it that Parliament more popularized, more democratically constituted, would be less inclined to war? I appeal to all history, ancient or modern, whether democratic states have not always been fondest of war. Look at Athens, look at Rome, look at the petty republics of more modern times. Was not the appetite for war in all those Governments perpetually excited and perpetually indulged? Would the case be different among ourselves ? Is it not notorious that the humblest peasants in this country have been used to sympathize with the victories of its warriors, and to feel themselves partakers in their honour? True it is that of late a chill philosophy has been busy in numbing even this, the natural enthusiasm of a brave people; in sophisticating their feelings, and bewildering their reason; in rendering them dead to the glories of Waterloo, but tremblingly alive to the imperfections of Old Sarum. But it will not do; and I must say that I distrust the sense of any man who can build a hope of discomfiture to Ministers on the popularity of parliamentary reform.

It is not against parliamentary reform, but against the frantic follies circulated under that pretext, and the mischiefs attempted to be perpetrated under the shadow of its name, that Government appealed to parliament, and that parliament had recourse to the Suspension Act. That act is happily at an end. I am not disposed to undervalue the evil of its enactment, whether in itself or whether considered as a precedent for other times. But they surely read but ill the signs of the present times, who think that in or out of Parliament there is a leaning against popular rights and feelings. How strangely do topics survive the occasions which produce them. Not more idle was it in the rhetoricians of imperial Rome to make declamations in favour of Brutus, ages after the extinction of Roman liberty, than it is in the patricts of these days to pretend an apprehension of arbitrary power, and to rail against enslaved Parliaments and an usurping Crown.

The dangers which now threaten society are of a different kind, and come in an opposite direction; and it is the duty of Parliament to provide with equal watchfulness not only against the blast of the lightning from above, but against the destructive explosion from below.

But let us hope that' these dangers are for the

present passed away. If, in the hour of peril the statue of liberty has been veiled for a moment, let it be confessed in justice that the hands whose painful duty it was to spread that veil, have not been the least prompt to remove it. If the palladium of the Constitution has for a moment trembled in its shrine, let it be acknowledged that through the vigilance and constancy of those whose duty it was to see that the fabric took no harm, the shrine itself has been preserved from profanation, and the temple stands firm and unimpaired.

CHOICE OF A SPEAKER.

JANUARY 14th, 1819.

This was the day appointed for the meeting of the new Parliament, which was opened by Commission. As soon as the House of Commons returned from the House of Peers, to hear the Commission read, which is a customary procedure on similar occasions,

MR. Peel addressed a speech to the deputy to the clerk of the House, in which he eloquently enlarged on the important duties of a Speaker, and on the qualifications which Mr. Manners Sutton possessed in an eminent degree, to entitle him to be re-elected to that eminent station.

LORD CLIVE seconded the motion.

The cry of “ Chair! chair !" then resounded from all parts of the House ; on which Mr. Manners Sutton was conducted from his seat to the chair, by Mr. Peel, and Lord Clive, where, standing on the upper step, he addressed the House to the following effect :

« In offering my most respectful and cordial thanks to the House, for having conferred upon me the highest honour which it has in its power to bestow, I have only, with the utmost sincerity to assure the House, that I will strain

every nerve to justify the choice it has made, with a strict, steady, faithful, and impartial discharge of the duties entrusted to me.” And thereupon he sat down in the chair i and then, the mace (which before lay under the table) was laid upon the table.

MR. CANNING then spoke to the following effect:

Sir-In rising to move the adjournment of this House, I cannot refrain from availing myself of the opportunity of congratulating, not so much you, Sir, as the House itself, on the choice which it has just made of a member to preside over its deliberations. The various and important functions belonging to your high station, have been already so accurately and eloquently described, that not one word more need be said on that subject. What we have just heard from you, Sir, is sufficient to prove how high your estimate is of your duties; and although you have spoken distrustingly of your qualifications to discharge them, you have pledged your determination to exert yourself to the utmost in the justification of the choice that we have made. But, Sir, however implicit the credit with which we must be disposed to receive the declarations and promises of a man of your character, we have on the present occasion, something more than declarations and promises to assure us of the fulfilment of our expectations. We have your own example—we have the experience of your con. duct in the term, during which you presided over the discussions of the last Parliament. You were last year, Sir, elected to the chair of this House, after a contest with a gentleman, to be put in competition with whom is no disparagement, but a high credit to any man, be his character what it may.* Yet, Sir, I am at a loss to say, whether the contest of that day, or the unanimity of this, reflects the greater honour on the object of our choice. In that contest there was not the slightest mixture of those asperities which political rivalry is too apt to engender. Every member gave his vote as

his vote as his peculiar predilections led him, without evincing the least disposition to undervalue the pretensions of the respective opponents. The unanimity on the present occasion, is as wise as it is generous. Generous-because it offers that homage which past services merit ; wise-inasmuch as no man can feel humbled by

* Mr. C. W. Wynn.

« ÖncekiDevam »