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BY AN ENGLISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT OF THE CHAMBRE DES
TO M. DE
No. II.-ON POLITICAL COALITIONS.
[Monthly Chronicle for July, 1838.]
SIR, You tell me, that in certain political circles in Paris, they who profess to be skilled in English affairssage augurs who foretell storm or sunshine in our horizon by picking the brains of every bird that flies over the Channel-openly predict an approaching coalition between the Government and the leaders of the Opposition. I am not surprised at these vaticinations, for in England, especially in the provinces, a similar belief has recently prevailed. It is boldly expressed, and curiously reasoned upon in many of the ablest provincial papers. "The Hertford Reformer," a journal conducted with considerable talent, and, from its connexion with an active and distinguished member of parliament, generally characterized by sound and accurate political information, not only prophesies the speedy ratification of the league, but calculates, already, on the consequences that would ensue, and the new parties that would arise. Many belonging to the section of the Liberal Reformers in the House of Commons share the same opinion, and argue, in private, with much plausibility, on the certain fulfilment of their prédictions. For these reasons, I will venture to treat the rumours you refer to more seriously than, in themselves, they deserve. At the first glance, there is, indeed, something to give colour to the suspicion that has
crept abroad. It is true, that on the Irish Corporation Bill, Sir Robert Peel, by demanding so high a rate of franchise, has re-awakened much temporary bitterness of party, and thrown new obstacles in the way of compromise; but there can be little doubt, that all differences will be patched up and amicably settled in the course of the session; and that in the moderate councils of men like Lord Eliot, Mr. Lascelles, and Mr. Pusey, we trace the certain omens of an adjustment which either party will sacrifice much to effect. Carrying our views, therefore, beyond the present session, and contemplating the prospects of the next, we behold the questions which ostensibly separated Lord Stanley from the Whigs-which made the chasm between the moderate men on either side; which dissolved the Government of Sir Robert Peel, and gave life and union to that of Lord Melbourne-peaceably laid at rest. Where, then, we are asked, do we look for differences of opinion?-not, we are told, between the Conservatives and Whigs, but between the Government and the Radicals. Ireland and her grievances withdrawn from the field of contest, we see the questions of Triennial Parliaments, and Vote by Ballot, more obtrusively presented to public notice, forcibly wrenching the Government from their followers-insensibly uniting the Government to the Opposition. The Radical party, it is contended, hitherto kept back by a feeling of sympathy for the Irish Reformers, with whom they act and vote, will no longer hesitate to press forward all subjects of disagreement with the Government, and democracy itself will be brought into service for the purpose of forming an anti-popular combination ministry.
All this seems sufficiently plausible, and yet I am perfectly convinced that neither the Government nor Sir Robert Peel contemplate the possibility of a junction, and that we are much farther removed from such an event than we were at the close of Lord Grey's administration. At that time there were, I think, many powerful Whigs who would gladly have extended the olive-branch to the specious leader of the Opposition. Lord Grey was embarrassed by his own majority-he lost his footing by stumbling against the length of his train. The opening
of the Reformed Parliament displayed the once mighty faction of the Tories thinly scattered over the benches to the left of the Speaker, shorn of their numbers, weeded of their most eminent names, without even many of the eloquent men who had fought inch by inch against the progress of the Reform Bill-while, on the other side, might be surveyed, crowded and wedged together, the most brilliant majority that the enthusiasm of a nation ever sent to the support of a minister. That splendid party was not more formidable from its numbers than from the popular energy with which it was animated, and the amazing body of talent with which it was adorned. We are rarely just to the abilities placed immediately before our eyes. Demosthenes himself feelingly complained that he was always compared with the men of the past, concerning whom all jealousy was dead; and justly demanded that the living should have amongst the living their only competitors and rivals. Posterity, more just than ourselves, will feel astonishment at the intellectual eminence of the representatives, whom the people, as if to disprove the favourite assertion of the antireformers, that they were incapable of wise selections,' deputed, as their champions, to the first parliament in which they exercised a choice. Not one politician who had distinguished himself for able services in the popular cause was excluded from a seat. Every shade of liberal opinion found its advocate. There were to be seen in the same illustrious band, Russell and Stanley, Graham, O'Connell, Shiel, Hobhouse, Macauley, Cobbett, with many, then less known, but whose subsequent career has justified the confidence reposed in them-such as Mr. Roebuck, Mr. Buller, Mr. Ward, Mr. Grote, &c. Against this long and various array the Tories had, at that time, no adequate champion except Sir Robert Peel. He stood almost alone against the host, with such assistance, indeed, as he could gather from speakers like Mr. Goulburn and Mr. Wynn, who, though not without much parliamentary experience, and more than respectable endowments, carried little weight in the country, and were regarded as the disciples of an obsolete and red box order of eloquence in the House. So few were the leaders of this
decimated army, that they were not considered worthy of a tent to themselves. In a few days the neophytes of the new Opposition, wantonly forced into life by Lord Grey, descended upon the settlements usually consecrated to the veterans of official warfare,-Mr. Fergus O'Connor pushed Sir Robert Peel from his stool, Mr. Fielden flanked him, and Mr. Cobbett's small, biting, half jovial, half malignant chuckle, rose above the contaminated spot, hitherto vocal with the solemn periods of the saintly Goulburn. A single day-a single speech (and that a king's speech) sufficed to throw the Liberal army into irrecoverable disorder. Hosts as mighty have been betrayed, but never before by their commander. With a couple of sentences Lord Grey converted friends into foes he had before provoked O'Connell's hostility-he now gave O'Connell new power. The question of Repeal was always contemptible as to its success, but the question of the Coercion Bill opened a ground in English sympathies, on which the Irish party planted a deadly settlement.
We must not suppose, Sir, that the feeling of dislike and disgust at that measure, and, above all, at that part of the King's Speech in which the Royalty of the British empire was debased into the impotent accuser of a single subject, was confined to the small minority who voted for the amendment on the Address, or against the Coercion Act. Among the most orthodox and loyal of the Whigs were many who made little secret of their discontent at the policy thus adopted, and their fears of its results. One gentleman of the highest influence, and now of the highest station in the Commons, declared at once his disapproval of the ministerial coup d'état :-he would express his opinions in that stage of the bill least inconvenient to the ministers, with whom, through a long and distinguished political career, he had uniformly acted, but on one stage of the bill he must record his dissent from its principles-he did so on the Court-martial Clause. There were others whom the habit of party bound yet more to the Government, who no less lamented the course it pursued. This noble majority, with materials which, if properly harmonized and wielded, would have secured
the ascendency of the Whigs for half a century to come, was thus, at the very onset, rent into sections hostile to each other.
A leader more intimately acquainted with mankind than Lord Grey, notwithstanding his high talents, really was, would have easily contrived to blend and conciliate. the many discrepancies of opinion that existed; and the few ultras, either too sternly impracticable, or too inconveniently honest to subscribe to the mass, would have been driven, as the ultras now are, into false positions, where, while affecting popular principles, they receive nothing of popular support. Men, with no particle of the eloquence of Lord Grey, would have excelled him in the management of a party. In similar circumstances, and at the head of similar power, a Percival or a Castlereagh would have carried every thing before him, and exalted the offices of individuals into the dynasty of a party. But Lord Grey, having hazarded all things to purchase the best machinery for power, commenced his operations by picking a quarrel with the workmen.
On the other hand, the impolicy of the ministers gave dangerous advantage to the malcontents of the more liberal class. Fortified by strong and exaggerated expectations of the results of the Reform Bill on the part of the people, they denounced the proceedings of the Cabinet with all the zeal of noviciate democracy. When Mr. Cobbett, or Mr. Faithfull, or Mr. Attwood, uttered sentiments that startled the moderate Reformers, no men equally tried in the popular cause stood up to soothe and to explain;-for the measures of the ministry did not allow them to soothe, and were too unequivocal to need explanation.
Thus the Liberal portion of the public, before unanimous, became rent into three sections,-those who, terrified by the violent language of the Radicals, concluding with Lord Grey that Mr. O'Connell was a most dangerous man, yet agreeing with Mr. O'Connell that Lord Grey was an inefficient minister, plunged at once into Conservatism-those who, disgusted with the Whigs, fell away from the ministry and adhered to the Radicalsand those who kept the medium course and still sustained