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with the elaborate clauses of a long Bill, is a wretched specimen of severe but misplaced labour. It is sure to wedge some clause into the Act, such as that which the judge said “ seemed to have fallen by itself, perhaps, from heaven, into the mind of the legislature," so little had it to do with anything on either side or around it. At such times government by a public meeting displays its inherent defects, and is little restrained by its necessary checks. But the essence of our legislature may be sepa-. rated from its accidents. Subject to two considerable defects I think Parliament passes laws as the nation wishes to have them passed.
Thirty years ago this was not so. The nation had outgrown its institutions, and was cramped by them. It was a man in the clothes of a boy; every limb wanted more room, and every garment to be fresh made. “ D-mn me,” said Lord Eldon in the dialect of his age, “ if I had to begin life again I would begin as an agitator.” The shrewd old man saw that the best life was that of a miscellaneous objector to the old world, though he loved that world, believed in it, could imagine no other. But he would not say so now. There is no worse trade than agitation at this time. A man can hardly get an audience if he wishes to complain of anything. Now-a-days, not only does the mind and policy of Parliament (subject to the exceptions before named) possess the common sort of moderation essential to the possibility of parliamentary government, but also that exact gradation, that precise species of moderation, most agreeable to the nation at large. Not only does the nation endure a parliamentary
government, which it would not do if Parliament were immoderate, but it likes parliamentary government. A sense of satisfaction permeates the country because most of the country feels it has got the precise thing that suits it.
The exceptions are two. First. That Parliament leans too much to the opinions of the landed interest. The Cattle Plague Act is a conspicuous instance of this defect. The details of that Bill may be good or bad, and its policy wise or foolish. But the manner in which it was hurried through the House savoured of despotism. The cotton trade or the wine trade could not, in their maximum of peril, have obtained such aid in such a manner. The House of Commons would hear of no pause and would heed no arguments. The greatest number of them feared for their incomes. The land of England returns many members annually for the counties ; these members the constitution gave them. But what is curious is that the landed interest gives no seats to other classes, but takes plenty of seats from other classes. Half the boroughs in England are represented by considerable landowners, and when rent is in question, as in the cattle case, they think more of themselves than of those who sent them. In number the landed gentry in the House far surpass any other class. They have, too, a more intimate connection with one another; they were educated at the same schools; know one another's family name from boyhood; form a society; are the same kind of men ; marry the same kind of women. The merchants and manufacturers in Parliament are a motley race-one educated here, another there, a third not educated at all; some are of the second generation of traders, who consider self-made men intruders upon an hereditary place; others are self-made, and regard the men of inherited wealth, which they did not make and do not augment, as beings of neither mind nor place, inferior to themselves because they have no brains, and inferior to lords because they have no rank. Traders have no bond of union, no habits of intercourse; their wives, if they care for society, want to see not the wives of other such men, but “ better people," as they say—the wives of men certainly with land, and, if Heaven help, with the titles. Men who study the structure of Parliament, not in abstract books, but in the concrete London world, wonder not that the landed interest is very powerful, but that it is not despotic. I believe it would be despotic if it were clever, or rather if its representatives were so, but it has a fixed device to make them stupid. The counties not only elect landowners, which is natural, and perhaps wise, but also elect only landowners of their own county, which is absurd. There is no free trade in the agricultural mind; each county prohibits the import of able men from other counties. This is why eloquent sceptics—Bolingbroke and Disraeli—have been so apt to lead the unsceptical Tories. They will have people with a great piece of land in a particular spot, and of course these people generally cannot speak, and often cannot think. And so eloquent men who laugh at the party come to lead the party. The landed interest has much more influence than it should have; but it wastes that influence so much that the excess is, except on singular occurrences (like the cattle plague), of secondary moment.
It is almost another side of the same matter to say that the structure of Parliament gives too little weight to the growing districts of the country and too much to the stationary. In old times the south of England was not only the pleasantest but the greatest part of England. Devonshire was a great maritime county when the foundations of our representation were fixed; Somersetshire and Wiltshire great manufacturing counties. The harsher climate of the northern counties was associated with a ruder, a sterner, and a sparser people. The immense preponderance which our Parliament gave before 1832, and, though pruned and mitigated, still gives to England south of the Trent, then corresponded to a real preponderance in wealth and mind. How opposite the present contrast is we all know. And the case gets worse every day. The nature of modern trade is to give to those who have muchi and take from those who have little. Manufacture goes where manufacture is, because there and there alone it finds attendant and auxiliary manufacture. Every railway takes trade from the little town to the big town, because it enables the customer to buy in the big town. Year by year the North (as we may roughly call the new industrial world) gets more important, and the South (as we may call the pleasant remnant of old times) gets less important. It is a grave objection to our existing parliamentary constitution that it gives much power to regions of past greatness, and refuses equal power to regions of present greatness.
I think (though it is not a popular notion) that by far the greater part of the cry for parliamentary reform is due to this inequality. The great capitalists, Mr. Bright and
his friends, believe they are sincere in asking for more power for the working man, but, in fact, they very naturally and very properly want more power for themselves. They cannot endure—they ought not to endure—that a rich, able manufacturer should be a less man than a small, stupid squire. The notions of political equality which Mr. Bright puts forward are as old as political speculation, and have been refuted by the first efforts of that speculation. But for all that they are likely to last as long as political society, because they are based upon indelible principles in human nature. Edmund Burke called the first East Indians, “ Jacobins to a man,” because they did not feel their present importance equal to their real wealth.” So long as there is an uneasy class, a class which has not its just power, it will rashly clutch and blindly believe the notion that all men should have the same power.
I do not consider the exclusion of the working classes from effectual representation a defect in this aspect of our parliamentary representation. The working classes contribute almost nothing to our corporate public opinion, and therefore, the fact of their want of influence in Parliament does not impair the coincidence of Parliament with public opinion. They are left out in the representation, and also in the thing represented.
Nor do I think the number of persons of aristocratic descent in Parliament impairs the accordance of Parliament with public opinion. No doubt the direct descendants and collateral relatives of noble families supply members to Parliament in far greater proportion than is