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been in the highest degree important, and constitute perhaps the remote cause of the
perilous predicament in which society is now placed. The national character is no longer formed, the national fortunes are no longer swayed, by the steady and independent feelings of the English peasantry—by men who have been educated in the faith, and nurtured in the feelings, of their fathers and in whose veins the ancient blood of the Saxons and Normans still flows in unpolluted streams. Since the vast increase of its manufacturing industry, Old England is no more. The hereditary character of the people, preserved unchanged for a thousand years, has been exchanged for the fierce passions and unbridled ambition which in every age have characterised trading communities; and, instead of the steady adherence to ancient institutions, which so long distinguished the English character, the feverish desire for change, which sprang up with the French Revolution, has become predominant with a large and noisy portion of our people.
It is the coincidence of this vast increase in the numbers of the manufacturing classes, with the extension of the power of reading to almost all the youth of the lower orders, that has beyond all question produced the restless and feverish temper of the present times. God forbid that we should assert that education cannot be extended to the poor without involving them in the fury and the infidelity of French democracy ; but melancholy experience proves that it cannot be extended to a corrupted and vicious poor without producing these disastrous effects. Like every other great power in human affairs, the press becomes an instrument of virtue or of vice, according to the character of the person to whom it is intrusted ; like the Amreeta Cup in Kehama, it confers an immortality of bliss or of agony, as it is taken by a virtuous or a corrupted spirit. In the rural districts of Great Britain, the spread of reading has led chiefly to an extension of religious knowledge, or the diffusion of useful information ; in the manufacturing, and in all the great towns, it has augmented enormously the growth of democracy and irreligion—an aversion to the restraints of this world and of the next. Such is the eternal law of nature ; and in its operation is found the great means of purification which Omnipotence provides for the sins and corruptions of nations. With the increase of knowledge and the acquisition of power, these corrupted societies hourly increase in wickedness and depravity ; their passions become ungovernable, their desires insatiable, their arrogance insupportable ; all the restraints of virtue, all the influence of religion, all the fetters of authority, are dissolved under the perpetual influence of the revolutionary action. The fabric of society crumbles and totters, with the dissolution of the bonds which held it together; with their own hands its members accumulate the materials of combustion ; with their own hands they apply the torch, and a general conflagration at last obliterates the scene of depravity and corruption.
It is this rapid and fearful increase of the revolutionary spirit in all the great cities of the empire, from causes beyond the reach of human control, which renders it now painfully evident that the Conservative party committed a great error in not earlier conceding, on Conservative principles, and to strengthen the Conservative interest in the legislature, members to the great manufacturing towns.
It is quite evident, that if it was inevitable that the additional members acquired by the great towns were necessarily to be of a democratic or revolutionary character, the Conservative party would have been perfectly right to resist to the very uttermost the concession of one single member to the manufacturing interest, because, as it was apparent that the aristocratic party was already hard pressed by the revolutionary, it would have been in the highest degree unsafe to have made any addition, however small, to the force of the enemy
. But though such, it is to be feared, will most certainly be their character under the Reform Bill, the case might have been widely different with members elected under a rational system of constituency. Everything depends on the class of men to whom the elective franchise is extended. That the members elected by the L.10 tenants in towns will return Movement representatives, may be considered as all but certain ; but what would have been the result if the return had been vested in persons paying L.10 and upwards a-year of direct taxes, or inhabiting houses worth L.50 a-year and upwards of yearly rent, being the very
franchise established by the Liberals themselves for the country ? A Conservative constituency would, in the end, to a moral certainty, have been thus created, because it would have been composed of men who were to be the victims, not the gainers, by spoliation; and the friends of the constitution would have drawn useful and efficient allies, instead of enemies, from the ranks of their opponents.
This was the great error of the Conservative body, that having a principle in the constitution already developed, which provided for the gradual change of the representation upon the conviction of any borough for bribery, they did not anxiously fix upon that principle as the means of giving Conservative members to the great unrepresented towns. Can anybody doubt what would have been the character of the representative, that on any crisis would have been returned by fifteen hundred of the most respectable citizens of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Edinburgh, or Glasgow ? Whether such an addition to the Conservative ranks would have ultimately arrested the march of revolution, may well be doubted, seeing that the Whigs would instantly have put themselves at the head of the democratic party, and raised the same cry against such a rational system of representation for the great towns, which they afterwards did against the nomination boroughs. But the Conservative party would have had the immense advantage of having done nothing on their part to precipitate the torrent,—of having put their adversaries clearly in the wrong, if not in the eyes of the populace, at least in those of the thinking men in the country, and of posterity,—and of having secured some support at least from the better and respectable classes in those great nurseries of republican ambition.
It was in this state of the country, and of public feeling, that the late French Revolution broke out; and that, too, at the most inauspicious moment for the preservation of our constitution ; shortly after the dissolution of Parliament, when the nation was agitated by general elections ; when the Conservative party, sullen and discontented, were brooding over the recent violent invasion of the Protestant constitution, and the Whigs were straining every nerve to improve the immense advantage which the divisions of their opponents, and the consternation consequent on Catholic Emancipation, had occasioned. That fatal event--fatal to France, fatal to Poland, fatal to Belgium, fatal to England, fatal to every
state which has imbibed its spirit—immediately threw the revolutionary party in this country into an ecstasy of delight. The spectacle of a regular government being overthrown by an insurgent mob, of regular soldiers failing before revolutionary barricades, of a dynasty falling under the blows of an exasperated populace, was too much for their entranced
The tricolor flag was rehoisted at Paris, amidst the transports of all the Movement party in this country; Jacobin enthusiasm revived, after a slumber of thirty years, and revolutionary ambition again raised its hydra head, after having groaned in silence since the triumph of Waterloo. With characteristic recklessness and haste, the Liberal party instantly seized on the fruitful theme; they thundered on every hustings in the kingdom on the glorious spectacle, and lavished on the Duke of Wellington, late the object of their fulsome adulation, while heading the first inroad on the Constitution, the most furious abuse for showing a tendency even to resume his old defensive position against the tricolor flag. They never stopped to inquire what was the real cause or probable tendency of the convulsion; they never bestowed a thought on the question which time has since so lamentably resolved,—Whether it was likely to accelerate or retard the progress of freedom ; whether it was occasioned by defensive or offensive measures on the part of the Crown; whether the ordinances were justified by stern necessity, or the result of a tyrannical spirit ; whether, in fine, the Revolution was to terminate in the mild and tranquil freedom of the Restoration, or subject France anew to the rule of Jacobin clubs and Republican bayonets ?
These points, indispensable to a sound or rational solution of the question, and which two subsequent years of suffering, closed by a second bloody revolt, have too clearly resolved, were never so much as thought of amidst the transports of the barricades. All who ventured to draw the veil from the eyes of the multitude were made the objects of furious invective; and the people, misled by their popular leaders, and swayed by their
generous sympathy for freedom, even when clothed in the worst of disguises, shared in the universal transport, and returned in unprecedented numbers the leaders of the Movement party to the House of Commons.
The result of this vehement passion, coupled with the sullen exasperation of the old Constitutional party of England, at the great concession made to Whig clamour and intimidation by the admission of the Catholics into Parliament, is well known. By an unprecedented combination of Whigs, Ultra-Tories, and Radicals, the Duke of Wellington was thrown into a minority of twenty-nine on the very first division of the new Parliament; there being found in the ranks of his opponents General Gascoigne and Mr Hobhouse, the Marquis of Chandos and Mr Hume, Mr Sadler and Colonel Jones, Mr Brougham and Sir Thomas Lethbridge—the friends of the Monarchy and the supporters of Revolution ; the old and respectable friends of Whig freedom, and the ardent proselytes of newborn Jacobinism ; those whose hearts yet bled at the recent wound inflicted on the Constitution, and those who panted for an opportunity to pierce it to the heart—combined to overthrow its noblest defender. The annals of civil discord do not contain a more lamentable instance of the ruin of the noblest institutions by the intemperate zeal of their own defenders ; and, as if nothing should be wanting to render unpardonable the desertion of the Ultra-Tory party, they had before their eyes, in France, a recent example of the fatal effects of such divisions in presence of a reckless and insatiable democratic foe. Thirty of the Ultra-Royalists in the French Chamber, called the party Agier, united, in March 1830, with the Coté Gauche, to vote against the Crown, from a feeling of spite at the existing Administration. The Ministry, in consequence, was thrown into a minority ; a dissolution ensued in a highly excited state of public feeling ; the new representatives promised to be still more democratic than the old ones; no alternative remained to the Crown but abdication, or a change of the constitution ; Polignac attempted it upon the same grounds of necessity which are put forward by the Revolutionary party to justify the overthrow of the British constitution ; but he attempted it without an adequate military force to support the change, and the fall of the monarchy was the consequence.