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MONTHLY COMMENTARY.

The French Assassinations-A Family Group near Greenwich-Errors of the Press-Privileges of Parliament-The Extraordinary Orange-Book.

THE FRENCH ASSASSINATIONS.-The close of last month has been rendered more memorable in the history of Our Time than even the latter days of July, 1830. Centuries almost have passed since a successful attempt at wholesale assassination has been recorded. Men, as in Spain, have committed extensive butchery in cold blood, and have used the hallowed name of "liberty" while shooting unarmed prisoners; but it was reserved for France to add to her long catalogue of offences against humanity, one that is almost without parallel even in the darkest ages. The event to which we refer is described elsewhere; we allude to it here chiefly because it affords a powerful warning against the spread of principles that placed Louis Philippe on a throne which has been to him a seat of thorns. What have the French people gained by exchanging King Log for King Stork? The press is, at this moment, far more shackled than it was in 1830; the houses of persons "suspected"-a term very useful to despots-may be entered at any hour; and a citizen of France has no better assurance of his right to walk the streets of Paris, than when the more practised cut-throats under Robespierre ruled the city. So much, and no more, have the French obtained by their struggle of " three glorious days." The affair of which Fieschi is the hero may be considered, however, but as the prologue to a drama that has been long in rehearsal. The times are changed; and instead of compelling the King to submit to a mock trial previous to execution, the Republicans will resort to the more certain and quicker mode of assassination. One attempt has failed; the next may be, and probably will be, successful. The warning-boast of the ruffian is, that the King is not in any present danger, because" It must be some time before another Fieschi can be found." There is an old English couplet which contains a volume

"Learn to be wise by others' harm,
And you will do full well."

The lesson taught by the French Revolution of 1830, like that of 1793, has not been lost upon Great Britain. Among us there may be many "discontented and repining spirits;" some who will even go the lengths of declaring that an Englishman's "house" shall be no longer" his castle," but that armed officers shall break down his door and seize his private papers; yet the good sense and upright feeling of our country are still matters to boast of-not matters of mere history.

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A FAMILY GROUP NEAR GREENWICH.-Colonel Perceval remarked truly enough the other day, that if an 'angel from heaven" were to undertake the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would fail to please all parties. There is a wide difference however between pleasing all, and displeasing everybody. Mr. Spring Rice seems, just now, much nearer the latter point than the former. But whatever ridicule or reprobation may be bestowed upon his maiden Budget, there was one bright hope held out

in his speech on the occasion, that at once lightened up the darkness visible of his schemes. We allude to the Right Hon. Gentleman's assurance that the new poor-law system will, beyond question, benefit the agricultural interests more than any reduction of taxation that the most sanguine of the race of Humes could possibly anticipate. We confess that we should put more faith in this pleasant prophecy, if the workings of the system hitherto did not denote a rather opposite result, as far as the agricultural labourers are concerned; and we presume that no statesman would designedly leave them out in his estimate of the agricultural interests. Mr. Spring Rice's position may enable him to take a bird's-eye view of the blessings that are to spring up where all seems to be barren; while ours may only enable us to see the evils that are hidden from him.

The same print in which we read this gratifying promise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, contained one of the most appalling of the innumerable cases of individual hardship, to which the hopeful system has given rise. It has passed comparatively unnoticed among the stirring topics of the hour. At the Greenwich petty-sessions a labouring man was summoned to show cause why he did not support his three grandchildren. To show cause! Well, he proceeded to show that he supported a wife and five children-that he supported an aged father and mother beside; making, altogether, nine persons supported by his individual labour. He showed, also, that the earnings upon which this was done amounted only to thirteen shillings a week. Was this showing cause why he had not supported three grandchildren also? Unfortunately, with the idea of strengthening his " cause," this poor man alleged that he had just contrived to pay five pounds for medical attendance for his infirm parents, rather than resort to charitable aid. This act of virtue was fatal to him. Sir Thomas Wilson protested, that if the man could save up five pounds out of his small income, he could support three extra children! And Mr. Finch (the M.P. we believe) had the delicacy to insinuate that the offender had some decent furniture! He was ordered to take the three children into his keeping, on pain of being sent to the House of Correction. So that at this moment there may be witnessed, within six miles of the metropolis, the extraordinary spectacle of four generations-consisting in the whole of twelve human beings-subsisting upon thirteen shillings a week, or something less than twopence a day each! Such spectacles, undoubtedly, become less startling as we proceed farther from London; they may be common enough in many parts of the country; but while they are multiplying hourly, under the operation of this benevolent system, it requires the unusual stretch of faith in the prophetic powers of a Chancellor of the Exchequer to induce us to sit quietly down and await the miraculous gushing of the water from the flinty rock.

ERRORS OF THE PRESS.-Sin, we are informed, engenders sin. Errors of the press beget errors of the press. Mr. Moore, in his recent reproduction of the " Fudges," has some ten lines of verse recording an error or two of a whimsical cast, though not perhaps in the nicest taste. It is curious that these ten lines of verse, upon such a subject, have gone the round of the papers in the following form:

"And you can't think what havoc these demons sometimes choose to make of one's sense, and what's worse, of one's rhymes. But a week or two since, in my ode upon Spring, which I meant to have made a most beautiful thing, where I talk'd of the 'dew drops from freshly-blown roses!' the nasty things made it 'from freshly-blown noses!' And once, when to please my cross aunt I had tried to commemorate some saint of her clique, who'd just died, having said he had tak'n up in heaven his position,' they made it, he'd tak'n up to heav'n his physician!'"*

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It must be taken for granted that this prosaic version is an error, and not the result of a piece of sly and humorous revenge on the part of the printer. If it be a joke, then it is no joke. It is nothing if not accidental. At any rate, it has been copied in its present form into various papers, as though it had no pretensions to rhythm.

PRIVILEGES OF PARLIAMENT.-The present House of Commons has, from the commencement of the Session to the eleventh hour of its duration, been infinitely more rigid in the maintenance of its privileges, and more quick to detect offence, and more eager to punish with severity, than any preceding Parliament for a long series of years. The important part which the Irish Members have been called upon to play in it, in turning the scale of power, and deciding the course of policy, would seem to have communicated something of the Irish irritability to its character. On one only point it seems to have declined an opportunity of resenting a breach of privilege, and that of so gross a kind that we feel some scruple even in alluding to it. A Dublin paper had charged Mr. Maxwell and another Honourable Member with "telling lies," and the House, with a lenity curiously contrasted with its ordinary sternness, refused to summon the offender to its bar. It actually missed an occasion of sending a man to Newgate. Now, however arbitrary its conduct may have been in other cases, here is one sign of good and generous feeling. The House saw that the libel was directed against Mr. Maxwell as a Member of Parliament, for he distinctly stated that "the allusion could not be to anything he had said elsewhere." This furnished an excellent ground for non-interference. To charge a gentleman with departing from the truth in the House of Commons is surely no charge against his moral character. To accuse him of fibbing in his political capacity within the walls, is to leave him without as speckless as purity. Is it not an occurrence of every day? Do not Honourable Members nightly throw out the same delicate accusations against each other, in language equally explicit if less pithy-of outward form more elaborate," but of inward, no less exact?" It has become part and parcel of parliamentary usage-it forms one of the "privileges" of the "Reformed "House; and it is not unnatural that the press, reporting the debates, should catch its spirit, and adopt its language. Nothing "personal" was intended by the use of the epithet,-nothing that could have the remotest application to the conduct of the Honourable Member—“ elsewhere;" and, therefore, being strictly confined to Parliamentary character, it could not possibly affect moral character, which are now understood to be two opposite things. The_House felt that it would be ridiculous to reprehend a man for using Parliamentary language, and acting upon a principle high in favour with the Legislature. In one instance, then, we are compelled to admire the discreet and considerate spirit of the arbitrary House. The consequences of calling men to account for indulging in these little licenses of speech, these trifling freedoms of phraseology, that" mean nothing," would be positively awful. Half the House would be firing at the other half; and as for editors, more Newgates must be erected for their reception.

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PAINS AND PENALTIES OF INNOCENCE.We have had our recollection called to a curious occurrence that took place not long since at one of the police-offices. An aged man, who had been charged with some minor offence, was proved to be innocent, and ordered to be discharged; upon which he suddenly became eloquent, and implored the magistrate to reverse the decree, to adjudge the offence to be proved, to find a verdict of guilty, and to be charitable enough to inflict upon him a sentence of

imprisonment. He appealed to the mercy of the bench for an exercise of its rigour. He prayed more feelingly for punishment than others pray to be let off. There seemed something inexplicable in all this, yet the petition was a reasonable one, and the innocent man was by no means out of his senses in begging to be branded as guilty. It presently appeared that his discharge from custody was contingent upon his payment of the prison fees! The amount of these we are ignorant of; but the innocent prisoner in this case was so poor, so helpless from age and want, that he could not raise the amount. To him, therefore, the discharge was no dismissal at all; the verdict of "found innocent" was virtually a sentence of punishment, without an exact limit. Pronounced guiltless, he might remain in custody for-turnkeys only know how long; but, pronounced guilty, he would be certain of his liberation on a specified day. Which was the best? Was it not natural for him to petition for punishment? Of the two evils, guilt and innocence, he chose the least-guilt.

A dramatic version of an American quarrel, in some farce that we have seen, contained a bold stroke in the way of retort; one of the wordy warriors saluting the other thus-"I wouldn't be in a raffle for you, for fear of winning you." The same fear might possess the man who is interested in the raffle for justice. He might reasonably dread being the lucky winner. His hopes might naturally run in favour of losing. Good fortune in some cases is in reality ill-luck. We should advise poor people to keep out of the way of police-law, for fear of being found innocent. If they are very destitute, they should take care to have witnesses in attendance to establish their guilt beyond danger of disproof. In proportion to their dislike of imprisonment, they will be anxious to avoid a sentence of dismissal. They must think less about clearing their characters than clearing their persons effectually. They must hope for a blank in the lottery; a prize will surely perplex them. If beaten they are victorious ; but if they conquer they are undone.

It may not be much known, except to the individual sufferers, that this practice is in daily force in the metropolitan temples of justice. Take an instance from last week's report. An unfortunate wight (it did not appear that he was intoxicated) had been assaulted at a late hour of the night, and for exercising his lungs in violent calls upon the police, was lodged in the station-house. The next morning he appeared at Bow-street, and was thus dismissed by the magistrate-" As you have done no harm, pay your discharge, and go about your business." Now, could the most cunning malignity have conceived a severer satire upon justice than is contained in this decree-one out of a hundred that happen weekly-" As you have done no harm, pay your discharge!" This is no fine for intoxication,—no penalty inflicted in place of imprisonment; it is the price (whatever may be the number of shillings) of being proclaimed innocent, and entitled to a discharge. It is the bribe to justice for not convicting-the unknown costs of having done " no harm" to anybody-the gratuitous addition to the misery of having passed a night in a dark cell with the most loathsome company; the ransom of an offender when he is proved to have committed no offence ;-the fee to "law" for having failed to violate it; -the legal charge for the pleasure of being wrongfully accused. Our Statute-Book is defaced by large as well as small blots; that which we have referred to may be among the most insignificant, but it is of a deep dye-a genuine jet black-and ought to be erased forthwith. What has the man who has done no harm, and who is declared innocent, to do with prison-fees?-yet the practice is useful while it remains, as furnishing a convenient example and perfect illustration of barbarisms of a greater magnitude in what we rightly designate our Criminal Code. Criminal it yet remains, in spite of the humanizing influences that in later years have partially subdued its fierceness.

THE EXTRAORDINARY ORANGE-BOOK.-We wonder that no enterprising publisher has yet furnished the world, under this title, with extracts from Col. Fairman's sealed volume of public and private documents, as a companion to the Extraordinary Black-book. Anything would do, so that it was abundantly monstrous; desperate treasons on the one page, and romantic billets-doux on the other. The "Lost Book Found" would make the tour of all the circulating libraries in the realm, within nine days, during which it would be the universal wonder. A portrait of the gallant Colonel might be prefixed, as the grand professor of the "Art of Bookkeeping." We throw out the hint gratis. There is no speculation in the age, if it be not taken in a dozen places.

No book of the season has created such a sensation. Indeed, no author of our time has yet written a volume which nine-tenths of the House of Commons were dying with anxiety to read the instant they heard of it. Col. Fairman may make his fortune by the copyright; but he must be quick, or counterfeits better than the original will be before him in the market.

It is fortunate for the object of Parliamentary judgment upon this occasion, that the sitting of the House approaches to its close. "The dread voice will soon be past, that shrunk his streams." He may then emerge from his hiding-place, set the Serjeant-at-Arms at defiance, and publish his invaluable book in the open daylight. Meanwhile, whatever justice or injustice he may have sustained by the votes of the House of Commons, he has a right to expect from the public due credit for the motives which he has solemnly asserted to prevail with him in refusing to yield obedience to the Parliamentary summons. He asserts that he withholds the book, not on personal considerations, but on public principle. He has paid, or is liable to pay, sufficiently for his refusal. He acts upon his responsibility. We think it unpardonable, therefore, that to the severity of Parliament exercised against him should be added the virulence and acrimony of the press. In one paper we observe Col. Fairman thus alluded to:-" The refractory Colonel appeared at the bar of the House in a blue coat turned up with purple velvet, and livery buttons, and with a long pair of sandycoloured mustachios hanging down on each side of the mouth, giving his countenance very much the appearance of that of a walrus, or sea-horse, in the books of birds and beasts." We apprehend that the object of this pitiful pleasantry was not being tried at the bar of the House of Commons upon a charge of not wearing a green coat, or of omitting to shave his upper lip, or of neglecting to dye his hair a dark brown. The Colonel might look like a walrus, possibly, without being exceedingly unlike many Members of Parliament. We really cannot see what these imputed peculiarities of appearance have to do with the Colonel's turpitude. Perhaps his critic was disappointed at not finding his mustachios orange-coloured.

The outrage upon British freedom, suggested, if not committed, by a few mis-called "Liberals," in the House of Commons, is, however, matter for more serious reflection. We have received a pretty intelligible hint of what we are to expect if ever the power be added to the will, and our longboasted English liberty be left at the mercy of such men as those, who one day advocate imprisonment in Newgate for the term of life, and the next determine that the door of a man's "castle" shall be burst open, his “ papers" ransacked, examined, and removed, at the pleasure of an armed officer.

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