Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

eople. For from a constituti people doe

already alluded, and many others which have been connected with them,—the reforms in the penal code, in the government of India, in the corn laws, the postage and the circulation of intelligence, and in the representation in Parliament, are all so many indices of the constant advance which has been made in England towards the breaking up of her ancient system of legislation, and the establishment of surer guaranties for the rights and the happiness of all classes of her people. For ourselves we have no wish to see her government changed from a constitutional monarchy to an elecđive republic. The freedom of a people does not depend so much on the form of their government, as on the nature of their social system. Let this be liberal and just, allowing to every citizen the free exercise of the faculties which God has given him, and it will be of little importance whether the government have at its head an elected favorite of the people or the hereditary descendant of an hundred kings. **

Mr. Stanton's notices of the passage of the “ Reform Bill," in 1832, are much fuller and more distinct than those which relate to the progress of religious freedom ; and the chapters which he devotes to its history contain some of the best delineations of character to be found in the book. We quote the following personal description of one of the foremost of the advocates of this measure,-a statesman whose remarkable career has been subject to alternate praise and condemnation far more than that of any of his contemporaries :

We enter the House of Peers. The lions—Brougham, Grey, Wellington, Lyndhurst, Melbourne-are in their places. An exciting debate is going forward, which has taken rather a personal turn. Yonder is Brougham, stretched out half his length on one of the Ministerial benches; now listening to a clumsy Earl on the floor, whom he eyes with a portentous scowl; anon whispering a hurried word to the Peer at his elbow. What an ungainly figure! Those long legs and arms, loosely hung in their sockets, give him a slouching air. Human face could hardly look more ugly or intellectual. His iron-gray hair bristles over his forehead like the quills of the fretful porcupine. His restless eye peers through eyebrows that seem alive with nerves. He must be agitated with the debate, for he writhes as though his red cushion were a sheet of hot iron. He suddenly starts up, (who ever knew him to sit still five minutes ?) walks with long strides towards the door, and while chatting with the ladies, his tormentor stops, and the ex-Chancellor cries, with startling emphasis, (lest some one get the floor before him,) « My Lords !" and slowly advances to the table in front of the wooleack. An audible hush runs round the chamber; for they had been anticipating a reply from the mercurial lord. Every whisper ceases, and all eyes are fixed on the towering intellect before them. The Peeresses leave their damask chairs, and approach the bar, to get a better view of the orator. Members of the House of Commons, till now chatting round the bar, lean forward in silence. The loungers in the lobbies enter the Hall, the word

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed]
[graphic][subsumed]

But, dazzling as has been the meteoric career of the Edinburgh in the firmament of letters, it is in the department of governmental reform that its greatest and best services have been rendered. Its founder has well said, that at its advent “ it was always considered a piece of impertinence in England if a man of less than £2,000 or £3,000 a year had any opinion at all on important subjects." The Edinburgh Review has taught a Manchester calico-printer how to take the Government by the beard. In the forty-six years of its existence, it has seen the British slave-trade abolished-a devastating European war terminated—the Holy Alliance broken up, and its anointed conspirators brought into contempt—the Corporation and Test Acts repealed the Catholics emancipated—the criminal code humanized—the death-penalty circumscribed—the Reform Bill carried, extending the suffrage to half a million of people-West India and East India slavery abolished—the commercial monopoly of the East India Company overthrown-municipal corporations reformed—the Court of

[graphic]

hould now que fifty yereading pub them, adoctrines which the great massk, Mr. Stanto the men o

mass efifty year political ar

In opposition to the Edinburgh Review, the Quarterly was established in London, in 1809, and Blackwood's Magazine in Edinburgh, in 1817. Since these periods, have appeared journals devoted to the interests of every party and sect, whether of Progressives or Conservatives, that can be found in the kingdom, by far the greater portion of which are employed in the dissemination of liberal sentiments. Indeed, the entire literature of England is becoming penetrated with them, and a book that should now express the political and social doctrines which were in vogue fifty years ago, would find little favor with the great mass of the reading public. In these closing chapters of his work, Mr. Stanton mentions the names and the leading services of many of the men of letters, who, either through the periodical press or in independent works, have written in behalf of popular improvement. Their names make an illustrious catalogue, and comprise many of the brightest and worthiest which are connected with contemporary literature. It is perfectly clear that the sympathies of men of letters are constantly becoming stronger for the masses of the people. The philosopher comes forth from the retreat of his meditation or the laboratory of his experiments, to lecture for their instruction. The novelist searches for his most thrilling pictures of human life among the scenes of their simple joys and hopes, or of their toils and sorrows and wrongs; and the poet, turning away from the castle hall and the saloon of fashion and

letters, nes and the apters of

[graphic]

pride, chants the triumphs which are won for the common people, and gilds with glory the humble homes in which their lot is cast. A fellow-feeling with the race has thus become an essential element of literary genius, and without it, an author can have but a poor chance of being widely read or gratefully remembered. This is as it ought to be, and it constitutes one of the best and most precious of the reforms which the century has witnessed. The literature which long ago was written for the few, has given place to a literature which is designed for the many; and the author who once addressed himself only to a single class, and depended on the patronage of royalty or wealth to keep himself from starvation, now offers himself with generous confidence as a candidate for the favor of the million, and in turn receives from them a reward such as regal patronage could never bestow. Thus is literature through all its departments, both in England and America, more than at any preceding period, now performing its true office in promoting the improvement of mankind. It is addressing itself to the common sentiments of humanity; it is uniting all classes of society by the ties of interest in a common destiny, and is scattering abroad with a liberal hand the influences of useful knowledge and of moral truth, which are fitted to exalt and bless every condition of social life.

ART. V.-BOWEN'S LECTURES.

Lowell Lectures, on the Application of Metaphysical and Ethi

cal Science to the Evidences of Religion ; delivered before 'the Lowell Institute in Boston, in the winters of 1848–49. By FRANCIS BOWEN. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown. 1849.

ONE of the most striking characteristics of the present age, and especially of our own people, is the spirit of utilitarianism. It is seen everywhere and in everything. It not only pervades all the departments of active, business life, which has hitherto been regarded as its only legitimate and proper sphere, but entering the ideal world, it would fain extend its influence to thought and speculation, and bring under its

« AnteriorContinuar »