Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

of the country? what, but the fact, that a very large portion of the population do not in reality belong to either; but adhere, and are known to adhere, to those moderate opinions, for the profession of which the Whigs and their advocates are not only covered with the obloquy of those whom they save from the perils of such frightful extremities, but are preposterously supposed to have incurred the dislike of those with whom in fact they are identified, and to whom they belong.

And this leads us to say a few words on the second grand position of the Holy Allies, against whom we are now called to defend ourselves, that the Whigs are not only inconsistent and vacillating in their doctrines, but, in consequence of that vice or error, are in fact weak, unpopular, and despised in the country. The

very circumstance of their being felt to be so formidable as to require this strange alliance to make head against them, and to force their opponents to intermit all other contests, and expend on them exclusively the whole treasures of their sophistry and abuse, might go far, we think, to refute this desperate allegation. But a very short resumption of the principles we have just been unfolding will show that it cannot possibly be true.

We reckon as Whigs in this question, all those who are not disposed to go the length of either of the extreme parties who would now divide the country between them-all, in other words, who wish the Government to be substantially more popular than it is—but, at the same time, to retain more aristocratical influence, and more deference to authority, than the Radical Reformers will tolerate :- And, we do not hesitate to say, that so far from being weak or inconsiderable in the country, we are perfectly convinced that, among the educated classes, which now embrace a very large proportion of the whole, it greatly outnumbers both the others put together. It should always be recollected, that a middle party like this is invariably much stronger, as well as more determined and formidable, than it appears. Extreme doctrines always make the most noise. They lead most to vehemence, passion, and display,– they are inculcated with most clamour and exaggeration, and excite the greatest alarm. In this way we hear of them most frequently and loudly. But they are not, upon that account, the most widely spread or generally adopted ;-and, in an enlightened country, where there are two opposite kinds of extravagance thus trumpeted abroad together, they serve in a good degree as correctives to each other; and the great body of the people will almost inevitably settle into a middle or moderate opinion. The champions, to be sure, and ambtious leaders on each side, will probably only be exasperated into greater bitterness and greater confidence, by their contention. But the

greater part of the lookers on can scarcely fail to perceive that mutual wounds have been inflicted, and mutual infirmities displayed,—and the continuance and very fierceness of the combat is apt to breed a general opinion, that neither party is right, to the height of their respective pretensions; and that truth and justice can only be satisfied by large and mutual concessions.

Of the two parties--the Thorough Reformers are most indebted for an appearance of greater strength than they actually possess, to their own boldness and activity, and the mere curiosity it excites among the idle, cooperating with the sounding alarms of their opponents,—while the High Tories owe the same advantage in a greater degree to the quiet effect of their influence, and to that prudence which leads so many, who in their hearts are against them, to keep their opinions to themselves, till some opportunity can be found of declaring them with effect. Both, however, are conscious that they owe much to such an illusion,—and neither, accordingly, has courage to venture on those measures to which they would infallibly resort, if they trusted to their apparent, as to their actual strength. The Tories, who have the administration in some measure in their hands, would be glad enough to put down all popular interference, whether by assemblies, by speech, or by writing; and, in fact, only allow the law to be as indulgent as it is, and its administration to be so much more indulgent, from a conviction that they would not be supported in more severe measures, either by public opinion without, or even by their own majorities within the walls of the Legislature. They know very well that the greater part of their adherents are attached to them by no other principle than that of their own immediate interest,—and that, even among them as they now stand, they could command at least as large a following, for Whig measures as for Tory measures, if proposed by an administration of as much apparent stability. It is not necessary, indeed, to go farther than to the common conversation of the more open or careless of those who vote and act among the Tories, to be satisfied, that a very large proportion, indeed, of those who pass under that title, are really Whigs in heart and conviction, and are ready to declare themselves such, on the first convenient opportunity. With regard to the Radical Reformers, again, very little more, we think, can be necessary to show their real weakness in the country, than to observe how very few votes they ever obtain at an election, even in the most open boroughs, and the most populous and independent counties. We count for nothing in this question, the mere physical force which may seem to be arrayed on their side in the manufacturing districts, on occasions of distress and suffering; though, if they felt that they had even this permanently at their command, it is impossible that they should not have more nominations of parliamentary attorneys, and more steady and imposing exhibitions of their strength and union.

At the present moment, then, we are persuaded that the proper Whig party is in reality by much the largest and the steadiest in the country ; and we are also convinced, that it is in a course of rapid increase. The effect of all long continued discussion is to disclose flaws in all sweeping arguments, and to multiply exceptions to all general propositions—to discountenance extravagance, in short, to abate confidence and intolerance, and thus to lay the foundations for liberal compromise and mutual concession. Even those who continue to think that all the reason is exclusively on their side, can scarcely hope to convert their opponents, except by degrees. Some few rash and fiery spirits may contrive to pass from one extreme to the other, without going through the middle. But the common course undoubtedly is different; and therefore we are entitled to reckon, that every one who is detached from the Tory or the Radical faction, will make a stage at least, or half-way house, of Whiggism, and may probably be induced, by the comfort and respectability of the establishment, to remain; as the temperate regions of the earth are found to detain the greater part of those who have been induced to fly from the heats of the Equator, or the rigours of the Pole.

Though it is natural enough, therefore, for those who hold extreme opinions, to depreciate the consequence of those who take their station between them, it seems sufficiently certain, not only that their position must at all times be the safest and best, but that it is destined ultimately to draw to itself all that is truly of any considerable weight upon either hand; and that it is the feeling of the constant and growing force of this central attraction, that inflames the animosity of those whose ima portance would be lost by the convergence. For our own part, at least, we are satisfied, and we believe the party to which we belong is satisfied, both with the degree of influence and respect which we possess in the country, and with the prospects which, we think upon reasonable grounds, we may entertain of its increase. In assuming to ourselves the character of a middle party, we conceive that we are merely stating a fact, which cannot well be disputed on the present occasion, as it is assumed by both those who are now opposed to us, as the main ground of their common attack; and almost all that we have said follows as a necessary consequence of this assumption. From the very nature of the thing, we cannot go to either of the extreme parties; and neither of them can make any movement to increase their popularity and substantial power, without coming nearer to us. It is but fair, however, before concluding, to state, that though we do occupy a position be

[ocr errors]

tween the intolerant Tories and the thorough Reformers, we conceive that we are considerably nearer to the latter than to the former. In our principles, indeed, and the ends at which we aim, we do not materially differ from what is professed by the more sober among them; though we require more caution, more securities, more exceptions, more temper, and more time. That is the difference of our theories. In practice, we have no doubt, we shall all have time enough : For it is the lot of England, we have little doubt, to be ruled in the main by a Tory party, for as long a period as we can look forward to with any great distinctness-by a Tory party, however, restrained more and more in its propensities, by the growing influence of Whig principles, and the enlightened vigilance of that party, both in Parliament and out of it; and now and then admonished, by a temporary expulsion, of the necessity of a still greater conformity with the progress of liberal opinions, than could be spontaneously obtained. The inherent spirit, however, of monarchy, and the natural effect of long possession of power, will secure, we apprehend, for a considerable time, the general sway of men professing Tory principles, and their speedy restoration, when driven for a season from their places by disaster or general discontent: and the Whigs, during the same period, must content them, selves with preventing a great deal of evil, and seeing the good which they had suggested tardily and imperfectly effected, by those who will take the credit of originating what they had long opposed, and only at last adopted with reluctance and on compulsion. It is not a very brilliant prospect perhaps, nor a very enviable lot. But we believe it to be what awaits us; and we embrace it, not only cheerfully, but with thankfulness and pride - thankfulness, that we are enabled to do even so much for the good and the liberties of our country-and pride, that in thus seeking her service, we cannot well be suspected of selfish or mercenary views.

The thorough Reformers never can be in power in this coun, try, but by means of an actual revolution. The Whigs may, and occasionally will, without any disturbance to its peace, But these occasions might be multiplied, and the good that must attend them accelerated and increased, if the Reformers, aware of the hopelessness of their separate cause, would throw their weight into the scale of the Whigs, and so far modify their pretensions as to make it safe or practicable to support them. The Whigs, we have already said, cannot come to them; both because they hold some of their principles, and their mode of asserting them, to be not merely unreasonable, but actually dangerous; and because, by their adoption, they would at once hazard much mischief, and unfit themselves for the good sers vice they now perform. But the Reformers may very well come to the Whigs; both because they can practically do nothing for themselves, and because the measures which they might occasionally enable the Whigs to carry, though not in their eyes altogether unexceptionable or sufficient, must yet appear to them better than those of the Tories—which is the only attainable alternative. This accordingly, we are persuaded, will ultimately be the result; and is already, we have no doubt, in a course of accomplishment;-and, taken along with the gradual abandonment of all that is offensive in Tory pretensions, and the silent adoption of most of the Whig principles, even by those who continue to disclaim the name, will effect almost all that sober lovers of their country can expect, for the security of her liberties, and the final extinction of all extreme parties in the liberal moderation of Whiggism.

Such is our creed-and such are our hopes and pretensions ;—and though we fear we have dilated rather too long on them, we trust the statement will not appear altogether out of place, in our account of a work the whole strain of which is so much in accordance with our principles—and in reference to a passage in it which points out so forcibly the evils that necessarily result from their desertion.

The length, however, to which these observations have extended, makes it impossible for us, we find, to resume our account of the work before us, on the scale we have hitherto adopted. Little more, indeed, than a brief abstract of its sequel can be necessary. The firm and patriotic part which Sheridan took, along with his political opponents, on occasion of the mutiny at the Nore, is well known, and receives its full tribute of praise from the biographer. The resignation of Mr Pitt, on the ground of the Catholic Question, and the feeble administration of Mr Addington, dragging itself on against the united opposition of the Whigs, the Grenvilles, and the ex-minister himself, are recorded with the same impartial pen—and its termination by the sudden resumption of office by the latter, is marked, we think, with its true colours, in the following short paragraph.

• The confidence of Mr Pitt, in thus taking upon himself, almost single-handed, the government of the country at such an awful crisis, was, he soon perceived, not shared by the public. A general expectation had prevailed, that the three great Parties, which had lately been encamped together on the field of Opposition, would have each sent its Chiefs into the public councils, and thus formed such a Congress of power and talent as the difficulties of the empire, in that trying moment, demanded. This hope had been frustrated by the repugnance of the King to Mr Fox, and the too really facility with which Mr Pitt had given way to it. Not only, indeed, in his undiquified eagerness for office, did

« ZurückWeiter »