John Stuart-Wortley Wharncliffe.

An appeal from clamour to common sense, or, Some enquiry into the details and operation of the reform proposed for England and Wales (Volume Talbot Co online

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Online LibraryJohn Stuart-Wortley WharncliffeAn appeal from clamour to common sense, or, Some enquiry into the details and operation of the reform proposed for England and Wales (Volume Talbot Co → online text (page 1 of 4)
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" II semble qu'ils aient meconnu la grandeur et la dignite m^nie de
leur ouvrage : Us se sont amuses a faire des institutions pu6riles, avec
lesquelles ils se sont a la v6rite conformes aux petits esprits, mais d^cr6-
dit^s aupr^s des gens de bon sens."





'J'illiiij.', I'riiitei, 'Jhelsea.


Sfc. Sfc. Sfc.

After the crowds who have lately sought
for public notice by the pen, I feel that some
excuse should be made for the presumption
of a new attempt; and I am desirous of thus
bespeaking the indulgence of my reader at
the outset, by assuring him, that there has
been, in putting together the few following
pages, no premeditated design, merely to
make a pamphlet.

It is no " scribendi cacoethes,'" no itch
of scribbling, which has persuaded me to
throw their substance into this shape, — no
longing to fly my own little kite among the
thousand which have, with more or less
steadiness, floated, for some time past, upon
the gale of political discussion, — no wish
to add one more to the " infinite swarms of
calones;'' that " disorderly rout, that follow


the camp of literature, without coats to cover
them;" and so overrun this land, when at-
tracted by the plunder of some great question
of public excitement. Far be it from me
to under estimate the value of those produc-
tions of the day, (whereof, there are some
few,) which, at such times, really contribute
to assist the judgment of the nation with the
light of reason or experience; but in aspiring
to that class there are a crowd of feelings, —
of doubt, — of diffidence, — of indolence, which
tend to affect the resolution of one who is
unaccustomed to the vicissitudes of the pur-

Nevertheless, these are sensations to which
a man ought not at all times to yield; there
are occasions when the questions to be de-
cided are of mighty and universal public mo-
ment, on which no man is justified by such
considerations, in withholding what might
do service, either by facts or argument, and
on which he is bound to contribute even his
untried coin to the general subscription of
ability or industry.

It is to the latter of these qualities alone,
that the author of the following enquiry
pretends, in any degree, a claim. No one
will deny, that such an occasion as that above
described, has at this time arisen. Yet the

reader (should there be those who have the
patience to peruse this writing) must not
expect an essay upon the question of Re-
form, or another of those packets of reflec-
tions upon its principles, or of arguments
upon the Ballot, of wliich such multitudes
have been already conferred upon the country.
My course is less pretending, but, I hope,
not less useful. I shall discuss not the ge-
neral qualities even of the actual measure ;
but I humbly conceive, that a few facts
collected, and compared, are not likely to be
wholly unserviceable ; and since I have em-
ployed some hours in examining many of its
details, and their effects, with diligence and
attention, I am desirous of offering to those
who may have had less leisure, or less in-
dustry, the beneiits of that application. Pre-
mising, however, that although, as I have said,
it is not immediately to the principles of the
Reform Bill that I desire to direct the notice
of the reader, yet such a consideration of the
details, as I propose to lay before him, must,
of course, in many respects, and, in no small
degree, affect those principles.

Wherever this is not directly the case, I
shall no doubt be met by the Reformers, as
others have been met before me, with their
usual answer; — " Oh! but what does all

B 2

tliis signify? What matters it to the nation,
-whether this or that Borough be extinguished?
What care the people about the question be-
tween Buckingham and Calne ?"

Why, truly, it would matter little to the
nation, whether an individual A. enjoyed his
honours and his income, or B., or nobody at
all; the people will care little, whether I have
rather less property, and my neighbour some-
what more, and whether he enter my house
in order to effect the transfer. But is it
nothing to the eternal principles of moral
justice? — Nothing to the great ends of pub-
lic faith and equity? — Nothing by those
high rules and maxims of political wisdom,
which lay down the security of property and
rights as the basis of all constitutions of so-
ciety, — that men should be stripped at random
of their antient and acknowledged privileges,
— robbed, without an urgent necessity, or even
an enquiry to ascertain it, of their most
valuable rights, — and disposed of, according
to the chances and caprices of a half-con-
sidered expediency? For my own part, I
cannot believe, that the people at large, the
sensible, intelligent, and reflecting part of
the community of these realms, has been yet
brought to view the subject with such short-
sighted indifference. I am persuaded, that

though they be anxious for Reform, they wish
to see it executed with justice and discretion.

On an occasion, and in an undertaking like
the present, they have a right to demand more
than usual care. They have a right to ex-
pect that those to whom it is entrusted, should
use all efforts to obtain the means of proceeding
with due knowledge and security. *' It is
not," says a great writer,* " in destroying and
palling down, that skill is displayed ; your
mob can do this as well, at least, as your assem-
blies ; the shallowest understanding, the rudest
band, is more than equal to that task. Rage
and phrenzy will pull down more in half an
hour, than prudence, deliberation, and foresight,
can build up in a hundred years. The errors
and defects of old establishments are visible
and palpable ; it calls for little ability to point
them out; and where absolute power is given,
it requires but a word wliolly to abolish the vice
and the establishment together." " To make
every thing the reverse of what they have seen,
is quite as easy as to destroy. No difficulties
occur in what has never been tried. Criticism
is almost baffled in discovering the defects of
what has not existed ; and eager enthusiasm,
and cheating hope, have all the wide field of

* Burke. Reflections ou the "Revohition in France.
B 3

ituagination in which the}/ may expatiate witl»
little or no opposition.

" At once to preserve, and to reform, is quite
another thing. Wlien the useful parts of an old
establisliment are kept, and what is superadded
is to be fitted to what is retained, a vigorous
mind, steady persevering attention, various
powers of comparison and combination, and
the resources of an understanding, fruitful in
expedients, are to be exercised ; they are to
be exercised in a continued conflict with the
combined force of opposite vices ; with the
obstinacy that rejects all improvement, and
the levity that is fatigued and disgusted with
every thing of which it is in possession. But
you may object — ' A process of this kind is
slow." " Such a mode of reforming possibly
might take up many years.' Without ques-
tion, it might; and it ought It is one of the
excellencies of a metliod in which time is
among the assistants, that its operation is slow,
and in some cases abnost imperceptible. If
circumspection and caution are a part of wis-
dom, when we work only upon inanimate
matter, surely they become a part of duty
too, when the subject of our demolition and
construction is not brick and timber, but sen-
tient beings, by the sudden alteration of whose
state, condition, n\\i\ habits, multitiides may

be reiideieil miserable." " Tlie true lawgiver
ought to have a heart full of sensibility. He
ought to love and respect his kind, and to
fear himself. It may be allowed to his tem-
perament to catch his ultimate object with an
intuitive glance ; but his movements toward it
ought to be deliberate. Folilical arrangement,
as it is a work for social ends, is only to be
wrought by social means. I'here mind must
conspire with mind. Time is required to pro-
duce that union of mind which alone can pro-
duce all the good we aim at, Our patience will
achieve more than our force." " By a slow
but well-sustained progress, the efi>3ct of each
step is watched ; the good or ill success of the
first gives light to us in the second ; and so,
from light to light, we are conducted with
safety through the whole series. We see tlnit
the parts of the system do not clash. The
evils latent in the most promising contrivances
are provided for as they arise. One advantage
is as little as possible sacrificed to anotlier.
We compensate, we reconcile, we balance.
We are enabled to unite into a consistent
whole the various anomalies and contendinir
principles which are found iii the minds and
aftairs of men. From hence arises, not an
excellence in simplicity, but one far superior,
an excellence in composition. Where the great

B 4


interests of mankind are concerned through a
long succession of gei.erations, that succession
ought to be admitted into some share in the
councils which are so deeply to affect them.
If justice requires this, the work itself requires
the aid of more minds than one age can fur-
nish. It is from this view of things that the
best legislators have been often satisfied with
the establishment of some sure, solid, and
ruling principle in government ; a power like
that which some of the philosophers have
called a plastic nature ; and having fixed the
principle, they have left it afterwards to its own

Yet how is it with the united Reformers of
1831 ? While parish vestries require committees
and enquiry to sanction their regulations ; while
not even ale-house licenses can be discontinued
without a comparison of facts and of opinions ;
while, to reduce a few salaries, or to confirm the
Civil List, demands a due measure of sedulous
research ; the whole representativ e system of
the country is re-arranged, (to use no stronger
term,) the whole Constitution of the Legislature
is established on new and arbitrary rules, fixed
by the impatient fancies of a few of the half-
employed Members of the Government ; — rights
destroyed ; — rights transferred ; — rights created ;
chauiies devised which will in all likelihood


alter irrevocably the practical working of the
Constitution ; and all without one real effort to
supply the defects of present information, and
without any other apparent object but that of
stitching the plan together as rapidly as possi-
ble for use in an actual emergency.

" They commit the whole to the mercy of
untried speculations ; they abandon the dearest
interests of the public to those loose theories to
which none of them would choose to trust the
slightest of his private concerns : they make
this difference, because, in their desire of obtain-
ing and securing power, they are thoroughly
in earnest; there they travel in the beaten
road ; the public interests they abandon wholly
to chance ; 1 say to chance, because their
schemes have nothing in experience to prove
their tendency beneficial.

" We must always see with a pity, not un-
mixed with respect, the errors of those who
are timid and doubtful of themselves, with
regard to points wherein the happiness of man-
kind is concerned. But in these gentlemen
there is nothing of the tender parental solici-
tude, which fears to cut up the infant for the
sake of an experiment. In the vastness of
their promises, and the confidence of their pre-
dictions, they far outdo all the boasting of
empirics. The arrogance of their pretensions,

10 ■ ,

in a manner, provokes and challenges us to an
enquiry into their foundation." " In the sys-
tem itself, taken as a scheme for procuring
the prosperity and security of the citizen,
and for promotinj2j the strength and gran-
deur of the State, I confess myself unable to
find out any thing which displays, in a single
instance, the work of a comprehensive and
disposing mind, or even the provisions of a
vulgar prudence. Their purpose, every vviiere,
seems to have been to evade and slip aside
from difficulty." . . . ." They get nothing by

it." " The difficulties which they rather

had eluded than escaped, meet them again in
their own course; they multiply and thicken on
them ; they are involved through a labyrinth of
confused detail, in an industry without limit,
and without direction ; and, in conclusion, the
whole of their work becomes feeble, vicious,
and insecure."

Yet, before I proceed further, I would here
carefully guard myself from being supposed to
direct my observations against the men, or even
the party which compose the present Ministry,
as men, and as a party. I have no such dispo-
sition, and no such object. My business is
with the country, and not with men or parties ;
and 1 feel assured, that 1 need take no pains to
persuade my readers to agree witli me, that the


question before us is too serious and over-
whelming to be dealt with according to such
views and arguments. Neither do I charge
them in what follows, as J have heard others
do by insinuation, with a wilful partiality in the
arrangements of the scheme. I reject the sup-
position, because I cannot believe that a set of
men, with the characters of English Gentlemen,
and holding the station of English Senators of
the nineteenth century, would descend to such
misconduct. Indeed, if I were disposed to admit
it, the cases where there might be most suspi-
cion, would be instancesof too clumsy knavery,
and too easy of detection to be hazarded by
men of ordinary intelligence. But, although 1
chai'ge them not with corruption, 1 do arraign
them of unnecessary, and therefore unjustiiiable
haste and carelessness. Whoever be the men, if
I caiuiot call upon them for party opinions, at
least, I can demand diligence and discretion.
But it is of far more consequence that the coun-
try should demand it; and it i.s to the country
that I call, if I give proofs, as 1 think i can, of
this accusation, to declare, that it will interpose
to check their perihnis precipitation; and that it
at leost will take some time to enquire and to
reflect, before it ventures upon thisirretreivable,
though doubtful ste|).

To wise, :nul [)ra('ticul, aisd piudeut States-


men, charged with the execution of a task like
this, there were two obvious methods of pro-
ceeding open ; the first was, to fix ihe principles
by which their plan was to be regulated ; and
having done so, and made these known, to leave
their application for the result of subsequent
dehberation and assistance.

The other was, (and perhaps it would have
been the best,) to obtain previously, by every
exertion, and from all quarters, the knowledge
and counsel which might contribute to aid in
the formation of the scheme, to appropriate to
these purposes the time which might be really
requisite for their attainment, and to propose it
then, and not sooner, when they had used all
the means within their power, to arrange and
to mature its parts. But these methods re-
quired some delay : they were too dilatory, too
languid, for the ardent energies of the Reform-
ing Cabinet. Neither was their choice. Some-
thing to attract the clamour of the country was
urgently required ; and the prodigy must needs
start from the heads of its inventors, if possible,
full armed and of perfect growth, but, most as-
suredly, without their having gone through that
previous process, for securing within themselves
tile divine and wonder-working Counsel, from
whence alone they could have any right to
hope for so miraculous a birth.


The course, then, which they have chosen to
ndopt, is one which combines the evils of both
the above-mentioned, without any of their ad-
vantages. Within three, — or if we accept their
own assurances — within one or two short
moons, they fix upon, and finally dispatch this
question of awful moment, and irrevocable
risk ; a period, scarcely more than sufficient for
the deliberate determination of the principles
upon which their proposals should be founded,
yet, by them, deemed not too short, for the en-
tire application of them in detail ; and we have
here the notable result, in a Bill which is pre-
sented to the country as complete, and which
we are bound so to consider, not only by its
own form and history, but their own ready
declaration ; one which shall need little, and
suffer less, of alteration from alien hands ; " a
burnished and tinsel article," to be sure, *' of
modern manufacture," but still the finished
and entire production of John Russell and
Company, Bill-makers, and Schedule-mongers
to His Majesty.

Why, then, if this be so, and if this is the
whole form of the measure, (some trifling
changes in names, and its machinery, ex-
cepted,) which it is the intention of Ministers
should be carried into actual operation, I Say, it
is for the people, an imperative and — if they
would be true to their own best and dearest


interests an instant duty, to inspect and scruti-
nize its every part ; not perhaps for the value of
all tlie blunders and absurdities which may be
detected in themselves, but, at least, to determine
whether it has been brought to such a state, as
tits it to be proposed for the solemn and final
sanction of a great nation, proceeding to an
alteration of a large portion of its ancient usages
and institutions. 1 should take it for granted,
that most men must feel the necessity of a con-
fidence in those, who are entrusted with the
execution of a change like this; and if, upon
such an investigation, it should be found, that
the whole plan is replete with evidence, of
what must be taken, either as wanton haste or
thoughtless ignorance, I feel that I should be
justified, in calling upon that nation to with-
draw all confidence from such men ; — not as
Ministers generally, for with that 1 have here
no concern ; — but as the conductors of this vital
operation; — to interpose its own good sense, as a
check to the progress of their rash attempt,
that it may, at least itself, obtain some interval
for reflection; — and even to pronounce its sur-
prise and indignation ; (for I will avow, that such
an emotion arises in my mind,) at the reckless
precipitation, and unexampled negligence of
the slovenly performance, which they have
ventured to ask it to confirm.

But if these offences are, indeed, justly


chargeable upon its authors, it must he ad-
mitted that they are iu no wise caused, and
therefore cannot be excused by the intricacy
and the nicety of their scheme. It is one which
requires, — luckily, asit should appear, — no very
eminent conjurors for its contrivance. It is
one, which might have been full as well devised
by any two or three lads drawn from any
counting house, with some practice in addition
and subtraction, and a very moderate ac-
quaintance with the institutions of the country ;
and, I question mucli, whether it would not
have been more accurately done by function-
aries of that description, than by the elevated
and speculative personages to whom, or to
some of whom, it has been committed. For
what is it that they do ? They first of ail take the
listofexistingboroughs, and lay down two or three
rules, like gentlemen, without giving themselves
the vulgar trouble of enquiring much into their
foundation. They then take the counties, and
lay down one more after the same manner.
Having achieved thus much, they next proceed
(I know not exactly by what method, whether
they may have chosen the very expeditious and
decisive one, in commcn use, and so tossed up;
I think it not improbable ; I am sure they
might as well,) to fix the points at which the
rules should be applied, and then, having thus


completed the great frame-work of their plan,
they set themselves down with the list of places
on one hand, and the population returns of ten
years past upon the other, and actually apply
them, according to the indisputable authority
of the Parish Overseers of that period. And
the consummation of the whole is this : that
Avhereas the two main grievances for which
they profess to find a cure, are, first, the ex-
istence of rotten and close Boroughs; and,
secondly, the influence of Aristocratic Land-
lords ; they leave, after all, many not less rotten,
and create more closer than those which they
remove ; and if we are to believe their only
promise of a security, for the present con-
nexion between the different orders of the State,
establish not here or there, but universally,
that very power, by the clamour against which
they were originally driven to the undertaking.

But let us now look at the plan ; when, after
all this guarded and cautious process of preli-
minaries, it is presented to the Legislature of
the United Kingdom for enactment.

It is not long since, that the Secretary for
Ireland, on the introduction of that limb of
Reform which is to be conferred on the sister
island, congratulated himself upon the distinc-
tion by which it was preserved from all con-
tamination of disfranchisement. He had the


concurrence of all reasonable men with him
in his exultation, and was riglit. But how
stands the case with this? and what the con-
trast? Here we find no tender solicitude to
spare, where it is not necessary to destroy ; no
anxious endeavour to adjust the measure of a
harsh expedient by the demands of the occa-
sion ; — no diffident forbearance to disturb those
usages and prejudices which, in the language
of Sir Robert Peel, are effectual, above all
other means, " to fortify the feeble contrivances
of human wisdom." The front of it is sig-
nalized with disfranchisement ; it bears it upon
its very forehead ; the first clause, and the first
schedule, announce it in its harshest and most
odious form ; and it stands inscribed, even on
the threshold, to face one at the first approach,
like that awful sentence, (nay, the very language
is almost prophetic,

" Per me si va nelle citta doleiiti,")
by which Dani

1 3 4

Online LibraryJohn Stuart-Wortley WharncliffeAn appeal from clamour to common sense, or, Some enquiry into the details and operation of the reform proposed for England and Wales (Volume Talbot Co → online text (page 1 of 4)