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The author of the following remarks, after an intercourse of nearly a quarter of a century with many of those who constituted in succession the strength and the essential character of the Tory party in Great Britain, retains so lively and grateful a recollection of the courtesy, kindness and confidence, which, in his humble sphere of 'exertion, he always experienced at their hands, that he can be in no danger of permitting his admonition to clothe itself in the language of severity or his remonstrances to assume the offensive garb of reproach. He knows that he is addressing men of elevated and patriotic feeling, who, though they may occasionally be liable to the imputation of error, must always be secure in their indelible titles to respect.
I do not wish to exaggerate the dangers to which the British Constitution is exposed in our day, but it is not an exaggeration to say, that a chimera so wild never entered into the mind of man, as the idea, that the British Constitution can long be preserved, otherwise, than by means of the firm cohesion and cordial co-operation, constantly maintained, of all the Conservatives of the Land. The present is a moment of calm, and at such moments men are too apt to forget the danger of past and to overlook the probability of future tempests. It were a fatal mistake to suppose, that the organic constitution of the British Government is removed, by anything that has happened in our own day, from the arena of contention and the liability to
shocks. It is true that the Whig party, as a party, is extinct. But it is also true, that the democratic spirit, the active prevalence of which is wholly incompatible with the permanent and secure exis, tence of the British Constitution, though now comparatively silent, is not dead. It may be doubted even whether it is drowsy. The more probable supposition is, that the slumber in which it seems at the present moment to indulge, is the simulated drowsiness of vigilance and cunning. And there can be no doubt whatever in the mind of any man, who is willing to judge by experience of the past, that the democratic faction if stimulated to action, by any circumstances, foreign or domestic, that might seem to offer to it the slightest chance of success, would speedily resume the reckless, daring and the fearful energy that properly belong to its character, and that many men of rank, wealth, talent, and influence, who within the last quarter of a century have called themselves Whigs, actuated at first by an admixture of party feeling and of the dramatic or melo-dramatic habit of thrusting themselves into the foremost positions in every group, theatrical or social, that raises the hollow cry of liberty, or unfurls the sham standard of freedom, would be led on step by step, until they became finally and indissolubly amalgamated with the movement party, let the immediate object of the movement be what it might.
My Lords and Gentlemen, you cannot, I think, but be aware that questions relating to the principles or organic structure of government, if any such should now unfortunately arise in Great Britain, would present, must necessarily present, a character more awful and appalling than ever before belonged to such questions in any age or country. The recent change in our Parliamentary representation has signally failed to accomplish any of the avowed objects, whether of its dim-sighted projectors or of the vehement populace, whose turbulent efforts and menaces contributed so much to force it upon a defeated Peerage and a shackled Crown. It has not exalted the character or strengthened the influence of the British government, at home or abroad. It has not improved the intellectual or moral character of the House of Commons, or imparted to that assembly stronger or more generally recognized claims to popular affection, confidence and esteem. It has not diminished the public burdens, ameliorated the condition of the great body of the people, or even of any single class of the community, eradicated or restrained the habit of corruption at Parliamentary elections, reconciled the practice of the constitution to its theory; in a word, it has not removed a single pre-existing anomaly, without setting up in its place other anomalies, equally revolting in their real character, and more painful to the popular eye, from the absence of that halo of prescription, which veiled, and in some degree sanctified, former anomalies.
But if the recent change of the constitution of the House of Commons has done little for the good of the people, it has proved much which it would have been good for the people not to know. It has demonstrated that no organic change in the fabric of government in Great Britain, can render it essentially and permanently more democractic than it was before the passing of the Reform Bill, leaving at the same time, untouched, her social organization and her actual division of property. This is the lesson which the practical working of the Reform Bill has inculcated upon the democratic spirit of England. And what is the democratic spirit of this nation? It is a varying and incalculable power; now inert and apparently lifeless, and anon fraught with terrible energy, and rushing headlong to its revolutionary purposes with the impetuosity of a mountain torrent. Nor are these phases and transitions always, or even generally, the effect of circumstances that belong to the actual condition of British society, or over the creation of which the British government might have exercised any control. The democratic spirit of England has always been powerfully excited whenever a revolutionary convulsion has taken place in any other European country. And if to this cause of excitement should be added, as it would possibly be, an unusual depression of the commercial and manufacturing interests of England, and if such a combination of the causes which have always been found to develop
democratic energy, should chance to coincide with the period of a general election, and if there should be, as hitherto there always have been in England, able and ambitious men, who had already accustomed the people to listen to their voice, who should desire just so much of public disturbance and calamity, as, according to their own calculations might be necessary to prepare the way for their own accession to political power,-in reference to this supposed state of affairs, which is so remote from extravagance, that it would be utterly extravagant and romantic to doubt that sooner or later it must occur, I ask what would then become of the British constitution ? I point to the threat of sudden and violent extinction which would then menace the monarchical and aristocratical branches of the British government. I beseech you to reflect upon the dangers which would surround every tenure of property and every social institution of Great Britain. How, I earnestly enquire, are these dangers to be averted or encountered, if the Conservatives of Great Britain do not firmly cohere, train themselves in the habit of cordial and constant co-operation, and present to the world, at all times, the determined aspect of a body of men, united in one solid and indissoluble phalanx, and following with alacrity and confidence its well chosen and well trusted leaders ?
During the discussion of the Reform Bill, the Duke of Wellington expressed a wish to know,