I affirm, then, that, as there was no wrong, there is no indignity—the present Members owe their high situation to circumstances, local and national. They are there because no one else has presented himself, or, for some years back, has been likely to present himself, with pretensions, the reasonableness of which could enter into competition with their's. This is, in some points of view, a misfortune, but it is the fact; and no class of men regret it more than the independent and judicious adherents of the House of Lowther: Men who are happy and proud to rally round the Nobleman who is the head of that House, in defence of rational liberty: Men who know that he has proved himself a faithful guardian to the several orders of the State—that he is a tried enemy to dangerous innovations—a condemner of fantastic theories—one who understands mankind, and knows the heights and levels of human nature, by which the course of the streams of social action is determined—a Lover of the People, but one who despises, as far as relates to his own practice; and deplores, in respect to that of others, the shows, and pretences, and all the false arts by which the plaudits of the multitude are won, and the people flattered to the common ruin of themselves and their deceivers.
But after all, let us soberly enquire to what extent it is really an evil that two persons, so nearly connected in blood, should represent this County. And first looking at the matter locally, what is that portion of England known by the name of the County of Westmoreland? A County which indeed the natives of it love, and are justly proud of; a region famous for the production of shrewd, intelligent, brave, active, honest, enterprising men:—but it covers no very large space on the map; the soil is in general barren, the country poor accordingly, and of necessity thinly inhabited. There are in England single Towns, even of a third or fourth rate importance, that contain a larger population than is included within the limits of Westmoreland, from the foot of Wrynose to the sides of Stainmoor, and from the banks of the Kent to those of the Emont. Is it, then, to be wondered at, considering the antiquity of the House of Lowther, that circumstances should have raised it to the elevation which it holds in a district so thinly peopled, neither rich in the products of Agriculture, nor in the materials of Commerce, and where it is impossible that any considerable number of Country Gentlemen of large, or as our ancestors expressed themselves of notable estate, can co-exist. It must unavoidably happen therefore that, at all times, there will be few persons, in such a County, furnished with the stable requisites of property, rank, family, and personal fitness, that shall point them out for such an office, and dispose them to covet it, by insuring that degree of public confidence which will make them independent, comfortable, and happy, in discharging the duties which it imposes. This small number will, at particular periods, be liable to be reduced; that this has been the case is apparent upon retrospect; and that the number is not large at present, may be inferred from the difficulty with which a third Candidate has been found; and from the insignificant station which the Individual, who has at length obeyed the call of the discontented, holds in the County.
With these local circumstances general considerations have powerfully co-operated, to place the representation of Westmoreland where it now is; and to this second division of the subject I particularly request your attention, Gentlemen, as reflecting Patriots.
Looking up to the government with respectful attachment, we all acknowledge that power must be controlled and checked, or it will be abused; hence the desirableness of a vigorous opposition in the House of Commons; and hence a wish, grounded upon a conviction of general expediency, that the opposition to ministry, whose head and chief seat of action are in Parliament, should be efficaciously diffused through all parts of the Country. On this principle the two grand divisions of Party, under our free government, are founded. Conscience regulated by expediency, is the basis; honour, binding men to each other in spite of temptation, is the corner-stone; and the superstructure is friendship, protecting kindness, gratitude, and all the moral sentiments by which self-interest is liberalized. Such is Party, looked at on the favourable side. Cogent moral inducements, therefore, exist for the prevalence of two powerful bodies in the practice of the State, spreading their influence and interests throughout the country; and, on political considerations, it is desirable that the strength of each should bear such proportion to that of the other, that, while Ministry are able to carry into effect measures not palpably injurious, the vigilance of Opposition may turn to account, being backed by power at all times sufficient to awe, but never, (were that possible) except when supported by manifest reason, to intimidate.
Such apportioning of the strength of the two Parties has existed; such a degree of power the Opposition formerly possessed; and if they have lost that salutary power, if they are dwindled and divided, they must ascribe it to their own errors. They are weak because they have been unwise: they are brought low, because when they had solid and high ground to stand upon, they took a flight into the air. To have hoped too ardently of human nature, as they did at the commencement of the French Revolution, was no dishonour to them as men; but politicians cannot be allowed to plead temptations of fancy, or impulses of feeling, in exculpation of mistakes in judgement. Grant, however, to the enthusiasm of Philanthropy as much indulgence as it may call for, it is still extraordinary that, in the minds of English Statesmen and Legislators, the naked absurdity of the means did not raise a doubt as to the attainableness of the end. Mr. Fox, captivated by the vanities of a system founded upon abstract rights, chaunted his expectations in the House of Parliament; and too many of his Friends partook of the illusion. The most sagacious Politician of his age broke out in an opposite strain. Time has verified his predictions; the books remain in which his principles of foreknowledge were laid down; but, as the Author became afterwards a Pensioner of State, thousands, in this country of free opinions, persist in asserting that his divination was guess-work, and that conscience had no part in urging him to speak. That warning voice proved vain; the Party from whom he separated, proceeded—confiding in splendid oratorical talents and ardent feelings rashly wedded to novel expectations, when common sense, uninquisitive experience, and a modest reliance on old habits of judgement, when either these, or a philosophic penetration, were the only qualities that could have served them.
How many private Individuals, at that period, were kept in a rational course by circumstances, supplying restraints which their own understandings would not have furnished! Through what fatality it happens, that Bodies of Men are so slow to profit, in a similar way, by circumstances affecting their prosperity, the Opposition seem never to have enquired. They could not avoid observing, that the Holders of Property throughout the country, being mostly panic-stricken by the proceedings in France, turned instinctively against the admirers of the new system;—and, as security for property is the very basis of civil society, how was it possible but that reflecting men, who perceived this truth, should mistrust those Representatives of the People, who could not have acted less prudently, had they been utterly unconscious of it! But they had committed themselves and did not retract; either from unabating devotion to their cause, or from false honour, and that self-injuring consistency, the favourite sister of obstinacy, which the mixed conscience of mankind is but too apt to produce. Meanwhile the tactics of Parliament must continue in exercise on some system or other; their adversaries were to be annoyed at any rate; and so intent were they upon this, that, in proportion as the entrenchments of Ministry strengthened, the assaults of Opposition became more careless and desperate.
While the war of words and opinions was going forward in this country, Europe was deluged with blood. They in whose hands power was vested among us, in course of time, lost ground in public opinion, through the failure of their efforts. Parties were broken and re-composed; but Men who are brought together less by principle than by events, cannot cordially co-operate, or remain long united. The opponents of the war, in this middle stage and desponding state of it, were not popular; and afterwards, when the success of the enemy made the majority of the Nation feel, that Peace dictated by him could not be lasting, and they were bent on persevering in the struggle, the Party of Opposition persisted in a course of action which, as their countenance of the doctrine of the rights of man, had brought their understandings into disrepute, cast suspicion on the soundness of their patriotic affections. Their passions made them blind to the differences between a state of peace and war, (above all such a war!) as prescribing rules for their own conduct. They were ignorant, or never bore in mind, that a species of hostility which, had there been no foreign enemy to resist, might have proved useful and honourable, became equally pernicious and disgraceful, when a formidable foe threatened us with destruction.
I appeal to impartial recollection, whether, during the course of the late awful struggle, and in the latter stages of it especially, the antagonists of Ministers, in the two Houses of Parliament, did not, for the most part, conduct themselves more like allies to a military despot, who was attempting to enslave the world, and to whom their own country was an object of paramount hatred, than like honest Englishmen, who had breathed the air of liberty from their cradles. If any state of things could supply them with motives for acting in that manner, they must abide by the consequences. They must reconcile themselves as well as they can to dislike and to disesteem, the unavoidable results of behaviour so unnatural. Peace has indeed come; but do they who deprecated the continuance of the war, and clamoured for its close, on any terms, rejoice heartily in a triumph by which their prophecies were belied? Did they lend their voices to swell the hymn of transport, that resounded through our Land, when the arch-enemy was overthrown? Are they pleased that inheritances have been restored, and that legitimate governments have been re-established, on the Continent? And do they grieve when those re-established governments act unworthily of the favour which Providence has shown them? Do not too many rather secretly congratulate themselves on every proof of imbecility or misconduct there exhibited; and endeavour that attention shall be exclusively fixed on those melancholy facts, as if they were the only fruits of a triumph, to which we Britons owe, that we are a fearless, undishonoured, and rapidly improving people, and the nations of the Continent owe their very existence as self-governed communities?
The Party of Opposition, or what remains of it, has much to repent of; many humiliating reflections must pass through the minds of those who compose it, and they must learn the hard lesson to be thankful for them as a discipline indispensible to their amendment. Thus only can they furnish a sufficient nucleus for the formation of a new Body; nor can there be any hope of such Body being adequate to its appropriate service, and of its possessing that portion of good opinion which shall entitle it to the respect of its antagonists, unless it live and act, for a length of time, under a distinct conception of the kind and degree of hostility to the executive government, which is fairly warrantable. The Party must cease indiscriminately to court the discontented, and to league itself with Men who are athirst for innovation, to a point which leaves it doubtful, whether an Opposition, that is willing to co-operate with such Agitators, loves as it ought to do, and becomingly venerates, the happy and glorious Constitution, in Church and State, which we have inherited from our Ancestors.
Till not a doubt can be left that this indispensible change has been effected, Freeholders of Westmoreland! you will remain—but to exhort is not my present business—I was retracing the history of the influence of one Family, and have shewn that much of it depends upon that steady support given by them to government, during a long and arduous struggle, and upon the general course of their public conduct, which has secured your approbation and won for them your confidence. Let us now candidly ask what practical evil has arisen from this preponderance. Is it not obvious, that it is justified by the causes that have produced it? As far as it concerns the general well-being of the Kingdom, it would be easy to shew, that if the democratic activities of the great Towns and of the manufacturing Districts, were not counteracted by the sedentary power of large estates, continued from generation to generation in particular families, it would be scarcely possible that the Laws and Constitution of the Country could sustain the shocks which they would be subject to. And as to our own County, that Man must be strangely prejudiced, who does not perceive how desireable it is, that some powerful Individual should he attached to it; who, by his influence with Government, may facilitate the execution of any plan tending, with due concern for general welfare, to the especial benefit of Westmoreland. The influence of the House of Lowther is, we acknowledge, great; but has a case been made out, that this influence has been abused? The voice of gratitude is not loud, out of delicacy to the Benefactor; but, if all who know were at liberty to speak, to the measure of their wishes, the services which have been rendered by the House of Lowther to Westmoreland, its Natives, and Inhabitants, would be proclaimed in a manner that would confound detraction.—Yet the Kendal Committee of the 26th of January—without troubling themselves to inquire how far this preponderance is a reasonable thing, and what have been its real and practical effects—are indignant; their blood is roused; 'and they are determined to address their Brother Freeholders, and call upon them to recover the exercise of the elective Franchise, which has been withheld from them for half a century.'—Withheld from them! Suppose these Champions, in this their first declaration of hostility, had said, 'to recover the elective Franchise which we have suffered to lie dormant.' But no!—Who would take blame to himself, when, by so doing, he is likely to break the force of the indignation, which, whether deserved or not, he hopes to heap upon his adversary? This is politic—but does it become professing men? Does it suit those who set forward with a proclamation, that they are select spirits, free from Party ties; and, of course, superior to those artifices and misrepresentations—to those groundless or immoderate aversions—which men who act in parties find it so difficult to keep clear of?
What degree of discernment and consistency, an assembly of persons, who begin their labours with such professions and publish such intentions, have shewn, by making choice of the Individual whom they have recommended, as eminently entitled to their confidence and qualified to assist them in attaining their end, may become the fit subject of a future enquiry.
Much of my former Address, originated in deference to that sense of right, which is inseparable from the minds of enlightened Patriots. Passing from local considerations, I wrote under a belief that, whatever personal or family leanings might prevail among you, you would be moved by a wish to see the supporters of his Majesty's Ministers and their opponents—possessed, relatively to each other, of that degree of strength which might render both parties, in their several capacities, most serviceable to the State. I noticed, that this just proportion of strength no longer remained; and shewed, that the Opposition had caused it to be destroyed by holding, from the beginning of the French Revolution, such a course as introduced in Parliament, discord among themselves; deprived them, in that House and elsewhere, of the respect which from their Adversaries they had been accustomed to command; turned indifferent persons into enemies; and alienated, throughout the Island, the affections of thousands who had been proud to unite with them. This weakness and degradation, deplored by all true Friends of the Commonweal, was sufficiently accounted for, without even adverting to the fact that—when the disasters of the war had induced the Country to forgive, and, in some degree, to forget, the alarming attachment of that Party to French theories: and power, heightened by the popularity of hope and expectation, was thrown into their hands—they disgusted even bigotted adherents, by the rapacious use they made of that power;—stooping to so many offensive compromises, and committing so many faults in every department, that, a Government of Talents, if such be the fruits of talent, was proved to be the most mischievous sort of government which England had ever been troubled with. So that, whether in or out of place, an evil genius seemed to attend them!
How could all this happen? For the fundamental reason, that neither the religion, the laws, the morals, the manners, nor the literature of the country, especially as contrasted with those of France, were prized by the Leaders of the Party as they deserved. It is a notorious fact that, among their personal Friends, was scarcely to be found a single Clergyman of distinction;—so that, how to dispose of their ecclesiastical patronage in a manner that might do them credit, they were almost as ignorant as strangers landed, for the first time, in a foreign Country. This is not to be accounted for on any supposition (since the education of men of rank naturally devolves on those members of our Universities, who choose the Church for their profession) but that of a repugnance on their part to associate with persons of grave character and decorous manners. Is the distracted remnant of the Party, now surviving, improved in that respect? The dazzling talents with which it was once distinguished have passed away; pleasure and dissipation are no longer, in that quarter, exhibited to the world in such reconcilement with business as excited dispositions to forgive what could not be approved, and a species of wonder, not sufficiently kept apart from envy, at the extraordinary gifts and powers by which the union was accomplished. This injurious conjunction no longer exists, so as to attract the eyes of the Nation. But we look in vain for signs that the opinions, habits, and feelings of the Party are tending towards a restoration of that genuine English character, by which alone the confidence of the sound part of the People can be recovered.
The public life of the Candidate who now, for the first time, solicits your suffrages, my Brother Freeholders, cannot, however, without injustice to that Party, be deemed a fair exponent of its political opinions. It has, indeed, been too tolerant with Mr. Brougham, while he was labouring to ingraft certain sour cuttings from the wild wood of ultra reform on the reverend, though somewhat decayed, stock of that tree of Whiggism, which flourished proudly under the cultivation of our Ancestors. This indulgence, and others like it, will embolden him to aim at passing himself off as the Delegate of Opposition, and the authorized pleader of their cause. But Time, that Judge from whom none but triflers appeal to conjecture, has decided upon leading principles and main events, and given the verdict against his clients. While, with a ready tongue, the Advocate of a disappointed party is filling one scale, do you, with a clear memory and apt judgment, silently throw in what of right belongs to the other; and the result will be, that no sensible man among you, who has supported the present Members on account of their steady adherence to Ministers, can be induced to change his conduct, or be persuaded that the hour is either come, or approaching, when, for the sake of bringing the power of Opposition in this County nearer to an equality with that of Ministers, it will be his duty to vote against those Representatives in whom he has hitherto confided. No, if Mr. Brougham had not individually passed far beyond the line of that Party—if his conduct had been such that even they themselves would admit that he truly belonged to them—the exception would still lie against the general rule; and will remain till the character of men and measures materially changes, for the better, assuredly, on the one side, if not for the worse on the other. Remember what England might have been with an Administration countenancing French Doctrines at the dawn of the French Revolution, and suffering them, as it advanced, to be sown with every wind that came across the Channel! Think what was the state of Europe before the French Emperor, the apparent, and in too many respects the real, Idol of Opposition, was overthrown!
Numbers, I am aware, do not cease vehemently to maintain, that the late war was neither just nor necessary; that the ostensible and real causes of it were widely different; that it was not begun, and persisted in, for the purpose of withstanding foreign aggression, and in defence of social order: but from unprincipled ambition in the Powers of Europe, eager to seize that opportunity of augmenting their territories at the expence of distracted and enfeebled France.—Events ever-to-be-lamented do, I grant, give too much colour to those affirmations. But this was a war upon a large scale, wherein many Belligerents took part; and no one who distinctly remembers the state of Europe at its commencement will be inclined any more to question that the alleged motives had a solid foundation, because then, or afterwards, others might mix with them, than he would doubt that the maintenance of Christianity and the reduction of the power of the Infidels were the principal motives of the Crusades, because roving Adventurers, joining in those expeditions, turned them to their own profit. Traders and hypocrites may make part of a Caravan bound to Mecca; but it does not follow that a religious observance is not the prime object of the Pilgrimage. The political fanaticism (it deserves no milder name) that pervaded the Manifesto issued by the Duke of Brunswick, on his entry into France, proves, that he and the Power whose organ he was, were swayed on their march by an ambition very different from that of territorial aggrandizement;—at least, if such ambition existed, it is plain that feelings of another kind blinded them to the means of gratifying it. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge the passion soon manifested itself, and in a quarter where it was least excusable. The seizure of Valenciennes, in the name of the Emperor of Germany, was an act of such glaring rapacity, and gave the lie so unfeelingly to all that had been professed, that the then Ministers of Great Britain, doubtless, opposed the intention with a strong remonstrance. But the dictates of magnanimity (which in such cases is but another word for high and sage policy) would have been—'this unjust act must either be abandoned, or Great Britain shall retire from a contest which, if such principles are to govern, or interfere with, the conduct of it, cannot but be calamitous.' A threat to this purpose was either not given or not acted upon. Hinc illae clades! From that moment the alliance of the French Loyalists with the coalesced Powers seemed to have no ground of rational patriotism to stand upon. Their professed helpers became their worst enemies; and numbers among them not only began to wish for the defeat of their false friends, but joined themselves to their fellow-countrymen, of all parties, who were labouring to effect it.—But the military successes of the French, arising mainly from this want of principle in the Confederate Powers, in course of time placed the policy and justice of the war upon a new footing. However men might differ about the necessity or reasonableness of resorting to arms in the first instance, things were brought to such a state that, among the disinterested and dispassionate, there could be but one opinion (even if nothing higher than security was aimed at) on the demand for the utmost strength of the nation being put forth in the prosecution of the war, till it should assume a more hopeful aspect.—And now it was that Ministers made ample amends for past subserviency to selfish coadjutors, and proved themselves worthy of being entrusted with the fate of Europe. While the Opposition were taking counsel from their fears, and recommending despair—while they continued to magnify without scruple the strength of the Enemy, and to expose, misrepresent, and therefore increase the weaknesses of their country, his Majesty's Ministers were not daunted, though often discouraged: they struggled up against adversity with fortitude, and persevered heroically; throwing themselves upon the honour and wisdom of the Country, and trusting for the issue to the decrees of a just PROVIDENCE:—and for this determination everlasting gratitude will attend them!
From the internal situation of France, produced by the Revolution, War with the contiguous Powers was inevitable; sooner or later the evil must have been encountered; and it was of little importance whether England took a share in it somewhat earlier than, by fallible judgments, might be deemed necessary, or not. The frankness with which the faults that were committed have been acknowledged entitles the writer to some regard, when, speaking from an intimate knowledge of the internal state of France at that time, he affirms, that the war waged against her was, in a liberal interpretation of the words, just and necessary. At all events our Nation viewed it in this light. A large majority of the Inhabitants of Great Britain called for the war; and they who will the end will the means: the war being deemed necessary, taxes became indispensible for its support. Some might prefer one mode of raising them—some another; but these are minor considerations. Public men, united in bodies, must act on great principles. Mutual deference is a fundamental requisite for the composition and efficiency of a Party: for, if individual judgment is to be obtruded and insisted upon in subordinate concerns, the march of business will be perpetually obstructed. The leaders will not know whom they can depend upon, and therefore will be at a loss what to recommend, and how to act. If a public man differs from his Party in essentials, Conscience and Honour demand that he should withdraw; but if there be no such difference, it is incumbent upon him to submit his personal opinion to the general sense. He, therefore, who thought the prosecution of the war necessary, could not condemn the public Imposts; on this consequence the steady adherents of Ministers rest their claim to approbation, and advance it boldly in defiance of the outcry raised against the Government, on account of the burthens which the situation of Europe compelled it to lay upon the people.
In matters of taste, it is a process attended with little advantage, and often injurious, to compare one set of artists, or writers, with another. But, in estimating the merits of public men, especially of two Parties acting in direct opposition, it is not only expedient, but indispensible, that both should be kept constantly in sight. The truth or fallacy of French principles, and the tendency, good or bad, of the Revolution which sprang out of them; and the necessity, or non-necessity—the policy, or impolicy—of resisting by war the encroachments of republican and imperial France; these were the opposite grounds upon which each Party staked their credit: here we behold them in full contrast with each other—To whom shall the crown be given? On whom has the light fallen? and who are covered by shade and thick darkness?
The magnanimity which resolved, that for principle's sake no efforts should be spared to crush a bestial despotism, was acknowledged by every manly spirit whom Party degenerating into Faction had not vitiated. That such was the dictate of confiding wisdom had long been inwardly felt; and the prudence of the course was evinced by the triumphant issue; but to the very completeness of this triumph may be indirectly attributed no small portion of the obloquy how heaped upon those advisers through whom it was achieved. The power of Napoleon Buonaparte was overthrown—his person has disappeared from the theatre of Europe—his name has almost deserted the columns of her daily and weekly Journals—but as he has left no Successor, as there is no foreign Tyrant of sufficient importance to attract hatred by exciting fear, many honest English Patriots must either find, or set up, something at home for the employment of those affections. This is too natural to occasion surprise; thousands are so framed, that they are but languidly conscious of their love of an object, unless while they feel themselves in an active state of aversion to something which they can regard as its opposite.—Thus we see Men, who had been proud of their attachment to his Majesty's Ministers, during the awful struggle, as soon as it was over, allowing on the first temptation that proud attachment to be converted into immoderate suspicion, and a long experienced gratitude into sudden alienation.—Through this infirmity, many were betrayed into taking part with the Men whom they had heretofore despised or condemned; and assisted them in reviling their own Government for suffering, among the States of the Continent, institutions to remain which the respective nations (surely the best, if not the only judges in the case) were unwilling to part with; and for having permitted things to be done, either just and proper in themselves, or if indeed abuses, abuses of that kind which Great Britain had neither right to oppose, nor power to prevent. Not a Frenchman is in arms in Spain! But (alas for the credit of the English Cabinet!) Ferdinand, though a lawful, appears to be a sorry King; and the Inquisition, though venerated by the People of Spain as a holy tribunal, which has spread a protecting shade over their religion for hundreds of years, is, among Protestants, an abomination! Is that, however, a reason why we should not rejoice that Spain is restored to the rank of an Independent nation; and that her resources do not continue at the disposal of a foreign Tyrant, for the annoyance of Great Britain? Prussia no longer receives decrees from the Tuilleries; but nothing, we are told, is gained by this deliverance; because the Sovereign of that Country has not participated, as far as became him, a popular effervescence; and has withheld from his subjects certain privileges which they have proved themselves, to all but heated judgments, not yet qualified to receive. Now, if numbers can blame, without cause, the British Cabinet for events falling below their wishes, in cases remote from their immediate concerns, the reasonableness of their opinions may well be questioned in points where selfish passion is touched to the quick.—Yes, in spite of the outcry of such Men to the contrary, every enlightened Politician and discerning Patriot, however diffident as to what was the exact line of prudence in such arduous circumstances, will reprobate the conduct of those who were for reducing public expenditure with a precipitation that might have produced a convulsion in the State. The Habeas Corpus Act is also our own near concern; it was suspended, some think without sufficient cause; not so, however, the Persons who had the best means of ascertaining the state of the Country; for they could have been induced to have recourse to a measure, at all times so obnoxious, by nothing less than a persuasion of its expediency. 'But persuasion (an Objector will say) is produced in many ways; and even that degree of it which in these matters passes for conviction, depends less upon external testimony than on the habits and feelings of those by whom the testimony is to be weighed and decided upon. A council for the administration of affairs is far from being as favourably circumstanced as a tribunal of law; for the Party, which is to pronounce upon the case, has had to procure the evidence, the sum and quality of which must needs have been affected by previously existing prejudices, and by any bias received in the process of collecting it.—The privileges of the subject, one might think, would never be unjustifiably infringed, if it were only from considerations of self-interest; but power is apt to resort to unnecessary rigour in order to supply the deficiencies of authority forfeited by remissness; it is also not unfrequently exerted merely to shew that it is possessed; to shew this to others while power is a novelty, and when it has long ceased to be so, to prove it to ourselves. Impatience of mind, moreover, puts men upon the use of strong and coarse tools, when those of lighter make and finer edge, with due care, might execute the work much better. Above all, timidity flies to extremes;—if the elements were at our command, how often would an inundation be called for, when a fire-engine would have proved equal to the service!—Much more might be urged in this strain, and similar suggestions are all that the question will admit of; for to suppose a gross appetite of tyranny in Government, would be an insult to the reader's understanding. Happily for the Inhabitants of Westmoreland, as no dispositions existing among them could furnish a motive for this restrictive measure, so they will not be sorry that their remoteness from scenes of public confusion, has placed them where they will be slow to give an unqualified opinion upon its merits. Yet it will not escape their discernment, that, if doubts might have been entertained whether the ignorant and distressed multitude, in other parts of the Island, were actually brought to a state that justified the suspension of this law, such doubts must have been weakened, if not wholly removed, by the subsequent behaviour of those in the upper ranks of society, who, in order to arraign the Government, and denounce the laws, have seized every opportunity of palliating sedition, if not of exculpating treason. O far better to employ bad men in the detection of foul conspiracies, than to excuse and shelter—(would that I were allowed to confine myself to these words)—than to reward and honour—every one that can contrive to make himself conspicuous by courses which, wherever they are not branded with infamy, find the national character in a state of degradation, ominous (if it should spread) for the existence of all that ought to be dear to Englishmen.
But there are points of domestic policy in which his Majesty's Ministers, not appearing in counterview with their Opponents, are seen less to their honour. Speaking as an Individual, and knowing that here I differ from many Freeholders with whom it is an honour to co-operate in the present struggle, I must express my disapprobation of the patronage afforded by several persons in power, to a Society by which is virtually propagated the notion that Priesthood, and of course our own inestimable Church Establishment, is superfluous. I condemn their sanction (and this attaches to the whole body) of the malevolent and senseless abuse heaped upon the Clergy, in the matter of Tythes, through the medium of papers circulated by the Agricultural Board. I deprecate the course which some among them take in the Catholic Question, as unconstitutional; and deplore the want of discernment evinced by men who persuade themselves that the discontents prevalent in Ireland will be either removed or abated by such concession. With these errors and weaknesses the Members of the Administration (as appears to me) may be justly reproached; and a still heavier charge will lie against them, if the correction of the Poor Laws be longer deferred. May they exhibit, in treating this momentous subject, a tenderness of undeceived humanity on the one side, and a sternness of enlightened state-policy on the other! Thus, and thus only, can be checked immediately, and in due course of time perhaps removed, an evil by which one claim and title is set in array against another, in a manner, and to an extent, that threatens utter subversion to the ancient frame of society.
This is the heaviest burthen that now lies upon England!—Here is a necessity for reform which, as it cannot prosper unless it begin from the Government and the upper ranks in society, has no attraction for demagogues and mob-exciting patriots. They understand their game; and, as if the people could in no way be so effectually benefited as by rendering their Government suspected, they declaim against taxes; and, by their clamours for reduction of public expenditure, drown the counter-suggestions from the 'still small voice' of moderation appealing to circumstances. 'Cry aloud, and spare not!—Retrench and lop off!' and so they proceeded with the huzza of the multitude at their heels, till they had produced an extreme embarrassment in the Government, and instant distress and misery among the People.
One of the most importunate of that class of Economists which Parliament contained, now Gentlemen, solicits the honour of representing you; and merit may perhaps be claimed for him for his exertions upon that occasion. If it be praiseworthy to have contributed to cast shoals of our deserving countrymen adrift, without regard to their past services, that praise cannot be denied him; if it be commendable to have availed himself of inordinate momentary passion to carry measures whereby the general weal was sacrificed, whether designedly for the attainment of popularity, or in the self-applauding sincerity of a heated mind, that praise is due to Mr. Brougham and his coadjutors. But, to the judicious Freeholders of Westmoreland, whether Gentry or Yeomanry, rich or poor, he will in vain adduce this, or any other part of the recent conduct of Opposition, as a motive for strengthening their interests amongst us. No, Freeholders, we must wait; assuring them that they shall have a reasonable portion of our support as soon as they have proved that they deserve it!
Till that time comes, it will not grieve us that this County should supply two Representatives to uphold the Servants of the Crown, even if both should continue, through unavoidable circumstances, to issue from one Family amongst us. Till that change takes place, we will treat with scorn the senseless outcry for the recovery of an independence which has never been lost. We are, have been, and will remain, independent; and the host of men, respectable on every account, who have publicly avowed their desire to maintain our present Representatives in their seats, deem it insolence to assert the contrary. They are independent in every rational sense of the word; acknowledging, however, that they rest upon a principle, and are incorporated with an interest; and this they regard as a proof that their affections are sane, and their understandings superior to illusion. But in certain vocabularies liberty is synonymous with licence; and to be free, as explained by some, is to live and act without restraint. In like manner, independence, according to the meaning of their interpretation, is the explosive energy of conceit—making blind havoc with expediency. It is a presumptuous spirit at war with all the passive worth of mankind. The independence which they boast of despises habit, and time-honoured forms of subordination; it consists in breaking old ties upon new temptations; in casting off the modest garb of private obligation to strut about in the glittering armour of public virtue; in sacrificing, with jacobinical infatuation, the near to the remote, and preferring, to what has been known and tried, that which has no distinct existence, even in imagination; in renouncing, with voluble tongue and vain heart, every thing intricate in motive, and mixed in quality, in a downright passion of love for absolute, unapproachable patriotism! In short, the independence these Reformers bawl for is the worthy precursor of the liberty they adore;—making her first essay by starting out of the course for the pleasure of falling into the ditch; and asserting her heaven-born vigour by soaring above the level of humanity in profession, that it may more conspicuously appear how far she can fall below it in practice.
To this spurious independence the Friends of our present Representatives lay no claim. They assert in the face of the world that those Representatives hold their seats by free election.—That has placed them there; and why should we wish to change what we do not disapprove of—that which could not have been without our approbation? But this County has not for a long time been disturbed by electioneering contests.—Is there no species of choice, then, but that which is accompanied with commotion and clamour? Do silent acquiescence and deliberate consent pass for nothing? Being contented, what could we seek for more? Being satisfied, why should we stir for stirring's sake? Uproar and disorder, even these we could tolerate on a justifying occasion; but it is no sign of prudence to court them unnecessarily, nor of temper to invite them wantonly. He who resorts to substantial unruliness for the redress of imaginary grievances, provokes certain mischief; and often, in the end, produces calamity which would excite little compassion, could it be confined to its original author.
Let those who think that they are degraded proclaim their own dishonour. They choose to regard themselves as shackled Conscripts:—we know that we are self-equipped Volunteers. If they cannot be easy without branding themselves as slaves, we would endeavour to dissuade them from such abuse of their free-agency; but if they persist, we cannot interfere with their humour: only do not let them apply the iron to our foreheads! They cry out that they have been in a lethargy; why do they not add that they would have been asleep to this hour, if they had not been roused, in their vales and on their moors, by an officious and impertinent call from the dirty alleys and obscure courts of the Metropolis?
If there be any honour in England, the composition of the Lowther Party must be loyal and honourable. Its adversaries have admitted that a large majority, they might have added nearly the whole, of the leading Gentry; that the Magistracy—all but a single Individual; that the Clergy and the Members of the other liberal Professions—with very few exceptions; and a vast body of Tradesmen and Manufacturers, and of substantial Yeomen, the honest Grey-coats of Westmoreland, have already declared themselves of one mind upon this appeal to their judgments. Looking to a distance, they see the worth and opulence, the weight of character, and the dignity and respectability of station, that distinguish the numerous list of Freeholders resident in London, who have jointly and publicly testified their satisfaction in the conduct of our present Representatives. The discontented see and know these things; and are well aware also that the Lowthers cannot justly be accused of inordinate and disrespectful family ambition, inasmuch as it was not their wish that the County should be represented by two Members of their House. It has long been no secret that if any other Gentleman of the County properly qualified, whose political principles did not substantially differ from their own, would have come forward, he would have been sure of their support. If they resist to the utmost persons of opposite principles, the points in dispute being scarcely less than vital, the more must they be respected by every zealous Patriot and conscientious Man.
From what has been said, it appears that the political influence of the family of Lowther in Westmoreland is the natural and reasonable consequence of a long-continued possession of large property—furnishing, with the judicious Nobleman at its head, an obvious support, defence, and instrument for the intelligent patriotism of the County. I have said instrument, and laid an emphasis upon the word; because they who do not perceive that such is the truth are ignorant what shape, in these cases, social combinations must take, in order to be efficient and be preserved. Every great family which many have rallied round from congeniality of public sentiment, and for a political purpose, seems in course of time to direct, and in ordinary cases does direct, its voluntary adherents; but, if it should violate their wishes and shock their sense of right, it would speedily be reduced to such support only as it could command; and then would be seen who had been Principal, and who Secondary; to whom had belonged in reality the place of Agent, to whom that of the Employer. The sticklers for emancipation (a fashionable word in our times, when rational acquiescence is deemed baseness of spirit, and the most enlightened service passes for benighted servility!) have been free on numerous occasions to make the effort they are now making. Could any considerable person have been found to share their feeling, they might have proposed a Representative unacceptable to the Family whose ascendancy they complain of, with a certainty of securing his election, had the good-will of the Freeholders been on their side. What could possibly have prevented this trial? But they talk as if some mysterious power had been used to their injury. Some call it 'a thraldom from without'—some 'a drowsiness within.'—Mr. Brougham's Kendal Committee find fault with others—the Chairman of the Appleby Committee is inclined to fix the blame nearer home. An accredited organ of their Kendal Committee tells you dogmatically, from the Bill of Rights, that 'Elections shall be free;' and, if asked how the citation bears upon the case, his answer would most likely prove him of opinion, that, as noise is sometimes an accompaniment of freedom, so there can be no freedom without noise. Or, does the erudite Constitutionalist take this method of informing us, that the Lord Lieutenant has been accustomed to awe and controul the Voters of this County, as Charles the Second and his Brother attempted to awe and controul those of the whole kingdom? If such be the meaning of the Writer and his Employers, what a pity Westmoreland has not a Lunatic Asylum for the accommodation of the whole Body! In the same strain, and from the same quarter, we are triumphantly told 'that no Peer of Parliament shall interfere in Elections.' How injurious then to these Monitors and their Cause the report of the Hereditary High Sheriff's massy subscription, and his zealous countenance! Let him be entreated formally to contradict it;—or would they have one law for a Peer who is a Friend to Administration, and another for such as are its enemies? Is the same act to pass for culpable or praiseworthy, just as it thwarts, or furthers, the wishes of those who pronounce a judgment upon it?
The approvers of that order of things in which we live and move, at this day, as free Englishmen, are under no temptation to fall into these contradictions. They acknowledge that the general question is one of great delicacy: they admit that laws cannot be openly slighted without a breach of decorum, even when the relations of things are so far altered that Law looks one way—and Reason another. Where such disagreement occurs in respect to those Statutes which have the dignity of constitutional regulations, the less that is said upon the subject the better for the Country. But writers, who in such a case would gladly keep a silent course, are often forced out of it by wily hypocrites, and by others, who seem unconscious that, as there are Pedants in Literature, and Bigots in Religion, so are there Precisians in Politics—men without experience, who contend for limits and restraints when the Power which those limits and restraints were intended to confine is long since vanished. In the Statute-books Enactments of great name stand unrepealed, which may be compared to a stately oak in the last stage of decay, or a magnificent building in ruins. Respect and admiration are due to both; and we should deem it profaneness to cut down the one, or demolish the other. But are we, therefore, to be sent to the sapless tree for may-garlands, or reproached for not making the mouldering ruin our place of abode? Government is essentially a matter of expediency; they who perceive this, and whose knowledge keeps pace with the changes of society, lament that, when Time is gently carrying what is useless or injurious into the back-ground, he must be interrupted in the process by Smatterers and Sciolists—intent upon misdirecting the indignation of the simple, and feeding the ill-humours of the ignorant. How often do such men, for no better purpose, remind their disciples of the standing order that declares it to be 'a high infringement of the liberties and privileges of the Commons, for any Lord of Parliament to concern himself in the election of members, to serve for the Commons in Parliament.'—This vote continues to be read publicly at the opening of every Session,—but practice rises up against it; and, without censuring the Custom, or doubting that it might be salutary when first established, (though it is not easily reconcileable with the eligibility of the eldest sons of Peers to the lower House, without any other qualification than their birth,) we may be permitted to be thankful that subsequent experience is not rendered useless to the living by the formal repetition of a voice from the tombs. Better is it that laws should remain till long trial has proved them an incumbrance, than that they should be too hastily changed; but this consideration need not prevent the avowal of an opinion, which every practical Statesman will confirm, that, if the property of the Peers were not, according to the will and by the care of the owners, substantially represented by Commoners, to a proportionate extent under their influence, their large Estates would be, for them, little better than sand liable to be blown about in the desart, and their privileges, however useful to the country, would become fugitive as foam upon the surface of the sea.—(See Note.)
I recollect a picture of Diogenes going about in search of an honest man. The philosopher bore a staff in one hand, and a lantern in the other. Did the latter accompaniment imply that he was a persevering Spirit who would continue his labour by night as well as by day? Or was it a stroke of satire on the part of the painter, indicating that, as Diogenes was a surly and conceited Cynic, he preferred darkness for his time of search, and a scanty and feeble light of his own carrying, to the bounteous assistance of the sun in heaven? How this might be with Diogenes, I know not; but assuredly thus it fares with our Reformers:—The Journal of some venal or factious scribbler is the black and smoky lantern they are guided by; and the sunshine spread over the face of a happy country is of no use in helping them to find any object they are in search of.—The plea of the degraded state of the Representation of Westmoreland has been proved to be rotten;—if certain discontented persons desire to erect a building on a new plan, why not look about for a firm foundation? The dissatisfied ought honestly to avow, that their aim is to elect a Man, whose principles differ from those of the present Members to an extreme which takes away all hope, or even wish, that the interest he is to depend upon should harmonize with the interest hitherto prevalent in the County. Every thing short of this leaves them subject to a charge of acting upon false pretences, unless they prefer being accused of harbouring a pharisaical presumption, that would be odious were it not ridiculous. If the state of society in Westmoreland be as corrupt as they describe, what, in the name of wonder, has preserved their purity? Away then with hypocrisy and hollow pretext; let us be no longer deafened with a rant about throwing off intolerable burthens, and repelling injuries, and avenging insults! Say at once that you disapprove of the present Members, and would have others more to your own liking; you have named your Man, or rather necessity has named him for you. Your ship was reduced to extremities; it would have been better to abandon her—you thought otherwise; will you listen then while I shew that the Pilot, who has taken charge of the vessel, is ignorant of the soundings, and that you will have cause to be thankful if he does not prove very desperate in the management of the helm?
The Lands of England, you will recollect, Gentlemen, are originally supposed to be holden by grants from the King, our liege Lord; and the Constitution of the Country is accordingly a mellowed feudality. The oldest and most respectable name for a County Representative is, KNIGHT OF THE SHIRE. In the reign of Queen Anne it was enacted, that every Knight of the Shire (the eldest sons of Peers and a few others excepted) shall have a clear estate of Freehold or Copyhold to the value of L600 per annum. The same qualification continues to be required at this day; and, if the depreciation of money and other causes have injuriously affected the Letter of the Statute, the Spirit of it has not only been preserved in practice, but carried still higher. Hence we scarcely scruple to take for granted that a County Representative is a man of substantial landed property; or stands in such known relation to a conspicuous Estate that he has in it a valuable interest; and that, whoever be the possessor, such Estate may be looked upon as a pledge for his conduct.
The basis of the elective Franchise being property, the legal condition of eligibility to a seat in Parliament is the same. Our ancestors were not blind to the moral considerations which, if they did not suggest these ordinances, established a confidence in their expediency. Knowing that there could be no absolute guarantee for integrity, and that there was no certain test of discretion and knowledge, for bodies of men, the prudence of former times turned to the best substitute human nature would admit of, and civil society furnished. This was property; which shewed that a man had something that might be impaired or lost by mismanagement; something which tended to place him above dependence from need; and promised, though it did not insure, some degree of education to produce requisite intelligence. To be a Voter required a fixed Property, or a defined privilege; to be voted for, required more; and the scale of demand rose with the responsibility incurred. A Knight of the Shire must have double the Estate required from a Representative of a Borough. This is the old Law; and the course of things since has caused, as was observed above, that high office to devolve almost exclusively on Persons of large Estate, or their near connections. And why is it desirable that we should not deviate from this track? If we wish for honesty, we shall select men who, not being subject to one of the strongest temptations to be otherwise than honest, will incur heavier disgrace, and meet with less indulgence, if they disappoint us. Do we wish for sage conduct, our choice will fall upon those who have the wisdom that lurks in circumstances, to supply what may be deficient in their personal accomplishments. But, if there be a deficiency, the fault must lie with the Electors themselves. When persons of large property are confided in, we cannot plead want of opportunities for being acquainted with them. Men of large estates cannot but be men of wide concerns; and thus it is that they become known in proportion. Extensive landed property entails upon the possessor many duties, and places him in divers relations, by which he undergoes a public trial. Is a man just in his dealings? Does he keep his promises? Does he pay his debts punctually? Has he a feeling for the poor? Is his Family well governed? Is he a considerate Landlord? Does he attend to his own affairs; and are those of others, which have fallen under his care, diligently and judiciously managed? Answers to these questions, where the Subject of them has but an inconsiderable landed Property, can only be expected from a very narrow circle of Neighbours;—but place him at the head of a large Estate, and knowledge of what he is in these particulars must spread to a distance; and it will be further known how he has acted as a Magistrate, and in what manner he has fulfilled the duties of every important office which he may have been called to, by virtue of his possessions.
Such are the general principles of reason which govern law, and justify practice in this weighty matter. The decision is not to take place upon imagination or conjecture. It is not to rest upon professions of the Candidate, or protestations of his Friends. As a County Representative is to be voted for by many—many must have opportunities of knowing him; or, failing that intimate knowledge, we require the pledge of condition, the bond and seal of circumstance. Otherwise we withhold our confidence, and cannot be prevailed upon to give, to the opinions of an Individual unbacked by these advantages, the countenance and authority which they might derive from being supposed to accord with those of numerous Constituents scattered over a wide Country, and therefore less liable to be affected by partial views, or sudden and transitory passion—to diminish their value.
The Freeholders of past times knew that their rights were most likely to repose in safety, under the shade of rank and property. Adventurers had no estimation among them; there was no room for them—no place for them to appear in.—Think of this, and ask if your Fathers, could they rise from their tombs, would not have stared, with no small degree of wonder, upon the Person who now solicits the Suffrages of the County of Westmoreland. What are his Rents—Where are his comings in? He is engaged in an undertaking of great expence—how is that expence supplied? From his own purse? Impossible! Where are the golden sinews which this Champion of Independence depends upon? If they be furnished by those who have no natural connection with the County, are we simple enough to believe that they dip their hands into their pockets out of pure good-will to us? May they not rather justly be suspected of a wish to embroil us for some sinister purpose? At all events, it might be some satisfaction would they shew themselves, so that, if we are to have a Subscription-candidate, we may know what sort of Persons he is indebted to, and at least be able to guess what they will require of him.
The principles that have been laid down, and the facts which have been adverted to, might seem to render it superfluous to retrace the public conduct of Mr. Brougham, and to enquire whether, in Parliament or at the London Tavern, in Palace Yard or elsewhere, those acts and courses, to which he himself refers as his only recommendation, do not still more unfit him for the trust which he covets. But Persons fond of novelty make light of deficiencies which would have admitted of no compensation in the judgment of our Ancestors; and the Candidate, being in no respect remarkable for deference to public opinion, is willing to avail himself of new-fangled expectations. Hence it becomes necessary to consider what would be the political value of the Freeholds of Westmoreland, if the system of Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage (countenanced by Mr. Brougham) should be acted upon. But, as there has been much saying and unsaying on this subject, let us review the case.
In the House of Commons, on the 17th of February, 1817, Lord Cochrane affirmed, that, on a certain day which he named, Mr. Brougham, at a dinner given at the London Tavern, to the Friends of Parliamentary Reform, used the following words, or words to the same effect:—'As often as we have required that Parliaments should be chosen yearly, and that the elective Franchise should be extended to all who pay taxes, we have been desired to wait, for the enemy was at the gate, and ready to avail himself of the discords attending our political contests, in order to undermine our national independence. This argument is gone, and our Adversaries must now look for another. He had mentioned the two radical doctrines of yearly election, and the Franchise enjoyed by all paying taxes; but it would be superfluous to reason in favour of them here, where all are agreed on the subject.'
When this, and other passages of like import, were produced by Lord C. in a paper declared to be in Mr. Brougham's handwriting, and to be a report made by himself of the speech then and there delivered, did Mr. Brougham deny that the handwriting was his, and that those words had fallen from his pen, as the best image that his own memory could furnish of what he had uttered? No—he gave vent only to a vague complaint of groundless aspersions; and accused certain persons of rashness and imprudence, and of not waiting only for a few days longer, when they would have had a full and fair opportunity of hearing his sentiments on this momentous subject. He then acknowledged that some observations had fallen from him similar to what had been read by the Noble Lord; and added, that he then said, or at least meant to be understood as saying, (he takes no notice of what he wrote or meant to be understood as writing,) what he still maintained—'that the power of election should he limited to those who paid direct taxes;' in other and more faithful words, should be extended to all persons in that condition. Mr. B. proceeded manfully to scout the notion, that the mere production of a speech delivered by him at a Tavern would make him swerve from the line of his duty, from the childish desire of keeping up an appearance of consistency!
What then is the amount? On the 23d of June, 1814, (it cannot be unfair to state as a fact, that a vacancy in the Representation of Westminster was at that time looked for,) Mr. B. either was, or wished to be, accounted an Advocate of Annual Parliaments and Suffrage to be enjoyed by all paying taxes; and on the 17th of February, 1817, when Mr. B. in another place is reminded of these, his avowed opinions, he is utterly mute upon the subject of Annual Parliaments, on the expediency of which he had before harangued at length, and confines himself to announce, as the sum of his then opinion, that suffrage should be co-extensive with direct taxation! The question had two faces, and Mr. B. chooses only to look at one. Hard pressed as he was, we cannot grant him this indulgence. He has, indeed, denounced, on other occasions, the combined doctrines of Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage as chimerical and absurd; though how near he came to the point of recommending both, at the London Tavern, he is any thing but explicit; (in fact both, as Lord C. shewed, were virtually recommended by him.) But what does he think of Annual Parliaments, in conjunction with his rectified opinion of Suffrage, co-extensive with direct taxation? Here he leaves us wholly in the dark; but if the turbulent workings of Mr. Brougham's mind, and his fondness for contentious exhibition, manifested on all possible occasions, may be admitted as positive evidence, to corroborate the negative which his silence on this point implies, we are justified in believing that his passions were on that side, whatever might be the bent of his cooler judgment. But this is of little import.
Introduce suffrage co-extensive with direct taxation, and Annual Parliaments must unavoidably follow. The clumsy simplicity of the one arrangement would, in the eyes of its Admirers, match strikingly with the palpable expediency of the other. Such a union is equally suitable to an age of gross barbarism and an age of false philosophy. It is amusing to hear this plan of suffrage for all who pay direct taxes recommended as consonant to the genius and spirit of the British Constitution, when, in fact, though sufficiently rash and hazardous, it is no better than a timid plagiarism from the doctrine of the Rights of Man. Upon the model of that system, it begins with flagrant injustice to chartered rights; for if it were adopted, the elective Franchises that now exist would be depreciated accordingly; an invidious process for those who would lose by the alteration; and still more invidious for those to whom the privilege would not be suffered to descend. Alas! I am trifling with the subject! If the spirit of a People, composed as that of England now is, were once put into a ferment, by organizing a democracy on this scheme, and to this extent, with a Press as free and licentious as our's has long been, what a flimsy barrier would remain to check the impetus of the excluded! When, in thousands, they bore down upon the newly constituted House of Assembly, demanding to be placed upon a level with their fellow-subjects, it would avail little to send a Peace-officer to enquire—where are your vouchers? Shew us that the Tax-gatherer has been among you! As soon as the petty Artizans, Shop-keepers, and Pot-house Keepers, of our over-grown Manufacturing Towns and our enormous Cities, had each and all been invested with the right of voting, the infection would spread like a plague.—Our neighbours on the Continent tried this plan of direct taxation; and, in the beginning of the third year of their Reform, Universal Suffrage, which had long ruled in spirit, lorded it in form also, from the Pyrenees to the Rhine, and from the Straits of Calais to the Shores of the Mediterranean. Down went the throne of France! and, if we should take the same guide, the Throne of England must submit a second time to a like destiny. Most of us would deem this a considerable evil—the greatest political evil that could befal the Land! Not so, however, our new Candidate! unless his opinion, if, indeed, he ever held what may be called an opinion upon any thing, has undergone important changes since the time when he expressed himself in the following words:—'When trade and the arts of civilized life have been carried to a certain length, war is the greatest calamity that can befal a community. Any state in modern Europe would be so completely ruined by the contests which Athens and Carthage easily supported, that it would be a matter of total indifference, whether the war was a series of victories or disasters. The return of Peace to France or England, after half so long a contest as either the Peloponnesian or the Punic wars, would be cheaply purchased by any conquest or revolution, any change of dynasty or overthrow of Government.'—See vol. i. p. 13, of Colonial Policy, by H. Brougham.
The above was given to the world when we were at war with Bonaparte; and that part of the English nation, who might read the book or hear of this author's doctrines, was plainly told, that, in his estimation, our Constitutional liberties were not worthy of being defended at the cost of a 14 years' war! But the unsuspecting, humane, and hope-cherishing adherents of the new Candidate will tell you, this does not prove that Mr. B. sets a small price on the Constitution and Laws of England; it only shews his tender-heartedness, and his extreme aversion to the horrors and devastation of war.—Hear then Mr. B. on these points also. Let his serious Friends take from his pen this pleasant description, which proves at least that he can be jocular upon a subject that makes most men grave; although they may not think twice seven years' war so great a calamity as any conquest or Revolution, any change of dynasty or overthrow of Government.—'A species of pecuniary commutation,' he tells us, 'has been contrived, by which the operations of war are rendered very harmless; they are performed by some hundreds of sailors fighting harmlessly on the barren plains of the ocean, and some thousands of soldiers carrying on a scientific, and regular, and quiet system of warfare, in countries set apart for the purpose, and resorted to as the arena where the disputes of nations may be determined. The prudent policy had been adopted of purchasing defeat at a distance rather than victory at home; in this manner we paid our allies for being vanquished; a few useless millions, and a few more useless lives were sacrificed; and the result was, that we were amply rewarded by safety, increased resources, and real addition of power.' (Edinburgh Review, No. II., and ascertained to be the writing of Mr. Brougham, by his having incorporated it in his Colonial Policy.)
The new Candidate challenges the strictest scrutiny into his public life, so that had we gone much farther than the above retrospect, we should only have been fulfilling his own wishes. Personal enmity towards the Subject, the Writer has none; being, in all that concerns the feelings of private life, friendly to Mr. Brougham, rather than otherwise. That his talents and habits of application entitle him to no common respect, must be universally acknowledged; but talents in themselves merely are, in the eyes of the judicious, no recommendation. If a sword be sharp, it is of the more importance to ask—What use it is likely to be put to? In government, if we can keep clear of mischief, good will come of itself. Fitness is the thing to be sought; and unfitness is much less frequently caused by general incapacity than by absence of that kind of capacity which the charge demands. Talent is apt to generate presumption and self-confidence; and no qualities are so necessary, in a Legislator, as the opposites of these—which, if they do not imply the existence of sagacity, are the best substitutes for it—whether they produce, in the general disposition of the mind, an humble reliance on the wisdom of our Forefathers, and a sedate yielding to the pressure of existing things; or carry the thoughts still higher, to religious trust in a superintending Providence, by whose permission laws are ordered and customs established, for other purposes than to be perpetually found fault with.
These suggestions are recommended to the consideration of our new Aspirant, and of all those public men whose judgments are perverted, and tempers soured, by long struggling in the ranks of opposition, and incessant bustling among the professors of Reform. I shall not recall to notice further particulars, because time, by softening asperities or removing them out of sight, is a friend to benevolence. Although a rigorous investigation has been invited, it is well that there is no need to run through the rash assertions, the groundless accusations, and the virulent invectives that disfigure the speeches of this never-silent Member. All these things, offensive to moderate men, are too much to the taste of many of Mr. Brougham's partizans in Westmoreland. But I call upon those who relish these deviations from fair and honourable dealing—upon those also of his adherents who are inwardly ashamed of their Champion, on this account—and upon all the Freeholders concerned in the general question, to review what has been laid before them. Having done this, they cannot but admit that Mr. Brougham's independence is a dark dependence, which no one understands—and, that if a jewel has been lost in Westmoreland, his are not the eyes by which it is to be found again. If the dignity of Knight of the Shire is to be conferred, he cannot be pronounced a fit person to receive it. For whether, my Brother Freeholders, you look at the humbleness of his situation amongst Country Gentlemen; or at his amphibious habits, in the two elements of Law and Authorship, and the odd vagaries he has played in both; or whether he be tried by the daring opinions which, by his own acknowledgment, he has maintained in Parliament, and at public meetings, on the subject of the elective Franchise; we meet with concurring proofs that HE IS ALTOGETHER UNFIT TO REPRESENT THIS, OR ANY OTHER COUNTY!
If, notwithstanding the truth of this inference, Mr. Brougham's talents, information, and activity make it desirable that he should have a place in the House of Commons, why cannot they who are of this opinion be content, since he is already there? What service he is capable of rendering may be as effectually performed, should he never aspire beyond re-election to one of those seats which he now fills. The good, if any is to be looked for, may then be obtained with much less risk of evil. While he continues a Member for a close Borough, his dangerous opinions are left mainly to the support of his own character, and the arguments which his ingenuity can adduce to recommend them; but should they derive that degree of sanction from the Freeholders of a County, which success in his present undertaking would imply, they might become truly formidable!—Let every one, then, who cannot accompany Mr. B. in his bold theories, and does not go the length of admiring the composition of his political life, be cautious how he betakes himself to such help, in order to reduce, within what he may deem due bounds, the influence of a Family prominent in the civil service of the County from the earliest times. It is apparent, if the Writer has not employed his pen in vain, that against this influence there is no just ground of complaint. They who think with him will continue to uphold it, as long as the Family proves that it understands its own interest and honour by a judicious attention to our's. And should it forfeit our respect by misconduct, in the unavoidable decline of its political importance which would ensue, we should not envy that House its splendid possessions or its manifold privileges; knowing that some Families must be permanently great and opulent, or there would be no security for the possessions of the middle ranks, or of the humble Proprietor. But, looking at the present constitution and measure of this influence, you cannot but perceive, Gentlemen, that, if there were indeed any thing in it that could justly be complained of, our duty might still be to bear with the local evil, as correcting an opposite extreme in some other quarter of the Island;—as a counterpoise of some weight elsewhere pressing injuriously upon the springs of social order. How deplorable would be the ignorance, how pitiful the pride, that could prevent us from submitting to a partial evil for the sake of a general good! In fine, if a comprehensive survey enjoined no such sacrifice, and even if all that the unthinking, the malevolent, and the desperate, all that the deceivers and the deceived, have conjointly urged at this time against the House of Lowther, were literally true, you would be cautious how you sought a remedy for aristocratic oppression, by throwing yourselves into the arms of a flaming democracy!
Government and civil Society are things of infinite complexity, and rash Politicians are the worst enemies of mankind; because it is mainly through them that rational liberty has made so little progress in the world. You have heard of a Profession to which the luxury of modern times has given birth, that of Landscape-Gardeners, or Improvers of Pleasure-grounds. A competent Practitioner in this elegant art begins by considering every object, that he finds in the place where he is called to exercise his skill, as having a right to remain, till the contrary be proved. If it be a deformity he asks whether a slight alteration may not convert it into a beauty; and he destroys nothing till he has convinced himself by reflection that no alteration, no diminution or addition, can make it ornamental. Modern Reformers reverse this judicious maxim. If a thing is before them, so far from deeming that it has on that account a claim to continue and be deliberately dealt with, its existence with them is a sufficient warrant for its destruction. Institutions are to be subverted, Practices radically altered, and Measures to be reversed. All men are to change their places, not because the men are objectionable, or the place is injurious, but because certain Pretenders are eager to be at work, being tired of both. Some are forward, through pruriency of youthful talents—and Greybeards hobble after them, in whom number of years is a cloak for poverty of experience. Some who have much leisure, because every affair of their own has withered under their mismanagement, are eager to redeem their credit, by stirring gratis for the public;—others, having risen a little in the world, take swimmingly to the trade of factious Politics, on their original stock of base manners and vulgar opinions. Some are theorists hot for practice, others hacknied Practitioners who never had a theory; many are vain, and must be busy; and almost as many are needy—and the spirit of justice, deciding upon their own merits, will not suffer them to remain at rest.
The movement made among us, my countrymen of Westmoreland, was preceded, announced, and prepared, by such Agitators, disseminating falsehoods and misrepresentations, equally mischievous, whether they proceeded from wilful malice or presumptuous ignorance. Take warning in time. Be not persuaded to unite with them who, whether they intend you injury or not, cannot but prove your enemies. Let not your's be the first County in England, which, since the days of Wilkes, and after the dreadful example of France, has given countenance to principles congenial to the vice, profligacy, and half-knowledge of Westminster; but which formerly were unheard of among us, or known only to be detested. Places, Pensions, and formidable things, if you like! but far better these, with our King and Constitution, with our quiet fire-sides and flourishing fields, than proscription and confiscation, without them! Long wars, and their unavoidable accompaniment, heavy taxes—both these evils are liable to intemperate exaggeration; but, be they what they may, would there be less of war and lighter taxes, as so many grumblers loudly preach, and too many submissive spirits fondly believe, if the House of Commons were altered into one of more popular frame, with more frequent opportunities given of changing the persons sent thither? A reference to the twenty years which succeeded the Revolution, may suffice to shew the fallacy of such expectations. Parliaments were then triennial, and democratic principles fashionable even among the Servants of the Crown. Yet, during that space of time, wars were almost incessant; and never were burthens imposed so far above the apparent ability of the Nation to support them. Having adverted to the warlike measures of those reigns merely to support my argument, I cannot forbear to applaud the high-spirited Englishmen of that age. Our forefathers were tried, as we have been tried—and their virtue did not sink under the duties which the decrees of Providence imposed upon it. They triumphed, though less signally than we have done;—following their example, let us now cultivate fortitude, encourage hope and chearful industry; and give way to enterprise. So will prosperity return. The stream, which has been checked, will flow with recruited vigour—and, when another century shall have passed away, the ambition of France will be as little formidable to our then-existing Posterity as it is now to us. But the lessons of History must be studied;—they teach us that, under every form of civil polity, war will contrive to lift up its head, and most pertinaciously in those States where the People have most sway. When I recur to these admonitions, it is to entreat that the discontented would exercise their understandings, rather than consult their passions; first separating real from mistaken grievances, and then endeavouring to ascertain (which cannot be done with a glance of the mind) how much is fairly attributable to the Government; how much to ourselves; and how large a portion of what we have to endure has been forced upon us by a foreign Power, over whom we could exercise no controul but by arms. The course here recommended will keep us, as we are, free and happy—will preserve us from what, through want of these and like precautions, other Nations have been hurried into—domestic broils, sanguinary tribunals, civil slaughter in the field, anarchy, and (sad cure and close of all!) tranquillity under the iron grasp of military despotism. Years before this catastrophe, what would have become of your Elective Franchise, Freeholders of Westmoreland? The Coadjutors of the obscure Individuals who, from a distance, first excited this movement under a pretence of recovering your Rights, would have played the whirlwind among your Property, and crushed you, less perhaps out of malice, than because, in their frenzy, they could not help it.
A conviction that the subject is ill understood by those who were unprepared for what has just been said, is the excuse to my own mind, Gentlemen, for having made so protracted a demand upon your attention. The ruinous tendencies of this self-flattering enterprize can only be checked by timely and general foresight. The contest in which we are engaged has been described by Persons noticing it from a distance, as the work of a Cabal of Electioneering Jobbers, who have contrived to set up the Thanet against the Lowther interests, that both Parties might spend their money for the benefit of those who cared for neither. The Thanet interest in the County of Westmoreland!—one might almost as well talk of an interest in the moon! The Descendant of the Cliffords has not thought it worth while to recommend himself to the Electors, by the course either of his public or his private life; and therefore, though his purse may have weight, and his possessions are considerable, he himself, in reference to the supposed object, is nothing. If this had been really an attempt made by a numerous body of malcontent Freeholders to carry their wishes for a change into effect, by placing at their head some approved Chief of an ancient Family, possessed of real consequence in the County, the proceeding, considered in the abstract, could not have been objected to. This County is, and ever was, open to fair and honourable contest, originating in principles sanctioned by general practice; and carried on by means which, if universally adopted, would not be injurious to the State. But the present measure stands not upon any such grounds; it is an attempt, no matter with what ultimate view, TO EFFECT A TOTAL CHANGE IN THE CHARACTER OF COUNTY ELECTIONS; beginning here with the expectation, as is openly avowed, of being imitated elsewhere. It reverses the order hitherto pursued. Instead of aiming to influence the less wealthy and less instructed Freeholders through the medium of those whom they have been accustomed to confide in—instead of descending by legitimate gradations from high to lower, from the well-instructed and widely-experienced to those who have not had equal advantages—it commences at the bottom; far beneath the degree of the poorest Freeholders; and works upwards, with an inflammatory appeal to feelings that owe their birth to previous mistatement of facts. Opulence, rank, station, privilege, distinction, intellectual culture—the notions naturally following upon these in a Country like England are protection, succour, guidance, example, dissemination of knowledge, introduction of improvements, and all the benefits and blessings that among Freemen are diffused, where authority like the parental, from a sense of community of interest and the natural goodness of mankind, is softened into brotherly concern. This is no Utopian picture of the characteristics of elevated rank, wealth, competence, and learned and liberal education in England; for, with the liberty of speech and writing that prevails amongst us, if such rays of light and love did not generally emanate from superiority of station, possessions, and accomplishment, the frame of society, which we behold, could not subsist. Yes—in spite of pride, hardness of heart, grasping avarice, and other selfish passions, the not unfrequent concomitants of affluence and worldly prosperity, the mass of the people are justly dealt with, and tenderly cherished;—accordingly, gratitude without servility; dispositions to prompt return of service, undebased by officiousness; and respectful attachment, that, with small prejudice to the understanding, greatly enriches the heart: such are the sentiments with which Englishmen of the humblest condition have been accustomed to look up towards their Friends and Benefactors. Among the holders of fixed property (whether labourers in the field or artisans); among those who are fortunate enough to have an interest in the soil of their Country; these human sentiments of civil life are strengthened by additional dependencies.—I am aware how much universal habits of rapacious speculation, occasioned by fluctuations in the value of produce during the late war—how much the spread of manufactories and the baleful operation of the Poor Laws, have done to impair these indigenous and salutary affections. I am conscious of the sad deterioration, and no one can lament it more deeply; but sufficient vitality is left in the Stock of ancient virtue to furnish hope that, by careful manuring, and skilful application of the knife to the withered branches, fresh shoots might thrive in their place—were it not for the base artifices of Malignants, who, pretending to invigorate the tree, pour scalding water and corrosive compounds among its roots; so that the fibres are killed in the mould by which they have been nourished.
That for years such artifices have been employed in Westmoreland, and in a neighbouring County, with unremitting activity, must be known to all. Whatever was disliked has been systematically attacked, by the vilifying of persons connected with it. The Magistrates and public Functionaries, up to the Lord Lieutenant himself, have been regularly traduced—as unfaithful to their trust; the Clergy habitually derided—as time-servers and slavish dependants; and the Gentry, if conspicuous for attachment to the Government, stigmatized—as Men without honour or patriotism, and leagued in conspiracy against the Poor. After this manner have the Provincial Newspapers (the chief agents in this local mischief,) concurred with the disaffected London Journals, who were playing the same part towards laws and institutions, and general measures of State, by calumniating the principal Authorities of the Kingdom. Hence, instead of gratitude and love, and confidence and hope, are resentment and envy, mistrust and jealousy, and hatred and rancour, inspired:—and the drift of all is, to impress the Body of the People with a belief that neither justice can be expected, nor benevolence hoped for, unless power be transferred to Persons least resembling those who now hold it; that is—to Demagogues and Incendiaries!
It will be thought that this attempt is too extravagant to be dangerous; inasmuch as every member of society, possessed of weight and authority, must revolt from such a transfer, and abhor the issues to which it points. Possessed of weight and authority—with whom? These Agitators have weight and authority there, where they seek for it, that is with no small portion of what they term the physical strength of the Country. The People have ever been the dupes of extremes. VAST GAINS WITH LITTLE PAINS, is a jingle of words that would be an appropriate inscription for the insurrectionary banner of unthinking humanity. To walk—to wind—towards a thing that is coveted—how unattractive an operation compared with leaping upon it at once!—Certainly no one possessed of legitimate authority can desire such a transfer as we have been forced to contemplate; but he may aid in bringing it about, without desiring it. Numerous are the courses of civil action in which men of pure dispositions and honourable aims, are tempted to take part with those who are utterly destitute of both. Be not startled, if, merely glancing at the causes of this deplorable union, as it is now exhibited in this part of England, I observe, that there is no necessary connection between public spirit and political sagacity. How often does it happen that right intention is averse to inquiry as casting a damp upon its own zeal, and a suspicion upon the intrinsic recommendation of its object! Good men turn instinctively from inferences unfavourable to human nature. But there are facts which are not to be resisted, where the understanding is sound. The self-styled Emancipators have tried their strength; if there were any thing promising to England in their efforts, we should have seen this Country arrayed in opposite Parties resembling each other in quality and composition. Little of that appears. The promoters of the struggle did not hope for such a result; and many of them would not have wished for it, could they have expected to be carried through by that ruinous division of the upper from the lower ranks of society, on which they mainly relied.
But, Freeholders, wicked devices have not done the service that was expected from them. You are upon your guard; the result of this canvass has already shewn that a vast majority of you are proof against assault, and remain of sound mind. Such example of Men abiding by the rules of their Forefathers cannot but encourage others, who yet hesitate, to determine in favour of the good cause. The more signal the victory the greater will be the honour paid to fixed and true principles, and the firmer our security against the recurrence of like innovations. At all events, enough, I trust, has been effected by the friends of our present Representatives to protect those who have been deceived, and may not in time awaken from their delusion. May their eyes be opened, and at no distant day; so that, perceiving the benefits which the laws, as now enacted and administered, ensure to their native Land, they may feel towards you who make the wiser choice the gratitude which you will have deserved.—The beginnings of great troubles are mostly of comparative insignificance;—a little spark can kindle a mighty conflagration, and a small leak will suffice to sink a stately vessel. To that loyal decision of the event now pending, which may be confidently expected, Britain may owe the continuance of her tranquillity and freedom; the maintenance of the justice and equity for which she is pre-eminent among nations; and the preservation of her social comforts, her charitable propensities, her morals and her religion. Of this, as belonging to the future, we cannot speak with certainty; but not a doubt can exist that the practices which led to the destruction of all that was venerable in a neighbouring Country, have upon this occasion been industriously, unscrupulously, eagerly resorted to.—But my last words shall be words of congratulation and thanksgiving—upon a bright prospect that the wishes will be crossed, and the endeavours frustrated, of those amongst us who, without their own knowledge, were ready to relinquish every good which they and we possess, by uniting with overweening Reformers—to compose the VANGUARD OF A FEROCIOUS REVOLUTION!
Westmoreland, February 24, 1818.
* * * * *
I have not scrupled to express myself strongly on this subject, perceiving what use is made by the Opposite Party of those resolutions of the House of Commons. In support of my opinion I quote the following from the 'CARLISLE PATRIOT' of the 14th of February, premising, with the Author of the Letter from which it is extracted, that by far the greatest number of opulent Landholders are Members of the upper House, and that the richest subjects are some of its Peers:—
'The Peers of Great Britain, stripped as they now are of the overgrown importance which they derived from the Feudal System, have made no acquisition of political influence to compensate for the loss of it, by an increasing extension of patronage, either collectively or individually, like the crown; nor have the various circumstances operated upon their body in any considerable degree, which have effected such a radical and powerful accumulation of consequence and importance in the Lower House. Add to this, that the general sentiment or feeling that commonly exists between them and the body of the people bears no analogy to the vivid principles of affectionate loyalty that tend so strongly to secure and guard the person and rights of the King, or the reciprocal sympathy of congenial interests that acts and directs so powerfully betwixt the Commons and the Community in general. On the contrary, the spirit that exists betwixt the Peers as a collectively distinct body, and the people at large, is a spirit of repulsion rather than of attraction. In a corporate light, they are viewed with no sentiments of kindly affection, and therefore upon the supposition of a political contest betwixt them and either of the other two Estates, they would inevitably labour under the disadvantage of carrying it on against all the force of the prejudices, which to a great extent always directs popular opinion; hence, amidst all the contests and straggles which have agitated or convulsed the Kingdom since the Reign of Henry the Seventh, the political importance of the Peers, considered as an Estate of Parliament, has been rather diminished than increased; and were such a democratical House of Commons as our modern Patriots so loudly call for, to be efficiently formed, the constitutional equilibrium of our envied public system would be infallibly destroyed, and the spirit of our Legislative Body, which in a great measure awards influence in proportion to property, completely abrogated:—and it is in vain to suppose that if even such a change was desirable, it could possibly be effected without producing a train of incalculable miseries that would much more than overbalance any partial good which could reasonably be expected from the alteration....'
'As property then is incontestibly the foundation-stone of political right in Britain, it follows, as an inevitable consequence, that the ratio of these rights should be in some measure commensurate to the extent of the property, otherwise the immutable maxims of justice, as well as the spirit of the Constitution, is violated; for it would be palpably unjust to put a man who possessed a great stake in the welfare of the Country, and paid comparatively a greater proportion of its public revenue, on a level with the inferior freeholders, who, not possessing any thing like an equal extent of property, cannot possibly have the means of equally contributing to the exigencies of the State....
'Now if any considerate conscientious man will calmly reflect upon the power of the House of Commons in the imposition of taxes, and in how many ways the public burthen affects the landed interest, either directly or indirectly, he must acknowledge the expediency, as well as the necessity and justice of the system, which, steadily though silently, protects the great landholders in exercising an appropriate influence in the election of the Representatives of the People.—PHOCION.'