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affairs—that the stubborn resistance to all improvement —the contempt of all scientific reasoning, and the rigid adhesion to every stupid error which so long characterised the proceedings of this country, is fast giving way to better things, under better men, placed in better CIrcumstances. I confess it is not without severe pain that, in the midst of all this expansion and improvement, I perceive that in our profession we are still calling for the same exclusion — still asking that the same fetters may be rivetted on our fellow-creatures – still mistaking what constitutes the weakness and misfortune of the Church, for that which contributes to its glory, its dignity, and its strength. Sir, there are two petitions at this moment in this House, against two of the wisest and best measures which ever came into the British Parliament, against the impending Corn Law and against the Catholic Emancipation — the one bill intended to increase the comforts, and the other to allay the bad passions of man. Sir, I am not in a situation of life to do much good, but I will take care that I will not willingly do any evil. — The wealth of the Riding should not tempt me to petition against either of those bills. With the Corn Bill I have nothing to do at this time. Of the Catholic Emancipation Bill, I shall say, that it will be the foundation stone of a lasting religious peace; that it will give to Ireland not all that it wants, but what it most wants, and without which no other boon will be of any avail. When this bill passes, it will be a signal to all the religious sects of that unhappy country to lay aside their mutual hatred, and to live in peace, as equal men should live under equal law—when this bill passes, the Orange flag will fall—when this bill passes, the Green flag of the rebel will fall — when this bill passes, no other flag will fly in the land of Erin than that which blends the Lion with the Harp–that flag which, wher. ever it does fly, is the sign of freedom and of joy —the only banner in Europe which floats over a limited King and a free people.
SPEECH AT THE TAUNTON REFORM MEETING...”
[From the Taunton Courier.]
MR. BAILIFF, - This is the greatest measure which has ever been before Parliament in my time, and the most pregnant with good or evil to the country; and though I seldom meddle with political meetings, I could not reconcile it to my conscience to be absent from this. Every year for this half century the question of Reform has been pressing upon us, till it has swelled up at last into this great and awful combination; so that almost every City and every Borough in England are at this moment assembled for the same purpose, and are doing the same thing we are doing. It damps the ostentation of argument and mitigates the pain of doubt, to believe (as I believe) that the measure is inevitable; the consequences may be good or bad, but done it must be; I defy the most determined enemy of popular influence, either now, or a little time from now, to prevent a Reform in Parliament. Some years ago, by timely concession, it might have been prevented. If Members had been granted to Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester, and other great towns as opportunities occurred, a spirit of conciliation would have been evinced, and the people might have been satisfied with a Reform, which though remote would have been gradual; but with the customary blindness and insolence of human beings, the day of adversity was forgotten, the rapid improvement of the people was not noticed; the object of a certain class of politicians was to please the Court and to gratify their own arrogance by treating every attempt to expand. the representation, and to increase the popular influence, with every species of contempt and obloquy : the golden opportunity was lost; and now proud lips must swallow bitter potions. * The arguments and the practices (as I remember to have heard Mr. Huskisson say) which did very well twenty years ago, will not do now. The people read too much, think too much, see too many newspapers, hear too many speeches, have their eyes too intensely fixed upon political events. But if it were possible to put off Parliamentary Reform a week ago, is it possible now 2 When a Monarch (whose amiable and popular manners have, I verily believe, saved us from a Revolution) approves the measure—when a Minister of exalted character plans and fashions it—when a Cabinet of such varied talent and disposition protects it — when such a body of the Aristocracy vote for it—when the hundredhorse power of the Press is labouring for it; — who does not know after this (whatever be the decision of the present Parliament) that the measure is virtually carried—and that all the struggle between such annunciation of such a plan, and its completion, is tumult, disorder, disaffection, and (it may be) political ruin? An Honourable Member of the Honourable House, much connected with this town, and once its representative, seems to be amazingly surprised, and equally dissatisfied, at this combination of King, Ministers, Nobles, and People, against his opinion : —like the gentleman who came home from serving on a jury very much disconcerted, and complaining he had met with eleven of the most obstinate people he had ever seen in his life, whom he found it absolutely impossible by the strongest arguments to bring over to his way of thinking. They tell you, gentlemen, that you have grown rich and powerful with these rotten boroughs, and that it would be madness to part with them, or to alter a constitution which had produced such happy effects. There happens, gentlemen, to live near my parsonage a labouring man, of very superior character and understanding to his fellow-labourers; and who has made such good use of that superiority, that he has saved what is (for his station in life) a very considerable sum of money, and if his existence be extended to the common period, he will die rich. It happens, however, that he is (and long has been) troubled with violent stomachic pains, for which he has hitherto obtained no relief, and which really are the bane and torment of his life. Now, if my excellent labourer were to send for a physician, and to consult him respecting this malady, would it not be very singular language if our doctor were to say to him, “My good friend, you surely will not be so rash as to attempt to get rid of these pains in your stomach. Have you not grown rich with these pains in your stomach? have you not risen under them from poverty to prosperity? has not your situation, since you were first attacked, been improving every year? You surely will not be so foolish and so indiscreet as to part with the pains in your stomach *—Why, what would be the answer of the rustic to this nonsensical monition? “Monster of Rhubarb (he would say) I am not rich in consequence of the pains in my stomach, but in spite of the pains in my stomach; and I should have been ten times richer, and fifty times happier, if I had never had any pains in my stomach at all.” Gentlemen, these rotten boroughs are your pains in the stomach — and you would have been a much richer and greater people if you had never had them at all. Your wealth and your power have been owing, not to the debased and corrupted parts of the House of Commons, but to the many independent and honourable Members, whom it has always contained within its walls. If there had been a few more of these very valuable members for close boroughs, we should, I verily believe, have been by this time about as free as Denmark, Sweden, or the Germanized States of Italy. They tell you of the few men of name and character who have sat for boroughs; but nothing is said of those mean and menial men who are sent down every day by their aristocratic masters to continue unjust and unnecessary wars, to prevent inquiring into profligate expenditure, to take money out of your pockets, or to do any other bad or base thing which the Minister of the day may require at their unclean hands. What mischief, it is asked, have these boroughs done P I believe there is not a day of your lives in which you are not suffering in all the taxed commodities of life from the accumulation of bad votes of bad men. But, Mr. Bailiff, if this were otherwise, if it really were a great political invention, that cities of 100,000 men should have no representatives, because those representatives were wanted for political ditches, political walls, and political parks; that the people should be bought and sold like any other commodity; that a retired merchant should be able to go into the market and buy ten shares in the government of twenty millions of his fellow-subjects; yet, can such asseverations be made openly before the people? Wise men, men conversant with human affairs, may whisper such theories to each other in retirement; but can the People ever be taught that it is right they should be bought and sold 2 Can the vehemence of eloquent democrats be met with such arguments and theories 2 Can the doubts of honest and limited men be met by such arguments and theories? The moment such a government is looked at by all the people, it is lost. It is impossible to explain, defend, and recommend it to the mass of mankind. And true enough it is, that as often as misfortune threatens us at home, or imitation
* I was a sincere friend to Reform ; I am so still. It was a great deal too violent — but the only justification is, that you cannot reform as you wish, by degrees; you must avail yourself of the few opportunities that present themselves. The Reform carried, it became the business of every honest man to turn it to good, and to see that the people (drunk with their new power) did not ruin our ancient institutions. We have been in considerable danger, and that danger is not over. What alarms me most is the large price paid by both parties for popular favour. The yeomanry were put down : nothing could be more grossly absurd — the people were rising up against the poor laws, and such an excellent and permanent force was abolished because they were not deemed a proper force to deal with popular insurrections. You may just as well object to put out a fire with pond water because pump water is better for the purpose : I say, put out the fire with the first water you can get ; – but the truth is, Radicals don't like armed yeomen: they have an ugly homicide appearance. Again, - a million of revenue is given up in the nonsensical penny-post scheme, to Fo my old, excellent, and universally dissentient friend, Noah Warburton.
admire the Whig Ministry, and think they have done more good things than all the ministries since the Revolution; but these concessions are sad and unworthy marks of weakness, and fill reasonable men with just alarm. All this folly has taken place since they have become ministers upon principles of chivalry and gallantry ; and the Tories, too, for fear of the people, have been much too quiet. There is only one principle of public conduct— Do what you think right, and take place and power as an accident. Upon any other plan, office is shabbiness, labour, and sorrow.