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open boroughs to the counties, which would constitute a transfer of just so much influence from the mercantile, and manufacturing, and other interests above mentioned, to that of the aristocracy; a transfer, which, we think, would very shortly lead to revolutionary consequences, and would operate as a serious injury to those interests which have a very fair claim to be represented by some means or other in the great council of the nation. We admit, however, that this reasoning would not apply to the transfer of some of the close boroughs (i. e. those consisting of a few miserable burgage tenures, which are now in the hands of the great families,) to the counties at large. It has been said, with what justice we do not presume to decide, that these boroughs are now represented for the most part by young men of family and fashion, who, with a few bright exceptions, cannot be supposed to have much natural propensity to the due discharge of their parliamentary duties, and who, not feeling themselves responsible to their electors for their public conduct, are too apt to neglect or pervert the office they have undertaken to discharge. That they constitute, therefore, upon the whole, perhaps, the most useless and rotten part of the representative body. It has been also said, that the transfer of these seats to the counties, while it would preserve to the aristocracy a fair portion of influence, would at the same time by an association of it with the popular feeling and judgment, make the choice fall at least upon those who would feel their future success in some degree implicated in a character for an upright and strict attention to their duties.
But we will not detain our readers any longer on this part of the subject, but proceed to another, where the road does not yet appear quite so plain. Admitting, as we are much disposed to do, that the present system of elections is politically good, provided it be not found inconsistent with the moral welfare of the electors, we fear that this latter limb of the proposition will be found somewhat more defective. If, as we have just observed, money operating upon the little boroughs" be the only mode by which many of the important interests, which have sprung up in the state within the last century or two, can be represented in parliament; and if there is no rule by which the number of competitors for such seats can be limited to the supply; it is evident not only that such money can only be bestowed in the way of bribery, but that the competitions among the candidates for these seats, which are miscalled contested elections, will gradually enlarge the consciences of the agents of corruption; so that no ingenious device will be omitted by which the act of bribery may be rendered more atrocious and
degrading by the association of fraud and perjury. It is equally clear that the more strict the prohibitions of the law, the more iniquitous must be the contrivances of evasion, and the more disgraceful the characters of the agents. As the case stands at present, we are willing to hope that the greater part of the purchasers of seats are ignorant of the detail of the means by which they are procured; they leave that part of the concern to the agents of the proprietors, or of the voters; and having paid their money, are willing to flatter themselves that they have done nothing dishonest or dishonourable. But the law, which renders it infamous to be concerned in bribing electors, can only have this effect so long as the franchise continues in the hands of those, who from the necessity (almost) of the case are open to bribery; that no strictly honest man can be concerned as an election agent, and that one of the most important of the political functions is necessarily confined to those who are content to incur the risk of infamy for the sake of profit. This is the only effect of the laws against bribery and corruption.
Upon the same principle, we have formed our opinion upon a provision which we have heard recommended as an antidote to bribery; viz. that every member taking his seat, should be obliged to swear that he has neither indirectly nor directly paid money, or been guilty of bribery to procure his return. But we are well persuaded, that, under present circumstances, such a test would have no other effect than that of lowering the character of many members of the house of commons to the level of one who would unblushingly com. mit the crime of perjury, and would therefore exclude from the representation of the little boroughs" every man who has any pretensions to religion, virtue, or honour. Such a law would be nearly on a par with sone of the provisions of our game laws, which render it highly penal for one part of the community to do that, which it is notorious there are hundreds of persons constantly tempting them to commit by the irresistible bait of money, and without any breach of the law on their parts. With respect to bribery at elections, is it possible to suppose that while there are fitty or an hundred poor and ignorant men, in possession of that for which two rich ones find their account in paying ten thousand pounds, any laws that can be framed, will, in the present state of morals and religion, riches and ambition amongst us, prevent the money from being reciprocally given and received? or that a test such as that to which we have alluded would deserve any other title than " an act for filling so many 'seats in this house with perjured and unprincipled adventurers?" Just as some of the present laws may
fairly be entitled “acts to demoralize the character of election agents."
We apprehend that some such painful reflections as these have induced worthy men, equally inimical to the risk of reform and the atrocity of bribery and corruption, to suggest that the elective franchise in the smaller boroughs should be placed upon the same footing with any other real or personal right, with a manorial right, an advowson, or a right of fishery for instance, and openly exposed to sale at the discretion of the
possessor; they have said with some shew of reason, that considering the undoubted fact, that laws to prevent the sale do now entirely fail of their effect, and only serve to degrade and demoralize the character of the sellers, and to spread the example of corruption more widely than it would otherwise extend among electors of a higher class,—this mode of remedy is infinitely to be preferred to the other—That the constitution of parliament would, practically speaking, be nearly the same,
and the abominable tissue of moral evil would be completely unravelled and destroyed—That the seats thus acquired would still fall to the lot of the monied interest, which is justly entitled to its share of the representation ;--and short of a complete change in the system of elections, and of an adaptation of it to the new forms which society has of late years assumed, that no scheme could be devised more likely to reconcile practical morality with the public good.
But it has appeared to others upon due consideration, that the sale of seats thus openly purchased in the market, might upon the same principle be cited to justify the barter of votes arising out of the possession of the privilege; and another plan has been hypothetically laid down, with the detail of which we will amuse our readers, without attaching any more importance to it than to those we have just stated, or than is due to every independent suggestion of a virtuous mind. We are ready to admit, however, that it is essentially different from the wild and unspecific schemes against which we raised our feeble
in a former number. We think then that we have seen it somewhere suggested, that a certain proportion of the most contemptible boroughs should be classed in rotation, according to the average number of electors who have exercised their franchise for a given period; that a specific sum should be affixed to the privilege in fee simple, of sending two representatives to parliament; and that the East India company, the bank proprietors, the shipping, mercantile, and manufacturing interests, the great towns and counties, including copyholders, should be permitted at their discretion, each of them to purchase one such privilege in fee simple, to be vested in them, and exercised in such manner as shall be approved by parliament. Some such plan as this, it is said, would restore parliament as nearly as possible to what its original constitution was intended to be, namely, an immediate election of representatives, not by the population, but by the several interests in the state: and that it would produce this effect without any necessity for the moral degradation of the electors, which is asserted to be now almost absolutely necessary, in order to give to every class possessing property and the benefits of education a fair chance of being duly represented.
Whatever may be thought of any of these plans, (which we beg to repeat are inserted for the amusement of our readers), for ourselves, feeling as we most sincerely do the awful responsibility of a government which lays its very foundation in the encouragement of a systematic contempt of divine and human laws in a large proportion of its public agents; we should consider ourselves as little less responsible to God and our country, if we were not roused by the scenes which have lately been passing throughout the united kingdom, to state as strongly as the law will permit, whạt appear to us to be the real evils with which they have been replete, if we did not advocate the revisal of the code with a view to moral amelioration, as strongly as we deprecate the interference of wicked and designing theorists, to place it upon a different political basis. We may now say “ liberavimus animas meas," and the legislature so far may say the same, when it hạs, by any means which may seem good to itself, secured to the several interests which now constitute the parliament of the united kingdom the power of availing themselves of their just rights, (as citizens of a representative state, upon rational principles), without forcing them to have recourse to dishonest and dishonourable acts, in order to realizę those rights.
ART. VI.-Poetical Works of John Dryden, Esq. containing
original Poems, Tales, and Translations, wrth Notes.-By the late Rev. Joseph Warton, D.D. the Rev. John Warton,
M.A. and others. In four volumes. The fate of Dryden is altogether without a parallel in the history of literature. While he lived, he maintained his pre-eminence in every department of poetry; and he died in the plenitude of his fame, his genius unimpaired, his fire unabated. His loss seemed to leave a chasm in the intellectual world; volumes were filled with mournful elegies by poets of either sex, and foreigners contemplated, with astonishment, the homage paid by the rugged natives of Britain to departed genius. Yet, after a short interim, Dryden was nearly forgotten, or remembered only to be the sport of ridicule and obloquy on the one side, or the theme of hyperbolical praise on the other. His works were left, for near a century after his decease, at the mercy of selfish or ignorant speculators. Detached parts were published with great ostentation, though with little care: and until very recent times, his reputation seemed, although generally acknowledged, to be gradually declining; his name was confidently pronounced as one of the boasts of British literature, but a perfect acquaintance with his merits was rarely obtained. Under such circumstances, it might be supposed that his sun would set for ever; but a new dawn has arisen, and Dryden again appears in all the radiance of his original glory. His works engage a renovated portion of interest and attention, while rival critics, biographers, and editors, consecrate their labours to the celebration of his merits.
For this fluctuation it is not difficult to assign reasons, arising out of the peculiar genius, station, and writings of the author; and, perhaps, the contemplation of his fortune while living, and the fate of his character since his death, may be an useful exercise to those who aspire to the rewards of genius. Dryden neglected the most probable means of establishing present and permanent fame; instead of achieving some great work, about which his inferior productions might revolve as its satellites, he essayed every species of poetry, except the epic. The multitude and variety of his admirable productions have at length established his character ; but it required that much time should elapse ere disinterested industry should select from his widely diffused treasures, in verse and prose,
which decorate his shrine.
Beginning his career as an author at no very early period of life, and impelled by necessity, though not by absolute indigence, to make pecuniary advantage his immediate motive to exertion, Dryden, after a few introductory efforts in poetry, betook himself to the drama, in which, whatever at this day may be the opinion entertained of his productions, he was, in his own time, confessedly the first. Otway and Wycherley, who began long after him, have produced a few specimens of better tragedy and better comedy, but nothing could so strongly excite the eager expectation of the public as the promise of a play from the pen of Dryden. In truth, if Dryden has not equalled Otway and