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employ! This for the sake of multiplying those factories, the system of which, when brought to light by the Report of the House of Commons, and of its Commissioners, thrilled all readers with astonishment and horror!-those factories, compared to which the sugar plantation was as the Garden of Eden!
A correspondent of the Times newspaper, who inveighs against the nefarious combination entered into by the landed interest for raising the price of the poor man's loaf,' calls the corn-law's . an enormous tax, horrible from its positive inhumanity, and offensive from its iniquitous partiality ;' and asks, 'why, in God's name, is the whole country not up? '* Heaven knows we need no additional excitements in these days to sturdy petitioners, tumults, arson, insurrection, and a servile war! Have those persons who raise or join in this groundless accusation against the landowners, the gentry, and the yeomanry of England have they asked themselves whether there is no positive inhumanity in the child-working system ?-whether the human part of the machinery in our nianufactories, be it man, woman, or child, is always so well remunerated for its time and toil, that there is no appearance of iniquity there,-no semblance of injustice,-nothing offensive to the instinctive sense of right and wrong?
Mr. Cobbett spoke wisely when he cautioned parliament against inferring that the state of trade was flourishing because a few knots of persons throughout the country were accumulating great capital; he warned it against taking their prosperity for a proof of the general weal. The manufacturing system has indeed raised up an aristocracy of trade, more wealthy, and now more powerful, than the old nobility of the realm ; but it has raised up, at the same time, its legions, who are embodied in open and in secret confederacies, some really as well as ostensibly for objects that are both lawful and just others for the most iniquitous, the most desperate, and the most dangerous designs. These men know, feelingly, that their condition is worse than it ought to be, worse than it need be ;- they are miserably mistaken in all their views for bettering it; and they do not ask themselves how greatly its evils are aggravated by their own imprudence and their own vices. But if the progress of good feelings and sane opinions,---if the religious principles of the British people (for, notwithstanding the unchecked efforts which are continually made by the propagandists of anarchy and atheism, we are still a religious people)-if policy, humanity, piety, the sense of duty towards God and man, should be found
* The same cry is the uniform burden of innumerable articles on this subject in the · Morning Chronicle.' Its active correspondent .H. B. T.' has just published his letters in a separate form, and he is known to be a gentleman holding an important office under government-viz. Mr. Hume of the Board of Trade !
too too feeble for effecting such a reform in the manufacturing system as that it can be carried on consistently with the well-being of the persons employed in it with health and good morals, with wholesome intervals for rest and recreation, as well as for schooling, - with the rights of human nature, the most indubitable and sacred of all rights ;-if such a reform be not effected in the manufacturing system, the system itself will be destroyed by its own inbred evils. It carries in itself the sure cause of its own terrible destruction. That physical force which it has brought together as an instrument of lucration—a part of its machinery-will one day explode under high pressure; and the words of the poet will then have a new and appalling interpretation
Labor omnia vincit Improbus, et duris urgens in rebus egestas.' It is only by bettering the condition of the labouring classes, physically and morally, that such a catastrophe can be averted. But as regards agriculture at this time, to abstain from doing evil will be doing good; and this we may hope for, even from this ministry.
Since the foregoing observations were drawn up, the question of the corn-laws has been brought distinctly before the House of Commons, on the 6th of March, by a motion of Mr. Joseph Hume. On the morning of that day, the public mind was very much excited by a declaration of ministers, that it was to be considered as an open question that is, one on which his Majesty's government, as such, iook no part, but left the several members of the administration to follow their own individual opinions. Such a declaration produced great surprise and considerable alarm-surprise that a government professing the principles on which the present ministry is founded, should venture to call any question an open or a close one-alarm that this momentous topic should have been selected for so unconstitutional an experiment. In defence of the ministers, on the first point, we were reminded that a · Tory cabinet had consented to leave catholic emancipation an open question—why not, then, the corn-laws ?' But the cases are by no means parallel. The distinctions and differences are numerous and essential. We shall, however, notice only two--but two which are quite as powerful as two thousand. First, the (so-called) * Tory cabinet,' was formed on that avowed principle. We doubted then, and we now more than doubt, whether such an arrangement was constitutional in principle, or safe in practice; but it was done openly and avowedly, before any man had accepted
office, and indeed after it had been proved, by a long and alarming abeyance of the powers of government, that, without this previous condition, no government could, in that great crisis of the affairs of the world, have been constituted. That is the first differencea difference in the facts of the case. The second is a difference of principle, not less decisive. The Reform Bill had not then passed. The great object of that bill was to destroy the system of virtual representation which gave to the members of the House of Commons, both in theory and practice, a right of individual judgment paramount to, and in some degree independent of, the opinions of particular constituencies. But the reformed House of Commons professes to be an actual representation of its constituents. There are no longer any close boroughs to which a public man may retire -- as Mr. Wilberforce did from Yorkshire ~or Mr. Canning from Liverpool - or Sir Robert Peel from Oxford-in order to be at greater liberty to forward what the individual statesman considers to be the general weal of the country, unfettered by the prejudices, passions, or local interests to which large constituencies are liable. The Reform Bill affects to afford a full, and real, and bonâ fide representation of the people. How, then, can those who framed that bill—those who derive their their seats, their places, and their power from it, and it alonehow can they have the effrontery to talk of close or open questions? Can any question be close? Is not every question open? Are not all the regenerated representatives of the people at full liberty to follow, in their parliamentary conduct, the instructions of their constituents? or, where those wishes may not have been expressed, the unbiassed dictates of their own judgment and conscience?
An open question. Have, then, all the other great questions of this session and the last been close? Have we now an avowal that there is as used to be said of the Throne-a power behind the PEOPLE, GREATER than the people itself-a mysterious but irresistible power, which shall proclaim to the real, the bonâ fide representatives of The Nation, ‘On every question in the whole vast circumference of public affairs you shall say ay at my signal, and no at my nod; but if there should happen to be a solitary point on which I cannot make up my own mind,-or dare not avow the mind I have made up,-or find it convenient to create anxiety and doubt-on that one question I allow you to have an opinion on that I consent to your exercising your judgments -On one day in every two years, I graciously permit you to have a conscience?' Such, in common sense and plain language, is the real interpretation of the term open question ; and we will venture to assert, that the recent use by the Minister of that expression was, under all the circumstances of the case, an instance-not of
inconsistency—that is too poor a term-but of effrontery and profligacy, unparalleled in our political annals. No wonder, then, that it excited surprise. But it also created a painful alarm. It was reasonably supposed that the Reform Ministry would not so early and so audaciously throw away its mask without some great and urgent motive; and it was apprehended, that what is for convenience called the agricultural interest, but which is, as we have show'n, in the largest and truest sense of the term, the interest of the whole nation—the interest not of the land alone, but of trade, of commerce, of arts, of manufactures-of good order of the constitution—nay, of the very animal existence of the people, it was apprehended, we say, that this universal interest was about to be abandoned to the ignorant and the insane-to the demagogue and the theorist to the proselytes of that ridiculous but perilous paradox, that it is possible at the same time to raise the price of labour and lower the price of food. Every rational man, who looked at the practical state of the country, foresaw that what is called a free trade in corn would, by shaking the great basis of national wealth, disturb the surest supply of public sustenance, and risk the great principles of public order. Those who looked further into moral consequences trembled at the effect of a general disappointment of the lower classes, and at the risk which might ensue to the very vitals of society, when it should turn out that the change had produced, as, assuredly it would, lower wages and less food, pauperism and famine.
Such were the apprehensions excited by the idea that the Government meant to abandon the present system of corn-laws; but fortunately the debate and the division proved them to be, for the moment, unfounded. These Ministers are never bona fide: whether they flatter or menace, whether they consent or decline, whether they seem conservative or destructive, mall is false and hollowall trick and juggle-all vacillating, inconsistent, fictitious, and deceptious. 'Twas a false alarm. The unanimous cabinet-the great body of the office-holders—the dense mass of their adherents—were steady in their resistance to Mr. Hume; and, on the division, it appeared that this farce of an open question had been announced for the joint benefit of Mr. Edward Ellice and Mr. Poulett Thomson, who were thereby accommodated with an opportunity of giving a popular vote, to conciliate their anti-cornlaw friends at Coventry and Manchester, and to facilitate their reelection, if it should happen that, by a change of their present offices for something higher, these great Statesmen should have to undergo the unpleasant ordeal of the hustings !
And was it for this shabby and contemptible object that the ministry was so rash as to alarm the country on so vital an interest
VOL. LI. NO. CI.
and so indiscreet as to broach, to a Reformed Parliament, the awful mysteries of questions close and questions open ? We verily
silly purpose ! and though the debate was protracted to a second night, the discovery of this poor juggle, and its poorer object, so paralyzed all feeling, that the question which on Thursday morning had created the most intense anxiety on all sides, was disposed of on Friday night with less interest than any other question of the session.
In the debate, however, two things were remarkable : Lord Darlington stated, and was not contradicted, that while the government professed neutrality, it was secretly but zealously endeavouring to swell the majority against Mr. Hume; yet, of the half-dozen officemen who voted in the minority, we find the son, the son-in-law, the brother-in-law, and the nephew of the Prime Minister. Lord Grey, it seems, fancied this corn question was so perilous a quagmire, that, while he insisted on dragging the ól word or of his followers through it, he, with parental tenderness, allowed his own family to escape. The other remarkable incident was the conduct of the First Lord of the Admiralty : Sir James Graham had, a few nights before, distinguished himself by the high honour and consistency of his conduct in the affair of Mr. Baron Smith, in which, amongst the faithless only faithful found,' he adhered to what had been the first resolve of the government, and vindicated—even amidst the tergiversation of his colleagues--the wisdom and justice of the original determination of the cabinet. On the corn question, again, the Right Honourable Baronet came forward with equal dignity and more powerful talent; his speech was one of the ablest ever delivered on such a subject-clear in its arrangement, strong in its facts, irresistible in its arguments and pronounced with such appropriate eloquence and such evident sincerity, as to obtain and deserve the applause and confidence of an immense majority of the House.
The danger of any sudden change of system is therefore over-for the present-perhaps even for the session; though we confess that the visible conduct of the Grey family—what we have heard and believe of the feelings of a considerable party in the cabinet on this occasion and indeed our general impression as to all the
sayings and doings' of a government which, like a pendulumclock, is kept going only by oscillation-must necessarily excite considerable uneasiness as to the future. Sir James Graham's speech has already done much good in the country, and will do more as it is more maturely considered ; and we have some hopes that it may tend to render real and effective, the apparent unanimity of the cabinet. As to the people,