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their party be utterly routed, as in 1784 and 1807, on an appeal from the Throne to the people, they contrived to get an over-confiding Monarch pledged to the leading provisions of the Reform Bill, and thus implicated the King personally in their measures, in a way and to an atent never before known in the Constitution. At the same time, they publicly held out in the House of Peers that, if the House would let the bill into committee, it should“ be in their Lordships' hands,” and no effort made to overwhelm their deliberations by an unconstitutional exercise of power. On the contrary, Earl Grey declared that, if a collision occurred between the two Houses, the proper course was to dissolve Parliament, and reserve the creation of Peers as a last resource, to be adopted in the event of its becoming evident that the bill sent up by the Commons after such dissolution would be thrown out by the Upper House. Having by these professions gained over many of the Conservative Peers to vote for the second reading, and thus landed the bill in committee, and saved himself and his party from the immediate ruin which threatened them by its rejection, Earl Grey, instantly on the first vote in the committee against Ministers, flew to the King, insisted on the creation of little short of 100 Peers, and on this flagrant violation of the Constitution being refused, resigned his office.
We do not concur with many of the Conservative party, who think that the vote on Lord Lyndhurst's motion was on an immaterial point, and that it was not indicative of the existence of a majority in the Lords, who were resolved to modify the bill. On the contrary, we admit that it clearly showed that the most dangerous clauses in the
ill would be altered in the committee. But the point we rest on is this—Was not that precisely the compromise which Earl Grey pledged himself to Lord Wharncliffe, Lord Harrowby, Lord Gage, and the other waverers, TO ALLOW IN COMMITTEE ? Have they not, in consequence of the violation of the pledge, loudly and indignantly proclaimed in Parliament that they were deceived, and voted, with unheard-of expressions of resentment in consequence, against the third reading ?
The King's constitutional resistance to the creation of Peers would unquestionably have proved fatal to the revo
lutionary project, and have saved the Constitution, had it not been for the fatal pledge to the leading principles of the bill, which the Ministers had the art to extract from his unsuspicious temper. The King being pledged to schedule A, the £10 clause, and all the other democratic clauses, the return of the Conservative party to office, to carry through the bill they had so long and conscientiously opposed, was impossible. All the deplorable consequences likely to follow its adoption, would, in that event, have been laid on them, while their character would have been irretrievably ruined in the estimation of the country, by what would have been deemed a sacrifice of principle to ambition. The Duke of Wellington might afford to run the risk of such an imputation ; no inferior man could. The return of the Tories to power to carry through the dregs of the revolutionary system, could have produced only ruin to themselves, and, by blasting them, would have destroyed the last hopes of the country. It would have been Catholic emancipation over again, on a far greater scale, and a far more momentous question. It was the most fortunate circumstance that has occurred, both to them and to England, in these disastrous days, that they had magnanimity and wisdom enough to reject power on such conditions.
Cætera quis nescit ? The Whigs returned to office on the promise of a creation of Peers to any extent to ensure the passing of the Bill, and the Conservative Peers, though amounting to a decided majority of the whole House, retired to avoid the fatal exercise of the prerogative. The best and bravest, the first and noblest subjects of the Crown, were driven into voluntary exile, to avoid the same destruction to the Upper, which democratic ambition had already effected in the Lower House of Parliament. Amidst deserted benches and a deathlike silence, amidst the tears of the patriotic and the newly awakened terrors of the ambitious, the old Constitution was overturned ; and the ancient Genius of England seemed to strike with horror its unworthy children, even in the moment of their parricidal triumph.
Such has been the history of the Reform Bill : of that mighty and portentous change, which, uprooting all our institutions, is destined to send us adrift upon the sea of inno
vation : to peril the ancient frame of British society on the ephemeral theories of French democracy ; and, depriving us at once of the weight of a thousand years' duration, render our future constitutions, to all human appearance, nearly as shortlived and disastrous as the fleeting changes of the French Republic. It has been carried through from first to last by fraud, intimidation, and appeals to the worst passions of the people. The people were deceived as to the King, the King as to the people; the electors as to the effect of the measure, the populace as to the benefits they would derive from it ; the Waverers as to the course to be pursued by Government in the event of their yielding; the Monarch as to the temper with which a free exercise of judgment by the Peers would be received by the Administration. At the same time, violence of every sort was perpetrated from one end of the kingdom to the other ; the friends of the Constitution could not stand forth but at the hazard of their lives ; and many of the meetings in support of Administration resounded with mention of guillotines and scaffolds, beheaded kings and exiled nobility. In the midst of this unparalleled scene of duplicity, violence, and deceit, the revolutionary spirit has been incessantly agitated among the people, the worst passions of the populace excited by the impunity afforded in most cases to all their excesses, and the judgment of the nation perverted by a furious, irreligious, and Jacobinical press. By such means, and such agents, was the Constitution of England overthrown.
On reviewing the melancholy history of vice, deceit, and violence, by which this deplorable catastrophe was produced, we are almost tempted to ask, with the Roman poet, whether there is really a Providence which directs human affairs; or whether, from the elevated regions of bliss, the Supreme Being beholds with indifference the fate and the suffering of nations
“Sæpe mihi dubiam traxit sententia mentem-
It is this gradual but certain punishment of all the sins of democracy, and all the madness of revolutionary ambition, that the world is now about to witness. As certainly as there is a God in the Heavens, so certainly will this generation not expire before all is accomplished. With bitter regret, with curses long, because impotent to save, will the nation then look back to the delusion of these times. But in the course of this terrible retribution, when Vice is receiving its punishment from the consequences of its own excesses, and Virtue is suffering under measures which it strove to prevent, let the Conservative party always recollect that the fate of England can be rendered hopeless only by an appeal to force, or by their desertion of their country and their still remaining duties. Let them be of good cheer ; the laws of Nature do not act in vain in favour of virtue, religion, and patriotic duty. The suffering, misery, and agony, which is about to tame the fierce spirit of democracy, will restore at last, though after a dismal interval, their sway in the state : the cause of England is only hopeless, if, like the French nobility, they desert it.
What a spectacle does this lamentable history we have now sketched out, present of the firmness of the British Constitution ; and how admirably arranged was that wonderful fabric which the providence of God permitted to be put together to perform the mighty services it has rendered, and was rendering, at its fall, to the cause of humanity! Notwithstanding all the disastrous circumstances which have now been detailed; notwithstanding a combination of chances, unparalleled since the history of Europe began ; notwithstanding a fatal division among its supporters, and an unprecedented cause of exultation to its enemies at the critical moment, such was the strength of the fabric that three times it repulsed the spoiler. At the division on General Gascoigne's motion, on the rejection of the first Bill, and on the carrying of Lord Lyndhurst's motion, the overthrow of the revolution was certain, if it was not supported by an immediate exertion of the power of the executive. Thrice the Conservative party brought victory to the foot of the throne, and required only that the power of the monarch should not be exerted to destroy the monarchy; and thrice success was torn from them by an effort of the prerogative.
The spectacle is as instructive as it is extraordinary. The constitution was so strong, that it was unassailable on all the sides from whence alone danger, on the ordinary principles of society, was to be apprehended : it has been pierced to the heart by a stroke from the quarter where it was not thought men could be found reckless enough to strike it.
With glory ineffable to the British aristocracy, with honour now secured to them beyond the power of fate, has the Constitution of England fallen. Theirs was no long period of weakness or decay: no decline of virtue or failure of patriotism, no long and degrading history of the Empire, succeeding the triumphs of the Republic, sullied the overthrow of the British nobility. They fell in the fulness of their glory and their usefulness; overshadowed by the laurels of Trafalgar and Waterloo, with the conquest of Napoleon to signalise their last hours, and the earth overspread with their mighty dominion. In the long history of human virtue, of heroic actions, and of patriotic duty, what spectacle can be placed in comparison with this one? With truth did Lord J. Russell say, that the character of the Duke of Wellington is public property; and we may thank his measure for drawing forth its most illustrious qualities. With undying pride the British historian can now record, that while the Duke of Wellington disdained to follow the footsteps of Cæsar or Cromwell, he exerted his mighty energies in the cause of freedom; that the world's great victor passed untainted through the ordeal of ambition ; and that the arm which overthrew Napoleon, yielded to the force of moral duty. The glory of this last triumph will eclipse that of all the others, because it belongs to himself alone : he will share, in his military career, his honours with Napoleon and Alexander ; but in the struggle with revolution in his own country, he will find no rivals : and an exulting posterity will point to his career as uniting that of both of the greatest men of antiquity,
" And honour Cæsar's less than Cato's sword.”