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Such were the cool and dispassionate sentiments of Lord Brougham upon the causes which destroyed the French Constituent Assembly.
The errors of the French reformers are thus pointed out by the same powerful pen :-“The parade which they made of their popularity, the support which they submitted to receive from the menaces and acclamations of the mob— the joy they testified at the desertion of the royal armies, were so many preparations for actual hostility, by which all prospects of establishing an equitable government were finally cut off. They relied openly upon the strength of their adherents among the populace. If they did not actually encourage them to threats and acts of violence, they availed themselves of those which were committed to intimidate and depress their opponents. This was the inauspicious commencement of the sins and the sufferings of the Revolution. The multitude, once allowed to overawe the old government with threats, soon subjected the new government to the same degradation. Reason and philosophy were discarded, and mere terror and brute force harassed the misguided nation, till, by a natural consummation, they fell under a successful military usurper.
As a contrast to the French Assembly, Lord Brougham powerfully and triumphantly quotes the old British constitution :—“No representative legislature can be secure, unless it contain within itself a large portion of those who form the natural aristocracy of the country, and are able, as individuals, to influence the conduct and opinions of the greater part of its inhabitants. In England, the House of Commons is made up of the individuals who, by birth, fortune, or talents, possess singly the greatest influence over the rest of the people. The most certain and permanent influence is that of rank and fortune ; and these are the qualifications, accordingly, which return the greatest number of members. Men submit to be governed by those to whose will, as individuals, the greatest part of them have been accustomed to submit; and an act of parliament is reverenced and obeyed, not so much because the people are impressed with a constitutional veneration for the thing
* Edinburgh Rerier, April 1805, p. 142.
called parliament, but because it has been passed by those who are recognised as their natural superiors, and by whose influence, as individuals, the same measures might have been enforced over the greater part of the kingdom. The Long Parliament, after it was purged by the Independents, enjoyed all the form of power that had belonged to their predecessors ; but as they no longer contained those individuals who were able to sway and influence the body of the people, they speedily lost all their authority over the multitude. Where the conditions on which we have insisted are awanting, the sudden institution of a representative legislature will only be the prelude to the most frightful disorders."*
We hold these observations of Lord Brougham's to be perfectly unanswerable ; and we bring them forward not from any puerile and contemptible desire of pointing out inconsistency in so able a man, but as the strongest proof of the rapid progress of democratic opinions during periods of excitement, and the necessity which the most powerful minds are under of bending to the force of that current which they have originally been chiefly instrumental in putting in motion. Borne forward upon the wave of popular ambition, the authors of the present bill are carried so far beyond their dispassionate opinion on a similar crisis in another state, that they have literally adopted the very measure which they condemned so vehemently in the French reformers, and set themselves to destroy that very aristocratic influence on which they had so well shown the proud superiority of the British legislature was founded.
Do they maintain, on the other hand, that the influence of the aristocracy will not be destroyed under the new constitution, that property will still maintain its just sway over the majority of the electors ?—the answer is to be found in the words of the noble mover of the present bill. “ It is quite certain," says Lord John Russell, “ that if members are to be returned entirely, or even chiefly, by the yeomanry of the country, no man will be able to stand up before them who is not known to them by harangue, and pledged to support whatever they choose to impose. The
# Edinburgh Rerier, April 1805, p. 145.
aristocracy thus will entirely lose their influence, or be reduced to the necessity, to preserve their popularity, of becoming demagogues. Either of which alternatives is infinitely to be dreaded.” *
Now, who are to be the electors under the new constitution ? Every householder paying rent to the amount of £10 a-year-every tenant paying rent to the amount of £50 a-year-every copyholder having property worth £10 a-year-every 40s., and ultimately, every £10 freeholder. Can any man, acquainted with the state of the middle ranks, doubt what description of persons will thus have the majority? The copyholders may be harmless enough ; but the introduction of the £10 householder is a complete change in the constitution, which is thenceforward placed on the most democratic basis. The tenants of such houses, it is always to be remembered, are seldom, if ever, possessed of any property. They are shopkeepers, journeymen operatives, or labourers of the better sort, a step above the day-labourer, but that is all. Liverpool, it is said, will produce 25,000 voters ; Manchester, 20,000; Edinburgh and Glasgow will certainly have at least 10,000 each. The influence of the landed proprietors in the counties will be generally merged in the votes of the shopkeepers and tenants in the villages and small towns in England, and in the feuars and shopkeepers in Scotland. This is precisely the class which, in every age and quarter of the world, have been found to be most democratical; and certainly their temper at present, and the tone of the revolutionary press, which they daily peruse, give no reason to suppose that they will form any exception to the rule.
It is said,t an extension of the suffrage is requisite to let in the enlarged intelligence and property of the middle and working classes to a share of the representation. Granted : but has not this effect taken place to as great an extent as is either safe or desirable, in consequence of the change in the value of money? A 40s. freehold in the time of Henry VI., when that standard was first fixed, was
* Lord J. Russell on the Constitution, p. 341.
+ This passage, to the extract from Sir James Mackintosh, p. 35, is abridged from other papers on Parliamentary Reform, in Blackwood's Magazine, July, August, and Oct. 1831. The passage from Sir James Mackintosh is now quoted in the text, in further illustration of these views. VOL. I.
at least equal to a property worth £20 sterling a-year now. The silent unobserved lapse of time, and change in the value of money, have extended a privilege originally designed for the substantial geoman, to the simple cottager. When so great a change in favour of the democratic interest has taken place, and is in progress, by a process of innovation which is perfectly safe, and, as the increasing democratic tendency of the legislature evinces, perfectly effectual, why accelerate it by one which is, to say the least of it, uncertain and hazardous ?
But new places and interests, such as Manchester and the great manufacturing towns, require representatives. Granted : but because they require members, is that any reason for taking away the representatives from the colonies and the distant interests which now enjoy them through the medium of the close boroughs ? It is not the addition made to the representation at home, by the proposed Bill, but the subtraction made from the representation abroad, which is the grand evil that it proposes to consummate. Schedules A and B are the real grave of the British empire.
Considered with reference to domestic interests, and the future balance of the town and country parties in the State, there is one glaring piece of injustice introduced by the Reform Bill, for which not a shadow of an apology has been or can be offered by its supporters. It gives every ten pound tenant a vote within burghs, but only a fifty pound tenant a vote in the counties. What is the reason of this great difference? Is it that the rural tenant, with his ploughs, waggons, and farm-stocking, is a less substantial person than the urban tenant with his casks of beer or spirits, or stock of goods, generally secured to the landlord for payment of his rent? Is it that experience has shown that the inhabitants of towns are so much more moderate in their habits, and tenacious of their ideas, so singularly quiet and peaceable, so little liable to be affected by demagogues or mobs, that the suffrage can safely be intrusted to a class in them paying a fifth of the rent which is required of a similar class in the counties? The thing can admit only of one explanation. The object of the Bill is to give an overwhelming majority to the urban and democratic interests in the Legislature, although at least two-thirds of the income of the State comes from rural labour. And to insure this result, not content with giving three-fifths of the seats in the House of Commons to the representatives of boroughs, they lower the suffrage in these boroughs to one-fifth of what is required of a similar class in the country.
Independent of this scandalous and barefaced inequality, there is a permanent reason in the nature of things why a representation, founded even on a uniform qualification for town and country, must, in a wealthy and commercial community, always in the long run give the majority of influence to the inhabitants of towns. It has been thus explained by Sir James Mackintosh, one of the supporters of the present Bill :"A representation founded on numbers merely, would be productive of gross inequality in that very class to which all others are sacrificed. Every other interest in society is placed at the disposal of the multitude. No other class can be effectually represented ; no other class can have any political security for justice ; no other can have any weight in the legislature. No talents, no attainments, but such as recommend men to the favour of the multitude, can have admission into it. A representation so constituted would produce the same practical results as if every man whose income was above a certain amount was excluded from voting. It is of little moment to the proprietors whether they be disfranchised, or doomed in every election to form a hopeless minority. The difference, moreover, between the people of the town and country, is attended with consequences which no law can obviate. Towns are the nursery of political feeling. The frequency of meeting, the warmth of discussion, the variety of pursuit, the rivalship of interest, the fluctuations and extremes of fortune, direct the minds of their inhabitants to the public concerns, and render them the seats of republican governments, or the preservers of liberty in monarchies. Among the more numerous classes, no strong public sentiment can be kept up without frequent meetings. It is when they are animated by a view of their own strength and numbers, when they are stimulated by an eloquence suited to their characters, and when the passions of each are strengthened by the like emotions of the multitude which surround