« PreviousContinue »
the toleration of everything, but the examination of everything. It is by examining very bare, very dull, very unpromising things, that modern science has come to be what it is. There is a story of a great chemist who said he owed half his fame to his habit of examining after his experiments, what was going to be thrown away: everybody knew the result of the experiment itself, but in the refuse matter there were many little facts and unknown changes, which suggested the discoveries of a famous life to a person capable of looking for them. So with the special notions of neglected classes. They may contain elements of truth which, though small, are the very elements which we now require, because we already know all the rest.
This doctrine was well known to our ancestors. They laboured to give a character to the various constituencies, or to many of them. They wished that the shipping trade, the wool trade, the linen trade, should each have their spokesman; that the unsectional Parliament should know what each section in the nation thought before it gave the national decision. This is the true reason for admitting the working classes to a share in the representation, at least as far as the composition of Parliament is to be improved by that admission.) A great many ideas, a great many feelings have gathered among the town artisans--a peculiar intellectual life has sprung up among them. They believe that they have interests which are misconceived or neglected; that they know something which others do not know; that the thoughts of Parliament are not as their thoughts. They ought to be allowed to try to convince Parliament; their notions ought to be stated as those of other classes are stated; their advocates should be heard as other people's advocates are heard. Before the Reform Bill, there was a recognised machinery for that purpose.
The member for Westminster, and other members, were elected by universal suffrage (or what was in substance such); those members did, in their day, state what were the grievances and ideas-or were thought to be the grievances and ideas—of the working classes. It was the single, unbending franchise introduced in 1832 that has caused this difficulty, as it has others.
Until such a change is made the House of Commons will be defective, just as the House of Lords was defective. It will not look right. As long as the Lords do not come to their own House, we may prove on paper that it is a good revising chamber, but it will be difficult to make the literary argument felt. (Just so, as long as a great class, congregated in political localities, and known to have political thoughts and wishes, is without notorious and palpable advocates in Parliament, we may prove on paper that our representation is adequate, but the world will not believe it. There is a saying in the eighteenth century, that in politics, "gross appearances are great realities.” It is in vain to demonstrate that the working classes have no grievances; that the middle classes have done all that is possible for them, and so on with a crowd of arguments which I need not repeat, for the newspapers keep them in type, and we can say them by heart. But so long as the "gross appearance " is that there are no evident, incessant representatives to speak the wants of
artizans, the "great reality” will be a diffused dissatisfaction. Thirty years ago it was vain to prove that Gatton and Old Sarum were valuable seats, and sent good members. Everybody said, “Why, there are no people there." Just so everybody must say now, “Our representative system must be imperfect, for an immense class has no members to speak for it.” The only answer to the cry against constituencies without inhabitants was to transfer their power to constituencies with inhabitants. Just so, the way to stop the complaint that artizans have no members is to give them members,—to create a body of representatives, chosen by artizans, believing, as Mr. Carlyle would say, " that artizanism is the one thing needful,”
ON CHANGES OF MINISTRY.
THERE is one error as to the English Constitution which crops up periodically. Circumstances which often, though irregularly, occur naturally suggests that error, and as surely as they happen it revives. The relation of Parliament, and especially of the House of Commons, to the Executive Government is the specific peculiarity of our constitution, and an event which frequently happens much puzzles some people as to it.
That event is a change of ministry. All our administrators go out together.
The whole executive government changes—at least, all the heads of it change in a body, and at every such change some speculators are sure to exclaim that such a habit is foolish They say, “No doubt Mr. Gladstone and Lord Russell may have been wrong about Reform; no doubt Mr. Gladstone may have been cross in the House of Commons; but why should either or both of these events change all the heads of all our practical departments ? What could be more absurd than what happened in 1858 ? Lord Palmerston was for once in his life over-buoyant; he gave rude answers to stupid inquiries; he brought into the Cabinet a nobleman concerned in an ugly trial about a woman; he, or his Foreign Secretary, did not answer a French despatch by a despatch, but told our ambassador to reply orally. And because of these trifles, or at any rate these isolated unadministrative mistakes, all our administration had fresh heads. The Poor Law Board had a new chief, the Home Department a new chief, the Public Works a new chief. Surely, this was absurd.” Now, is this objection good or bad ? (Speaking generally, is it wise so to change all our rulers ?
The practice produces three great evils.) / First, it brings in on a sudden new persons and untried persons to preside over our policy, A little while ago Lord Cranborne * had no more idea that he would now be Indian Secretary than that he would be a bill broker. He had never given any attention to Indian affairs; he can get them
because he is an able educated man who can get up anything. But they are not "part and parcel ” of his mind; not his subjects of familiar reflection, nor things of which he thinks by predilection, of which he cannot help thinking. But because Lord Russell and Mr. Gladstone did not please the House of Commons about Reform, there he is. A perfectly inexperienced man, so far as Indian affairs go, rules all our Indian empire. And if all our heads of offices change together, so very frequently it must be. (If twenty offices are vacant at once, there are almost never twenty tried, competent, clever men ready to take them. The difficulty of making
* Now Lord Salisbury, who, when this was written, was Indian Secretary.—Note to second edition.