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His non-natural Use of Words.
enjoy the dignity of his cathedral throne, the wealth of his golden stall, and the luxury of his Italian villa, while he hurls defiance against the laws and constitution which have bestowed these benefits upon him. Yet in the midst of the splendour which surrounds him, he must sometimes feel with poignant regret how completely he mistook his profession when he became a clergyman. His great abilities would have won equal wealth and influence, had they been exerted in a more congenial sphere, with less destruction to his peace of mind, and less damage to his reputation. Had he failed to obtain that Oxonian Scholarship which decided the destiny of his youth, he might now have been the richest attorney in England. Or again, had he been born on the other side of the Channel, he might have rivalled O'Connell as a successful agitator, levied an ampler repeal-rent from the gratitude of his countrymen, and led the band of Cullens and M'Hales, who shake the Rotunda, and fulmin over Erin. But fate doomed him to a career less fitted for his character; circumstances made him a clergyman; and the regal supremacy (which he now repudiates) made him a bishop. And certainly, if this were a specimen of its usual operation, we should own that the supremacy of the Crown was the subversion of the Church. We will not say that no man so unfit to wield the crosier ever won the mitre. But yet we have searched history in vain to find a complete parallel to Bishop Philpotts. Cyril*, Bishop of Alexandria, the excommunicator of Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, appears to have been as intolerable a firebrand among the Churches of the East. Hildebrand was as great a master of vituperation; Becket was no less addicted to excommunication; Borgia may vie with him in nepotism, and practised it on a grander scale; among ourselves, Warburton was almost his equal in intemperate language; Atterbury in political intrigue; Kitchin in sincerity. But to make up the character of Bishop Philpotts, we must combine the special qualities of all these different prelates, and we shall still find several ingredients wanting to the compound.
The office which we have undertaken to discharge upon this occasion has been far from an agreeable one. We have under
* His character is shortly given, in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. (Art. Cyril. Alex.) To this office, the episcopate, he was no sooner elevated, than he gave "full scope to those dispositions and desires that guided him through an unquiet life; unbounded ambition and vindictiveness, jealousy of opponents, ill directed cunning, apparent zeal for the truth, and an arrogant desire to lord it over the Churches, constituted the 'character of this vehement patriarch.'
taken it solely in the interest of religion and of the Church: and in the hope that the more devout and single-minded churchmen who have permitted Dr. Philpotts to appear as their foremost champion, should be at last ashamed of acknowledging his leadership and serving under his banner.
1. Statutes at Large, 1 Will. IV.-14 & 15 Vict. 22 vols. 1830-1851.
2. Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, 1830-1851.
WE E have reached a period in our history most appropriate. for the consideration of the state and progress of our laws. In the middle of this wonderful century, with the stirring events of the last few years fresh in our memory, rounded by evidences of the growing wealth and greatness of the country, we may fitly pause to examine the legislation of our own age, and to estimate its tendencies and its results. That we have advanced in mechanical science and in the arts which contribute to the enjoyment of mankind, is, happily, indisputable. Let us consider whether in a higher department of science-in the wise and just government of men present evidences of equal progress.
Nearly twenty years have elapsed since the reform of our representative system; and a new Reform Bill has been promised us in the next Session. These circumstances naturally suggest what may be called the Reform Period, as that to which our attention should be particularly directed; and although we shall have occasion to refer to measures of an earlier date, we propose to commence our review of contemporary legislation, from the accession of William IV., in 1830. It is an epoch marked by extraordinary activity. There is scarcely any department of our laws which has not been subjected to extensive revision, great and novel principles have been affirmed,—and many fundamental measures have impressed upon this period a peculiar character. From the accession of William IV. until the end of last Session, there have been passed 2318 public Acts, and 4129 local, and personal, and private Acts. What an extent and variety of legislation are comprehended in these numerous laws! With what pains have they been elaborated! How many minds have been busied in preparing them! How vast their results for good or for evil! We can only glance at them; but a few observations upon the leading principles and policy by which they are characterised, may not be an unwelcome
Historical Popularity of Parliaments.
contribution to the political commentaries of the day. They have already been the occasion of sufficient controversy, which we have no desire to revive; for, though we must pass over many battle fields, we are not prepared to fight the battles o'er again.' Public opinion has pronounced itself in favour of a progressive and reformatory policy; and that public opinion, we think, has been in the right.
The power and popularity of Parliament with every rank of society are as old as the English Constitution. Lord Surrey justified the obedience he had rendered to Richard III. by that authority, telling the Earl of Richmond, on the field of Bosworth, that if Parliament had placed the crown on a stake in 'the adjoining hedge, he would have fought for it.' So Clarendon complained, in the civil wars, of the superstitious reverence which the people paid to the very name of Parliament. In truth, there is not a more favourable or more characteristic fact in English history than the general agreement which has prevailed between the Government and the people. It has always been a source of constitutional strength; and has infused into our laws those popular tendencies which are among the best evidences of free institutions. Sometimes, indeed, this sympathy has been too promptly excited; and a passion for war or persecution has spread, without encountering a sufficient check from any of the mixed elements of which our Legislature and people are composed. From the laws of each period we may collect the public opinion of the time, They have rarely been behind it; nor ever much in advance of it.
The first century after the accession of the House of Hanover, was not so remarkable for want of legislative activity as for want of legislative progress. We have little respect for the public opinion of that period; and the exhaustion of the great minds of successive generations in party contests at home, and in the conduct of foreign wars, had conduced to an extraordinary indifference, on the part of the Legislature, to our social necessities. The Statute-Book presents as few monuments of any sound legislative policy, as our streets and houses exhibit of architectural skill or taste during those uninteresting years.
Peace rapidly developed the wealth, the power, and the intelligence of the middle classes, and great changes were soon to be at work among them; but during the regency and the reign of George IV., public opinion was not favourable to novel or experimental courses. The reserve of the Legislature, so far from being caused by disregard to the general views of society, faithfully represented them. The English people had been at once alarmed and outraged by the frantic excesses of
the French Jacobins; and the victories of our fleets and armies flattering as they were to sentiments of national glory had been doubly popular as triumphs over republican principles. For several years after the peace, a reverence for all our institutions, and a sensitive dread of change were the settled political principles of three-fourths of the educated classes of this country. Any proposition involving change was denounced by the Tory squires and the clergy, as dangerous to Church and State; by the bar and other learned professions, as 'new-fangled,' 'ignorant,' and opposed to the wisdom of our ancestors; and by polite society as 'radical' and vulgar.' However low an estimate we may now be disposed to form of Lord Eldon, as a politician, we believe that he represented the opinions of the most influential portion of society at large, during the period of his rule, as fairly as Sir Robert Inglis has represented those of Oxford. Things as they are,' were the idols of that day, and woe betide those who would assail them.
Tory principles were in the ascendant; but there were enlightened statesmen of that school; and during the reign of George IV. many excellent laws were passed, which we believe to have been in advance of the public opinion of the time. The discussions to which they gave rise, contributed to disturb our traditional and stationary acquiescence in a policy, now worn out, and to dispel many prejudices which had been long received as axioms of political science. In the meantime, the bold repetition of high Tory doctrines, after they had been once discredited, acted on thoughtful minds as a reductio ad absurdum.
The reign of William IV. commenced 'under circumstances which suddenly disclosed the changes which had been silently taking place. The Duke of Wellington, having forfeited the support of the old Tory party, by the emancipation of the Catholics, had strengthened himself neither by an alliance with the Whigs, nor by making concessions to the popular demands for Parliamentary Reform. And, while the Government was almost in a state of prostration, public feeling was aroused by a startling revolution in France, which spread, as it were by contagion, to Belgium; and,—unlike that which is now acting,— threatened, for a time, the whole of Europe. These events occurred immediately after a dissolution of Parliament, and added to the excitement of a general election. They gave strength and encouragement to the party of progress; and the question of Parliamentary Reform at once assumed a 'political importance which it had never previously attained.
It has since been a favourite subject of speculation among
our politicians, whether a very moderate concession on the part of the Government might not, even then, have satisfied the Reformers, and averted the crisis which soon ensued. So far, however, from attempting this course, the Duke of Wellington, on the very first day of the Session, bluffly met the excitement which undoubtedly prevailed, by a positive declaration against all measures of that description. In a few days the Duke's administration was no more. Lord Grey succeeded him in office; and the policy of reform and progress which was then adopted has continued to be the ruling principle of modern legislation.
The continued opposition which the Reform Bills encountered during three successive Sessions, had a remarkable influence upon public opinion. The antagonistic principles, which supported things as they are,' and things as they ought to be,' were brought out in bold relief; and in discussing the question of Parliamentary Reform, which was regarded by both parties as the means to an end, the general policy of our legislation was freely investigated.
The public mind was at once excited and instructed. It is true that there was much extravagance on both sides-unreasonable expectations, and no less unreasonable forebodings. In agitated times extremes are sure to be popular. The wild commotion of the Reform contest rapidly subsided; but the people, in the mean time, had made great advances in political knowledge. They now took a deep interest in many domestic questions which they had formerly neglected; and resolved to use the increased influence which they had obtained from an enlarged representation, in correcting abuses and promoting useful reforms.
We will now proceed to inquire how far Parliament has responded to public opinion, and whether the reasonable expectations of the people have been disappointed.
Foremost in importance amongst all the laws of this period were the great measures for enlarging the basis of Parliamentary and Municipal Representation. Prior to 1830, the question of Parliamentary Reform, though continually mooted for nearly half a century, had made no perceptible progress. By the middle classes it had generally been regarded with indifference; and more than once it had been discredited, in public opinion, by its connexion with demagogues and visionaries, who, professing to be the advocates of Reform, had preached social revolution. In Parliament, though not well supported by numbers, the question had been gradually advancing under the sanction of many distinguished names, and had been promoted by temperate and
VOL. XCV. NO. CXCIII.