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from the task of examining more minutely the aspects and events of the session. What first strikes us is, the fact of the most bitter attacks against the government having all proceeded from their nominal supporters. Threats, reproofs, reproaches, bitter irony, insults the most aggravated, have in succession originated with their friends, not with their foes. The press has deserted them, with scarcely an exception. The very candidates whom they support, as at Birmingham and South Lancashire, were compelled at the hustings to forswear their political allegiance, and disclaim Sir Robert Peel's government, as vehemently as they disclaimed the new Poor-Law. This we attribute to a conviction, now widely spread, of the total abandonment of the great principles of political morality by our rulers; and of the irresistible evidence, afforded by themselves, of their injustice and insincerity in regard to their political opponents. But the degradation of the party in this case involves, as a consequence, the degradation of the members who compose it. The sacrifice of consistency by the leader, has carried with it the loss of reputation by individual members of parliament. The first might have been pardoned, the second never can. It is suffieiently deplorable to have been held up to ridicule as innocent dupes; but to be exposed to the indignation of deceived and irritated constituencies, as willing and active instruments in deceiving others, is infinitely worse. But ministers have gone further; having lowered their own party, they have proceeded to lower the dignity of Parliament itself. On two several occasions, and in respect to two important measures, the House of Commons has been constrained, by commands issued in the most imperious tone, to set aside its own previous votes and resolutions! This was done on the Factory bill. A similar course was pursued when the government was defeated on Mr Miles's motion. We are unwilling to trust ourselves to any commentary on these events, preferring to rely on the less suspicious testimony of a Tory chronicler. About a month ago the House was called upon to rescind a motion of deep interest, and for the first time since the vote on the malt-tax, the • House submitted to that process, which was regarded with so • much mistrust. I cannot help thinking that some mysterious • influence must have been at work to place us before the country in a position which no one can, I believe, describe as other than degrading to us all. I think the First Minister should deign "to consult a little more the feelings of his supporters. I do not think he ought to drag them unreasonably through the mire. To call upon them to rescind one vote was enough
Those gentlemen who manage the detail of party should draw ' up some tariff of parliamentary disgrace. We should be told 'ministers have gauged your parliamentary independence, and you have a semblance of freedom on this point; but the moment you go further, you must either submit to public disgrace, or we must retire into private life. The right honourable gentleman came forward with a detestation of slavery in every place except on the benches behind him. It was better that system should terminate. The minister deserved a better position than one which could only be preserved by menacing his friends, or cringing to his opponents.den vincenty
Such is the bitter statement made by one of those who were most forward in assisting the government to rise to power, on the overthrow of their Whig predecessors. We extract it not only as evidence of what is said by one, but of what is felt by very many. These differences of opinion were not visible during the gloom of opposition. They are made prominent by the sunshine of office. When the glorious luminary has sunk behind a mountain range, we can only trace one uniform surface and one general outline; when the hill-side is fully illuminated, every irregularity of form, every projecting rock, every deep ravine and sheltered cove, is made visible. Nor ought we to feel much surprise at the above strong language of complaint, nor at the more measured but scarcely less bitter reproofs administered by Lord Sandon to his friends. The pretensions advanced by the government to the allegiance of their party, were scarcely compatible with parliamentary independence, or with private honour. If the measure we propose is important, we demand your votes 'for the sake of the public; if it is unimportant, we demand them for our own. On great questions you must support our policy; on secondary questions your difference can only be construed as an act of determined hostility. What does this mean, and to what does it amount but a denial of all right of freedom of action to the supporters of the government? The same principle is involved in an argument lately addressed to the public by another partisan of the Cabinet, whose advocacy of the necessity of respecting private judgment in politics, and adopting the doctrines of non-resistance and passive obedience, is only the more startling and offensive from being in a printed shape, and from assuming the solemnity of a philosophical abstraction. 'Is it not one of the lessons of the times,'-observes the author of the Ministry and the Sugar-duties,'' that the sphere of the free agency of individuals forming part of popular assemblies is undergoing progressive contraction, and that whatever is now
meant by freedom it is not their privilege to increase their share of it. The functions of the state may in some respects 'be enlarged, but those of the persons who work its institutions generally grow less moral and more mechanical.' It is not surprising that these principles and these practices, however they may succeed at a crisis, should have weakened the government, and weakened the attachment of their supporters.
It must not be considered that this condition of the Ministry is one only productive of weakness and inconvenience to themselves. We have already shown its mischievous operation on Parliament and on public opinion. But it produces other practical results equally injurious. In making the government powerless, it makes the legislature weak and imperfect. Let us refer to the fate of the Ecclesiastical Courts bill for an example. The importance of this measure has not been fully appreciated by the public; otherwise they would never have submitted to be made the victims of a cabal of interested individuals. We entreat the attention of our readers to the subject. Owing to legal distinctions, and claims not defensible, or even intelligible in modern times, important branches of our law-more especially those relating to marriage, to wills, to tithes, to churchrates, and to several heads of moral offences-have been exclusively confided to Ecclesiastical Courts. Under this system, questions the most difficult, and at times the most conflicting, arise. The disposition of real estates by will, is determined by one court; the distribution of personal property, by another. Even the protection of a common court of appeal is withheld. One cause is carried to the Privy Council; another to the House of Lords. Nay, the judgment of both tribunals may be required in respect to the same Will, and those judgments may be conflicting. But this is a small part only of the evil. Judges appointed, not by the Crown, but by authorities nearly irresponsible, are allowed to act and decide, without any Bar of qualified lawyers to arrest their proceedings and to protect private rights. An average of less than two causes in the year cannot give experience to a court; nor can a miserable pittance in the way of remuneration procure the services of an able judge. Archbishops, Bishops, Archdeacons, are entrusted with judicial patronage or authority; and courts exist in three hundred peculiars, which might be despised as contemptible, if they were not felt to be mischievous. Even facility of access to their courts is wanting;-an advantage so much relied on when a measure of reform is to be resisted. From Penzance to Exeter is a hundred and twenty-one miles, and the Bishops' courts of Carlisle, St David's, and Chichester are sixty, seventy, and eighty miles from parts of the several dio
VOL, LXXXI, NO, CLXII.
down their majority. The measure failed in the House of Commons, and we rejoice at its failure. It would have been productive both of expense and of mischief. To leave an annual average of one cause and a fraction to be decided by each judge, and to appoint a Sergeant at Law or a Barrister of five years' standing for the performance of these functions, was an insult to the human understanding. But what was infinitely more objectionable than the mere expense, was the retention of the diocesan courts after the abolition of the peculiars. This would have rendered all future reform a work difficult, if no wholly impossible; and the newly appointed law functionaries would have been so many recruits enlisted in defence of the reconstructed, rather than amended ecclesiastical courts.
We must not pass to another subject without protesting in the strongest manner against the supposition that the House of Commons would not have been willing to pass a really good measure on this subject, had that measure been introduced, and earnestly supported by the government. To the principle of such a reform all the members of the late administration stood pledged and to that principle all rational men must wish success. We are well aware of the power exercised by country proctors and attorneys. When their columns advance, or their fines deploy, we know well how powerful is their charge on even a thoroughly disciplined parliamentary phalanx. But we feel confident that this opposition would be encountered and overcome, if the measure proposed were made worth the risk and sacrifice. But even if the House of Commons had been coerced by local influences to give an effectual opposition to an honest measure, (a supposition which we utterly deny,) it was equally unjustifiable, on the part of the government, to act on this assumption. If in this, as in another most
Deeds,) the agency of country attorneys in influencing members of the House of Commons, through their constituents, is admitted to be all-powerful-why should not the House of Peers, freed as it is, or ought to be, from these unworthy influences, frame, year after year, well-considered remedial measures, relying for their ultimate success on the force of truth and the effects of discussion-thus vindicating for themselves a claim to the respect and gratitude of the public?
countant measure, (the Registration of
We set great stress upon Law Reform; but it must be undertaken both in a spirit of courage and earnestness, and of honesty. The talisman is broken if its powers are perverted for the promotion of any selfish interest. Improvement and jobbing ought not to be combined; and yet it would appear that such an attempt had been made, with but too much of success, in the Session of 1843. In that year a Bill was introduced for effecting reform in